DSL Internet performs decently for the average user and can easily support basic applications such as Skype and Netflix for residential customers. It’s an appropriate pick for a small family home or small to medium-sized business.
As for TV, they have two TV options: digital TV sold under the name “Prism TV,” and satellite TV through a partnership with DirecTV.
For TV customers, DirecTV is usually the better option since it offers more sports programming, a better DVR, and higher bandwidth for same-time viewing and recording in busy households. Prism has suffered from the technical challenge of delivering TV over DSL lines, and as of 2017 CenturyLink planned to begin phasing out Prism TV in favor of a yet-to-be-announced streaming service similar to Sling.
As you can see in the table below, plans for DSL internet start lower than competing cable and fiber options, although the download speeds are lower as well — around 25 Mbps. While phone-only plans are available, the best deals come through bundling multiple services, such as phone and Internet.
|Deals||Price Monthly||Internet Speed||Phone|
|15 Mbps||$4900||15 Mbps DSL||(844) 368-6548|
|20 Mbps||$4900||20 Mbps DSL||(844) 368-6548|
|80 Mbps||$4900||80 Mbps Fiber||(844) 368-6548|
|Fiber Gigabit||$6500||940 Mbps Fiber||(844) 368-6548|
|100 Mbps||$4900||100 Mbps Fiber||(844) 368-6548|
If you're looking to compare plans, make sure to check out our detailed guide on the latest CenturyLink deals and promotions.
CenturyLink offers DSL to well over 40 million customers while their FTTH offering is limited to just over 3 million.
Bundle options are limited but straightforward. Speeds vary between 3-25 Mbps download depending on CenturyLink’s speed limits within your coverage area and how close your home is to the local provider office or fiber line.
CenturyLink relies heavily on DSL so most CenturyLink customers will experience slightly slower speeds than available through cable. Actual speeds can vary greatly due to DSL’s dependence on proximity to your home.
See the following chart for real-world speed test results aggregated from across CenturyLink’s network in the past six months. The “average” speeds account for every test within a metro area, while the “top 10%” speeds show an average that’s more accurately representative of the premium speeds offered in that area.
CenturyLink Download Speeds Over Time
As for performance in your area, here’s a table showing the cities we found to have the fastest overall download speeds from CenturyLink:
|City||CenturyLink Average Speed||CenturyLink Top 10% Speeds|
|Albuquerque, New Mexico||13 Mbps||32 Mbps|
|Aurora, Colorado||53 Mbps||115 Mbps|
|Colorado Springs, Colorado||39 Mbps||88 Mbps|
|Denver, Colorado||59 Mbps||137 Mbps|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||38 Mbps||85 Mbps|
|Littleton, Colorado||54 Mbps||119 Mbps|
|Mesa, Arizona||29 Mbps||57 Mbps|
|Minneapolis, Minnesota||27 Mbps||57 Mbps|
|Naples, Florida||72 Mbps||142 Mbps|
|Omaha, Nebraska||30 Mbps||57 Mbps|
|Phoenix, Arizona||30 Mbps||62 Mbps|
|Portland, Oregon||45 Mbps||98 Mbps|
|Saint Paul, Minnesota||36 Mbps||82 Mbps|
|Salt Lake City, Utah||21 Mbps||40 Mbps|
|Seattle, Washington||62 Mbps||167 Mbps|
|Spokane, Washington||25 Mbps||48 Mbps|
|Tacoma, Washington||49 Mbps||115 Mbps|
|Tallahassee, Florida||15 Mbps||34 Mbps|
|Tucson, Arizona||20 Mbps||37 Mbps|
|Vancouver, Washington||26 Mbps||51 Mbps|
Contrary to popular belief, CenturyLink does offer fiber broadband to a small portion of their customer base with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. High speed offerings are likely to grow quickly, especially with the recent purchase of Level 3 Communications, a Colorado-based company with one of the world’s largest internet networks.
While growing their fiber network is encouraging, fiber is more commonly incorporated into CenturyLink’s business offerings than into their residential service.
CenturyLink is the third largest DSL internet provider in the United States, just behind Verizon. Like other cable providers, the company has been looking to consolidate in order to boost profits and avoid getting locked out of lucrative markets such as business Internet and cloud services.
Residential customers who are considering CenturyLink are usually comparing it to cable broadband from a cable TV provider such as Xfinity or RCN. In some areas, they may even have the option of true fiber from a company like Ting or Google Fiber. If fiber is an option for you, we definitely recommend it — the speeds are unbeatable. If you’re choosing between cable and DSL, though, the “right” choice depends more on your use case and household size.
Overall, CenturyLink DSL makes the most sense for customers who live in rural areas and want budget Internet — especially in states like Utah and the Dakotas where CenturyLink is one of the only options. DSL doesn’t usually deliver as much raw speed as cable, but it’s much more reliable and CenturyLink’s pricing is more reasonable over the long term. While cable companies offer deeply discounted promo rates that double after the first few months and add on hidden fees every year, CenturyLink pricing tends to stay the same over time.
Speaking from personal experience, a techie on the team here at High Speed Experts has been a CenturyLink customer for 8+ years, and their monthly price hasn’t changed for the past 7 years. Having spoken with them over Google Hangouts weekly from the office, I haven’t noticed any difference between their DSL connection and a cable connection.
For a candid look at their performance in the rural areas where they’re often the only option, see the video below, recorded in late 2017. This series of on-site tests found speeds to be within 95% of the advertised download speed in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings throughout the week. (That said, DSL can vary depending on your location. For context, these tests were run in the CenturyLink service area outside Charlottesville, Virginia.)
CenturyLink’s big weakness is that their DSL offerings are limited to a maximum download speed of ~25 Mbps though most of their coverage area.
If you have more than four people using the Internet at the same time in your house, a cable connection in the 50–200 Mbps range will be a safer bet to make sure you don’t run into trouble with streaming and content uploads.
CenturyLink is one of the three largest DSL Internet providers in the US. They have coverage across 39 states, mostly in the midwest and west coast with the exception of California. Their most comprehensive DSL coverage as of 2017 is in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.
CenturyLink Coverage & Availability Map
CenturyLink installation options will vary greatly depending on the services offered in your area. For television, CenturyLink offers DirecTV, so if you are limited to DSL you will need a satellite dish. Installation of the dish is often added in free. Meanwhile, fiber customers can stream DirecTV programming over their Internet connection and forego the dish altogether.
Self-installation of Internet is free, while professional installation will run you a $60 installation fee.
|CenturyLink Fees||Current Fee|
|Gateway rental fee||$15 or $150 to purchase|
|DVR rental fee||$5 per receiver after first|
|Early Termination Fee (ETF) PRISM TV||$20 per month remaining up to $250|
|Early Termination Fee (ETF) Internet||Up to $200 based on remaining contract|
When you sign up for internet, CenturyLink will lease you a modem for $10 per month. Alternately, you can buy it outright from them for up to $150. You can also purchase your own compatible modem from a third party with prices ranging from $50 to upwards of $200.
Renting makes the most sense for short-term customers who value convenience and support. Those who plan to stay with CenturyLink for two or more years will save a few hundred dollars over the long run by purchasing a router up front. We put together a handy guide of the best CenturyLink modems and routers.
As for TV equipment, DirecTV includes one Genie HD DVR and optional Genie Mini’s for other TVs.
The Genie HD DVR can record up to 200 hours worth of programming. The Genie mini can stream any recorded content from the Genie HD DVR. You also have the option to upgrade your Genie Mini to a wireless option for a one time $99 fee per-box.
Rural AvailabilityCenturyLink is the third largest telecom company in the United States and has a large network in rural areas throughout the midwest and west coast United States. States with lower populations and areas not frequently serviced by other providers may find that CenturyLink is the best option when options are limited. Distance from CenturyLink’s local telephone exchange offices will have an effect on actual internet speeds.
Early Termination FeesEarly termination fees are becoming commonplace with TV and internet providers. One thing to consider with CenturyLink is that termination fees for internet services and DirecTV services are separate, so you’ll pay nearly twice as much as competing bundled cable plans if you need to sever your contract to move.
CenturyLink has partnered with DirecTV and offers packages under the name PRISM TV. For fiber customers, no satellite is required as you can stream directly from the broadband connection.
For the majority of DSL customers, getting satellite TV will require the installation of a DirecTV satellite receiver. This is handled by a licenced technician as part of your install with bundled CenturyLink/DirecTV plans.
DirecTV’s current DVR options, offered through CenturyLink, are one Genie HD DVR with the ability to add Genie Mini’s in other rooms. The Genie HD DVR can record up to 200 hours of television while the Genie Mini’s can connect and stream content recorded on the Genie HD DVR. A wireless version of the Genie Mini is available for a one time charge of $99 per box.
|Genie HD DVR||$15/month||1 TB|
|Genie Mini Wireless||$7/month||None|
CenturyLink is a great option for customers in rural areas with limited options. For these customers, landline phones can be superior to Internet-based phone lines because they are not affected by internet or power outages.
Due to their background in telecommunications and landline phone service, CenturyLink is able to reach areas where other companies are unwilling to make infrastructure investments.
DSL speeds will vary depending on location, but the speeds are reasonable and often more affordably priced than competing cable providers. Level 3 is just the most recent of CenturyLink’s large infrastructure purchases. As a result, they should be rolling out more fiber options in the near future.
|Price Range||$49.00 - $65.00/mo+|
|Connection Type(s)||DSL, Fiber, Fixed Wireless & Copper|
|Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com||35.3%|
|ACSI Customer Service Rating||63/100|
|Phone Number||(844) 368-6548|
References and Footnotes
- http://www.fiercecable.com/cable/centurylink-deemphasizing-prism-still-may-license-directv-now-for-mid-year-ott-launch ↩
- https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-31/centurylink-agrees-to-buy-level-3-for-34-billion-in-cash-stock ↩
- http://news.centurylink.com/2017-11-01-CenturyLink-completes-acquisition-of-Level-3 ↩
James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.