Product Overview

Best for

Those looking for high speeds for YouTube uploads, data-heavy gaming, or a family of users.

Not for

Those interested primarily in a low monthly bill or those who place a premium on customer service over pure speeds.

Features

Price $32 – $125 per month
Standout features Contract-free price lock
Stellar speeds for DSL
Plenty of plans to choose from
Availability 39 states
Download speeds 256 Kbps – 40 Mbps
Upload speeds 256 Kbps – 20 Mbps
Data allowance 150GB – 250GB
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.

Possible Drawbacks

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.

The Competition

CenturyLink
Verizon
Frontier
AT&T
Availability
39
11
38
21
Actual speeds
81% of advertised
121% of advertised
95% of advertised
81% of advertised
Contract length
1 month
none
2 years
1 year
Data cap
300–600 GB
1.5 TB
none
1 TB
J.D. Power customer satisfaction rating
3/5
5/5
2/5
4.3/5
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 will be sitting in front of your computer 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.

FCC data shows that that Frontier customers experience over 90% of the speeds advertised, a not-negligible increase from the 81% of advertised speeds experienced by CenturyLink customers. Still, when it comes to Frontier's touted no-cap data, it’s a bit comparable to going through an all-you-can-eat buffet in slow motion.

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.

CenturyLink FAQs

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 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 second largest DSL provider in the country.

Coverage Map - CenturyLink

The Bottom Line

CenturyLink offers solid speeds and potentially great pricing — it’s just a matter of sticking with them while internet prices rise all around you. There’s little overlap between the service area of CenturyLink and other large national providers. For example, AT&T mainly services the Midwest and Southeast, while CenturyLink focuses on states in the Midwest and western U.S. Both are great options, but only one is probably available to you.

We admire CenturyLink’s easy, contract-free pricing structure and competitive broadband speeds. We also appreciate its breadth of plan speeds, varying from 25 Mbps (starting at $45 per month) to 100-150 Mbps (starting at $60 per month), ideal for bigger households or power users.