AT&T vs. CenturyLink 2020

It’s the throwdown of a lifetime between AT&T’s top-tier customer rankings and CenturyLink’s cheap deals.

Best for customer care
  • Super low starting price on gigabit internet
  • Great customer satisfaction ratings
  • Unpredictable DSL speeds

Plans start at $49.99/mo.

View Plans for AT&T

Best for budget options
  • Guaranteed Price for Life on DSL internet plans
  • Excellent fiber gigabit plan
  • Limited availability

Plans start at $49.00/mo.

View Plans for CenturyLink

Bottom line

AT&T is best if you want top-tier customer service and a satellite or streaming TV plan to replace your cable package. CenturyLink is better if you want cheap Wi-Fi, since it has Price for Life offers on DSL plans, free self-installation, and other ways to save on expenses.

Current internet deals

AT&T and CenturyLink are both waiving data caps and late fees for customers due to the national crisis stemming from the new coronavirus.

Both providers have also pledged not to cut off customers’ internet if they aren’t able to pay their bills. And they have opened their public Wi-Fi hotspots for anyone to use at no cost.

These measures will be in effect until June 30.

There are some other good deals from AT&T and CenturyLink to get excited about too.

CenturyLink:

  • DSL internet plans have Price for Life guarantees.
  • Fiber gigabit plans come with a free router.
  • DSL and fiber plans come with free self-installation.

AT&T:

  • Fiber gigabit plans start at a (ridiculously low) price of $49.99 per month for the first 12 months. By comparison, CenturyLink’s fiber gigabit plan starts at $65 per month.

See our internet deals page for more bargains from AT&T, CenturyLink, and other internet providers.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink internet

AT&T CenturyLink

Type of service

DSL, fiber

Type of service

DSL, fiber

Price

$49.99/mo.*

Price

$49.00–$65.00/mo.†

Contract

Month-to-month

Contract

Month-to-month

Download speeds

Up to 100–1,000 Mbps

Download speeds

15–1,000 Mbps

Equipment fees

$10.00/mo.

Equipment fees

$15.00/mo. or $150.00 flat fee

Installation fee

$35.00–$99.00

Installation fee

$99 (free self-installation)

Customer satisfaction

(3.83/5)

Customer satisfaction

(3.79/5)

View AT&T plansView Centurylink plans
AT&T

Type of service

DSL, fiber

CenturyLink

Type of service

DSL, fiber

AT&T

Price

$49.99/mo.*

CenturyLink

Price

$49.00–$65.00/mo.†

AT&T

Contract

Month-to-month

CenturyLink

Contract

Month-to-month

AT&T

Download speeds

Up to 100–1,000 Mbps

CenturyLink

Download speeds

15–1,000 Mbps

AT&T

Equipment fees

$10.00/mo.

CenturyLink

Equipment fees

$15.00/mo. or $150.00 flat fee

AT&T

Installation fee

$35.00–$99.00

CenturyLink

Installation fee

$99 (free self-installation)

AT&T

Customer satisfaction

(3.83/5)

CenturyLink

Customer satisfaction

(3.79/5)

AT&T View AT&T plans
CenturyLink View Centurylink plans

AT&T vs. CenturyLink packages and pricing

AT&T and CenturyLink both offer two options—DSL and fiber internet. Their DSL plans are decently priced and their fiber speeds are as fast as they come.

What sets the two internet service providers (ISPs) apart is customer ratings, pricing, and extra features. With AT&T, you can bundle your internet with DIRECTV or AT&T TV as an alternative to an expensive cable package. AT&T also has some of the best ratings in the biz, so you’ll have less worries when it comes to technical support and customer service.

CenturyLink, on the other hand, is a great pick if you simply want to save some cash. All of its DSL plans are Price for Life. You can buy a CenturyLink modem instead of renting it, and you can get installation for free if you elect to do it yourself.

AT&T packages

PackagePrice*SpeedInternet type
AT&T Internet up to 100 Mbps$49.99/mo.Up to 100 Mbps**DSL
Internet 1000$49.99/mo.1,000 MbpsFiber
PackageAT&T Internet up to 100 Mbps
Price*$49.99/mo.
SpeedUp to 100 Mbps**
Internet typeDSL
PackageInternet 1000
Price*$49.99/mo.
Speed1,000 Mbps
Internet typeFiber

There’s nothing particularly special about AT&T’s DSL plan. It’s billed as having “up to 100 Mbps” speeds—”up to” is the key wording here since the actual speeds you can get depend entirely on what’s available in your area.

You’ll be doing fine if 25 Mbps or above comes at that price, and you’re definitely set if you can find a plan delivering 50–60 Mbps. But the price goes up to $59.99 per month after 12 months. And anything slower than 25 Mbps will not be worth the moolah—plans from other providers with 25 Mbps speeds cost as little as $19.99 per month.

Pro tip:

Read our affordable internet guide to find government programs and other subsidies for low-income and low-cost Wi-Fi plans.

AT&T’s Internet 1000 plan is really what impresses us. We had to do a double take when we saw the price—only $49.99 a month for fiber internet and gigabit speeds? Holy moly. That’s about as good as it gets for internet with that level of speed and reliability. It goes up $20 after a year, but even that is a decent price for what you’re getting.

Another cool thing: The Internet 1000 plan comes with a free subscription to HBO® Max, AT&T’s flagship streaming service, which launches May 27, 2020. The standalone streaming platform features the entire HBO catalog along with tons of new content and titles from Warner Entertainment.

If you want a more robust TV option, AT&T has satellite TV packages with DIRECTV and streaming bundles with AT&T TV, a formidable streaming service designed to help cord-cutters transition to a world of live TV streams and on-demand viewing. If you’re tired of dealing with a cable package, these are both good options to consider.

CenturyLink packages

Package*PriceSpeeds up toInternet type
Price for Life 15 Mbps$49/mo.15 MbpsDSL
Price for Life 20 Mbps$49/mo.20 MbpsDSL
Price for Life 40 Mbps$49/mo.40 MbpsDSL
Price for Life 80 Mbps$49/mo.80 MbpsDSL
Price for Life 100 Mbps$49/mo.100 MbpsDSL
Fiber Internet$65/mo.1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)Fiber
Package*Price for Life 15 Mbps
Price$49/mo.
Speeds up to15 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
Package*Price for Life 20 Mbps
Price$49/mo.
Speeds up to20 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
Package*Price for Life 40 Mbps
Price$49/mo.
Speeds up to40 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
Package*Price for Life 80 Mbps
Price$49/mo.
Speeds up to80 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
Package*Price for Life 100 Mbps
Price$49/mo.
Speeds up to100 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
Package*Fiber Internet
Price$65/mo.
Speeds up to1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)
Internet typeFiber

CenturyLink is the go-to pick for anybody who wants cheap internet and deals aplenty. Working from home on a freelancer’s budget as you ride out the new coronavirus pandemic? Then sign up for one of CenturyLink’s DSL plans and enjoy the comfort of having a Price for Life bill that won’t magically go up after 12 months.

You can also save cash by installing the internet yourself—self-installation is free, while a professional installation costs $99. You can buy a CenturyLink modem/router upfront as well, which will save you some dough in the long run compared to making monthly payments on a rental. Otherwise, its DSL modem costs $15 per month.

Like AT&T, CenturyLink also has a fiber gigabit plan. It costs about $15 more per month for the first 12 months compared to AT&T’s plan, but after AT&T’s promotion expires the CenturyLink option ends up being $5 less expensive per month.

CenturyLink and AT&T both advertise a max speed of up to 940 Mbps over the same type of formidable fiber-optic network. We think AT&T’s plan is ever-so-slightly better for the money, but CenturyLink’s fiber gigabit plan is also a fantastic option.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink: Which has the fastest internet speeds?

Internet speeds

AT&T and CenturyLink both have some of the fastest internet available to customers nationwide. Their fiber internet plans each deliver up to 940 Mbps download speeds, making them ideal for big families, gamers, and small-business owners who’ve brought their operations to the home.

AT&T’s fiber gigabit plan is less expensive than CenturyLink’s to start with, but it ends up being more expensive when the initial price discount ends 12 months down the line: AT&T’s post-promotion rate is $69.99 per month, while CenturyLink’s plan is $65 per month. But AT&T does have better customer ratings than CenturyLink in our latest customer satisfaction survey. Better customer service may be worth the (slightly) higher cost if you find yourself dealing with lots of tech frustrations.

If you can’t get fiber from either of these providers, then they also have DSL internet plans. DSL is not known for speed, unfortunately—it tops out around 100 Mbps, and there’s no guarantee you can even get DSL that fast where you live.

DSL is a bit like having a Ford Fiesta instead of a Ferrari. It can still get you decent speeds, just not those eye-popping Ferrari speeds. Anywhere from 50–100 Mbps will still be plenty fast for a modestly sized household with several people all using multiple devices.

Test your speed:

Not sure how much power you’ve got under the hood with your current internet plan? Use our speed test tool to see how fast your internet goes.

Internet types

AT&T and CenturyLink offer two types of internet—DSL and fiber.

Fiber internet is the best type of internet you can get, hands down. It’s the fastest, the most reliable—and also (*drum roll*) the rarest. Fiber is available in only select locations where ISPs have invested in building extremely costly fiber infrastructure.

If you can get fiber Wi-Fi from either of these providers, then you definitely should go for it. You’ll be getting the fastest speeds on the best type of internet infrastructure.

On top of that, either of these providers will give you fiber internet at a fair price. That’s a win-win with an extra bonus win attached.

DSL is a bit of an ugly duckling among internet types. It waddles along through your old-school copper phone lines at speeds below 100 Mbps. But DSL plans also cost less and still give you a quality connection and decent speeds.

It’s also still far better than dial-up internet. Though DSL also runs through phone lines, it’s a service that’s always on, meaning it lets you access the net 24/7 without requiring you to hold up your landline connection and log on. It’s also much, much faster than dial-up, which usually delivers a meager 40–50 Kbps.

To sum it up: Go for one of AT&T’s or CenturyLink’s DSL plans if you want a deal on cheap internet and don’t need the fancy stuff.

AT&T bundles

AT&T TV is a great way to give your cable TV plan the old heave-ho and replace it with a more affordable, streaming-only package. It recently replaced U-verse as AT&T’s flagship TV service, and it delivers live broadcasts of news, sports, and entertainment. It also has tens of thousands of on-demand titles and tons of apps, including Netflix and Pandora.

AT&T also offers satellite TV through DIRECTV. It offers premium TV with all your favorite channels, Spanish-language packages, and programming in 4K resolution. DIRECTV also gives you NFL SUNDAY TICKET, a much-coveted sports package featuring live broadcasts of every NFL game, including broadcasts that would otherwise not be available in your local market.

(CenturyLink, for its part, does not offer any TV bundles.)

Between AT&T TV and DIRECTV, we think DIRECTV is the best option because it gives you all that primo sports coverage and a lot of excellent channels on top of it. Honestly, although AT&T TV looks like an interesting choice as well, we’re not entirely convinced it’s worth the 24-month commitment that comes with the contract. You would already have access to a lot of its features if you were subscribed to the usual streaming services and had a streaming box like a Roku or Apple TV.

Pro tip:

AT&T U-verse is no longer available to customers. If you’re hankering for a TV option, AT&T TV or DIRECTV will get you what you need.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink fees and contracts

Here’s the thing with internet plans: whether you choose AT&T or CenturyLink (or any other ISP), the monthly sticker price is not the whole price. Like a spring-loaded jack-in-the-box toy, your bill will also be popping with installation costs, taxes, and other fees.

We went ahead and collected all those fees and put them into a table right here. This is for your education and for the betterment of a transparent society.

AT&T fees

FeesAmountMore info
Modem rental$10Learn more
Installation$35 (self-install) or $99 (professional install)Learn more
Late feesNone (until June 30 due to COVID-19)Learn more
Data overagesNone (until June 30 due to COVID-19)Learn more
TaxesCost may varyLearn more

To get your AT&T Internet up and ready, you can choose between doing self-installation or having a professional technician set it up. If you decide to install it yourself, you’ll need to fork over $35 for an “activation fee.” For a pro to do it, you’ll pay $99. The choice is yours.

CenturyLink fees

FeesAmountMore info
Modem rental$15/mo. (or $150 flat fee)Learn more
Installation$99 (free for self-installation)Learn more
Secure Wi-Fi service$5/mo. (optional)Learn more
Declined payment$10–$25Learn more
Late feesNone (until June 30 to COVID-19)Learn more
TaxesCost may varyLearn more

If you want some extra security against hackers, you can pay $5 per month for CenturyLink’s Secure Wi-Fi service, which raises the alarm if you’re visiting a high-risk website or if there’s malicious activity detected on your home network. (Your Wi-Fi will still be just as secure even without this “Secure” service, by the way. All Secure Wi-Fi does is just alert you of potentially dangerous sites or possible hacking.)

When it comes to installation, getting Wi-Fi set up in your humble abode will cost a $99 flat fee if you require the services of a professional technician. If you’re fit to install it yourself, CenturyLink will mail you a self-install kit free of charge.

Pro tip:

Make sure to check with CenturyLink to see if you can self-install in your area. We’ve heard of some cases in which a technician was required to make adjustments to a customer’s plan.

Read our guides to CenturyLink installation and AT&T installation for more information on the differences between setting up your home network yourself and having a pro do it.

Internet contracts

AT&T and CenturyLink both do not require annual commitments for their internet plans. Their services run month to month, so you can cancel without having to pay a dreaded early termination fee (ETF).

CenturyLink goes one step further by putting Price for Life guarantees on all of its DSL plans, so you won’t ever see price hikes on your internet bill. That’s what we call a slam dunk.

AT&T’s internet plans have a fixed price for 12 months. After that, you will see the price go up on your bill—although the hike seems reasonable compared to what we’ve seen from other ISPs.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get a no-contract bill if you order AT&T TV, AT&T’s much-touted streaming TV service. We called up customer service to get the lowdown and a friendly AT&T agent told us that signing up for AT&T TV requires a 24-month commitment.

Editor’s take:

CenturyLink and AT&T both deserve props here for not requiring annual commitments from internet customers.

But watch out for those ETFs from the AT&T TV plan. If you want to cancel early, you’ll have to pay $15 for every month left on your contract, which adds up quickly.

See if AT&T or CenturyLink is available where you live.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink equipment

Renting a modem and router

We think renting the equipment directly from the ISPs is a mighty fine option because it means you’re getting something that’s compatible with the company’s system and easy to troubleshoot or replace.

Buying a modem and router

Buying a modem and router can be good if you’re more of a tech expert and want better options to do things like online gaming, link aggregation, or setting up a guest network. Your own router can also come in handy if you want a long-range router to patch up Wi-Fi dead zones.

CenturyLink also lets you buy its router up front rather than rent it month-by-month. If you ask us, that really is the best option because then you’re saving cash and can keep it long-term.

In the long run, you’ll save money by buying your own modem and router. Just make sure that your equipment is compatible with the internet provider’s network.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink customer service

AT&T gets middle rankings for customer service and tech support. It comes in seventh place and tenth place, respectively, among 15 major ISPs in our customer satisfaction survey.

CenturyLink also gets middle rankings in our customer satisfaction survey.

Installation and setup

AT&T

Installation fee: $35 or $99

Installation type:Pro and self-install

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(4.05/5)

 

Schedule an installation

CenturyLink

Installation fee: $99 (free for self-install)

Installation type: Pro and self-install

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.96/5)

 

Schedule an installation

AT&T gets great ratings for installation and setup in our customer satisfaction survey, taking third place out of 15. CenturyLink gets seventh place for installation.

AT&T will hit you with a $35 activation fee if you choose to install your Wi-Fi yourself; otherwise, you’ll have to put down $99 to have a professional do it. CenturyLink will mail you a self-installation kit at no charge—but setting up your own internet isn’t necessarily a walk in the park.

If you’re a handy person in general, the self-installation process will be fairly straightforward. It’s usually just a matter of plugging power cords and Ethernet cables in to to the proper equipment and then doing some minor troubleshooting to make sure everything is turned on and working properly. It shouldn’t take longer than a couple hours as long as there aren’t any technical issues and everything necessary came with your self-install kit.

Customer satisfaction

AT&T

Overall customer satisfaction rating:

(3.83/5)

CenturyLink

Overall customer satisfaction rating:

(3.79/5)

AT&T gets mixed results when it comes to customer rankings. It gets sixth place for overall performance in our customer satisfaction survey, hanging out towards the middle of the bunch.

CenturyLink performs just below AT&T in our customer survey. In our survey, CenturyLink takes eighth place for overall satisfaction.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink availability

AT&T internet availability

Top 5 states:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Illinois
  4. Michigan
  5. Ohio

CenturyLink internet availability

Top 5 states:

  1. Colorado
  2. Washington
  3. Oregon
  4. North Carolina
  5. Wisconsin

AT&T offers DSL and fiber internet across large areas of California and Texas. It’s also available in parts of the Midwest and the South.

CenturyLink has wide DSL coverage across almost all 50 states, especially in the Southwest, the Midwest, and the South. It also has fiber internet in select areas across the same regions.

Type in your ZIP code to see if AT&T or CenturyLink are in your ’hood:

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Unbeatable fiber gigabit price
  • Excellent customer ratings
  • Great bundle options for cord-cutters

Cons

  • Annoying activation fee for self-installation
  • Limited fiber availability
  • Inconsistent DSL speeds

Pros

  • Guaranteed Price for Life on DSL
  • Free router with fiber internet
  • No cost for self-installation

Cons

  • Poor customer ratings
  • Limited fiber availability
  • Slow DSL in some areas

Our verdict: Pick CenturyLink to save cash on cheap internet.

We think CenturyLink is the best out of these two juggernaut ISPs because it has the best deals and the cheapest options.

With CenturyLink, you’ll get great speeds (most of the time) at a cheap price. You can get free self-installation and a free modem with the fiber gigabit plan. Also, we’re impressed by the Price for Life guarantees on the DSL plans. Just make sure you can get adequate DSL speeds in your area. If the only speeds available are below 25 Mbps, don’t waste your mun-muns.

Honestly, though, AT&T is also pretty solid. AT&T has great customer ratings, affordable prices, and an intriguing TV streaming option. If you can get its fiber gigabit internet plan in your area, then you should definitely go for it because it’s a great deal for some of the speediest internet around.

Punch in the ole ZIP code to see if either of these ISPs have internet in your area:

AT&T vs. CenturyLink FAQ

What is AT&T U-verse?

AT&T U-verse used to be AT&T’s fiber TV service, but it’s no longer available to customers. If you’re looking for an AT&T bundle package with a cable-style TV option, then you can get it with DIRECTV or with AT&T TV, the company’s new streaming service.

Why is my AT&T internet so slow?

You may be experiencing an internet slowdown as web traffic across the country spikes now that millions more Americans than usual are working from home. If you find this problem persisting, consider upgrading your internet plan or budgeting your Wi-Fi usage. For example, you can put less strain on bandwidth by reducing the number of devices people are using simultaneously in your household.

Is CenturyLink internet good?

CenturyLink offers great internet over both DSL and fiber networks. Its gigabit internet plan delivers 1,000 Mbps speeds at a very reasonable price over a coveted fiber network. Its DSL plans are slower but less expensive, and that’s ideal if you’re on a budget or don’t use Wi-Fi for advanced purposes.

Is AT&T good?

AT&T delivers good, solid internet over DSL and fiber cables. Its fiber option is lightning fast and affordable. Its DSL option isn’t so fast but will get the job done and save you some money.

Do CenturyLink or AT&T have data caps?

CenturyLink and AT&T have both suspended their data caps in recent weeks due to the ongoing economic impact of the new coronavirus pandemic. The changes are in effect with both providers until mid-May, and during that time you’ll get unlimited data on any of their internet plans. Start downloading all those 50 GB video games while you still can.

Which is better: CenturyLink or AT&T?

We think CenturyLink’s internet is a better choice because it’s more affordable, with Price for Life deals on all DSL plans and free self-installation. But AT&T is also a great option because it has great customer service ratings and a very affordable fiber gigabit plan.

Author -

Peter Holslin has spent more than a decade writing for Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless other publications. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008. Since then, he has roved from city to city and lived overseas, mastering his craft as an editor, staff writer, and freelancer while also acquiring ninja-like skills to address feeble Wi-Fi speeds and other internet challenges.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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