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CenturyLink vs. Spectrum: Which Internet Provider Is Best for You?

  • Best for fiber
    • Price: $30.00–$70.00/mo.
    • Speed: Up to 140–940 Mbps
    • Internet type: DSL, fiber
    • Data cap: No cap
    • Contract: No contract
  • Best for reliability
    • Price: $49.99–$89.99/mo.*
    • Speed: Up to 300–1,000 Mbps
    • Internet type: Cable
    • Data cap: No cap
    • Contract: No contract

Compare CenturyLink and Spectrum head to head

CenturyLink and Spectrum are evenly matched overall. But each has a few specific cases where it’s better.

Choose CenturyLink if you want fast internet. Its Fiber Gigabit plan has the same top download speeds as Spectrum’s Gig plan for far less money. Fiber also has equal upload and download speeds, whereas Spectrum’s cable internet does not.

Go with Spectrum if you’re looking for reliable internet speeds around 300–500 Mbps. The cable provider has faster speeds than CenturyLink’s DSL service, and it has a better track record of delivering those speeds.

Pros and cons: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

Pros:

  • Fast fiber internet plans
  • No contracts
  • Affordable prices

Cons:

  • Limited fiber availability
  • No multigig internet

 

View CenturyLink Plans

Pros:

  • Rent-free modem
  • Unlimited data
  • No contracts

Cons:

  • WiFi access fee
  • No fiber plans
  • Price hikes after 12 mos.

 

View Spectrum Plans

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

Plans and pricing: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

CenturyLink provides three plans: one DSL and two fiber. Simple, right? Meanwhile, Spectrum has three cable internet plans—there’s no secondary DSL or fiber service.

Both providers have a gigabit internet plan, although CenturyLink has faster upload speeds than Spectrum. The Centurylink Fiber Internet 200 plan is also a steal for fiber internet at $30.00 a month.

If you don’t know which plan you should get, check out our How Much Speed Do I Need? Tool to get a personalized internet speed recommendation. From there, you can choose a plan that fits that speed.

CenturyLink plans and pricing

PackagePrice*SpeedTypeDetails
Simply Unlimited Internet$50.00/mo.*Up to 100 MbpsDSLView Plan
Centurylink Fiber Internet 200$30.00/mo.†Up to 200 MbpsFiberView Plan
Centurylink Fiber Internet$70.00/mo.|940 MbpsFiberView Plan

CenturyLink’s DSL plan is okay if you’re looking for an inexpensive, long-term internet plan. It’s the same price as Spectrum’s slowest plan, which makes it more expensive when you compare the speeds—until Spectrum’s introductory pricing ends. After that, CenturyLink’s value becomes all too clear.

CenturyLink also offers two fiber internet plans. The 940 Mbps speeds might be overkill for most households, but it’s a great option for large families. And fiber internet is much more reliable than DSL.

CenturyLink’s base fiber plan is $20 less than the DSL plan, but it’s slower in download speed than Spectrum’s 300 Mbps plan. The problem is that CenturyLink’s fiber internet is much less available than its DSL service or Spectrum’s cable internet.

Spectrum plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeeddetails
Spectrum Internet®$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.†Up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan
Spectrum Internet® Ultra$69.99/mo. for 12 mos.†Up to 500 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan
Spectrum Internet® Gig$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.‡Up to 1000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan

Spectrum generally offers faster download speeds than CenturyLink. The base Spectrum Internet® plan, for example, has speeds up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) but costs the same as CenturyLink’s two DSL plans and its base fiber plan. For $50 you simply get more download speed for the money with Spectrum.

When it comes to gigabit internet, CenturyLink has better pricing, but Spectrum has better availability. In fact, the Spectrum Internet® Gig plan is available to most homes within Spectrum’s service area. That’s great news if you have a house full of internet users and want to keep the buffering away. The Spectrum Internet® Gig plan even supports upload speeds up to 500 Mbps in some areas.

Pro tip:

If you need inexpensive Internet and a member of your household is a recipient of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP, or Supplemental Security Income (≥ age 65 only), Spectrum’s Internet Assist program gives you faster Internet speeds and costs less than CenturyLink with a Lifeline discount. You can check your eligibility on Spectrum’s Internet Assist webpage.

Deals and promotions: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

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

Get the Deal
Spectrum
Get a free, 90-day trial of Peacock Premium when you sign up for a qualifying internet plan.

Get the Deal

Extra fees: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

Equipment feeInstallation feetOther fees
CenturyLink
  • Up to $15/mo.
  • $99 for pro install
  • Free for self install
  • $10–$25 per incident declined payment fee
  • $5.00 late fee (or percentage of balanced owed)
  • Spectrum
  • $5.00/mo. for WiFi (no charge with Internet Gig plan)
  • $3.00/mo. per Spectrum WiFi Pod
  • No charge for modem or gateway
  • $49.99 for pro install
  • $19.99 for self-install and service activation
  • $49.99 for WiFi Pod install
  • $9.99 service activation fee
  • $8.95 late payment fee (after 21 days)
  • $25.00 insufficient funds fee
  • $5.00 phone payment processing fee
  • $9.99 reconnection fee (internet)
  • $4.99 reconnection fee (TV)
  • $19.99 equipment upgrade fee to Internet Gig plan
  • CenturyLink has all the fees you’d (unhappily) expect from an Internet provider. But most of the fees are a little high. For example, CenturyLink charges five times as much as Spectrum charges for self-installation and bills it as equipment shipping and handling. On top of that, $15 is a lot for a gateway (modem/router) rental, and CenturyLink doesn’t give you a grace period for late payments.

    We didn’t find anything unexpected when combing through CenturyLink’s Internet subscriber agreement. But unlike Spectrum, CenturyLink’s fees are sometimes difficult to dig up unless you can search for a specific charge by name on CenturyLink’s “Taxes, fees, and surcharges” article. That means you might not know about all the taxes and fees until you see them on your bill.

    Meanwhile, Spectrum has a longer list of fees than CenturyLink, but its equipment rental fees, self-installation fees, and professional installation fees are less expensive than CenturyLink’s equivalent fees.

    With Spectrum, there’s no monthly fee for using its modem or gateway. But Spectrum’s WiFi costs $5 per month and each installed WiFi Pod is an additional $3 per month. You can get around these fees by purchasing a Wi-Fi router or a mesh networking kit.

    Finally, Spectrum gives customers a 21-day grace period before charging a late payment fee. That’s very generous, especially compared to CenturyLink’s complete lack of a grace period.

    Customer ratings: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    OverallReliabilityCustomer serviceSpeedPrice
    CenturyLink3.53.43.53.43.2
    Spectrum3.63.63.63.73.2

    Spectrum scored higher than CenturyLink in nearly every part of our annual customer satisfaction survey, which gauged customer satisfaction with speed, price, reliability, and customer service. That tells us that, overall, Spectrum customers are happier with their service than CenturyLink customers are with theirs.

    That said, neither internet provider did particularly well in the survey. Overall, Spectrum ended up ninth out of 12, and CenturyLink was twelfth. Upon closer examination, Spectrum hovered in the bottom half throughout the survey while CenturyLink typically remained last. The only instance where CenturyLink scored better than Spectrum was in its slight lead in price.

    Best TV and internet bundles

    Internet speedTV channelsPriceDetails
    DIRECTV® ENTERTAINMENT ALL INCLUDED + CENTURYLINK INTERNETUp to 100 Mbps165+$114.99/mo.*View Plans
    DIRECTV® CHOICE™ ALL INCLUDED + CENTURYLINK INTERNET FIBER GIGABITUp to 940 Mbps200+$139.99/mo.*View Plans
    Spectrum Internet (up to 300 Mbps) + TV SelectUp to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)125+$109.98/mo. for 12 mos.‡View Plans
    Spectrum Internet Ultra + TV SelectUp to 500 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)125+$129.98/mo. for 12 mos.‡View Plans

    CenturyLink offers just one TV and internet bundle with its fiber internet service. All other bundles are based on its DSL internet, and the one listed above is the cheapest that you can get. All bundles rely on DIRECTV’s satellite TV service, but there’s no discounted pricing when you bundle.

    Spectrum doesn’t offer the traditional TV and internet bundle at a discount. Instead, you can pair its TV Select service with any one of its three cable internet plans. Both services have discounted pricing for the first 12 months, but all premium channels like HBO Max and SHOWTIME® are extra. Plus, you’ll see a broadcast TV service charge for up to $20 per month that’s not included in the discounted pricing.

    Internet types: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    Internet typeDetails
    CenturyLinkFiber, DSLView Plans
    SpectrumCableView Plans

    Both Spectrum and CenturyLink have Internet plans that reach up to 1000 Mbps°. CenturyLink’s fiber plan is great if you can get it—it’s less expensive than the Spectrum Internet Gig plan, and fiber Internet is generally more reliable with lower latency. But Spectrum’s fastest speeds are much more widely available than CenturyLink’s fiber Internet.

    As cool as those speeds sound, most households don’t need anywhere near gigabit speeds. In that case, Centurylink’s Fiber Internet 200 plan for just $30.00 per month is your cheapest bet, given that Spectrum’s 300 Mbps plan shoots up to $74.99 per month after 12 months. Spectrum’s 500 Mbps plan will cost you a heftier $94.99 per month after 12 months if you need more speed—which is more expensive than CenturyLink’s gigabit plan.

    Test your speed

    Thinking about an upgrade? Find out how CenturyLink and Spectrum’s speed packages compare to your current Internet speed.

    Data caps: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    Data capDetails
    CenturyLinkNo data capView Plans
    SpectrumNo data capView Plans

    While Spectrum does not have an internet data cap, its acceptable use policy prohibits “excessive use of bandwidth that in Charter’s sole opinion, places an unusually large burden on the network or goes above normal usage.”

    CenturyLink used to have a 1 TB data cap on most of its residential internet plans, but now neither its fiber plan nor its DSL plan have any caps.

    Contracts: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    Contract lengthDetails
    CenturyLinkNo contractView Plans
    SpectrumNo contractView Plans

    Spectrum and CenturyLink both have no-contract policies for internet plans. That means you can switch plans or providers whenever you want (as long as there’s another internet company in your area). But if you bundle DISH through CenturyLink, that does require a contract.

    Installation: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    Installation optionsDetails
    CenturyLink
  • $99 for pro install
  • Free for self install
  • View Plans
    Spectrum
  • $49.99 for pro install
  • $19.99 for self-install and service activation
  • $49.99 for WiFi Pod install
  • View Plans

    Spectrum encourages new customers to opt for the self-install kit over a pro installation. However, Spectrum will send a technician out for completely new installs, or if you need a modem moved, rewiring, and so on. The WiFi Pod setup is a separate installation fee.

    CenturyLink also has professional and self-installation options. If you go with self-installation, CenturyLink charges a $50 shipping and handling fee to send the kit, so going the DIY route doesn’t save you as much money as it does with Spectrum. But it’s still a good alternative to waiting around all day for the technician to show up—as long as you know what you’re doing.

    Professional installation for CenturyLink internet costs up to $99, depending on the package and where you live. But some internet plans get free installation. The qualifications for free installation vary by plan and location, so ask your CenturyLink representative about it when you sign up.

    Availability: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    CenturyLink

    Top 5 states:

    1. Utah
    2. Arizona
    3. Colorado
    4. New Mexico
    5. Minnesota

    Spectrum

    Top 5 states:

    1. Hawaii
    2. Ohio
    3. Kentucky
    4. North Carolina
    5. New York

    CenturyLink is available in 37 states, and Spectrum is available in 42. Most of CenturyLink’s coverage is DSL, but it also has at least some fiber availability in every state it operates in. Spectrum’s network supports Ultra and Gig speeds in most service areas.

    To see if CenturyLink or Spectrum is in your area, enter your zip code below.

    Final call: CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    At $30 per month CenturyLinks’s 200 Mbps fiber plan is tough to beat, especially when it comes to price, speed, and reliability. If you have the option, we recommend grabbing the fiber plan over Spectrum’s cable plans.

    CenturyLink’s overall score in our annual customer satisfaction survey, combining DSL and fiber customers, was just under average. But customers with fiber plans reported a higher rating—4.1 overall.  

    If your choice is between Spectrum’s cable plans and CenturyLink’s DSL, then cable is the way to go, especially if speed and reliability are your main concerns. That said, CenturyLink’s DSL plan may be slower than Spectrum’s base plan, but it will remain at $50.00 per month, while Spectrum’s plan jumps up to $74.99 per month after 12 months. All three have unlimited data.

     For gigabit speeds, CenturyLink’s fiber plan is less expensive than Spectrum’s if you can get it, but Spectrum’s Gig service is more widely available. Spectrum Internet Ultra is a good middle ground if you don’t need a gigabit connection but want more speed than 300 Mbps.

    View CenturyLink Plans

    View Spectrum 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.

    FAQ about CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

    Is CenturyLink or Spectrum internet better?

    Spectrum Internet is more reliable than CenturyLink’s DSL plan, but CenturyLink’s 940 Mbps fiber internet plan is better than Spectrum’s 1,000 Mbps cable plan because it’s cheaper and has faster upload speeds.

    What’s the difference between Spectrum, Charter, Bright House Networks, and Time Warner Cable?

    Charter Communications (or Charter) purchased Time Warner Cable in 2016 and rebranded their combined consumer and commercial services as Spectrum. Charter acquired Bright House Networks—another cable company—from Advanced/Newhouse in the same year and merged those services into the Spectrum brand.

    What’s the best internet provider in my area?

    To find the best Internet provider in your area, you need to first see what’s available. Check your zip code with our tool to compare all the Internet providers in your area. From there, you can find the provider with the best prices and fastest speeds.

     

    Author -

    Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.

    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.