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.

  • Best availability
    • Customer rating: 3.5/5.0
    • Price: $30.00–$65.00/mo.*
    • Speed: Up to 940 Mbps
    • Internet type: Fiber, DSL
    • Data cap: None
  • Best value
    • Customer rating: 3.5/5.0
    • Price: $30.00–$180.00/mo.
    • Speed: 300–5,000 Mbps
    • Internet type: Fiber, cable
    • Data cap: None

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

Pros:

  • Large nationwide availability
  • No cost on installation and equipment for fiber gigabit plan

Cons:

  • Slow DSL speeds
  • Limited fiber availability

Pros:

  • Fast speeds and low promo prices
  • No data caps or contracts
  • Multigigabit speeds on fastest plans

Cons:

  • Enormous price hikes after 12 months
  • Lack of clarity about whether customers have fiber or cable

Want to know if CenturyLink or Optimum are in your area? Take a gander by typing in your zip code below.

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

PackagePriceSpeedOrder online
Simply Unlimited Internet$50.00/mo.*Up to 100 MbpsView Plan
Simply Unlimited Internet 140$50.00/mo.Up to 140 MbpsView Plan
CenturyLink Fiber Internet 200 Mbps$30.00/mo.Up to 200 MbpsView Plan
CenturyLink Fiber Internet 500 Mbps$50.00/mo.Up to 500 MbpsView Plan
CenturyLink Fiber Internet$65.00/mo.§Up to 940 MbpsView Plan

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.

Pro tip:

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

PackagePromo price (first 12 mos.)*Regular price (after 12 mos.)SpeedOrder online
300 Mbps Internet$30.00/mo.$109.99/mo.Up to 300 MbpsView Plan
500 Mbps Internet$50.00/mo.$129.99/mo.Up to 500 MbpsView Plan
1 Gig Internet$65.00/mo.$139.99/mo.Up to 940 MbpsView Plan
300 Mbps Fiber Internet$30.00/mo.$109.99/mo.Up to 300 MbpsView Plan
500 Mbps Fiber Internet$50.00/mo.$129.99/mo.Up to 500 MbpsView Plan
1 Gig Fiber Internet$65.00/mo.$139.99/mo.Up to 940 MbpsView Plan
2 Gig Fiber Internet$105.00/mo.$120.00/mo.Up to 2,000 MbpsView Plan
5 Gig Fiber Internet$165.00/mo.$180.00/mo.Up to 5,000 MbpsView Plan

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.

Pro tip:

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.

HSI badge deals

Deals and promotions: CenturyLink vs. Optimum

CenturyLink
Order CenturyLink's gigabit fiber plan and get a waiver on the cost of modem rental and installation.

Get the Deal
Optimum
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 FeeInstallation FeeOther Fees
CenturyLink
  • $15.00/mo. for modem/router
  • $200.00 flat fee to purchase modem/router
  • $15.00 for standard self-install kit
  • $99.00 for professional installation
  • $5.00 or percentage of your bill for late payment
Optimum
  • $10.00/mo. for cable modem or wireless gateway
  • Free Smart Router
  • $3.00/mo. per added Xtend unit
  • Free self-install kit
  • $99.99 for standard install
  • $149.99 for premium install
  • Up to $10.00 late payment fee
  • $10.00 phone payment processing fee

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.)

Buy your modem and router to save on extra fees

While you can rent a modem and router from your internet provider, we recommend in most cases that you buy your own equipment instead. Owning your equipment means you don’t have to pay rental fees every month. You also get more flexibility and options when it comes to picking a router that meets your specific internet needs.

The Google Nest Wi-Fi System is the best router you can get, in our opinion. It’s easy to set up, supports fast speeds, and provides mesh networking for large homes and wider spaces (like a backyard).

Here’s some other resources to find the best router for you:

Customer ratings: CenturyLink vs. Optimum

Overall RatingReliability RatingCustomer Service RatingSpeed RatingPrice Rating
CenturyLink3.5/5.03.4/5.03.5/5.03.4/5.03.2/5.0
Optimum3.5/5.03.6/5.03.6/5.03.7/5.03.3/5.0

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.

Want to know if CenturyLink or Optimum are in your area? Take a look by typing in your zip code below.

Best TV and internet bundles

PackageInternet speedTV channelsPriceOrder online
Optimum 300 Mbps Fiber Internet + Premier TVUp to 300 Mbps420+$145.00/mo.View Plan
Optimum 1 Gig Fiber Internet + Premier TVUp to 300 Mbps420+$180.00/mo.View Plan
CenturyLink Internet Fiber Gigabit + DIRECTV® CHOICE™ All IncludedUp to 940 Mbps185+$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

Internet typeOrder online
CenturyLinkFiber, DSLView Plans
OptimumFiber, cableView Plans

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

Data CapOrder online
CenturyLinkNoneView Plans
OptimumNoneView Plans

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.

Pro tip: 

See our data caps guide for a full list of providers that have data caps and that don’t.

Contracts: CenturyLink vs. Optimum

Contract lengthOrder online
CenturyLinkNo contractView Plans
OptimumNo contractView Plans

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 optionsOrder online
CenturyLink
  • $15.00 for self-install kit
  • $99.00 for pro install
View Plans
Optimum
  • Free self-install kit
  • $99.99 for standard install
  • $149.99 for premium install
View Plans

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.

To see if CenturyLink or Optimum is in your area, enter your zip code below:

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.

View CenturyLink Plans

View Optimum Plans

Methodology

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 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