Centurylink is a top Internet provider for customers outside of urban areas, offering stable connections to customers with few other options. The pricing is sometimes higher than the alternatives, but it’s both clear and consistent. You’ll get what you pay for without any billing headaches.

Cox Cable is a cable provider with a wide reach, serving huge portions of the US. Cable connections offer higher speeds than DSL, and Cox even offers speeds of up to 1000 Mbps in certain locations. With a combination of fast internet speeds, a decent TV service, and affordable prices, they provide an excellent combination of quality and value.

Quick Picks

Compare CenturyLink and Cox Communications at a Glance

StatisticCenturyLinkCox Communications
Price Range$45.00 - $80.00/mo+$29.99 - $129.99/mo+
Connection Type(s) DSL & Fiber Cable & Fiber
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com35.2%45.0%
ACSI Customer Service Rating63/10063/100
Netflix Ranking42nd6th
Population Served48,437,52520,881,180

Centurylink vs Cox Communications Network Coverage

In terms of coverage, Centurylink truly blows Cox Communications out of the water. While their speeds are generally slower and can, in some cases, be more expensive, their availability is unmatched. The infrastructure for DSL reaches pretty much everywhere in the United States, and Centurylink serves all of the contiguous nation outside of Kentucky and West Virginia.

As far as cable providers go, Cox Communications has a large coverage area. However, there are notable gaps in their service areas including several regions in the middle of the country. Coverage is great on both coasts, but as you move towards mid-western states, it’s pretty likely you’ll be without access to Cox. Because the infrastructure for cable is much more expensive to expand than the already planted DSL network, it’s understandable that Cox falls behind.

Still, if you’re looking to be covered pretty much anywhere in the U.S., Centurylink is the way to go.

CenturyLink Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Cox Communications Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Keep in mind that while many people may fall within the service area of both companies, availability may vary. Take advantage of the tool below to see whether Centurylink and Cox Communications are available at your address. The utility will also list other providers that you might not have thought of for internet and TV service.

Centurylink Speed Tests vs Cox Communications Speed Tests

As mentioned above, Centurylink uses DSL technology while Cox is a cable provider. In almost all cases, Centurylink will provide slower speeds, simply due to the limitations of DSL technology.

It’s important to note, however, that top speeds aren’t always needed for many users. DSL speeds from Centurylink are usually perfectly fine for things like general internet use, Skype calls, and even basic streaming from services like Netflix and Hulu. Also, speeds with the provider are more consistent than that with cable.

It makes sense, then, that Cox is the best choice for fast internet. With speeds of up to 1 Gbps in certain areas compared to Centurylink’s speeds of less than 100 Mbps, it’s really not up for debate.

CenturyLink average download speeds

Cox Communications average download speeds

CityCenturyLink SpeedCox Communications Speed
Casa Grande8.54 Mbps87.13 Mbps
Chandler32.22 Mbps96.68 Mbps
El Mirage30.67 Mbps92.99 Mbps
Florence13.13 Mbps100.91 Mbps
Gilbert36.63 Mbps90.96 Mbps
Glendale72.2 Mbps98.12 Mbps
Goodyear64.21 Mbps98.77 Mbps
Green Valley17.6 Mbps91.54 Mbps
Las Vegas50.21 Mbps96.89 Mbps
Laveen92.63 Mbps78.85 Mbps
Mesa38.71 Mbps86.4 Mbps
Ocala24.87 Mbps69 Mbps
Omaha34.79 Mbps81.79 Mbps
Papillion73.3 Mbps72.9 Mbps
Phoenix46.2 Mbps90.7 Mbps
San Tan Valley44.01 Mbps91.54 Mbps
Scottsdale31.1 Mbps137.47 Mbps
Sun City West13.72 Mbps94.51 Mbps
Tempe31.43 Mbps101.09 Mbps
Tucson23.13 Mbps74.96 Mbps

Centurylink vs Cox Communications Network Differences

There are benefits and drawbacks to both DSL and Cable, and each company does better at different aspects of providing internet service.

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Lines, uses your existing telephone lines to transmit data. While these speeds are usually slower than most alternatives, the connection is extremely reliable and consistent. Your speeds will likely not exceed 25 Mbps even with the more expensive plans, but you can count on your connection providing the same speeds, day or night. The most notable benefit to a DSL network is the wide availability. Because most homes already have the infrastructure for this sort of connection, it’s very likely that Centurylink will serve your address.

DSL network illustration.
DSL networks like Centurylink piggyback on existing telephone networks to deliver data.

Cable uses the auxiliary cables from your TV to deliver internet service. The speeds are much faster than with DSL, but there is one big drawback. While you’re likely to enjoy a speedier connection overall, those speeds will likely drop under heavy use. When people in your area start streaming HD content or downloading a new game, you make see your download speed take a hit. Availability is also not as wide as with DSL.

In certain areas of the country, Centurylink does offer Fiber service. Fiber is the gold standard of internet technology, transmitting data via light that bounces between glass or plastic rods. These networks are extremely expensive to expand, and many providers are starting from the ground up. Because of this, there are very few areas with Centurylink Fiber service when compared to their DSL offerings.

Centurylink vs Cox Communications: Which is Best for Cheap Internet?

CenturyLink stadium.
CenturyLink is one of the largest ISPs in the US. Image via Jelson25.

Although DSL usually has a reputation for being more affordable than cable service, Centurylink falls behind Cox when it comes to internet pricing. Cox Communications has a 15 Mbps connection for less than $30, which Centurylink just can’t compete with.

Centurylink’s main advantage is their availability, but in internet-only situations where both providers are available, Cox is the better buy.

Installation Differences

If you’re a Centurylink customer, how expensive and time-consuming your installation will be largely depends on whether you’re buying internet, TV, or both.

Because TV service for the company is provided by DirecTV, you’ll need to have a satellite dish installed. For fiber customers, it’s possible to stream your shows over an internet connection and avoid having a dish installed. For most customers, however, a professional installation is required, which will run you about $60.

For Cox Communications, installation is a lot more straightforward. For around $20, you can receive a pack with all of the equipment and instructions you’ll need to get your internet and TV service up and running. If you’re more comfortable having a professional do the job, it will be a $50 fee. We highly recommend following the included directions and plugging things in yourself, as it’s pretty straightforward and will save you some cash.

Centurylink vs Cox Communications Fees and Modem/Router Cost

While Centurylink is pretty up-front with their billing practices, there are a few additional fees that come with the service. There’s a gateway rental fee of $15 per month, but you can waive that by buying the modem outright for $150. In the long run, buying the modem will save you money — provided your contract is longer than 10 months. Speaking of contracts, an early termination fee of up to $200 will apply if you decide to cancel service before the end of your term. For TV service, the Genie HD DVR is included, but there’s a fee of roughly $5 per receiver for each additional box.

Fortunately, with Cox, there are no early termination charges. If you’re a renter or student and need to move before the end of your agreement, you can back out without paying anything extra. For an internet modem, you’ll pay around $10. For TV equipment, fees range from around $3 for the bare minimum, up to $29 per month for their premium DVR.

Centurylink vs Cox Communications TV Options

DirecTV blimp.
CenturyLink offers discounts on DirecTV satellite TV service, in addition to their own Digital TV service. Image via Steve
Baker/Flickr
.

Centurylink television service is offered through DirecTV, a television option that provides service to the majority of customers within the contiguous US. The satellite technology is different than traditional cable and it requires special equipment, but the options and pricing of DirecTV just can’t be beat. With over 350 channels in their higher tier plans, an excellent selection of HD content, and one of the most fully-featured DVRs, it’s very difficult for other companies to compete. The DirecTV exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket is a unique opportunity for sports fans to keep up to date on their favorite teams, with comprehensive coverage of all things football.

Cox has a middling TV service, and there’s nothing particularly exceptional about it overall. Perhaps the most impressive aspect is the gigantic capacity of their DVRs, but outside of higher storage, even those devices fall short of the TiVO Genie option from DirecTV. Lower tier plans offer a very low amount of channels, sometimes numbering as low as 40. While there’s a possibility those 40 channels will have what you want to watch, it’s likely that you’ll find the service lacking.

For basic TV service, or if you’re looking to bundle TV and internet, either option will do fine. If a quality TV experience if your primary concern, however, DirecTV through Centurylink is the winner, hands down.

Centurylink vs Cox Communications DVR Options

With DirecTV through Centurylink, there are multiple options when it comes to DVRs. The Genie HD is the main model offered, and it’s a premium device that outperforms the majority of competitors. With room for up to 200 hours of HD programming, you’ll find it difficult to run out of space. TiVo provides the technology behind the device, and they’ve been a major player in the DVR scene almost as long as DVRs have existed. Their experience and expertise is apparent, reflected in all of the convenient features and options that the Genie HD offers to the TV experience. Additionally, you can expand your service to other rooms with the Genie mini — upgradable to a wireless version for only $99.

The main benefit of a Cox DVR is the increased storage. Their higher tier option has twice the capacity of the DirecTV model, and it will store far more content. However, the DVR lacks some of the functionality that the Genie HD provides. If you need a huge amount of space for all your shows, Cox may be the way to go. Otherwise, we feel that Centurylink’s partnership with DirecTV does a better job.

CenturylinkXfinity
Storage1 TB80-500 GB
Hours of Programming200 hrs HD shows45-60 hrs HD shows

Centurylink Pros and Cons

Pros

  • High Rural Availability
  • Consistent Connections
  • DirecTV service

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Slower internet speeds
  • Early termination fees

Cox Communications Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fast internet
  • Transparent billing practices
  • Low prices

Cons

  • Lower availability
  • Fewer sports options
  • Fewer DVR features

Our pick: Centurylink wins our pick for TV and Coverage, while Cox wins our pick for Internet and Pricing

While both providers have a lot to offer, we feel that Cox is the better choice for most consumers. If you’re a heavy TV watcher, there are few options better than DirecTV, but Centurylink’s internet just can’t compare with the speeds that a cable provider like Cox communications offers.

Additionally, the presence of early termination fees make it difficult to back out of a contract if you’re unhappy or your situation changes.

Cox offers a good overall balance, with good performance in Internet, and to a lesser extent, TV. The prices are also excellent, giving customers better speeds for lower prices than Centurylink.

All in all, unless TV service is a huge priority for you, Cox Communications is the superior choice.


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.

Questions & Answers

3 ANSWERED QUESTIONS

Is cable always a better choice than DSL?

Although Cable is no doubt faster than DSL, it isn’t always the superior choice. If you value reliability above all else, DSL is the way to go. The fast speeds of cable aren’t worth it if your speedy connection consistently underperforms. Cable will likely still be faster than DSL even under a heavy load, but the lack of consistency can be a major source of frustration.

Do cox or centurylink have fiber anywhere?

Centurylink does have fiber service in select areas of the country. To see whether they offer that plan in your area, use the tool we included during the coverage area of this comparison.

While fiber service is great where you can get it, it’s not nearly as widespread as Centurylink’s DSL coverage. It’s an extremely expensive technology to install, and the costs keep the availability low and largely concentrated around urban areas

Is it hard to switch from centurylink to cox?

If you’re currently in a contract with Centurylink, it sometimes can be difficult to switch without paying a decent amount of money. Because of the early termination fees mentioned above, it’s going to cost you a couple hundred dollars to cancel and sign up with Cox.

However, if you’re already outside of the initial contract and you’re paying month to month, switching to Cox is as easy as making a couple of phone calls. You’ll just have to make sure that your home supports a cable connection.

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