CenturyLink review: Exceptional DSL with no contract required

CenturyLink has faster speeds than most DSL internet companies, is compatible even with heavy internet users, has a long-term price lock, and there's no contract required.

CenturyLink boasts two claims to fame: a generous menu of high-speed options, including fiber gigabit, and the ability to lock in a low rate for life. Both are exceptional in the DSL world. 

Even more impressive is the generous no-contract option for all DSL speeds up to 100Mbps. Few providers offer such attractive high-speed plans without a commitment on your end. 

To better understand these offerings, we spent over four weeks analyzing six popular plans and comparing them across the four largest DSL providers. We found a service that offers exceptionally high speeds, though your experience will ultimately depend on your connection and location.


Pros:

  • Low-cost Fiber Gigabit plan
  • A wide array of DSL speeds
  • Price for life on DSL plans

Cons:

  • Limited bundling options
  • Mediocre customer service ratings
  • Low customer satisfaction scores

CenturyLink Internet plans and prices

Low-cost price for life plans without the contract.

Plan

Price

Download/Upload Speeds

Connection Type

Best for

1.5Mbps

$49

Up to 1.5Mbps

DSL

Casual Browsers

10Mbps

$49

Up to 10Mbps

DSL

Light Streamers

40Mbps

$49

Up to 40Mbps

DSL

Light online gamers

60Mbps

$49

Up to 60Mbps

DSL

Binge-watchers

100Mbps

$49

Up to 10Mbps

DSL

House of Multitaskers

Fiber Gigabit

$65

Up to 940/940Mbps

Fiber

Mega Users

Data effective 02/05/20

* Package availability depends on location, prices may vary. For more details on these plans click here to learn more from our partner site, Allconnect.

Fiber plans, speed and data

CenturyLink offers one fiber plan: Fiber Gigabit. At a highly competitive $65 per month, this fully unlimited Fiber Gigabit plan is one of the cheapest gigabit offers we've seen on the market. The catch? Unlike other CenturyLink plans, Fiber Gigabit is not price-for-life, meaning it will increase over time. 

Although CenturyLink doesn't provide any specifics around the rate change, most gigabit plans -- such as Verizon's Fios Gigabit -- start around $80, and we wouldn't be surprised to see this service follow suit. 

Even with an eventual price hike, the starting offer makes this gigabit plan a steal for larger households looking to stream, game, and download across dozens of devices.

DSL plans, speed, and data

As far as DSL internet goes, CenturyLink offers an array of speeds ranging from 1.5Mbps to 100Mbps. While the majority of people will experience somewhat slower speeds, between 10 to 40Mbps, these virtually unlimited no-contract plans are more than enough for a family of users looking to surf the web, watch videos, and play games online without having to endure long load times or worry about going over a data cap.

Price for life

CenturyLink offers a price lock on all speeds up to 100Mbps for as long as you remain with them. This offer is pretty much unmatched among DSL providers -- and among internet providers in general -- and could be extremely valuable if you are looking to keep your costs low for the long haul.

Who is each plan best for?

  • 1.5Mbps: Best for a single user with 1-2 devices
  • 10Mbps: Best for a single user with 3-4 devices
  • 40Mbps: Best for two users user with up to 5 devices
  • 60Mbps: Best for three users with up to 6 devices
  • 100Mbps: Best for four users with up to 8 devices
  • Fiber Gigabit: Best for 5+ users with 10+ devices

How fast is CenturyLink Internet?

In the FCC's latest report, CenturyLink's actual speeds were lagging behind its advertised speeds, with 80% of panelists only receiving 77.9% of their advertised download speed, well below other providers like AT&T and Verizon. 

These findings align with the low Performance and Reliability score from J.D. Power's Satisfaction Study; however, it's worth noting that the FCC only tested CenturyLink speeds up to 40Mbps in this report. Fiber-based connections often have a greater consistency in speed and performance.

Internet availability

Widely available DSL plans with a growing fiber network.

With availability across 35 states, CenturyLink provides high-speed internet in all four major regions of the U.S., with the greatest coverage in the West. 

Although most CenturyLink customers will be limited to a DSL connection, the company is working on expanding the fiber network, which is currently limited to 18 cities. Use our zip tool to check if your address is serviceable.

Other factors to consider

Simple equipment

Simple equipment, with the ability to opt-out to avoid the monthly fee.

The type of modem, and its costs, will depend on your speed and connection type, though most range from $10-15 per month. 

To avoid shelling out $120 per year on equipment fees, we recommend either purchasing the modem upfront ($100) or using your own. The upfront cost may seem like a lot, but it will ultimately save you hundreds of dollars after the first year. 

Should you choose to opt-out of CenturyLink's equipment entirely, make sure your router is compatible. If you only have a fiber-dedicated connection available, your old DSL modem may not be able to deliver the speeds you're paying for.

Notable fees

  • Equipment lease fee: Up to $15/mo.*
  • Professional installation fee: Up to $125*
  • Self-installation fee: $50 shipping/handling*

*Sometimes waived for online orders

No TV bundles

CenturyLink is extremely limited in its bundling options, offering only one: internet and unlimited nationwide home phone. Given that providers like AT&T and Verizon offer their own TV service, or at the very least, offer some discount with partnered providers, CenturyLink falls considerably short. 

However, it's not all bad news. With an internet connection and a compatible streaming device, CenturyLink users can look into one of the many TV streaming services that are often cheaper than traditional TV packages. 

Mediocre customer service ratings

Customers of any telecom provider know the industry's customer service could use some work -- including CenturyLink. It's received low-to-middling feedback from customers across review sites and in third-party surveys. 

ACSI's 2019 report and recent J.D. Power rankings both place CenturyLink below other big names like AT&T and Comcast Xfinity when it comes to customer experience. If you value customer service over the price and speed of your internet connection, you may want to look elsewhere.