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CenturyLink Internet Review

Posted by: Scott Teran      Updated: 1/16/2017

The Bottom Line

CenturyLink’s DSL internet plans are hit or miss because speeds vary by location. CenturyLink also has fiber-optic internet plans, but they’re only available in a few select areas. In all, pricing is easily the most appealing part about CenturyLink internet service.

Is it Right for Me?

  • YES
  • If you like long-term discounts on service.
  • If you want to add TV service (Prism or DIRECTV).
  • If you want two- or three-year price guarantees.
  • NO
  • If you want a large selection of plans.
  • If you want excellent customer support.

PRICE & PLANS 5/10

Pricing is competitive; selection is not.

CenturyLink internet only plans

PlanAdvertised priceDownload speedContract
High-Speed Internet$3495/mo7-40 MbpsNone
High-Speed Internet 100$6495/mo100 MbpsNone
High-Speed Internet 1G$10495/mo1,000 MbpsNone
High-Speed Internet
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Advertised price
$34.95/mo
Download speed
7-40 Mbps
Contract
None
High-Speed Internet 100
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Advertised price
$64.95/mo
Download speed
100 Mbps
Contract
None
High-Speed Internet 1G
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Advertised price
$104.95/mo
Download speed
1,000 Mbps
Contract
None

Updated 9/14/16. Pricing and availability may change depending on location. 

CenturyLink’s internet-only selection is limited. In most areas, CenturyLink’s DSL High-Speed Internet plan (7–40 Mbps) will be the only available option. And download speed will vary because it depends on where you live. For example, CenturyLink told us we could get up to 40 Mbps in some areas, whereas other areas get only 10 Mbps. As for the 100 Mbps and 1 GB internet-only plans, they’re only available in a few select areas.

The advertised price is good for the life of the contract, which is great, but if you forget to cancel you’ll be paying the regular price, and contract length may vary. And CenturyLink doesn’t list the regular price; however, for us, the regular price was nearly double the advertised price. So when your contract is up, be ready to make a phone call and haggle for the advertised price, or find another internet service provider (ISP).

Bundles: CenturyLink internet (+TV/phone)

PlanAdvertised priceDownload speed
Triple Play$10495/mo12 Mbps
Triple Play
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Advertised price
$104.95/mo
Download speed
12 Mbps

Updated 9/14/16. Pricing and availability may change depending on location. 

Adding TV and phone service is easy enough; CenturyLink offers DIRECTV or Prism TV service, and its home phone includes unlimited nationwide calling. We recommend calling and talking with an agent to get the best possible price.

What’s the real price?

CenturyLink’s advertised price is what you’ll pay for the life of the contract. However, once the contract is up, the price will jump to the “standard rate,” and standard rates aren’t listed (to be fair, most other ISPs don’t list standard rates either). For us, the price nearly doubled when the contract was up, so we had to call and ask for the old price.

The contract length depends on the promotion or whether you add other services, such as TV or phone. If you add other services, expect at least a two-year commitment. It also helps to know that specific services may have different contract terms. For example, say you get internet and TV service. Well, CenturyLink’s DIRECTV service requires a separate two-year contract, while CenturyLink’s internet service could be a one- or two-year contract.

Hidden fees

CenturyLink doesn’t have many hidden fees. CenturyLink charges an unspecified activation fee for residential internet customers; however, we found promotions for free activation. There’s also an early termination fee, but it will be specific to the service(s) you order. (CenturyLink doesn’t list an amount in its subscriber agreement.)

No matter the service, you should always ask if a fee can be waived (works for us 75% of the time).

Equipment

CenturyLink’s proprietary modem may be required for its internet service—CenturyLink says so—but it’s better if you can avoid a rental fee and use your own modem.

CenturyLink’s modem rental fee is $9.99 per month, and that’s the same price we’ve seen almost anywhere else. You can also buy the CenturyLink modem for $99.99, but it’s better to see if your current modem is compatible (check here) or buy a modem and save some money. Of course, double check with CenturyLink before you buy a modem to make sure it’s compatible.

 

SPEED 7/10

Download speeds will vary.

What internet speeds do I really get?

CenturyLink’s High-Speed Internet plan has a download speed of 7–40 Mbps and an upload speed of 5 Mbps. (We couldn’t find information on upload speeds for CenturyLink’s 100 Mbps or 1 G plans.)

According to the FCC’s Measuring Broadband 2015 Report, CenturyLink’s actual speeds are 84–95% of its advertised speeds. That’s not bad when compared to Windstream (78–87% of advertised speeds), for example, but other ISPs, such as Comcast, do better (94–112% of advertised speeds…yes, believe it or not, Comcast’s actual speeds tend to be higher than advertised). (The best ISPs have actual speeds close to 95%.)

We also checked Netflix to see what speed CenturyLink delivers. Netflix’s ISP Speed Index site measures “prime time Netflix performance” for major internet service providers. Here are the average speeds for ISPs we got from Netflix for 2015.

What speed is right for me?

Internet speeds are not guaranteed.The factors you should consider are:

  • Multiple users

  • Computer hardware and software

  • Modem

Below are the FCC’s minimum broadband speed requirements for a single user.

Activity (single user)Minimum Download Speed
Web browsing1 Mbps
Watching video4 Mbps
Video conferencing4 Mbps
Online gaming5 Mbps
Web browsing
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Minimum Download Speed
1 Mbps
Watching video
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Minimum Download Speed
4 Mbps
Video conferencing
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Minimum Download Speed
4 Mbps
Online gaming
EXPAND FOR DETAILS
Minimum Download Speed
5 Mbps

DATA 6/10

There's a data limit, but there's no fee (not really).

How much data do I really get?

CenturyLink has a 250 GB limit for its residential internet service. Plain and simple.

What if I hit the limit?

There is no fee for exceeding the data limit. Instead, you will receive a notification from CenturyLink that will ask you to reduce your usage or upgrade to another plan.

SUPPORT 7/10

CenturyLink’s customer support is average for ISPs,...which is to say it isn’t great.

ASCI 2016 Rating JD Power
63/100 2.5/5

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), CenturyLink is right in the middle of the best and worst ISPs. It scored a 63 out of 100, with the average being a score of 64. ACSI points out that ISPs have the lowest score for call center support than any other telecommunication service. We’re not surprised.

The U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power comes to the same conclusion as ACSI: CenturyLink is just barely average. It scored 2/5 and 3/5 in its respective regions.

How easy is it to get help?

If you’re having a technical issue (e.g., modem stops working), calling CenturyLink support is easy and the wait isn’t long. On the other hand, if you have a billing question or issue, your experience will likely be less than positive.

CenturyLink’s billing support service is only available Monday–Friday, 8–6 p.m. MT, which means you’ll have to call during work hours. This was a huge pain for us because we experienced long wait times and didn’t like spending our lunch breaks on the phone.

To CenturyLink’s credit, most representatives were more than willing to help us with our issues, technical or otherwise. Still, we’ll do whatever we can to avoid making a phone call.

THE TAKEAWAY

CenturyLink’s price makes it attractive, even with its limited selection and just-okay support.

If price is your biggest concern, CenturyLink internet is worth checking out…even if it could be better in other areas.

Our Recommendation: the High-Speed Internet plan

In most areas there will only be one option: CenturyLink’s High-Speed Internet plan. You’ll have to call to see what speed is available in your area, but $34.95 per month is a good price for internet service that lets you stream movies and music without a problem.

Other Options:

If you want TV, internet, and phone together, the Fios Triple Play plan starts at $69.99 a month (two-year price).

 

Do you have a question about CenturyLink internet? Leave us a comment below and we’ll respond. Also, if you have CenturyLink internet service, let us know what you think its pros and cons are.