CenturyLink vs. Spectrum

Best for fiber
  • Price for Life guarantee
  • Inexpensive fiber plans
  • No TV bundles

 
Plans start at $49.00/mo.
 

View Plans for CenturyLink

Best for reliability
  • Reliable internet service
  • Contract buyout
  • Price hikes after intro period

 
Plans start at $44.99/mo.
 

View Plans for Spectrum

Data effective 10/01/2019. 

The bottom line: Is CenturyLink or Spectrum better?

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

Choose CenturyLink if you want ridiculously fast fiber internet. Its fiber plan is less expensive than Spectrum’s Gig plan for the same top speeds.

You should also go with CenturyLink if you’re strictly looking for the cheapest plan. Its $45–$50 DSL internet plans are less expensive over time than Spectrum’s 100 Mbps plan.

Go with Spectrum if you’re looking for reliable internet speeds around 100–400 Mbps. The cable provider has faster speeds than CenturyLink’s DSL plans, and it has a better track record of delivering those speeds.

Spectrum Contract Buyout

Want to switch internet providers, but you’re stuck in a contract? Spectrum will buy out your contract (up to $500) when you sign up for a qualifying bundle.*

View deal

*To qualify for the contract buyout program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Check amount will be determined by the early termination fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For contract buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum Internet

CenturyLink Spectrum

Type of service

DSL and fiber

Type of service

Cable

Price

$49.00–$65.00/mo.

Price

$44.99–$104.99/mo.

Contract

No contracts

Contract

No contracts

Download speeds

10 Mbps–940 Mbps

Download speeds

100 Mbps–940 Mbps

Equipment fees

Up to $15.00/mo. or $150.00 one-time purchase

Equipment fees

Up to $5.00/mo.

Installation fee

Up to $125.00

Installation fee

Up to $199.99

Customer satisfaction

(3.65/5)

Customer satisfaction

(3.84/5)

View CenturyLink plansView Spectrum plans
CenturyLink

Type of service

DSL and fiber

Spectrum

Type of service

Cable

CenturyLink

Price

$49.00–$65.00/mo.

Spectrum

Price

$44.99–$104.99/mo.

CenturyLink

Contract

No contracts

Spectrum

Contract

No contracts

CenturyLink

Download speeds

10 Mbps–940 Mbps

Spectrum

Download speeds

100 Mbps–940 Mbps

CenturyLink

Equipment fees

Up to $15.00/mo. or $150.00 one-time purchase

Spectrum

Equipment fees

Up to $5.00/mo.

CenturyLink

Installation fee

Up to $125.00

Spectrum

Installation fee

Up to $199.99

CenturyLink

Customer satisfaction

(3.65/5)

Spectrum

Customer satisfaction

(3.84/5)

CenturyLink View CenturyLink plans
Spectrum View Spectrum plans

Data effective 10/01/2019. Not all offers available in all areas.

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum packages and pricing

Most of CenturyLink’s internet packages fall below 100 Mbps, while Spectrum’s plans start at 100 Mbps and go up from there. Even though they have different speeds, the providers both have prices starting around $45-50 per month. Both also have a 940 Mbps plan that the providers call gigabit internet, even though they’re not quite actual gigabit speeds (1,000 Mbps).

If you don’t know which packages you should consider, 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.

Editor’s pick: Spectrum Internet

Spectrum’s 100 Mbps plan gives you plenty of bandwidth for a household with multiple internet users. It’s hearty enough to handle simultaneous streaming, gaming, and browsing, and compared to CenturyLink’s 100 Mbps, it’s cheaper (even with the price jump after the first year) and more reliable.

CenturyLink packages

Plan Prices from* Download speeds up to Connection Type
CenturyLink Price for Life up to 80 Mbps $49.00/mo 80 Mbps DSL
CenturyLink Price for Life up to 40 Mbps $49.00/mo 40 Mbps DSL
CenturyLink Price for Life up to 15 Mbps $49.00/mo 15 Mbps DSL
CenturyLink Price for Life up to 100 Mbps $49.00/mo 100 Mbps DSL
CenturyLink Price for Life up to 20 Mbps $49.00/mo 20 Mbps DSL
CenturyLink Fiber Internet $65.00/mo 940 Mbps Fiber
View CenturyLink Internet Plans

Data effective 10/01/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change
Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. For Fiber internet, maximum download/upload speed of 940 Mbps via a wired connection

CenturyLink offers two types of internet: digital subscriber line (DSL) and fiber. The provider’s slower (100 Mbps and below) plans are okay if you’re looking for an inexpensive, long-term internet plan. The CenturyLink Price for Life guarantee protects you against price hikes, and all of the slower plans cost less than Spectrum’s cheapest plan after its introductory rate wears off.

But CenturyLink’s fiber internet plan is the provider’s best internet plan by far. 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. Unfortunately, this plan is not eligible for Price For Life.

Fiber is more expensive than CenturyLink’s other plans, but it costs about the same as Spectrum Internet Ultra after the introductory discount—and it’s much faster. The problem is that CenturyLink’s fiber internet is much less available than its less desirable DSL plans.

Spectrum packages

Plan Prices from* Download speeds up to Connection Type
Spectrum Internet Assist** $14.99/mo 30 Mbps Cable
Spectrum Internet $49.99/mo 100 Mbps Cable
Spectrum Internet Ultra $69.99/mo 400 Mbps Cable
Spectrum Internet GIG $104.99/mo 940 Mbps Cable
View Spectrum Internet Plans

Data effective 10/01/19.
*Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Introductory price for 12 months, then normal rates.
**To qualify for Spectrum Internet Assist, a member of the household must be a recipient of The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), The Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP, or Supplemental Security income (for those 65 and older only).

Here’s something Spectrum might not tell you upfront: Spectrum raises prices about $20–$25 after the first year. The advertised price is an introductory rate. The exception to this is Internet Assist, which keeps the same price for qualified customers. But you’ll have to qualify to get internet assistance through that program, so it’s not an option for many folks.

Spectrum offers faster speeds than most of CenturyLink’s plans. Its slowest speed is 100 Mbps, which might be more bandwidth than a lot of people need. But it’s better to have too much speed than not enough. It does mean, however, that Spectrum doesn’t offer any truly universal basic internet packages for people who want to spend less on internet service. Higher speeds come at a cost.

Compared to CenturyLink’s 100 Mbps, Spectrum Internet costs the same to start, but that price goes up after the first year promotional period ($65.99). The difference here is that Spectrum offers 100 Mbps everywhere it’s available, while CenturyLink might not offer 100 Mbps where you live, but you’ll still have to pay the same $49.99 for whatever speed you can get.

When it comes to gigabit internet (okay, 60 Mbps short of actual gigabit speeds but close enough), CenturyLink has better pricing. But Spectrum has better availability for its fastest speeds. In fact, Spectrum Internet Gig is available in 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.

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.

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum internet speeds

Internet speeds

Both Spectrum and CenturyLink have internet plans that reach up to 940 Mbps. CenturyLink’s fiber plan is great if you can get it—it’s less expensive than Spectrum’s 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, Spectrum’s 100 Mbps internet plan is the best bet. It starts out cheaper than CenturyLink’s plan with the same download speeds, and it stays at a reasonable price even after the introductory period.

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

Start speed test

Internet types

There are four different types of internet used widely in the US. They are satellite, DSL, cable, and fiber. CenturyLink uses DSL and fiber internet, while Spectrum uses cable internet. Each tech type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • DSL is widely available, especially in rural areas not serviced by cable or fiber companies. It uses existing phone lines and usually has max speeds up to 100 Mbps.
  • Cable is more reliable and can reach faster speeds than DSL, but it can get congested when too many people use the internet at the same time.
  • Fiber is the newest, fastest, and most reliable type of internet. It has very limited availability and is usually found only in larger cities because it’s expensive to roll out.

Internet data caps

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

CenturyLink does have a 1 TB data cap on most of its residential internet plans. That’s a lot of data, and most people won’t even get close to using that much. But if you really don’t want a cap, CenturyLink gigabit and business plans don’t have one.

Even if you do go over your data cap, you’ll just get a slap on the wrist the first time. CenturyLink will send you an online notification or letter telling you that you’ve exceeded your limit and offering suggestions on how to prevent it from happening again. If it happens three times in any 12-month period, CenturyLink could cancel your service according to its excessive use policy.

Pro tip: CenturyLink’s 1 TB data cap is a lot of data. But just how much data is it really? Well, you could download every animated Disney movie with a theatrical release—sorry Cinderella III.

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum fees and contracts

First, the good news: neither CenturyLink nor Spectrum force you to sign a contract. That means you can switch internet providers whenever you want without an early termination fee. Huzzah!

Some other industry standard fees are inevitable though. Spectrum and CenturyLink both charge a fee for things like installation, late payments, and equipment rental.

CenturyLink fees

FeesAmount
Installation feeUp to $125Learn more
Equipment rentalUp to $15/mo.Learn more
Equipment shipping and handling (for self-installation)Up to $50Learn more
Late feesFlat rate from $5 or percentage of balance owedLearn more
Declined payment fee$10–$25 per incidentLearn more

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.

Spectrum fees

Fees (Adjust list as needed)AmountMore info
Modem rentalIncludedLearn more
Wi-Fi fee (router rental)$5.00/mo.Learn more
Equipment shipping and handling$49.99Learn more
Internet Gig installation fee$199.99Learn more
Self-installation fee$9.99Learn more
Wi-Fi activation fee$9.99Learn more
Late feesFlat rate from $8.95 or percentage of balance owedLearn more
Insufficient funds feeUp to $25.00Learn more
Phone payment processing fee$5.00Learn more

At first glance, it looks like Spectrum has way more fees than CenturyLink. It does have a few more, like the Wi-Fi activation and phone payment processing fees. But Spectrum’s equipment rental fees, self-installation fees, and professional installation fees for non-Gig internet plans are less expensive than CenturyLink’s equivalent fees.

Spectrum also makes it easy to find specific information about fees in your area with its online rate card, so it gets props for its transparency here.

Here’s another positive thing among all these fees and charges: Spectrum gives customers a 30-day grace period before charging a late payment fee. That’s very generous, especially compared to CenturyLink’s complete lack of a grace period.

Internet contracts

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.

Even though they don’t make you sign a service agreement, both internet providers have price-lock offers to get you to stay for a while. Spectrum gives you a $20–$25 discount off your first year of service, and CenturyLink has its Price for Life guarantee.

Of the two, we like the Price for Life guarantee better. It gives you peace of mind that your bill will never shoot up without warning, no matter how many years you keep the service. And since Spectrum’s introductory discount lasts for just a year, getting your thirteenth bill could be a bit of a shock.

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum equipment

Renting equipment

CenturyLink and Spectrum allow you to rent a modem and router, usually in the form of a combo device called a gateway or Wi-Fi modem. CenturyLink charges up to $15 per month to rent a gateway. Spectrum leases its modems for free but charges $5 per month if you want to upgrade from a basic modem to a Wi-Fi gateway.

Either way, those monthly fees add up over time. It’s usually better to buy your own home networking equipment. But there are a few instances where renting could be the better option.

Renting ensures that your equipment works with your services and that your internet provider is responsible for fixing or replacing it when things go wrong. So, if you’re not very tech savvy and want that assurance, it might be worth it to rent.

It might also be worth it to rent equipment if you’re planning on switching services within a year or so. Modems don’t work with every provider, so you could end up paying more to buy a modem and then not be able to use that modem with your new provider the following year.

Buying home networking equipment

CenturyLink lets you buy approved equipment directly from them. Purchasing a gateway from CenturyLink costs $150, which is about 10 months of rental fees. It’s a good investment if you plan on staying with CenturyLink for at least a year.

Since Spectrum includes a modem with your internet package, you only need your own router (for Wi-Fi and network management purposes) to avoid rental fees. You can also use your own modem instead of Spectrum’s, but since it’s free, you shouldn’t go out of your way here.

Beyond avoiding rental fees, buying your own equipment is better for customization and control. Instead of just taking whatever the provider gives you, you can choose a router with special features like long-range antennas or parental controls.

Pro tip: The $5 per month Spectrum router rental fee that you have to pay if you want Wi-Fi might not seem like much, but you could buy the TP-Link Archer A7 router for less than $75, saving about $45 over two years.

Mobile apps

My CenturyLink is an account management app for iOS and Android devices. It lets you view and pay bills, reboot your modem, check your services, and troubleshoot common issues.

The My Spectrum app does a lot of the same things, but it also allows you to install a Wi-Fi profile to easily access Spectrum’s Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re away from home.

An internet provider’s mobile app shouldn’t make or break your decision, but if you’re a fan of app-based interactions with your ISP, it’s worth noting that My Spectrum has much higher user ratings.

My CenturyLink app

  • Google Play Rating: 2.3/5
  • Apple Store Rating: 2.3/5
  • Compatible Devices: iOS and Android

My Spectrum app

  • Google Play Rating: 4.5/5
  • Apple Store Rating: 4.6/5
  • Compatible Devices: iOS and Android

Data effective 10/01/2019.

Customer service

Internet Service Providers are not known for exceptional customer service. It doesn’t help that you usually only deal with support when something’s already going wrong, so it’s easy for a call to go sideways pretty fast.

It looks like you have a better chance of having a pleasant customer service encounter with Spectrum. It outranked CenturyLink for customer service in our 2018 customer satisfaction survey and J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study.

Installation and setup

Installation fee: Up to $125.00

Installation type: Pro and self-install

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.79/5)

 

Schedule an installation

Installation fee: Up to $199.99

Installation type: Pro and self-install

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.79/5)

 

Schedule an installation

Data effective 10/01/2019.

Spectrum’s installation fees range from $9.99 for self-installation to $199.99 for Spectrum Gig installation. Normal fees for Spectrum Internet and Internet Ultra are $49.99. There is also an additional $9.99 Wi-Fi activation fee if you upgrade your Spectrum equipment to include a Wi-Fi router.

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 $125, 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.

Customer satisfaction

CenturyLink

 

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.65/5)

Spectrum

 

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.84/5)

Data effective 10/01/2019.

Spectrum scored higher than CenturyLink in every part of our 2018 customer satisfaction survey, which gauged customer satisfaction with speed, monthly bills, installation and setup, reliability, and customer support. 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. Spectrum ended up sixth out of 12, and CenturyLink was ninth. But Spectrum maintained middle-of-the-road rankings, where CenturyLink was consistently in the bottom half. The largest gap between the two providers was for customer satisfaction with reliability, where CenturyLink scored a 3.68 out of five, and Spectrum scored a 3.97.

Availability

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 41. 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.

Find the best internet deal available in your area:

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum pros and cons

Pros

  • Price for Life guarantee
  • Fast fiber internet plans
  • No contracts
  • Rural availability

 

 

 

Cons

  • No TV bundle
  • Limited availability for fast fiber plans
  • Lower customer satisfaction
 

Pros

  • Reliable internet service
  • Fast internet speeds
  • Contract buyout
  • Included modem rental
  • Wi-Fi hotspot network
  • No data caps
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Price hikes
  • More expensive gigabit plan
  • No widely available budget internet option
 

Our verdict

If price is your main consideration, go with CenturyLink for lower prices over the long term. CenturyLink’s DSL plans cost less than Spectrum Internet after the first year, and its Price for Life guarantee locks in your price for as long as you keep that internet plan.

If reliability is your main concern, choose Spectrum. Spectrum simply performs better than CenturyLink according to our 2018 customer satisfaction survey, the FCC’s Eighth Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report, and J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study (South and West regions).

For gigabit speeds, CenturyLink’s fiber plan is much less expensive than Spectrum’s if you can get it, but Spectrum’s Gig and Ultra services are more widely available.

Check CenturyLink and Spectrum availability in your area.

CenturyLink vs. Spectrum FAQ

Is Spectrum or CenturyLink internet better?

TL;DR: Spectrum Internet is more reliable than CenturyLink’s DSL plans, but CenturyLink’s 940 Mbps fiber internet plan is better than Spectrum’s 940 Mbps Gig plan because it’s cheaper.

If you just need budget-friendly internet service, CenturyLink’s lower-speed tiers give you enough bandwidth for the necessities, and its Price for Life guarantee makes sure you never get blindsided with a price increase.

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

Charter, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks merged into Charter Communications back in 2016. All of those services combined to form the Spectrum brand.

Is CenturyLink a good internet provider?

CenturyLink is an okay Internet Service Provider (ISP). According to our annual customer satisfaction survey and other consumer studies, like J.D. Power, CenturyLink usually lands in either the middle or bottom of the pack of nationwide ISPs. That said, CenturyLink often offers cheaper prices than the competition, so don’t write the ISP off completely (or do, it’s no skin off our back).

 What is 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.

 

CenturyLink Price for Life not available in all areas.

*To qualify for the contract buyout program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Check amount will be determined by the early termination fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For contract buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.

Author -

Rebecca is a natural techie and the friend you turn to when your Wi-Fi randomly stops working. Since graduating from the University of Evansville with a degree in creative writing, Rebecca has leveraged her tech savvy to write hundreds of data-driven tech product and service reviews. In addition to HighSpeedInternet.com, her work has been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ and iMore.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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