For most customers, using CenturyLink Internet means using their DSL network — often bundled with phone and/or TV service. While the speeds aren’t always as fast as cable, they strive to make up for it with enhanced reliability and surprise-free monthly pricing.

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.[1]

Pros

  • Rural coverage
  • Reliable landline phones
  • Clear and consistent pricing

Cons

  • Slow speeds in DSL areas
  • DirecTV only TV option
  • Data capped at 1 Terabyte

CenturyLink Plans Overview

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.

DealsPrice MonthlyInternet SpeedPhone
10 Mbps Internet-Only Plan $4500 10 Mbps DSL(888) 571-9936
1 Gig Internet – Best Fiber Plan $7500 1,000 Mbps Fiber(888) 571-9936
40 Mbps $4500 40 Mbps Fiber(888) 571-9936
100 Mbps $5500 100 Mbps Fiber(888) 571-9936

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 Speeds and Network Performance

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:

CityCenturyLink Average SpeedCenturyLink Top 10% Speeds
Albuquerque, New Mexico11 Mbps23 Mbps
Aurora, Colorado23 Mbps43 Mbps
Colorado Springs, Colorado27 Mbps51 Mbps
Denver, Colorado30 Mbps69 Mbps
Las Vegas, Nevada23 Mbps47 Mbps
Littleton, Colorado21 Mbps37 Mbps
Mesa, Arizona17 Mbps35 Mbps
Minneapolis, Minnesota25 Mbps41 Mbps
Naples, Florida41 Mbps75 Mbps
Omaha, Nebraska17 Mbps35 Mbps
Phoenix, Arizona21 Mbps46 Mbps
Portland, Oregon32 Mbps67 Mbps
Saint Paul, Minnesota18 Mbps33 Mbps
Salt Lake City, Utah18 Mbps34 Mbps
Seattle, Washington46 Mbps81 Mbps
Spokane, Washington11 Mbps21 Mbps
Tacoma, Washington29 Mbps57 Mbps
Tallahassee, Florida8.7 Mbps18 Mbps
Tucson, Arizona13 Mbps25 Mbps
Vancouver, Washington22 Mbps42 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.[2]

CenturyLink Network Technology: DSL Vs Cable Vs Fiber

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.

CenturyLink installation truck
CenturyLink has invested in infrastructure where many other ISPs won’t go. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Where is CenturyLink available?

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

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

CenturyLink installation options and installation fees

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 FeesCurrent Fee
Installation fee$60
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) InternetUp to $200 based on remaining contract

CenturyLink equipment options

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.

CenturyLink Router
CenturyLink’s basic routers rented with plans are enough for most users. Power users needing advanced features like VPNs and firewalls can purchase their own from a third party.

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.

Factors worth considering with CenturyLink:

Rural Availability

CenturyLink 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 Fees

Early 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 TV Options: Prism and DirecTV

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.

DeviceFeeStorage
Genie HD DVR$15/month1 TB
Genie Mini$7/monthNone
Genie Mini Wireless$7/monthNone

Conclusion: CenturyLink provides a vital link to rural areas with few options for high-speed Internet

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.[3]

CenturyLink at a Glance

StatisticCenturyLink
Price Range$45.00 - $75.00/mo+
Connection Type(s) DSL & Fiber
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com35.2%
ACSI Customer Service Rating63/100
Netflix Ranking43rd
Population Served48,437,525

Experts

James Webb

James Webb

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.

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