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AT&T vs. CenturyLink

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

  • Best for customer care
    • Price: $55.00–$250.00/mo.*
    • Customer Satisfaction: 3.9/5
    • Download speeds: 225–5,000Mbps
    • Type of service: Fiber and fixed-wireless
    • Contract: Month-to-month
    • Installation fee: Free–$99.00
    • Equipment fees: $10.00/mo. for DSL
  • Best for budget options
    • Price: $50.00–$75.00/mo.
    • Customer Satisfaction: 3.6/5
    • Download speeds: 40–1,000Mbps
    • Type of service: DSL, fiber
    • Contract: Month-to-month
    • Installation fee: $15.00–$99.00
    • Equipment fees: $15.00/mo. or $150.00 flat fee

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 one of the cheapest fiber plans you can get anywhere, along with 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

AT&T

 

Pros:

  • Affordable fiber prices
  • Multi-gig speed options
  • Excellent customer satisfaction ratings

Cons:

  • Limited availability for fiber plans

 

Pros:

  • Affordable prices
  • Cheap 200Mbps fiber plan
  • Wide availability

Cons:

  • Unpredictable DSL speeds

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 solid ratings in most recent customer satisfaction survey, 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 typeShop online
Internet 300$55.00/mo.*300MbpsFiberView Plan for AT&T
Internet 500$65.00/mo.*500MbpsFiberView Plan for AT&T
Internet 1 Gig$80.00/mo.1,000MbpsFiberView Plan for AT&T
Internet 2 Gig$150.00/mo.2,000MbpsFiberView Plan for AT&T
Internet 5 Gig$250.00/mo.5,000MbpsFiberView Plan for AT&T
Internet Air$55.00/mo.75–225MbpsFixed wireless/5GView Plan for AT&T

AT&T’s 1 Gig Internet plan impresses us because it has very fast speeds at a decent price. You can get even faster plans from AT&T, but to be honest, most customers would great with a slower and more affordable package like Internet 300. This plan also runs over a fiber-optic network, delivering excellent performance—including impressive, symmetrical upload and download speeds. AT&T’s fiber offerings are also very affordable, with the 300Mbps plan costing the same as CenturyLink’s DSL plan while delivering much faster speeds.

Pick AT&T Internet Air as an alternative to DSL

AT&T has been gradually phasing out its DSL internet service, which is slow and out of date. As a replacement, the provider recently introduced Internet Air, a 5G-based fixed wireless service similar to T-Mobile and Verizon’s 5G home internet options. The plan is affordable and relatively fast, giving you speeds up to 225Mbps along with unlimited data and no annual contracts.

Fixed wireless users gave services like 5G home internet rave reviews in our recent customer satisfaction survey, suggesting that Internet Air is well worth trying out.

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 typeView on CenturyLink site
Simply Unlimited Internet 40-80Mbps$55.00/mo.**Up to 80MbpsDSL
Simply Unlimited Internet 100Mbps$55.00/mo.*Up to 100MbpsDSL
Simply Unlimited Internet 140Mbps$55.00/mo.*Up to 140MbpsDSL
CenturyLink Fiber Internet 500Mbps$50.00/mo.#500MbpsFiber
CenturyLink Fiber Gigabit Internet$75.00/mo.940MbpsFiber

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. 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

AT&T

BEST DEAL
Enter your address with AT&T Fiber to find deals and gift card promotions in your area.


Get the Deal
BEST DEAL
If you refer a new customer to CenturyLink services and they sign up, you and the new customer will both get a reward of up to $100.


 

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

Internet speeds

AT&T has some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, with the 5G Internet plan clocking in at a max speed of 5,000Mbps. That’s honestly way too more bandwidth than the vast majority of internet users need, but hey, it’s impressive.

AT&T and CenturyLink also both have gigabit fiber internet plans that deliver up to 1,000Mbps download speeds. These are great plans for big families, gamers, binge-watching TV buffs, and remote workers who spend lots of time on Zoom. You could probably get away with slightly slower speeds and still be doing great, but a gigabit plan is ideal for internet power users and large households.

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 140 Mbps, but the speeds you can get depend on how close your home is to a network node, and some customers will get speeds as low as 1–5Mbps.

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? Download our speed test app to see how fast your internet goes.

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 offers three types of internet—fiber, DSL, and fixed wireless. CenturyLink provides fiber and DSL internet.

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.

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 350GB per month, with extra fees if you go over. However, AT&T also has a faster version of a fixed wireless plan called Internet Air, which uses 5G networks and is designed more for urban users and former DSL customers. That’s a great option to go for if it’s available where you live.

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

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 bundles it’s 300Mbps fiber internet packages with DIRECTV, so you can get a 300Mbps fiber plan and up to 150 channels starting at  $124.99/mo.

AT&T vs. CenturyLink fees and contracts

Here’s the thing with internet plans: whether you choose AT&T or CenturyLink (or any other provider), 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 for DSL
InstallationFree (self-install) or $99.00 (professional install for DSL)
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. Self-installation is free. If you choose a DSL plan it will cost $99 for professional installation.

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

Installation and setup

AT&T

Installation fee: Free or $99.00

Installation type: Self-install and professional

 

Schedule an Installation

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

Installation type: Pro and standard install

 

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

AT&T

Overall customer satisfaction rating:

(3.9/5)

Overall customer satisfaction rating:

(3.6/5)

AT&T gets above-average results when it comes to customer rankings in our annual customer satisfaction survey. It lands towards the top for overall satisfaction and takes second place for price, enjoying an enviable perch on a list of 15 major internet providers. Fiber customers have responded especially well in our survey, and AT&T’s multi-gig plans help explain why it lands in the top five for speed too.

CenturyLink ranks below average for most categories in our survey, likely because of the limitations inherent in the provider’s relatively slow DSL service. However, CenturyLink scored very well for price, taking fifth place.

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:

  • 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 solid customer satisfaction 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.

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.

Disclaimers

AT&T vs CenturyLink

AT&T plans and pricing

CenturyLink packages

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.

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