CenturyLink vs. Optimum: Which Internet Provider Is Best for You?
Both providers have fast fiber and no data caps—but Centurylink has a simpler deal.
*Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 200 Mbps via a wired connection. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply.
†w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill w/unlimited mobile plans. Terms apply.
Compare CenturyLink and Optimum head to head
CenturyLink has excellent, ever-expanding fiber options and nationwide availability. Its DSL plan isn’t exactly a show stopper, but it’s good for rural customers. Optimum has extremely fast plans and better customer satisfaction ratings—but beware of the humongous price hikes that kick in after a year of service.
Pros and cons: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
- Large nationwide availability
- No cost on installation and equipment for fiber gigabit plan
- Slow DSL speeds
- Limited fiber availability
- Fast speeds and low promo prices
- No data caps or contracts
- Multigigabit speeds on fastest plans
- Enormous price hikes after 12 months
- Lack of clarity about whether customers have fiber or cable
Plans and pricing: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
CenturyLink has been expanding its fiber offerings lately, giving you more variety and lower prices (at least in some markets). It also has a middling DSL plan but we only recommend it if your options are limited. Optimum offers both fiber and cable internet, with excellent introductory prices and multi-gigabit speeds in some areas.
CenturyLink plans and pricing
|Simply Unlimited Internet||$50.00/mo.*||Up to 100 Mbps||View Plan|
|Simply Unlimited Internet 140||$50.00/mo.†||Up to 140 Mbps||View Plan|
|CenturyLink Fiber Internet 200 Mbps||$30.00/mo.‡||Up to 200 Mbps||View Plan|
|CenturyLink Fiber Internet 500 Mbps||$50.00/mo.‡||Up to 500 Mbps||View Plan|
|CenturyLink Fiber Internet||$65.00/mo.§||Up to 940 Mbps||View Plan|
*Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Get the fastest internet speed available at your location (max speed is up to 100 Mbps).
†Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Get the fastest internet speed available at your location (max speed is up to 140 Mbps).
‡Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing required. Taxes and fees apply. Offer Details. Online ONLY. Free Modem.
§Rate requires paperless billing. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply.
CenturyLink’s fiber plans give you lots of speed at a fair price. The gigabit plan is its most popular and well-known offering; you can do pretty much anything with 940 Mbps speeds. And the monthly price is hard to beat. If you want something a little less spendy, go for one of CenturyLink’s slower fiber plans—you still get solid speeds and reliable service, just at a more manageable rate. (Some of CenturyLink’s fiber plans are only available in select areas.)
You can also consider CenturyLink’s DSL offerings. DSL is a fusty old connection type built on landline phone infrastructure, and its speeds just don’t cut the mustard for a lot of netizens. Avoid it if you have a large household or need a reliable connection for streaming and Zooming. But DSL is a solid option for rural internet users and other folks with limited internet options. It costs a lot less than satellite internet and gives you more data too.
CenturyLink’s gigabit plan is probably its best plan, but you may be better off getting a slower fiber plan if it’s available so you can save money. Use our “How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?” tool to decide what’s best for you.
Optimum plans and pricing
|Package||Promo price (first 12 mos.)*||Regular price (after 12 mos.)||Speed||Order online|
|300 Mbps Internet||$30.00/mo.||$109.99/mo.||Up to 300 Mbps||View Plan|
|500 Mbps Internet||$50.00/mo.||$129.99/mo.||Up to 500 Mbps||View Plan|
|1 Gig Internet||$65.00/mo.||$139.99/mo.||Up to 940 Mbps||View Plan|
|300 Mbps Fiber Internet||$30.00/mo.||$109.99/mo.||Up to 300 Mbps||View Plan|
|500 Mbps Fiber Internet||$50.00/mo.||$129.99/mo.||Up to 500 Mbps||View Plan|
|1 Gig Fiber Internet||$65.00/mo.||$139.99/mo.||Up to 940 Mbps||View Plan|
|2 Gig Fiber Internet||$105.00/mo.||$120.00/mo.||Up to 2,000 Mbps||View Plan|
|5 Gig Fiber Internet||$165.00/mo.||$180.00/mo.||Up to 5,000 Mbps||View Plan|
*w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill plus taxes with unlimited mobile plans. Terms apply. Not available in all areas.
Optimum beats out CenturyLink on introductory prices, but it’s a whole other story after 12 months of service. When the promo price expires, the monthly fees on most of Optimum’s plans go up exponentially. But the price hikes aren’t as bad on the faster plans, so you’re getting a better deal if you spring for a gigabit plan or faster.
In fact, if you need speed, Optimum really is the way to go rather than CenturyLink. In addition to the usual 940 Mbps gigabit plan (a standard offering for most fiber and cable providers at this point), Optimum has also joined the ranks of providers like AT&T by offering up 2,000 Mbps and 5,000 Mbps plans. Do you need internet that fast? Not really, but it’s still kind of impressive.
Take a speed test to see how much bandwidth you have on your connection. If you like what you have now, then get a plan that gives you a similar speed.
Deals and promotions: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
|Order CenturyLink's gigabit fiber plan and get a waiver on the cost of modem rental and installation. |
Get the Deal
|Order a qualifying internet plan to receive a $100 or $200 prepaid Visa gift card, a Wi-Fi 6 gateway, a Wi-Fi extender, and installation—all for no extra cost. Some plans also include Optimum Stream.|
Get the Deal
Extra fees: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
|Equipment Fee||Installation Fee||Other Fees|
CenturyLink and Optimum both have standard fees for installation and equipment—although Optimum definitely goes lighter on the fees. Renting a modem is $5 cheaper per month and you don’t have to pay for a self-install kit like you do with CenturyLink. (However, CenturyLink does waive the cost for modem and installation with the fiber gigabit plan.)
Customer ratings: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
|Overall Rating||Reliability Rating||Customer Service Rating||Speed Rating||Price Rating|
Both of these internet providers end up at the bottom of the pile in our annual customer satisfaction survey—neither perform as well as AT&T, Verizon, or EarthLink.
However, when faced against each other, Optimum edges into the lead in most categories. It beats out CenturyLink for reliability, speed, price, and customer service. We suspect that CenturyLink’s satisfaction ratings go down because a lot of its customers have middling DSL service. Fiber customers specifically gave CenturyLink a 3.7 rating for speed and reliability, reflecting much better performance on its fiber network.
Best TV and internet bundles
|Package||Internet speed||TV channels||Price||Order online|
|Optimum 300 Mbps Fiber Internet + Premier TV||Up to 300 Mbps||420+||$145.00/mo.||View Plan|
|Optimum 1 Gig Fiber Internet + Premier TV||Up to 300 Mbps||420+||$180.00/mo.||View Plan|
|CenturyLink Internet Fiber Gigabit + DIRECTV® CHOICE™ All Included||Up to 940 Mbps||185+||$134.99/mo.||View Plan|
Optimum has some well-priced bundle options if you want to pair your internet with a streaming or cable TV plan. You can also sign up for a mobile phone plan through Optimum, letting you get a cell phone plan for just $45 a month (or even less if you add more lines).
CenturyLink doesn’t really offer TV and internet bundles—you technically can pair your internet service with DIRECTV, but you order them à la carte like any other service and you have to pay full price for both.
Internet types: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
CenturyLink offers fiber and DSL internet, while Optimum has fiber and cable internet. Fiber is the fastest type of internet you can get, with speeds going up to 5,000 Mbps and symmetrical upload speeds that are excellent for Zooming, social media, and livestreams.
Cable is the second best connection type. It’s still fast and reliable, just not as fast as fiber, topping out at 1,000 Mbps download speeds and usually 50 Mbps uploads. DSL is the slowest option of the bunch, delivering max 100 Mbps speeds over aging phone infrastructure. Get DSL if you have few other options or live in a rural area.
Data caps: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
Neither CenturyLink nor Optimum have data caps on their internet plans. That means you can use the internet as much as you want throughout the month without worrying about overage fees or throttled speeds.
See our data caps guide for a full list of providers that have data caps and that don’t.
Contracts: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
Here’s some more great news about these providers—neither one requires you to sign up for an annual contract. You can cancel your service any time without having to pay early termination fees. That gives you more flexibility to sign up for a plan for just a few months or to switch providers if your service isn’t working as well as you’d like.
Installation: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
|Installation options||Order online|
CenturyLink and Optimum both offer similar options for installation. The best way to go is to opt for a self-install kit that lets you plug in the modem/router and set up the wiring yourself. It takes less than an hour and you can set it all up with the help of an app on your phone.
Sometimes technical stuff can be too complicated or frustrating to deal with, and if that’s your situation, then you can pay a $99 fee (from either provider) to have a technician come over and set everything up for you.
In some cases, you may need to pay a higher installation fee to cover the cost of installing more complex things like an optical network terminal or wiring that leads out to a node outside your house. This is most likely to come up if you live in an older home or apartment that isn’t already set up for fiber internet.
Availability: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
CenturyLink has a fairly large nationwide network, covering parts of the East Coast, South, Midwest, and West. Optimum is available in 25 states, including large parts of the South, West, and East Coast. Use our zip check tool to see what you can get from either of these providers where you live.
Final call: CenturyLink vs. Optimum
Optimum has some great offerings when it comes to speed and introductory prices, but the price hikes make the budget deals less desirable in the long run. CenturyLink is really the winner here—specifically its fiber offerings, which get you primo service with fast speeds and reliable pricing. If you had to pick between Optimum and CenturyLink’s sluggish DSL, though, we’d go with Optimum.
Our HighSpeedInternet.com editorial team bases our analyses on customer input from our annual customer satisfaction survey, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. To strengthen our research, we look closely at provider contracts to get hard-to-find information on price hikes, data caps, and extra fees, and we keep tabs on the latest news reports and online reviews. When applicable, we also rely on our personal experiences testing these services.
Author - Peter Holslin
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 - Aaron Gates