Should you choose CenturyLink or Time Warner Cable as your high-speed internet service provider? 

You just want the fastest speeds at the most affordable price. Why does it have to be so difficult to pick a high-speed internet provider? At HSI, we don’t think it has to be. We’ll give you side-by-side brand comparisons with a complete breakdown on services, equipment, and satisfaction ratings so you can make the best decision for your connected home.

As we look at side-by-side comparisons of these two internet service providers, keep in mind that this is also a comparison of two different types of service. Cable differs from DSL in that it offers superior speeds and is more efficient because it uses a coaxial cable to deliver internet rather than the phone lines, as DSL connections do. While CenturyLink does offer faster internet via a fiber network, those speeds are only available in 11 select metro areas, primarily in the central and western regions of the United States. Since CenturyLink’s 1 Gig product has such limited availability, your choice will depend on how much speed your household needs and what your service priorities are.

The Verdict

Choose Time Warner Cable for faster internet speeds, better customer service, and greater reliability.

Cable gets it done faster, but that’s not the end of the story when it comes to internet service. Many households will find CenturyLink’s speeds perfectly accurate for low to medium internet usage. Time Warner Cable also offers a more capable modem, but customers report it comes at a cost down the road with steep price increases and hidden fees. There’s no doubt, however, that Time Warner’s commitment to improving customer service has been effective and the company enjoys higher ratings than CenturyLink in both customer satisfaction and reliability.

Choose CenturyLink for superior TV service and more transparent billing practices.

Time Warner Cable may have some affordable skinny bundles, but you get what you pay for. In this case, that means you get a lot fewer channels. So if you’re looking to bundle services and want a great TV provider, CenturyLink is a much better bet. It also earns higher ratings in satisfaction with billing, which is likely a factor of a very attractive three-year price guarantee and more transparent billing practices.


Customer Satisfaction Comparisons

CenturyLink (DSL) Internet

Overall customer rating

(3.4 / 5)



Time Warner Cable Internet

Overall customer rating

(3.5 / 5)



Installation & Set-Up
(3.6 / 5)

CenturyLink earns lukewarm reviews from customers for its installation process. The company hypes its free activation, but most customers choose self-installation, so it’s unusual to charge for activation anyway. You’re not fooling anyone, CenturyLink.


Installation & Set-Up
(3.7 / 5)

Despite the fact the Time Warner Cable charges a $50 installation fee, it’s edging out CenturyLink in this category of satisfaction. Most customers are probably opting for Time Warner’s Easy Connect Kits, which have robust tech support and tools online.


Internet Speed
(3.4 / 5)

Yes, DSL is slower than cable. But when you compare maximum speeds from these two providers side by side, there’s not a huge difference. For most households, CenturyLink will do the job just fine, thank you very much. And unlike cable, you won’t get slowing at peak times due to crowding at the neighborhood internet hub.

Internet Speed
(3.6 / 5)

Time Warner Cable is faster than DSL, and you’ll see that pay off in satisfaction ratings here. If speed is your only concern when it comes choosing an internet provider, Time Warner Cable is a no-brainer.  And to sweeten the deal, you won’t experience any data caps … for now.


(3.5 / 5)

CenturyLink has had some high-profile outages in recent years, including a court case it had to settle regarding 911 calls. Much of these reliability issues arise from an effort to rapidly expand the company’s footprint without the necessary infrastructure and support in place.


(3.6 / 5)

Cable is pretty widely available and fairly reliable, and Time Warner Cable is no exception. While customers might experience some slowing during times of peak internet usage, TWC seems to be delivering the speeds customers need consistently.


Monthly Bill (Pricing) 
(3 / 5)

CenturyLink nudges out a win in this category of satisfaction, and it’s likely due to more affordable bundles. The company also allows customers to lock in a three-year price guarantee for some packages without requiring contracts, which is a deal you won’t get from most providers.


Monthly Bill (Pricing) 
(4 / 5)

Time Warner Cable doesn’t have data caps, but it will find a way to charge you just the same. Customers complain of hidden fees and steep pricing increases after the promotional period. This is all part and parcel of the cable industry, but it doesn’t breed happy customers. Perhaps Charter’s bargain basement pricing will rub off on the newly acquired provider.


Tech Support & Customer Service
(3.3 / 5)

Yuck. That rating puts CenturyLink at the bottom of what is already a pretty abysmal rate of customer satisfaction. Again, this is likely because of rapidly expanding service areas without the proper support and having to apologize for outages and mistakes rather than avoiding them in the first place. When a cable company is outperforming you in customer service, it’s time to make some changes, CenturyLink.


Technical Support & Customer Service 
(3.6 / 5)

Some people will be shocked to see a halfway decent rate of customer satisfaction here. Us, too! But it’s largely because TWC made a commitment to focus on improving customer service in 2015, and it followed through. Improved ratings here reflect a kinder, gentler Time Warner Cable.


Advantages vs. Disadvantages


  • Affordable bundles
  • Free activation with self-installation
  • Three-year price guarantee
  • No contract
  • Home security services available
  • Couples with DirecTV
  • No data caps

Time Warner Cable

  • Faster internet speeds
  • Bundling with phone, TV, and home security
  • No data caps
  • No contract required
  • Access to 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Less expensive monthly modem rental fee ($8.99)
  • Slower speeds than cable
  • Poor reputation for customer service
  • Some outage/reliability concerns
  • Modem rental fee $9.99/month
  • $50 installation fee
  • Higher prices, hidden fees
  • Limited TV packages and channels



ZyXEL CenturyLink PK5001Z 802.11n Wireless DSL ADSL2+ Modem Router Gateway

  • Wired Transfer Rate: 10/100/1000Mbps, Wireless Transfer Rate: 300Mbps
  • Built in security
  • Monthly fee: $9.99

Time Warner Cable


  • DOCSIS 3.0
  • 2 analog voice lines
  • 4 port
  • Built in Firewall
  • Monthly Fee: $8.99

TV Service

CenturyLink TV

Satisfaction rating :  (3.5 / 5)

  • More channel selection
  • Superior DVR equipment
  • Advanced TV features

Time Warner Cable TV

Satisfaction Rating:  (3.3 / 5)

  • Self-installation available
  • Affordable skinny bundles

About the Providers

CenturyLink, based in Louisiana, is the third-largest telecommunications company in the United States. It provides internet, TV, phone, and home security services to 47 million customers in 37 states. CenturyLink is primarily a DSL company, meaning that it provides internet services via phone lines. Their footprint extends across the central and western regions with the highest concentration of customers in states like Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.


For more information about CenturyLink, visit our CenturyLink provider page.

Time Warner Cable, which merged with Charter Communications earlier this year, is a cable provider serving over 62 million customers in 29 states. Its coverage area extends along the Atlantic seaboard and across large parts of New York and Ohio. Time Warner Cable is currently being operated as a separate entity by Charter, but the company has stated it intends to market TWC services moving forward as part of the Charter Spectrum brand. Time Warner Cable is a telecommunications provider that spun off of Time Warner’s Media company back in 2009, and the two companies are no longer associated with one another.

For more information about Time Warner Cable, visit our Time Warner Cable provider page.


Now that you’ve weighed the pros and cons of these two ISPs, get more information by viewing our complete survey.  It provides data and ratings for a broader scope of common providers and is available here: HSI’s 2016 Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Survey here.


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