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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: 3.6/5.0
    • Price: $50.00–$75.00/mo.*
    • Speed: Up to 940 Mbps
    • Internet type: Fiber, DSL
    • Data cap: None
  • Best value
    • Customer rating: 3.3/5.0
    • Price: $30.00–$265.00/mo.
    • Speed: 300–8,000 Mbps
    • Internet type: Fiber, cable
    • Data cap: None

*Speed may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection. Paperless billing required. Taxes and fees apply. Offer details. Offer includes professional installation at customer’s eligible location.

Compare CenturyLink and Optimum head to head

We think CenturyLink is the way to go if you had to choose between these two providers.

The provider has excellent fiber options, including a bargain-friendly 500Mbps plan and a gigabit plan that gives you fantastic symmetrical speeds. You also don’t have to worry about data caps or annual contracts. We’re not so keen on CenturyLink’s DSL plan, though, which is much slower and yet costs the same as the 500Mbps plan.

Optimum has extremely fast plans, including multiple multi-gigabit options. It also has a two-year price lock on its plans, which is a big plus considering how many providers like to regularly raise their prices. But Optimum gets much lower customer satisfaction scores in critical categories like price and overall satisfaction, suggesting that customers aren’t the provider’s biggest fans.

Pros and cons: CenturyLink vs. Optimum

Pros:

  • No data caps on any plan
  • No cost on installation and equipment for fiber gigabit
  • Super low price for 200Mbps fiber plan

Cons:

  • Slow DSL speeds
  • Limited fiber availability

Pros:

  • Two-year price lock
  • Gigabit and multi-gig plan options
  • No data caps or contracts

Cons:

  • Low customer satisfaction ratings
  • 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 40-80Mbps$55.00/mo.**Up to 80Mbps
Simply Unlimited Internet 100Mbps$55.00/mo.Up to 100Mbps
Simply Unlimited Internet 140Mbps$55.00/mo.Up to 140Mbps
CenturyLink Fiber Internet 500Mbps$50.00/mo.*Up to 500Mbps
CenturyLink FiberGigabit Internet$75.00/mo.§Up to 940Mbps

CenturyLink’s fiber plan gives 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.

Even better, though, is the 500Mbps plan. It costs just $50 a month, making it one of the best-priced fiber plan you can find anywhere. And 500Mbps is more than plenty for most people, giving you ample bandwidth for streaming, gaming, and more.

If you can’t get CenturyLink fiber in your area, you have to settle for the provider’s DSL service, which is only worth getting if you have few other options. 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.

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 24 mos.)*TypeSpeedOrder online
300 Mbps Internet$30.00/mo.Cable, fiberUp to 300 MbpsView Plan
500 Mbps Internet$45.00/mo.CableUp to 500 MbpsView Plan
1 Gig Internet$55.00/mo.**CableUp to 940 MbpsView Plan
500 Mbps Fiber Internet$30.00/mo.FiberUp to 500 MbpsView Plan
1 Gig Fiber Internet$45.00/mo.**FiberUp to 940 MbpsView Plan
2 Gig Fiber Internet$55.00/mo.**FiberUp to 2,000 MbpsView Plan
5 Gig Fiber Internet$80.00/mo.**FiberUp to 5,000 MbpsView Plan
8 Gig Fiber Internet$265.00/mo.**FiberUp to 8,000 MbpsView Plan

Optimum beats out CenturyLink on introductory prices and speed options. You get a lot more to choose from on an Optimum plan, and you get more promos and deals too. And while Optimum used to hit customers with steep price hikes after 12 months, it recently introduced a two-year price lock for new customers, making its plans much more affordable and reducing headaches over inflated prices.

If you need speed, Optimum really is the way to go rather than CenturyLink. In addition to the usual 940Mbps 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. Can you find those speeds in all of Optimum’s service areas? It doesn’t look like it. But it’s still kind of impressive that Optimum has rolled out these capabilities for some customers.

Pro tip:

Download our speed test app 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.

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

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.

Optimum
Get free installation when you order online plus an Optimum Prepaid Mastercard® worth up to $200.

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 installation*
  • Up to $10.00 late payment fee
  • $10.00 phone payment processing fee

*With online order

 

CenturyLink and Optimum both have fees for installation and equipment—although Optimum definitely goes lighter on the equipment 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, consider buying your equipment instead. You don’t pay rental fees every month, plus you have more flexibility and options when it comes to picking a router that meets your specific internet needs.

The best standalone router you can get is the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, based on our tests. It checks all the right boxes in terms of speed and features—it even supports mesh networking. If you’d rather have a mesh system, the TP-Link Deco XE75 Pro has our highest score out of all the mesh systems we’ve tested. Want a router designed specifically for gaming? The MSI RadiX GRAXE66 is an awesome pick.

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

Customer ratings: CenturyLink vs. Optimum

Overall RatingSpeed RatingPriceReliability RatingCustomer service Rating
CenturyLink3.6/5.03.6/5.03.4/5.03.5/5.03.5/5.0
Optimum3.3/5.03.6/5.02.9/5.03.4/5.03.3/5.0

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 T-Mobile.

However, when faced against each other, CenturyLink edges into the lead in most categories. It beats out Optimum for reliability, customer service, and overall customer satisfaction. CenturyLink comes in well ahead of Optimum on price, actually making the top five in that category. We suspect that CenturyLink’s satisfaction ratings go down because a lot of its customers have middling DSL service, but CenturyLink also has a much faster and more reliable fiber service that customers have given high marks in the past.

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 300Mbps420+$175.00/mo.#View Plan
Optimum 1 Gig Fiber Internet + Premier TVUp to 300Mbps420+$215.00/mo.#View Plan
DIRECTV® CHOICE™ All Included + CenturyLink Internet Fiber GigabitUp to 940Mbps105+$154.99/mo.* for 24 months plus taxes and fees

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, DSL
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
CenturyLinkNone
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 contract
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
Optimum
  • Free installation*
  • View Plans

    *With online order

     

    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 with CenturyLink or have the fee waived when you order online from Optimum 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 prices, but the low customer satisfaction ratings make Optimum’s 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 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

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