How We Reviewed CenturyLink
1 month of research
6 popular plans
39 states covered
Those looking for high speeds for YouTube uploads, data-heavy gaming, or a family of users.
Those interested primarily in a low monthly bill or those who place a premium on customer service over pure speeds.
|Price||$32 – $125 per month|
|Standout features||Contract-free price lock
Stellar speeds for DSL
Plenty of plans to choose from
|Download speeds||256 Kbps – 140 Mbps|
|Upload speeds||256 Kbps – 20 Mbps|
|Data allowance||150GB – 1TB|
|Fees||Early termination fee: $100 – $200
Equipment lease fee: $8/month
Professional installation fee: $50 – $100
(Free self-installation is allowed)
Download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps
As far as DSL internet goes, CenturyLink is incredibly fast, with some plans offering up to 1,000 Mbps. While the majority of people will experience somewhat slower speeds, between 40 to 100 Mbps, these are still top-tier speeds and more than enough for a family of users looking to surf the web, watch videos, and play games online without having to endure long load times. These speeds also make CenturyLink a great option for households where there are several computers, smartphones, or tablets all connected to the internet. Everyone can be online at once and still get fast internet service.
Price for life
CenturyLink offers a price lock for as long as you remain with them. This offer is pretty much unmatched among DSL providers — and among internet providers in general — and could be extremely valuable if you are looking to keep your costs low for the long haul.
Bundle with TV and phone
CenturyLink offers several bundling options, including the ability to create your own bundle with just the features you want. You can choose from any of its DSL internet plans, then add in home phone service, Verizon Wireless service, and even DIRECTV. Bundling these services together can be a great way to save and is ideal for households looking to set up multiple home services at once.
Comes bundled with phone
CenturyLink only offers DSL as part of a bundle with a phone plan. If you aren’t interested in having a landline, this bundle may feel like overkill. Still, the other benefits of CenturyLink’s DSL service (lots of plan variety, high max speeds) might still make it worth signing up for.
Low data cap
While 600 gigs of data probably won’t cause problems for an individual user — or even two users — who stream Netflix and Skype regularly, households of heavy downloaders might come up on some overage fees. And if you’re subscribing to a plan with download speeds of less than 7 Mbps, you’ll need to keep extra close tabs on that 300GB limit. What’s more, the actual dollar amount of those overage fees is unclear. CenturyLink offers a tariff library, but your best bet is turning to the online chat service, open 24/7 for technical support.
Mediocre customer service ratings
Customers of any telecom provider know the industry’s customer service could use some work — including CenturyLink. It’s received low to midling feedback from customers across review sites and in third-party surveys. ACSI’s 2018 report and recent J.D. Power rankings both place CenturyLink below other big names like AT&T when it comes to customer experience.
|J.D. Power customer satisfaction rating|
|Requires phone plan|
CenturyLink vs. Verizon
Like CenturyLink, Verizon stands out for not requiring a contract. But, again like CenturyLink, it only offers DSL in a bundle deal with a landline. If you are looking for high-speed DSL and phone service (or don’t mind taking the bundle if the internet service is good enough), both companies have their pluses.
Verizon offers a higher data cap; CenturyLink’s upload and download speeds are more predictably even. But even as Verizon falls short on upload speeds (you'll be sitting in front of your computer for a long time if you’re trying to upload a video or an album of photos), its speeds in both directions tend to be higher than advertised. In a service space with so much hyperbole, Verizon’s understated excellence stands out.
Another point in Verizon’s favor: Its high customer service ratings. No other DSL internet provider can claim all five power circles from J.D. Power’s telecommunication reports.
CenturyLink vs. Frontier
When it comes to data allowance, you can’t get better than limitless. Frontier won’t put a cap on the amount of data you go through in any given month, though larger households may have a hard time maxing out that capability with Frontier’s mediocre speeds. Fast enough for most, two users can expect uninterrupted surfing and streaming.
Frontier, which covers about the same number of states as CenturyLink (38 to 39), falls a little behind that company for customer service. One point of reassurance on Frontier's interactions with customers is the clarity of its billing structure. Upfront fees and sample bills aren’t the norm, but should be.
CenturyLink vs. AT&T
AT&T Internet offers good rates for broadband speeds and a solid track record for customer service. And while those speeds may not be anything to write home about, the company has repeatedly upgraded its infrastructure over the years to the effect of providing customers with increasingly fast internet. Plans range from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps (based on location), enough for a three- to four-person household to regularly stream movies and upload to social media.
In addition to constantly improving speeds, AT&T Internet boasts exceptional customer satisfaction. It leads the pack when it comes to positive reviews for communicativeness and billing clarity. Also contributing to AT&T’s happy customers: a high 1TB standard data allowance and lots of bundling options to combine and thereby reduce bills. Keep in mind that the coverage area of AT&T and CenturyLink do not often overlap: Only one is likely available where you live.
What is DSL internet?
DSL, or digital subscriber line, internet makes use of existing copper telephone wires to send data back and forth between your computer and the internet. Phone lines may sound like dial-up (cue that muted grumble of your computer connecting) but unlike old-fashioned dial-up, information is transmitted at a frequency separate from the one used for voice calls. This means internet use won’t interfere with your landline and it makes it much speedier.
While there are several types of DSL, the one relevant to residential customers is ADSL, Asymmetric DSL. Asymmetric refers to its uneven upload and download speeds. Download speeds are typically much faster: up to 24 Mbps for downloading, while uploading hovers around 3 Mbps.
What is a good DSL speed?
That depends on what you’re using the internet for and how many people are on it at any given time. If you live alone and don’t spend a lot of time streaming media or playing games, even the lower tier 20 Mbps plan offered by CenturyLink might seem like overkill. However, if you have a larger family with lots of HD movie streaming and gaming, you might need to go up to 100 Mbps or even 1,000 Mbps.
CenturyLink does a pretty good job of illustrating the difference with a helpful speed tool.
What are Mbps?
Megabits per second is a measurement of how quickly your internet is transferring Megabits of data. If you ever see the confusingly similar abbreviation MBps, it’s referring to Megabytes per second, which is 8x a Megabit.
Is CenturyLink available where I live?
CenturyLink covers a wide swathe of the country — 39 states in total, concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Eastern seaboard. With nearly 50 million Americans under the auspices of CenturyLink, it’s the third-largest DSL provider in the country.
Will any modem work with CenturyLink?
No. There are certain models that are compatible with CenturyLink DSL service and some simply won’t work. While CenturyLink does offer to rent or lease you a modem, you might be able to use an existing model and forego the rental fee so long as it’s compatible.
We found CenturyLink’s modem compatibility table extremely helpful as it lists the speeds each compatible model could accommodate and included helpful guides on how to set up each one.