Cox Internet Essentials (100/5.0 Mbps) Review

Cox Internet Essentials comes with 100 Mbps download speed and 5.0 Mbps upload and costs $49.99 monthly. This plan also doesn’t have a contract. It’s an excellent plan for supporting over 4 users running online tasks simultaneously.

I’m a network enthusiast who wants to find the best internet plan possible. I’ve aggregated information from various sources to determine whether Cox essentials offers the most value.

To help you make the best decision, I’ll cover these details:

We have a lot to cover. Let’s begin.

Cox Internet Essentials Pros and Cons

Some reasons you should and shouldn’t use Cox essentials internet include:


  • A modem router you can upgrade free in 3 years (requires a rental)
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Over 4 million Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country
  • Affordable
  • Price doesn’t increase after the contract expiration


  • Not much availability
  • Data cap
  • Low upload speeds

Prices throughout this guide don’t include sales tax or other fees. Moreover, you may not get the internet speeds as advertised. These speeds are in OPTIMAL conditions.

That means no Wi-Fi interference, and you’re using an Ethernet cable.

What Is Cox Internet Essentials?

Essentials offers 100 Mbps downstream and 5.0 Mbps upstream. It’s Cox’s lowest-tier cable internet plan, and costs $49.99 a month.

It’s one of Cox’s few contract-free plans. Aside from their prepaid and low-income plans.

Cox Internet Essentials Data Cap

Cox Essential Internet has a 1.25 terabyte (TB) bandwidth cap.

That’s enough to stream a little over 200 hours of 4K resolution content [1].

Once you pass this cap, you’ll have to pay $10 per 50 gigabytes (GB) they add to your account. You’ll pay for a max of 500 GB ($100).

The 50 GB blocks they add to your account won’t transfer to the following month. So if you only used 1 byte of the 50 GB block they gave you by the end of October, none of that will transfer to November.

Don’t want to pay $100?

You’ll have to pay them $50 a month for their unlimited data add on.

Cox Internet Essentials Features

Essential home internet from Cox comes with these perks:

  • Millions of Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Security suite: scan shady website links, remove malware, and more
  • Panoramic WiFi modem: a modem/router device you can rent for $13 monthly

The 4 million Wi-Fi hotspots combine Cox, Spectrum, and XFINITY access points into a coalition network. Various gateways these providers offer customers host the hotspots. And they can provide speeds as low as 15 Mbps. And as high as 1.0 Gbps.

These speeds will significantly vary. 1 major factor that’ll impact your network speed is the number of people using the hotspot. You have 5 people on a network and you’ll have less network bandwidth.

With less bandwidth, you won’t have as much flexibility with your internet speed.

Panoramic WiFi is a modem/router combination device that gives you Wi-Fi control features like guest Wi-Fi and Smart Connect.

Smart Connect chooses the least congested wireless frequency and automatically connects your devices to them. For instance, if the 5 GHz band is less crowded, it’ll automatically connect you.

Then it comes with the Elite Gamer feature. It’s great for gamers because it automatically reroutes you through various servers. This helps put your computer closer to your game’s server.

Thus, you’ll have lower latency and less lag.

McAfee powers the security suite and gives you several features like malware scanning, checking links for viruses, and other features.

It’s okay and nothing to write home about.

Many of the antivirus features come free with Windows operating systems. Or you could download software like Malwarebytes.

Neither option requires 500 MB of space, unlike McAfee [2].

Who Is Cox Internet Essentials Best For?

Here are some situations and individuals Internet Essentials will best serve:

  • Console and casual PC gaming: the low upload speeds potentially restrict competitive gaming
  • Listening to Spotify
  • Online browsing
  • Zoom video conferences in 1080p: the low upload speeds can support Zoom chat rooms on 2 devices

Why’s Cox great for gamers?

Because of the Elite Gamer feature. Despite the cliche name, it offers a valuable feature most internet service providers don’t.

Latency reduction. A valuable tool for anyone who likely doesn’t live close to your game’s server. So you could have less lag when playing Fortnite or Valorant online. Or whatever FPS people play nowadays.

What Can You Do With 100 Mbps Internet Speeds?

Here are the various online activities you can perform with 100/5.0 Mbps speeds:

Online ActivitySpeed Req. (Download)Speed Req. (Upload)
1 Device Streaming 4K on Disney+25 MbpsNA
3 Devices Streaming 1080p on Netflix15 MbpsNA
1 Zoom Group Conferences2.6 Mbps1.8 Mbps
1 PC Casually Gaming3.0 Mbps0.5 Mbps
2 People Browsing The Internet4.0 Mbps1.0 Mbps
6 Devices Watching YouTube (1080p)30 MbpsNA

Examples of what you can do with 100/5.0 Mbps internet speeds.

You’ll use 3.3 Mbps (upstream) and 79.6 Mbps (downstream).

If you’re conservative with the resolutions you use when streaming online videos and have an optimal internet environment, you can support over 14 devices simultaneously.

To get an “optimal” environment, you’ll need an excellent router to connect devices using an Ethernet cable and to place your router in a good spot.

Smaller households could get away with 3 instances of 4K streaming at once. You COULD do 4, but you may encounter buffering.

How Much Does Cox Internet Essentials Cost?

Cox Internet Essentials costs $49.99 monthly.

It doesn’t increase in price after a year since this plan doesn’t require a contract.

You will have to keep other expenses in mind, though.

If you rent the Panoramic network gateway, you’ll pay an extra $13 monthly AND a $25 activation fee. You can only dodge this fee by getting your own modem and router.

Don’t want to do the research? We’ve done it for you. Here’s a guide covering the best Cox routers you can get.

And since you need specific modems to use with Cox, we’ve reviewed the best ones available.

When signing up with Cox, they may run a credit history check. They’ll charge you an unspecified security deposit if they don’t like their findings.

If you know your credit score isn’t stellar, you may want to consider StraightUp prepaid internet. It has the same speeds as Internet Essentials.

Where Is Cox Internet Essentials Available?

You can get Cox Internet Essentials in 624 areas spread throughout the following 19 states:

North CarolinaNebraskaNevadaOhio
OklahomaRhode IslandVirginia
States that Cox Communication supports.

Cox doesn’t offer Internet Essentials in every city throughout all of these states. I’ll pass you the Torch of Research to find out that information.

This page would take you hours to read if I were to include supported cities.

Enter into your browser’s address bar and click on your state. Select your city and Cox will try to upsell you a bunch of bundles that won’t save you money on their services.

Cox Internet Essentials Contract

Cox Essential Internet does not have a contract [2]. That means you can cancel your internet plan without paying an early cancellation fee.

How Do I Set up Cox Internet Essentials?

Here’s how you’ll set up Cox Internet Essentials:

  1. Order your service
  2. Get your self-installation kit
  3. Set up and activate your modem (or gateway)
  4. Connect your gateway (or modem) to routers or other devices

What’s different when activating a third-party modem or gateway?

Not much.

Find your device’s 12-digit Media Access Control (MAC) number. It’s usually on the bottom of your device.

Visit, follow the prompts, and activate your device.

Then you’ll need to return your Panoramic network gateway within 10 days of activating your service. Otherwise, you may incur an unreturned equipment fee.

Don’t pack the modem/router. Pile up the included cables and take them to the nearest Cox or UPS store. Then tell the staff you’re returning your equipment.

Ensure you get a receipt. In case Cox accuses you of not returning their equipment later.

Cox Internet Essentials Discounts

Cox Internet Essentials doesn’t have any discounts. They will give you a free Peacock Premium subscription until January 15th, 2023.

That free subscription saves you $4.99 monthly and gives you content that equals tens of thousands of hours. You can watch ANY WWE event, other sports events, anime, and more.

I recommend checking out our Cox deals page to stay updated with their discounts.

Cox Internet Essentials Bundles

You won’t find any discounts when bundling Cox Internet Essentials with other services. But you can simplify your billing with these bundles:

PackageChannelsPriceBest For
Essentials + TV + Homelife140+$162.99/mo.Home security
Essentials + TV + Voice140+$167.99/mo.Backup home phone
Essentials + Streaming only0$54.99/mo.Media consumption
Essentials + TV140+$147.99/mo.Accessing channels
Essentials + Tech Support + Panoramic WiFi + Unlimited Data0$109.98/mo.Non-tech-savvy folks
Essentials + Panoramic WiFi + Tech Support0$59.99/mo.Non-tech-savvy folks
Cox Internet Essentials bundles.

Here’s a breakdown of each bundled item:

  • Streaming only: a TV streaming box
  • Technical support: cheaper in-home technician visits, 24/7 technical support, and more
  • Homelife: a home security solution
  • Unlimited data: removes the 1.25 TB data allowance allowance

Technical support doesn’t offer much value aside from its malware removal services. But if you were careful about visiting sketchy websites, you shouldn’t need this service.

In some scenarios, anti-virus software can’t remove malware. Then you’d need malware removal services.

If you’re getting Internet Essentials to save money on your entertainment budget, I don’t recommend getting TV channels or streaming only. Get a Roku Express for $29.99.

It has the same features as the TV streaming box. Plus, you can still get free channels from apps like Pluto TV.

Internet Essentials vs. Other Cox Internet Plans

Here are the differences with Internet Essentials and other home internet plans from Cox:

TierDownload SpeedUpload SpeedPrice (Year 1)Price (Year 2)
Essential 100100 Mbps5.0 Mbps$49.99/mo.No contract
Preferred 250250 Mbps10 Mbps$59.99/mo.$83.99/mo.
Ultimate 500500 Mbps10 Mbps$79.99/mo.$99.99/mo.
Gigablast1.0 Gbps35 Mbps$79.99/mo.$119.99/mo.
StraightUp Prepaid100 Mbps5.0 Mbps$50/mo.NA
Cox residential internet plans compared.

Though StraightUp and Essentials have mirrored speeds, they serve different types of customers. If you have a credit score you don’t feel comfortable bragging about, you’ll likely want StraightUp Prepaid instead.

Because with Essentials, Cox will run a soft credit history check.

When should you upgrade to the higher tiers?

When you have larger households or remote workers.

If you live alone and are a remote worker, 5.0 Mbps upload speeds will work in many careers (like writing).

But not well with others.

Video editors serve as excellent examples. Because they’ll want MUCH higher upload speeds when sending videos to clients or uploading them to video hosting platforms. Otherwise, it’ll take hours to upload a video.

For most larger households with 5 or more people, Preferred Internet will work well with handling online streaming platforms.

Ultimate and Gigablast work well with remote workers or small businesses who constantly download files. Because you’ll have much higher speeds and more bandwidth available on crowded home networks.

So you could have a child learning remotely over Zoom without worrying about the video chatting session interfering with your productivity.

Gamers could get away with any of these plans. Your gameplay experience will depend on your latency instead of download and upload speed.

All plans have the Panoramic modem router and include the Elite Gamer feature. It helps reduce your ping (what affects lag) by redirecting your connection through servers closer to your game’s server.

Competitive gamers may want to consider Gigablast. I’ve seen recommendations that state you want 10 Mbps upload speeds. They didn’t specify the reasoning, but I’d imagine it has to do with competing with other users on your home’s network.

Every Cox plan has upload speeds of 10 Mbps or lower. And there’s no way to increase this. Get this plan if you’re an “Elite” gamer with disposable income. Even though your downstream bandwidth will likely go to waste.

Because you’ll need to put in some effort to use 1.0 Gbps (940 Mbps over Wi-Fi).

Cox Internet Essentials vs. The Competition

Compare preferred internet to 100 Mbps other internet service providers offer to help you make a decision:

TierPriceSpeedsBest For
Cox Essentials$49.99/mo.100/5.0 MbpsGamers
Xfinity Connect More/Performance Pro$40–$60/mo.100/10 MbpsAvailability
Centurylink Simply Unlimited$50/mo.100/10 MbpsAvoiding data caps
Astound 100 Mbps$19.95/mo.100/15 MbpsPrice
Different 100 Mbps home internet plans compared.

Astound has the lowest pricing and more upload speed than Cox. But it’s only available in SOME areas throughout these states:

  • California
  • Washington state
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Washington DC
  • Pennsylvania
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Illinois
  • Indiana

Plus, they have a strange data allowance policy. Some areas enforce 300 GB-1.0 TB data caps. While others don’t.

Xfinity Comcast offers the most availability, but the price jumps to $79 a month once your contract expires. Verizon’s 300 Mbps fiber optic internet plan costs $49.99 monthly and doesn’t increase in price.

So why pay these rates?

Because Xfinity corners the market.


Centurylink’s Simply Unlimited plan is the biggest obstacle when choosing whether to get Cox. You’ll actually get free technical support. A “feature” that I shouldn’t have to list. And there’s no data cap.

Centurylink’s modem rental is $15 a month and doesn’t offer the same features as Cox’s Panoramic modem.

Both plans don’t require contracts.

But Centurylink beats Cox in availability (37 states).

Choose Cox if you’re a gamer and don’t mind paying the monthly fee for their network gateway. And Centurylink may work better if you’re in a supported area.

FAQ: Cox Internet Essentials

Here are some frequently asked questions about Cox’s Essential internet plan.

How Do I Check for a Cox Internet Outage?

Check for a Cox internet outage in your area by visiting and logging into your account. You’ll want to look out for notifications that state there’s an outage.

Wrapping Up

Cox Internet Essentials offers a contract-free way to access 100 Mbps download speeds at an affordable rate. Their rental modem router includes valuable features and doesn’t require you to set your wallet on fire.

If you have a household with over 5 people and have a bigger internet budget, you may want to explore other Cox residential internet plans.

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Cox Offer

250 Mbps plans for $59 99/mo
$ 59
  • Enough for a familly
  • High availability
  • $83.99 after 12 mo.