CenturyLink provides the 3rd-largest DSL internet network in the U.S. The internet service provider’s (ISP) best selling points? A handful of high-speed options, plus the ability to lock in your rate for your service’s lifetime.
While primarily providing DSL service, CenturyLink also boasts an impressive fiber-optic connection plan. But while CenturyLink claims some impressive speeds, especially if you live somewhere with access to their fiber plan, do they actually live up to those claims?
And as a DSL provider, how does their performance and pricing compare to cable internet, like Xfinity? Let’s dive into what we found.
CenturyLink Plans and Prices
*Price includes paperless billing and excludes taxes. Rate without is $5-$10 more per month.
With CenturyLink, you get 4 plans to choose from: the first 3 are DSL, while the 4th is a fiber-optic plan – although that latter isn’t true fiber, as we’ll talk about soon.
For the 3 DSL options, you get prices ranging from as little as 10Mbps to as much 140Mbps. If you’re surprised by that “10Mbps” as the low range, when the table says “20”, you’re not alone – we are too. We found conflicting information on what the lowest-tier for data speed actually was.
But since all the plans come with the caveat of “up to [XYZ speed]”, we figure that the 20Mbps plan must be designed as such, but depending on your area - as with all ISPs - the low end of what’s actually available is probably about 10Mbps.
That aside, CenturyLink’s DSL plans may give you less value-for-money that a cable option like Xfinity might. For $29.99-$34.99 a month (depends on area) with Xfinity, you’ll get 60Mbps speeds; for $45 a month, CenturyLink gives you between 40 and 80Mbps – a little more, possibly justifying the price, but just as likely to be the same or slower speeds for more money.
Plus, since Xfinity is widely available, chances are that you’ll have them as an option – unless you live outside of cable’s reach, in which case CenturyLink may be more available to you.
Price for Life
Depending on where you live, some of these DSL plans may qualify for CenturyLink’s “Price for Life” guarantee. The price you sign up for is the price you’ll get – for as long as you keep service with CenturyLink.
There’s no cap on it – it’s not for just 12 months or 2 years; if you keep CenturyLink for 3 years, 5, 7, or 12, you’ll keep that same price.
Fiber internet plan
Fiber optic provides faster speeds both in downloading (the speed we typically look at), but also symmetrical upload speeds – which with cable and DSL tend to be drastically lower (think 3Mbps upload speed on a 20Mbps download plan).
CenturyLink’s Fiber Gigabit offers symmetrical download/upload speeds of up to 1Gbps, or 1000Mbps. The only thing faster is Xfinity’s 2Gbps plan – the fastest around, and super limited in availability.
Price-wise, CenturyLink’s Gigabit plan is pretty much exactly right; Verizon Fios’s equivalent is similarly priced at $79.99. And while Verizon Fios is available primarily on the east coast, CenturyLink’s Gigabit is available in more midwest, southwest, and western regions of the U.S.
CenturyLink’s Gigabit plan is also cheaper than Frontier Internet fiber options, as well.
Check to see if CenturyLink’s fiber-optic internet is available in your city here.
Just about every ISP has a data limit of some sort: whether it be in the hundreds of gigabytes, or thousands, or all the way up to 1TB (1000GB) – it’s a fact of life. Only Frontier has truly unlimited as standard, and several other ISPs offer upgrades for additional cost.
So CenturyLink’s 1TB soft data caps are pretty much in the norm. What’s not, is that while they advertise that limit, there’s really no recourse if you go over it: no overage fees, no major slowdowns (as with most). All you get is a notice saying that you went over your data.
CenturyLink Contracts, Fees, and Equipment
Unlike many ISPs, CenturyLink doesn’t force contracts – which means no cancellation fees. Instead, you get the Price for Life deal. Fast-forward a few years, and CenturyLink’s prices have stayed the same – while your bro with Xfinity has seen his double.
That said, there are a few fees to watch out for, but they’re minor:
- Installation: up to $99; one-time.
- Rented modem: +$10 a month.
- Bought modem: $150; one-time.
CenturyLink utilizes existing telephone lines to reach deeper into rural regions than cable and fiber options are able to. This is the reason that DSL providers in general are able to reach a greater portion of the population.
CenturyLink Customer service
Everybody knows that the telecommunications industry as a whole – that includes internet service – has pretty bad customer support ratings. Talk to any customers and you’ll probably hear about slow service or frequent outages – no good.
But surprisingly, customer service tends to be railed against considerably less.
Although initially higher than some other options, CenturyLink gives decent speeds while maintaining their price – for the customer who stick around for a few years. As DSL providers go, if CenturyLink is in your area, you probably won’t see other options like AT&T Internet – so they may be your only option.
But if you want faster speeds and live in cable-territory, Comcast Xfinity gives better prices and more options for most.
But if you want a provider that has no contracts or a great locked-in-for-life guarantee, then CenturyLink might be the one for you.
Is CenturyLink in my area?
With service in 36 states that reaches into rural areas outside of cable availability, chances are high. That said, the areas most heavily served are the Eastern seaboard, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest.
You can use their availability checker to find out if they’re in your area.
What’s the difference between DSL and cable internet?
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) uses copper telephone wires to transmit data to and from your devices and the internet server. Unlike old-school dialup, these signals travel on a different frequency than your landline phone, so no need to do just one or the other anymore.
By contrast, cable internet travels by underground copper coaxial cables. Because it’s underground, it tends to be limited to city, metro, and nearby suburban areas.
Is cable better than DSL?
When it comes to a contest of pure speed – yes, cable tends to be better. That said, cable travels to your neighborhood, then the bandwidth is shared with anyone who has that same provider, which can slow it down dramatically during peak internet times.
DSL does not have that restriction. So, which one is better depends on a few things:
- Is cable even available, or are you in too rural an area?
- Are there many neighbors who all use the same cable internet provider that could potentially slow down your speeds at times?
- Is the price-to-speed ratio favorable for cable, or DSL?
Does CenturyLink offer any deals?
Yes. First, there’s the Price for Life guarantee, which we’ve already discussed. You can also bundle CenturyLink with DIRECTV and Identity Guard online security, with the latter providing you $5 off your first 2 months of the subscription.
If you become a customer and refer a friend, you’ll each get a $75 prepaid reward card with CenturyLink’s Refer-A-Friend program.