CenturyLink Review | DSL Internet

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Anne Dennon

By Anne Dennon Home Technology Writer

Anne has covered home security and home automation for Reviews.com for two years. She’s interested in human-computer interaction and tech ethics. She previously worked in education and information literacy.

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CenturyLink Internet Review

The third-biggest DSL provider by population served (covering 39 states and an estimated 48.3 million people) boasts two claims to fame: a generous menu of high-speed options and the ability to lock in a low rate for years. Both are exceptional in the DSL world. An internet technology noted for its asymmetric download and upload speeds, DSL is notoriously insufficient for heavy social media sharers and unreliable for gamers, both of whom need data to fire in both directions without hiccup.

CenturyLink promises exceptionally high speeds both going and coming, though your experience will ultimately depend on your location. And that price lock option is possibly even more exciting — it’s the only DSL internet provider we’ve encountered that doesn’t allow for unnotified price hikes in the fine print.


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 – 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)

The Claim

Get a price for life — without signing a contract.

Is it true?

Yes. The price you sign up with is the price you’ll continue to pay for as long as you maintain continuous CenturyLink service. Even if you move. More incredibly still is that this long-term commitment on their part doesn’t require a long-term commitment on your part. The price guarantee is carried forward month to month by your paid bill.

CenturyLink Pros

✓ Download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps ✓ Price for life ✓ Bundle with TV and phone

CenturyLink Cons

✗ Comes bundled with phone ✗ Low data cap ✗ Mediocre customer service ratings

CenturyLink Overview


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

Actual speeds
94% of advertised
113% of advertised
90% of advertised
108% of advertised
Contract length
1 month
2 years
1 year
Data cap
300–600 GB
1.5 TB
1 TB
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.

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 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.

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 20 Mbps (starting at $45 per month) to 100-140 Mbps (starting at $55 per month), ideal for bigger households or power users.