AT&T vs. CenturyLink: Which Internet Provider Is Worth It?

AT&T and CenturyLink both offer decent internet, but AT&T pulls ahead for its faster and more reliable connection.

Faster speeds
ATT
Overall Quality ⁃ 3.9/5
bullet 4.0/5 - Speed and reliability
bullet 3.8/5 - Dollar value
bullet 4.0/5 - Customer experience
Cheaper fiber
Centurylink
Overall Quality ⁃ 3.7/5
bullet 3.5/5 - Speed and reliability
bullet 3.8/5 - Dollar value
bullet 3.8/5 - Customer experience
Christian de Looper
Jul 08, 2024
Icon Time To Read8 min read

AT&T and CenturyLink both offer solid internet, but AT&T comes out on top. AT&T’s fiber-to-the-home service offers faster speeds and better customer service overall—and you don’t have to worry about data caps or annual contracts. Only some of CenturyLink’s offerings deliver a fiber-to-the-home connection, and they’re only available in some areas.

That said, AT&T isn’t too much better than CenturyLink, and for some, CenturyLink may be the better option. CenturyLink’s cheapest fiber plan is cheaper than AT&T’s, so while the speeds are lower, you still get the reliability of fiber.

Curious about which provider is better for your needs? Read on for our head-to-head comparison between AT&T and CenturyLink.

“I have no complaints at all (so far) about AT&T’s internet service,” says Lauren Hannula, who’s had AT&T for over five years. “I’ll remain loyal to AT&T internet as long as I’m able.”
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AT&T vs. CenturyLink: Plans, pricing, and speed

ProviderATTCenturylink
Price per month$55–$245*$50-$75
Download speeds300-5000 Mbps80-940 Mbps
Upload speeds300-5000 Mbps10-940 Mbps
Details
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply.

AT&T and CenturyLink both offer solid internet services. CenturyLink has both DSL and fiber-based plans—and it’s clearly pushing the better, more reliable fiber connection, as its cheapest fiber plan is cheaper than its cheapest DSL plan but offers faster speeds.

CenturyLink’s cheapest plan is $50 per month, which is fiber-based and offers 500Mbps. Its DSL plans are all $55, with download speeds ranging from 80Mbps to 140Mbps depending on your region. Its fastest plan is the Fiber Gigabit plan, which costs $65 per month and offers speeds up to 940Mbps.

Unfortunately, most can’t choose between DSL and fiber—you get the connection that’s available in your area. When it comes to upload speeds, CenturyLink’s DSL plans can be a little slow—as slow as 10Mbps. Its fiber plans are symmetrical though, so for the 940Mbps CenturyLink fiber plan, you get 940Mbps upload speeds.

AT&T has fiber plans only, and they range in price depending on the download speeds you go for. The base AT&T fiber plan costs $55 per month and offers 300Mbps download speeds. Plans range up from there, reaching a massive 5,000Mbps in download speeds. That plan costs $225. All of AT&T’s plans offer symmetrical speeds, which can make them better for uploading lots of data.

“CenturyLink has been reliable and affordable and offers enough speed for the average household,” says Cai Crawford, a CenturyLink customer who lives in South Jordan, Utah

AT&T vs. CenturyLink: Fees for modem and installation

Service
AT&T
Google Fiber
Modem/router$10/mo.$15/mo. to rent, $200 to buy
Self-installation kit and service activation$35$15
Professional installation $99$149
Cancellation $0-$180 (depending on contract duration remaining)N/A

What makes this review legit?

Our fact-based research process centers on interviews with internet customers across the country, which help us understand how internet services hold up against diverse needs and challenges.

To put together this review, we looked at results from our speed test, pulled data from customer satisfaction surveys, and pored over the fine print to compare prices and speeds between the two providers. To flesh out our analysis, we also interviewed AT&T and CenturyLink customers to get their first-hand insights. We let their experiences guide our research and shape our conclusions. We also speak with ISP spokespeople and industry experts to get insights into connection types, speed capabilities, and other technical issues related to internet service.

how we review products and services

The matchup: How we rate AT&T vs. CenturyLink

For all our internet reviews, we give a rating based on three main criteria—speed and reliability, dollar value, and customer experience—which we then average to make an overall score.

Here, we compare those ratings face to face. We then offer some analysis and context for important factors to keep in mind.

Want to know more? Read our full-length AT&T review and CenturyLink review.

Speed and reliability

internet speed
AT&T: 4.0/5.0 | CenturyLink: 3.5/5.0

CenturyLink may offer decent internet speeds, but AT&T is clearly faster. CenturyLink's plans are basically split up into two categories: DSL and fiber. Fiber connections are better and faster, but they’re not available everywhere. AT&T only offers fiber connectivity, so it tracks that its speeds, on average, are faster.

CenturyLink’s slowest plan offers 80Mbps download speeds, which might be fine for small households that don’t rely on high-data apps and services like streaming lots of video. This plan, however, only has an upload speed of 10Mbps, which is very low, and may even make things like video calls difficult. Thankfully, its fiber plans are much more reliable. There are two CenturyLink fiber plans: One that offers symmetrical 500Mbps speeds and one at 940Mbps. However, according to Reviews.org’s propriety speed test, CenturyLink’s average download speeds sit in at 54.83Mbps, which is a little slow.

While CenturyLink’s fastest internet plan is quick enough for the majority of people, AT&T offers much faster plans. AT&T’s slowest plan offers 300Mbps symmetrical speeds, and while that’s not superfast, at least it leverages the reliability of fiber. From there, AT&T’s plans just get faster, and its fastest plan is 5,000Mbps. That’s more than five times the speeds on offer from CenturyLink.

AT&T does also offer a wireless plan called Internet Air, which is based on cellular connectivity, however it's slower than even AT&T’s slowest fiber plan, so most should go for fiber if they can. AT&T Internet Air offers 225Mbps, however its availability is limited right now. Overall AT&T’s average download speeds sit in at 106Mbps, according to our data. That’s almost two times CenturyLink’s speeds.

AT&T wins in reliability too. According to HighSpeedInternet.com’s 2023 customer satisfaction survey, AT&T ranked fourth in reliability of national providers—far higher than CenturyLink’s 12th place.

Overall, AT&T offers a faster connection that’s more reliable. Much of this likely has to do with the fact that AT&T really only offers fiber-based plans (excluding the Internet Air service), while CenturyLink still has dated DSL connectivity.

Dollar value

dollar value
AT&T: 3.8/5.0 | CenturyLink: 3.8/5.0

AT&T and CenturyLink are equal when it comes to overall value. Both offer decent download speeds for the money, and unfortunately, both charge fees for certain services, which can add to your bill.

AT&T’s prices are mostly average when it comes to fiber providers, and, as you would expect, its prices are higher than most cable providers. When you look at the plans at face value, you might assume that AT&T’s value is lower than CenturyLink’s. That’s because AT&T’s 300Mbps plan costs $55 per month, while CenturyLink will charge you $50 per month for 500Mbps. However, AT&T also offers faster plans that CenturyLink doesn’t offer, and remember, on average, AT&T’s plans are actually much faster than CenturyLink’s.

AT&T fees are lower. AT&T charges $10 per month for a router/modem, while CenturyLink costs$15 per month. AT&T’s self-installation fees are a little higher, but CenturyLink’s professional installation fees are higher. One area in which CenturyLink is cheaper is cancellation fees—CenturyLink has no contracts, while AT&T may lock you into a contract that will cost you in cancellation fees if you leave before the end of that contract.

Both AT&T and CenturyLink offer decent value for money, though neither of them get close to Google Fiber, which currently offers the best value of any provider.

Customer experience

customer experience
AT&T: 4.0/5.0 | CenturyLink: 3.8/5.0

Internet service providers offer notoriously terrible customer service. However, when you compare AT&T and CenturyLink, AT&T easily comes out on top.

According to the American Consumer Satisfaction Survey, AT&T ranked first amongst fiber providers in customer service, and CenturyLink came a close second. Other surveys, however, don’t find them to be quite as close. AT&T ranked fourth in HighSpeedInternet.com’s 2023 customer satisfaction survey of national providers (not just fiber providers), while CenturyLink landed in 12th.

AT&T certainly isn’t perfect, of course. It took us nine minutes to get a live agent on the phone through AT&T’s phone tree, which isn’t great. That said, when we called CenturyLink, a bot hung up on us after two minutes for declining to share an address.

Despite AT&T’s better customer service, AT&T has suffered a few data breaches over the past few years, exposing the personal information of millions of users.

Still, AT&T is easier to deal with when it comes to customer service, and while you will have to set aside some time to get a live agent on the phone, most users find AT&T’s customer service to be much better than CenturyLink’s.

Overall quality: Which internet provider should you pick?

Both AT&T and CenturyLink offer decent plans and reliability, however given the choice, you should go for AT&T. AT&T offers faster real-world speeds on average, along with more reliable connectivity. And while CenturyLink still relies on dated DSL connections for many of its customers, AT&T uses only fiber, setting aside the newer and barely available Internet Air plan.

As is often the case with internet service providers, it’s entirely possible that you only have CenturyLink as an option. CenturyLink’s plans aren’t terrible, and if you can get a CenturyLink fiber plan, you might find it to offer excellent connectivity. However, if you do have a choice, AT&T is the way to go.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink: What deals and promotions can you get?

AT&T offers a few deals that can be helpful for potential customers, while CenturyLink tends to stick to smaller add-ons and other perks, rather than actual deals. Notably, AT&T is offering a gift card to those who switch to AT&T Fiber.

deals badge
Cover switching fees with a gift card

When you switch to AT&T Fiber, AT&T will give you up to $150 in a Visa gift card to cover any fees associated with canceling your previous plan.

AT&T add-ons and perks


Take control of your home internet setup with AT&T Smart Home Manager.

Download the app associated with your AT&T Wi-Fi equipment.


Protect yourself from identity theft with AT&T ActiveArmor.

Add AT&T ActiveArmor to your bill.


Get DIRECTV added to your monthly bill starting at $69.99 per month.

Sign up to DIRECTV on the AT&T website.


CenturyLink add-ons and perks


Get premium streaming services in your order.

Ask a CenturyLink representative


Get 20% off of Bark online monitoring.

Ask a CenturyLink representative


AT&T vs. CenturyLink: What do customers think?

ATT

For the most part, AT&T customers love AT&T’s internet service. In fact, we interviewed four AT&T customers, and three of them had nothing bad to say about their internet service.

Danny Flanagan is an AT&T customer who lives in Ohio and loves his AT&T internet service. He called everything about the service “fantastic,” including AT&T’s customer service.

Jane Collins, another customer who is a retired healthcare administrator in the Detroit metropolitan area, says that AT&T is the best internet provider of the three she has used. “I would say their internet is reliable. It’s been relatively trouble free,” she says. “The pricing has been stable.”

Not everyone loves AT&T. Hayden, who is a customer in Oak Park, Illinois, prefers AT&T to Xfinity, which was his previous provider, but he still has some negative things to say about it. In particular, he has found his Wi-Fi extender stops working frequently. “I wouldn’t say it’s a good deal, but it’s comparable to the other ISPs I’ve used,” he says, calling it “better than the alternative in this town.”

“AT&T’s fiber network is fast and reliable.” —Lauren Hannula
Centurylink

We interviewed six CenturyLink customers and found that they generally have positive experiences with CenturyLink.

Cai Crawford, a staffer on the Reviews.org team and a CenturyLink customer, says that the service is excellent. “It's hard to beat the price I have, and service is generally really good.”

That said, Crawford notes that CenturyLink technicians recently cut a line while running fiber to another house nearby, leaving him and his neighbors without internet. Thankfully, the issue was fixed the next morning.

Other users, including some on Reddit, are also happy with the service. “I love that I've never had an issue with service,” says Reddit user FearthePack, who gets CenturyLink fiber internet at his home in Minnesota.

“Service is generally really good.” —Cai Crawford

Want AT&T or CenturyLink? Find it in your area.

If you have the choice between AT&T and CenturyLink, AT&T is the way to go. AT&T offers faster speeds and better value, and with AT&T, you won’t be stuck with slow DSL connectivity no matter where you live. CenturyLink isn’t a terrible service, and if it’s your only option, you should still have a mostly positive experience. However, it generally doesn’t compare with AT&T’s service overall.

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See if you can get CenturyLink or AT&T fiber internet in your area.
Christian de Looper
Written by
Christian de Looper is a technology journalist based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. Christian has over 10 years of experience covering all aspects of the consumer tech industry, with bylines in Digital Trends, Tom’s Guide, Forbes, CNN Underscored, PCMag, and more. When he’s not obsessing over the latest and greatest tech, he can be found hanging out with his family or trying and failing to train his cat.

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