AT&T vs. CenturyLink

It’s a throwdown between AT&T’s incredibly fast fiber and CenturyLink’s wide accessibility.

  • Best for customer care
    Plans start at $55.00/mo.
    • Super low starting price on gigabit internet
    • Solid customer satisfaction ratings
    • Limited availability for fiber plans
  • Best for budget options
    Plans start at $50.00/mo.
    • Affordable price on DSL internet plans
    • Wide availability for internet plans
    • Unpredictable DSL speeds

Bottom line

AT&T gives you fast fiber internet at an excellent price, making it the obvious first pick herebut it may not be available in your area, since AT&T fiber offerings are limited. CenturyLink is also good, especially if you’re tired of promotional shenanigans. It has straightforward DSL plans, no data caps, and other ways to save on expenses.

Pro tip: 

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

AT&T vs. CenturyLink internet

CenturyLink

Type of service

Fiber, fixed-wireless, DSL

Type of service

DSL, fiber

Price

$55.00–$180.00/mo.*

Price

$50.00–$70.00/mo.†

Contract

Month-to-month

Contract

Month-to-month

Download speeds

25–5,000 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

$15.00–$99.00

Customer satisfaction

(3.8/5)

Customer satisfaction

(3.5/5)

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.

AT&T has some of the best ratings in the biz, so you’ll have fewer 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. You can buy a CenturyLink modem instead of renting it, and you get unlimited data on all plans.

AT&T packages

PackagePrice*SpeedInternet type
Internet up to 100 Mbps$55.00/mo.Up to 75, 100 MbpsDSL
Fixed Wireless Internet$59.99/mo.Up to 25 MbpsFixed wireless
Internet 300$55.00/mo.300 MbpsFiber
Internet 500$65.00/mo.500 MbpsFiber
1G Internet$80.00/mo.1,000 MbpsFiber
2G Internet$110.00/mo.2,000 MbpsFiber
5G Internet$180.00/mo.5,000 MbpsFiber

AT&T’s 1 Gig Internet plan impresses us because it has very fast speeds at a decent price. Even more impressive is the 5G Internet plan—the fastest internet plan available from a major internet provider in the United States, topping out at 5,000 Mbps.

But do you really need internet that fast? For the vast majority of internet users, no. You’ll probably do great with Internet 300. This plan also runs over a fiber-optic network, delivering excellent performance—including impressive upload speeds of 300 Mbps. And it’s a very affordable plan, costing just a little more than CenturyLink’s DSL plan but delivering much faster speeds. It’s perfect for a household of several people who regularly stream, game, and Zoom on multiple devices.

Pro tip:

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

CenturyLink packages

PackagePriceSpeedInternet type
Simply Unlimited Internet$50.00/mo.*Up to 100 MbpsDSL
Simply Unlimited Internet 140$50.00/mo.*Up to 140 MbpsDSL
CenturyLink Fiber Internet 200 Mbps$30.00/mo.Up to 200 MbpsFiber
CenturyLink Fiber Internet 500 Mbps$50.00/mo.Up to 500 MbpsFiber
Fiber Internet$65.00/mo.1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)Fiber

CenturyLink is a solid pick if you want a good deal on fiber or DSL internet.

CenturyLink’s fiber gigabit plan comes at a nice price. Although the baseline monthly fee isn’t quite as cheap as AT&T’s gigabit plan, CenturyLink’s offer comes with a router included and installation at no extra cost. The 200 Mbps fiber plan is also an excellent deal, costing less than even the much slower DSL plans. Plus, you get unlimited data and you can cancel any time, since there are no contracts.

Even if you have to rent a router, you can buy a CenturyLink modem/router up front, 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.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink deals and promotions


BEST DEAL
Get a $150 or $200 reward card when you sign up for a fiber internet plan. The 300 Mbps and 500 Mbps plans come with a $150 reward card and the gigabit plans include a $200 reward card.


CenturyLink
BEST DEAL
Order CenturyLink Fiber Internet and get a waiver on the cost of modem rental and installation.


Get the Deal

 

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

Internet speeds

AT&T has the fastest internet speeds available in the country, with the 5G Internet plan clocking in at a max speed of 5,000 Mbps. No other major internet provider can get you a connection that fast.

AT&T and CenturyLink also both have gigabit fiber internet plans that deliver up to 1,000 Mbps download speeds. These are great plans for big families, gamers, binge-watching TV buffs, and remote workers who spend lots of time on Zoom—although to be honest you could probably get away with slightly slower speeds and still be doing great.

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.

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.

Fixed-wireless internet is mostly useful for rural customers who can’t get anything else in their area except for satellite internet. It’s relatively fast but AT&T’s fixed-wireless plan has a strict data cap of just 350 GB per month, with extra fees if you go over.

Do CenturyLink or AT&T offer bundles?

CenturyLink offers bundle package with internet and landline phone, but it has no bundles with TV packages. AT&T no longer offers bundle deals.

You used to be able to get bundles from AT&T that combined internet service with DIRECTV or AT&T TV, but those deals are no longer available. You can still order a TV package from DIRECTV or DIRECTV STREAM (the company’s new streaming-based service) but it costs the same price whether you combine it with internet or not.

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

FeesAmount
Modem rental$10.00
Installation$35.00 (self-install) or $99.00 (professional install)
Late feesUp to $10.00
Data overages$10.00 per 50 GB (fixed-wireless plans only)
TaxesCost may vary

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

FeesAmount
Modem rental$15.00/mo. (or $150.00 flat fee)
Installation$15.00–$99.00 (free for gigabit fiber)
Secure Wi-Fi service$5.00/mo. (optional)
Declined payment$10.00–$25.00
Late fees$15.00
TaxesCost may vary

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 standard installation kit free of charge.

Pro tip:

Make sure to check with CenturyLink to see if you can opt for standard installation, which costs a lot less. 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).

AT&T’s internet plans have a fixed price for 12 months. After that, you will see the price go up on your bill.

Our take:

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

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 average rankings for customer service—it comes in fifth place among 12 major ISPs in our annual customer satisfaction survey. On the other hand, CenturyLink gets low rankings, coming in second to last place.

Installation and setup

Installation fee: $35.00 or $99.00

Installation type:Pro and self-install

 

CenturyLink

Installation fee: $15.00–$99.00 (free for gigabit fiber)

Installation type: Pro and standard install

 

Schedule an 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 standard installation kit for $15—but you don’t have to pay the fee with a fiber gigabit plan.

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

Overall customer satisfaction rating:

(3.8/5)

CenturyLink

Overall customer satisfaction rating:

(3.5/5)

AT&T gets top results when it comes to customer rankings. It gets second place for overall performance in our annual customer satisfaction survey, sitting pretty high on a list of 12 major internet providers. It also gets above-average ratings for speed and reliability.

CenturyLink comes in second to last place for overall satisfaction in our survey, likely because of the limitations inherent in the provider’s relatively slow DSL service. However, CenturyLink’s fiber customers are generally a lot more pleased with their service—the fiber customers we surveyed gave CenturyLink a much higher, 3.7 rating for speed and reliability.

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, fixed wireless, 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
  • Solid customer ratings
  • Great bundle options for cord-cutters

Cons:

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

Pros:

  • Competitive pricing for DSL and fiber
  • Free router with fiber internet
  • No data caps

Cons:

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

Our verdict: Pick AT&T for a great deal on fiber internet.

We think AT&T is the best out of these two juggernaut ISPs because it has fast, reliable internet for the best price. AT&T has great customer ratings and affordable prices. 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.

CenturyLink is still worth considering, especially if you can get a fiber plan. The fiber gigabit plan delivers excellent speeds and comes with standard installation and a free modem. And the 200 Mbps fiber plan is super cheap while still fast enough for a household of up to four people. But if you’re getting DSL, 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.

Punch in your zip code to see if AT&T or CenturyLink have internet in your area:

AT&T vs. CenturyLink FAQ

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.

Which is better: CenturyLink or AT&T?

We think AT&T internet is a better choice because it’s more affordable, with reasonable fiber plans and free self-installation. But CenturyLink is also a great option because it has a very affordable fiber gigabit plan.

Author -

Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.