CenturyLink Internet Service Review – CNET

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Table of Contents What are the pros and cons of CenturyLink internet service? What we like What we don’t like What internet plans does CenturyLink offer? CenturyLink Home Internet Plans Are CenturyLink internet speeds fast? Where is CenturyLink internet available? Are there other aspects of CenturyLink internet you should know? […]


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My first introduction to CenturyLink was in 2011 with CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. I thought CenturyLink was a bank or maybe even an insurance company. Turns out it’s one of the country’s largest internet service providers, available to over 49 million customers across the country, according to Federal Communications Commission data.

In September 2020, CenturyLink the company (along with the stadium it sponsors) rebranded itself to Lumen Technologies. The CenturyLink brand still exists as the name of its internet service offering, though. If you live in the northwest (and are perhaps one of the 12s, as Seahawks fans are lovingly called), or in any of the 37 states where CenturyLink is available, it might be one of your top home internet options.

Is CenturyLink a viable option for your household? Let’s explore more about CenturyLink home internet now.

What are the pros and cons of CenturyLink internet service?

CenturyLink currently offers customers either digital subscriber line or fiber-optic internet service. Ground-laid fiber-optic cable is a lot faster than phone line-based DSL connections, so your speeds will vary significantly depending on what’s available at your address.

What we like

CenturyLink Internet Price for Life deal: Lock in your rate for as long as you keep the plan.

Unlimited data: There are no data caps on any of CenturyLink’s internet plans.

No contracts: You don’t have to worry about cancellation fees or impending price hikes after your promo period.

What we don’t like

Inconsistent DSL speeds: The available speeds among CenturyLink DSL plans can vary wildly and, in some cases, are well below what the FCC deems “broadband.”

Little flexibility with fiber plans: As of now, you only get two plan options with CenturyLink’s fiber network.

What internet plans does CenturyLink offer?

CenturyLink currently offers DSL internet plans, which can range up to 140 megabits per second, or a 100% fiber network featuring two available plans. A spokesperson told CNET the company is continuing to invest and expand its fiber footprint, so it’s been unveiling a new Quantum Fiber brand rolling out to its markets this year.

CenturyLink Home Internet Plans

Plan Monthly cost Equipment fees Max download speeds Max upload speeds
Price for Life 20 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 20Mbps 2Mbps
Price for Life 40 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 40Mbps 5Mbps
Price for Life 60 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 60Mbps 7Mbps
Price for Life 80 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 80Mbps 10Mbps
Price for Life 100 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 100Mbps 12Mbps
Price for Life 120 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 120Mbps 30Mbps
Price for Life 140 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 140Mbps 40Mbps
Quantum Fiber 200 $49 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 200Mbps 200Mbps
Quantum Fiber Gigabit $65 $15 for modem/router rental (optional) 940Mbps 940Mbps

*Pricing per month plus taxes. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change. May or may not be available based on service address. 


For many of its serviceable addresses, CenturyLink offers just a handful of the above plans. In a few areas, you may have only one choice. That’s unusual among internet service providers, most of which will typically offer three to five different plan options at most addresses.

Are CenturyLink internet speeds fast?

If the Quantum Fiber or Fiber Gigabit plan is available in your area, CenturyLink internet service is plenty fast. You’ll find symmetrical download and upload speeds, which means better performance for work (no glitchy Zoom calls or frozen FaceTime frames) and play (less lag during online gaming and no issues bingeing Shadow and Bone in 4K).

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that many CenturyLink plans are still DSL, which does not perform nearly as well as fiber and is also slower than what you find with cable internet connections.  

For example, if you head to the speed-testing website Ookla, you’ll find a Speed Score metric that tracks ISPs based on a combination of download and upload speeds. Its most recent scores, taken during the last three months of 2020, list CenturyLink in sixth place behind Verizon, Cox, Xfinity, Spectrum and AT&T Internet. That might not seem so bad, but consider that the five providers above it averaged a score of 128. CenturyLink rang in with an average score of just 49.19. Its score improved slightly to 52.60 in the first quarter of 2021, but it remained dead last.

The gap isn’t quite so vast when you look at Ookla’s Consistency Score, which is a way of looking at how often a provider delivers broadband speeds to its customers. While CenturyLink again came in sixth, it notched a 51.1% score to the other five’s average of 84.2%. Again, not stellar, but not as stark a difference as the previous comparison.

Lastly, according to the FCC’s most recent, January 2021 report on fixed broadband performance, over 40% of CenturyLink customers experienced download speeds greater than 95% of the advertised speed, just over 20% experienced speeds less than 80% of what was advertised, and the remaining subscribers experienced speeds between 80% and 95% of the advertised number. 

That’s in harsh contrast to cable and fiber providers such as Cox, Mediacom, Verizon and Xfinity, for whom 93%-99% of customers were finding their performance to be equal or better than 95% of the advertised download speed. To be fair, the FCC numbers only tested CenturyLink DSL plans and none of the fiber plans, so the numbers are skewed towards the lowest speed tiers that CenturyLink offers.

centurylink-coverage-map

CenturyLink home internet service is available in 37 states. The company tells CNET that fiber plans are available at roughly 50% of serviceable addresses.


FCC/Mapbox

Where is CenturyLink internet available?

You can find CenturyLink home internet service in 37 states across the US. The list includes Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

According to a spokesperson for Lumen, “Quantum Fiber is currently available in about 50% of our footprint, including Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Springfield, Missouri, with additional cities planned throughout 2021.”  

Are there other aspects of CenturyLink internet you should know?

To offer you the Price for Life deal and no-term agreements, CenturyLink does require monthly prepayment. But this also means no credit checks. Here are a few more details to consider when evaluating CenturyLink’s internet service. 

Additional monthly fee

Like many other ISPs — including Spectrum, Verizon and Xfinity — CenturyLink gives you the option to avoid a modem or router rental by using your own device. You can check the list of CenturyLink compatible devices, but if you decide to go with your own gear, you won’t be eligible for CenturyLink’s free 24/7 tech support.

Going with CenturyLink’s equipment will add an additional $15 a month to your bill. One thing to note from the small print — the monthly equipment fee does not fall under the Price for Life deal, so it’s possible that part of your bill could increase during your time of service.   

One-time fees

While there’s no charge for self-installation, not all addresses are eligible for that option. CenturyLink charges $99 for a tech installation if required. In some cases, that fee may go up to $125. Also, there’s a broadband activation fee of $20 when you begin service. 

Lastly, if you want to avoid paying the additional monthly equipment fee that we just described above, you could opt to purchase the CenturyLink modem for a one-time fee of up to $200. 

No data caps

In previous years, CenturyLink reserved its unlimited data for DSL plans only. Now, as part of the rollout of its Quantum Fiber plans, CenturyLink includes unlimited data with all fiber plans, too. That’s a great change, and one that means you won’t need to keep an eye on your data usage or worry about gobbling up too many gigabytes before your billing cycle is over.  

isp-customer-satisfaction-2020

American Customer Satisfaction Index

Where does CenturyLink internet rank for customer satisfaction?

CenturyLink saw a significant 7% increase in its 2020 American Customer Satisfaction Index score by earning 63 out of a possible 100 points. That’s the highest score the company has earned with the ACSI since 2016, so things seem to be trending in the right direction. CenturyLink is also ranked above other providers that operate in similar suburban and rural areas, including Frontier, Mediacom, Suddenlink and Windstream. That said, CenturyLink is still two points below the overall industry average of 65/100 for all ISPs.

For the 2020 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study, CenturyLink earned a score of 704 on a 1,000-point scale in the South region and 716 in the West. That’s below average in each region, so there’s still work to be done, for sure. On the plus side, J.D. Power did position CenturyLink above Frontier, HughesNet, Mediacom, Suddenlink and Windstream in both the West and South regions and above Spectrum in the West. Like the ACSI data, that makes it a solid but unspectacular, middle-of-the-pack performer in terms of customer satisfaction.

CenturyLink internet FAQs

What is CenturyLink Price for Life internet?

The CenturyLink Price for Life internet deal covers all plans up to 140Mbps. It means customers can lock in their rate for as long as they keep that internet plan.   

How do I get in touch with CenturyLink customer service?

CenturyLink customer service can be reached in several ways. You can find assistance online at the CenturyLink Customer Support Center or you can use the CenturyLink chat function. Also, you can do it the old-fashioned way and give them a call at 866-642-0444.

Does CenturyLink internet offer any deals or promotions?

CenturyLink isn’t big on running short-term promotions and deals per se, but instead relies on its Price for Life deal. Customers are able to get additional savings by ordering online — including, in some cases, free modem purchase and tech install — and by choosing paperless billing and prepay options.

Is there a CenturyLink data cap?

For the most part, no. CenturyLink used to reserve unlimited data for its DSL plans, but since unveiling its Quantum Fiber brand, the unlimited data cap extends to the fiber network as well. That said, the deal is available for new customers only. Existing customers may still be tethered to previous data cap limitations. 

What is Lumen Technologies and did CenturyLink buy it?

Lumen Technologies was not an acquisition but is a rebranding of CenturyLink that occurred in September of last year. Many home internet customers will still see the CenturyLink brand for their services, while others will begin to see the Quantum Fiber name in 2021.

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