CenturyLink offers speeds ranging from decent to blazing fast, but its available speeds vary widely from location to location. And as with most internet providers, there have been some customer service concerns, but things seem to be looking up. In fact, when you combine CenturyLink’s speeds with low prices and the company’s new Price for Life plans, it’s easy to see why we chose CenturyLink as both best DSL provider and best budget Internet Service Provider (ISP).
CenturyLink prices and plans
Low prices and Price for Life plans make CenturyLink great for folks on a budget.
CenturyLink recently updated its pricing and package list, and we’ve got all the details.
CenturyLink internet plans
|Plan||Advertised price*||Download speed||Learn More|
|Price for Life 20||$45/mo.||Up to 20 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 80||$55/mo||Up to 80 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 100||$65/mo.||Up to 100 Mbps||View Plan|
|Price for Life 1 Gig Internet||$85/mo||Up to 1 Gig||View Plan|
*Prices vary by location
CenturyLink pricing and contract options
CenturyLink’s internet prices have always been great, and its new Price for Life standard just solidifies that reputation. Basically, whatever price you sign up at, that’s the price you pay for the entire life of your service. Not the life of the contract—because there no longer is a contract—and not for a one- or two-year promo period, like some other no-contract providers. When CenturyLink says “price for life,” it means it.
The thing to know about CenturyLink is that package availability varies widely from one location to the next. Its fiber service, for example, is available in only a few select markets (CenturyLink doesn’t specify where, either). Even the DSL availability varies from place to place. Often, the only way to know what’s available to you is to enter your address and check.
We think the Price for Life High Speed Internet 80 plan provides the best balance of price and speed for most people. It’s only ten bucks more than the cheapest plans, but it offers up to four times the speed. 80 Mbps should be plenty for most people—unless you’ve got six kids all streaming Netflix at once.
The “I’m average and I want an average internet plan” plan
|Plan||Advertised price||Download speed||Details|
|Price for Life High Speed Internet 80||$55/mo.||Up to 80 Mbps||View Plan|
If you need the fastest speed available and live in a CenturyLink fiber area, go for the 1 Gig plan. To give you an idea of how fast this puppy is, a 1 Gbps connection can download an HD movie in under 30 seconds.1 Gigabit internet basically means you’ll never wait to do anything online ever again, and that’s awesome.
The “my parents never taught me the value of patience” plan
|Plan||Advertised price||Download speed||Details|
|Price for Life 1 Gig||$85/mo.||Up to 1 Gbps||View Plan|
CenturyLink service fees
CenturyLink is actually light on the fees, which is a nice change of pace in this industry. Other than equipment fees, you’ll just have to worry about covering installation.
- Installation: CenturyLink does charge an installation fee (the company calls it an “activation fee” in billing), but you can sometimes find promotions waiving this fee. You can also just ask—quite often, the provider will waive the fee to make a potential new customer happy. It’s worked for us.
CenturyLink equipment fees
Like basically every other ISP, CenturyLink charges you for its proprietary modem. The modem rental fee is $9.99 per month, which is pretty much par for the course. You can also buy the modem outright for $99.99. We suggest the latter if you plan on keeping the service for at least ten months, since it ends up being less expensive in the long run.
CenturyLink internet speed and data
Download speeds are all over the board, depending on where you live.
CenturyLink’s internet speed ranges from 20 Mbps all the way up to 1 Gig. However, the advertised speeds tell only part of the story. Typically, the speeds customers will experience in day-to-day use are different from those advertised (that’s why commercials all say, “up to X Mbps”).
Some providers deliver more speed than promised, and some deliver less. Unfortunately, CenturyLink definitely delivers less.
Actual speed vs. advertised speed
FCC data shows CenturyLink delivers between 80% and 95% of its advertised speed, on average.2 That means if you pay for the 20 Mbps plan, you’ll get only 16 Mbps on an average day. To be fair, though, that’s not the worst performance we’ve seen.
To compare, ViaSat/Exede tends to provide only 70% of its advertised speed. But that doesn’t let CenturyLink off the hook. Cox, for example, averages between 91% and 106% of its advertised speeds, while Comcast Xfinity almost always exceeds its advertised speed.
What’s CenturyLink’s data limit?
CenturyLink plans have a 1 TB data cap. That’s fairly common. Many providers give customers 1 TB of data, and some are moving away from data caps altogether (we’re a fan of the latter).
So what happens if you exceed the 1 TB limit? Well—nothing. According to CenturyLink’s Excessive Use Policy, you’ll receive a notice that you exceeded the limit.3 So scary. True, the notice will try and convince you to upgrade to a bigger plan, but the company won’t make you switch.
We’re not sure why CenturyLink bothers including a data cap if it isn’t going to throttle your speed once you cross it, but at least it doesn’t punish you for making use of your internet. Too many providers out there serve you fees for exceeding your data cap. We’re glad to see CenturyLink isn’t one of them.
CenturyLink customer service and support
CenturyLink’s customer support is average for ISPs—which is to say, it isn’t great.
CenturyLink’s service seems to be about average for the industry. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) rates the company at a 63, which puts it dead center among internet providers.4
That’s been our experience with CenturyLink, too. The service wasn’t especially awful, but we haven’t been blown away either.
How to handle CenturyLink’s customer service
Generally speaking, dealing with CenturyLink is like dealing with any other ISP—just avoid talking to agents on the phone, and you’ll probably be fine. The support site is a little dated, but the search function works surprisingly well, surfacing answers to most of our questions on the first try.
If you do have to call, be aware that CenturyLink’s business hours are pretty inconvenient for folks who need help. Support lines are available only Monday–Friday, 8am–6pm. In other words, the time most people are at work. If you want to order new services, that line is open Saturday (of course), but otherwise, you’re going to be calling on your lunch break and probably finishing your work day irritated.
The installation process—or lack thereof
CenturyLink has had some issues over the past year with installation techs showing up late for appointments—or just not showing up at all.
This issue seems to have been related to a dispute with a union representing the company’s installation techs, and it appears an agreement was reached.5 We’re hoping that means this issue gets ironed out soon. And don’t worry—we’ll let you know if it doesn’t.
The bottom line
CenturyLink offers fast, affordable internet, but you’ll have to see what’s available in your area first.
In the end, CenturyLink makes for a solid internet provider. If budget is your major concern, we think the service has a lot to offer you—the company’s new pricing structure yields some nice internet speeds at affordable prices, all contract-free.
Just make sure you look at what packages are available in your area before getting your hopes up.
Have a question? Ask us.
Did we miss anything? Does your experience with CenturyLink differ from ours? Let us know in the comments below.
Have a complaint? Make it count and tell the FCC.
If you’re frustrated with your ISP, the best place to lodge a complaint is with the FCC. This is the best way to be heard and actually impact the industry.