CenturyLink vs. Cox

by | Edited by Cara Haynes | Jul 31, 2019 | Brand Guides, Provider Comparisons (Versus)

Best for long-term service
  • No contracts
  • Price for Life guarantee
  • Separate contracts for bundling with DIRECTV

 
Plans start at $45.00/mo.
 

View Plans for CenturyLink

Best for bargains and bundles
  • Inexpensive introductory rates
  • Better bundles
  • 1 TB data cap for all plans

 
Plans start at $29.99/mo.
 

View Plans for Cox Communications

Data effective 05/31/2019. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The bottom line

CenturyLink is good for long-term internet subscribers. Its Price for Life program and simple equipment purchase options make it a no-nonsense choice for your forever home. On the other hand, renters, folks who might move soon, and bargain hunters should consider Cox for its low introductory prices and better internet, TV, and home phone bundling options.

Current internet deals:

CenturyLink currently has a killer offer for its fiber internet service. New customers who sign up online can get the Fiber Gigabit package for $65 per month for a year along with a free modem and free installation. That can save you up to $515!

*New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply. Offer details.

CenturyLink vs. Cox internet

CenturyLink Cox Communications

Type of service

Fiber, DSL

Type of service

Cable

Price

$45.00–$85.00/mo.

Price

$29.99–$119.99/mo.

Contract

No contracts

Contract

1 yr.

Download speeds

10 Mbps–940 Mbps

Download speeds

10 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (1 gig)

Equipment fees

Up to $15.00/mo. or $150 one-time purchase

Equipment fees

$10.99/mo.

Installation fee

Up to $125.00

Installation fee

$20.00–$75.00

Customer satisfaction

(3.65 /5)

Customer satisfaction

(3.76 /5)

View CenturyLink plansView Cox plans
CenturyLink

Type of service

Fiber, DSL

Cox Communications

Type of service

Cable

CenturyLink

Price

$45.00–$85.00/mo.

Cox Communications

Price

$29.99–$119.99/mo.

CenturyLink

Contract

No contracts

Cox Communications

Contract

1 yr.

CenturyLink

Download speeds

10 Mbps–940 Mbps

Cox Communications

Download speeds

10 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (1 gig)

CenturyLink

Equipment fees

Up to $15.00/mo. or $150 one-time purchase

Cox Communications

Equipment fees

$10.99/mo.

CenturyLink

Installation fee

Up to $125.00

Cox Communications

Installation fee

$20.00–$75.00

CenturyLink

Customer satisfaction

(3.65 /5)

Cox Communications

Customer satisfaction

(3.76 /5)

CenturyLink View CenturyLink plans
Cox Communications View Cox plans

Data effective 05/31/2019. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas

CenturyLink vs. Cox packages and pricing

Both Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have packages ranging from 10 Mbps–20 Mbps to gigabit speeds. We’ve listed CenturyLink and Cox’s main offers for you to compare below. If you don’t know where to start, our How Much Speed Do You Need? tool can help you narrow down your options based on how you use the internet.

CenturyLink packages

PackagePriceSpeeds up toInternet type
Price for Life up to 20 Mbps$50/mo.20 MbpsDSL
Price for Life up to 80 Mbps$55/mo.80 MbpsDSL
Price for Life up to 100 Mbps$65/mo.100 MbpsDSL
Price for Life Fiber Internet$85/mo.940 MbpsFiber
PackagePrice for Life up to 20 Mbps
Price$50/mo.
Speeds up to20 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
PackagePrice for Life up to 80 Mbps
Price$55/mo.
Speeds up to80 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
PackagePrice for Life up to 100 Mbps
Price$65/mo.
Speeds up to100 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
PackagePrice for Life Fiber Internet
Price$85/mo.
Speeds up to940 Mbps
Internet typeFiber

Data effective 05/31/2019. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Price for Life not available in all areas.

CenturyLink has four main internet plans, but availability varies depending on your area. For example, there are several places around the US (including Watts, Oklahoma) with a $45 for 25 Mbps plan instead of the $50 for 20 Mbps plan. And not all locations have access to the highest fiber speed tiers, which stinks because the fiber plan is reasonably priced and the best one for heavy internet use.

In addition to its internet-only plans, CenturyLink bundles home phone and DIRECTV services with internet. All internet and home phone bundles are $85 per month, regardless of bandwidth. This makes adding on phone service basically free if you’re a fiber subscriber and up to $40 a month if you’re on a lower-speed tier. Either way, it’s a good deal for CenturyLink’s Home Phone Unlimited, which costs $60 per month by itself. But if you’re bundling internet and home phone anyway, you should get the highest bandwidth available since it’s all the same price.

CenturyLink used to have its own CenturyLink Prism TV but stopped offering that service in 2018. For a CenturyLink TV and internet bundle now, you can get DIRECTV through the ISP by signing a separate two-year contract with DIRECTV. It’s almost the same as purchasing from DIRECTV directly, but combining the services can save you up to $5 per month off the XTRA and ULTIMATE packages. That’s not the greatest bargain, but $5 is $5.

Cox packages

PackagePriceSpeedInternet type
Cox Internet Starter 10$29.99/mo.10 MbpsCable
Cox Internet Essential 30$39.99/mo.30 MbpsCable
Cox Internet Preferred 100$59.99/mo.100 MbpsCable
Cox Internet Ultimate$79.99/mo.300 MbpsCable
Cox Internet Gigablast$119.99/mo.1,000 MbpsCable
StraightUp Internet (Prepaid)$50.00/mo.25 MbpsCable
PackageCox Internet Starter 10
Price$29.99/mo.
Speed10 Mbps
Internet typeCable
PackageCox Internet Essential 30
Price$39.99/mo.
Speed30 Mbps
Internet typeCable
PackageCox Internet Preferred 100
Price$59.99/mo.
Speed100 Mbps
Internet typeCable
PackageCox Internet Ultimate
Price$79.99/mo.
Speed300 Mbps
Internet typeCable
PackageCox Internet Gigablast
Price$119.99/mo.
Speed1,000 Mbps
Internet typeCable
PackageStraightUp Internet (Prepaid)
Price$50.00/mo.
Speed25 Mbps
Internet typeCable

Data effective 05/31/2019. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Cox has great deals on internet packages, particularly in the low- and mid-tier ranges. It’s worth noting, however, that all its advertised prices are introductory rates. It raises prices after you’ve had Cox internet for a year or two, sometimes up to 67% (for the Essential 30 plan). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of Cox’s cheap internet plans, but it’s something to be aware of if you intend to keep the service long-term.

Similarly to its internet-only plans, Cox’s bundles are a great value. In particular, its Triple Play (internet, TV, and phone) prices are better than CenturyLink’s. For 100 Mbps internet service, home phone, and 140–160 channels on a two-year contract, Cox’s Bronze Bundle with Voice Premier costs $89.99 per month for the first year, while a CenturyLink bundle costs $120.00 per month for the same time. If you’re looking for a great price on a Triple Play bundle for a few years, the Bronze Bundle is it.

Who has the fastest internet speed (and more)?

Internet speeds

Cox and CenturyLink offer comparable speed tiers starting at 10 Mbps–20 Mbps and going up to gigabit speeds. The Cox gigabit service, dubbed Gigablast, has download speeds up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps). CenturyLink’s fiber service falls a little short by comparison with max speeds of 940 Mbps.

With both performing at peak speeds, however, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference.

Though CenturyLink doesn’t advertise its upload speeds, they’re likely comparable to Cox speeds, which are 10% of the package’s download speed. These much slower upload speeds are something to take into consideration if you need higher upstream bandwidth for large file transfers, like if you regularly upload video content to YouTube or other platforms.

Test your speed:

Most people don’t need the absolute fastest speeds for everyday use. Check your internet speed with our speed test tool to see what you’re working with now.

Internet types

Cox Communications uses cable connections for internet and TV services. CenturyLink uses two different internet service types: fiber and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Here’s a rundown of how your type of internet may affect your service.

  • DSL internet uses telephone lines but isn’t dial-up (thank goodness), and your service depends on your distance from the ISP hub. Of the three service types listed here, DSL is generally the slowest and has the highest latency.
  • Cable internet uses the same copper coaxial cables as cable TV. It falls between DSL and fiber in terms of reliability, speed, and latency.
  • Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables to transfer information via light, which makes for superfast internet speeds. Fiber is less widely available than DSL or cable because it’s newer technology with high infrastructure costs.

If you have the choice, we recommend fiber all the way. It’s newer, shinier, faster, more reliable, and generally cooler than other options. But if it’s a choice between Cox cable internet and CenturyLink DSL, we’d have to side with Cox.

Data caps

Cox and CenturyLink both have a 1 TB per month data limit for most residential plans, but Cox is much stricter about enforcing it. It charges $10 for every 50 GB over the limit on every plan, or you can pay extra for an unlimited subscription.

CenturyLink, on the other hand, doesn’t charge overage fees. If you go over your 1 TB, the ISP sends you a notification or letter to let you know you’ve exceeded your limit and suggests ways to either use less data in the future or upgrade to an unlimited fiber or business plan. CenturyLink’s data cap doesn’t apply to gigabit fiber plans, so if you think it might be a problem, just go with that. Going over the limit three times in a year puts you at risk for termination of service.

Pro tip: You’d have to stream Netflix in HD for more than 11 hours a day to reach the 1 TB data limit. At that rate, you’d get through all of The Great British Baking Show (including the holiday specials and The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass) in eight days.

Fees and contracts

The prices ISPs advertise as their monthly rates usually don’t include taxes and fees. Getting your bill can be a bit of a shock if you haven’t factored in the hidden costs and fine print of your plan. No matter what high-speed internet plan you choose, it’s best to know what you’re getting into.

CenturyLink fees

FeesAmount
InstallationUp to $125*
Equipment rentalUp to $15/mo.
Equipment shipping and handlingUp to $50
Late feesFlat rate starting at $5 or percentage of balance owed§
Payment declined feeUp to $25 per incident

*Centurylink.com, “Offer & Product Details
Centurylink.com, “Offer & Product Details
Centurylink.com, “Offer & Product Details
§Centurylink.com, “What to do if your payment is declined
Centurylink.com, “What to do if your payment is declined

CenturyLink’s fees depend on your location. The chart shows the highest amount you could pay for installation, equipment rental, and shipping, but you could also get away with less. A random address in Salt Lake City, for example, qualified for a $10 per month rental fee with a $99 professional installation. Some packages even get free installation.

CenturyLink works on a no-contract basis, so you don’t have to worry about early termination fees if you decide to switch or cancel your service. The ISP does charge late fees and declined payment fees, which are pretty much standard practice for any business. CenturyLink’s other fees are in line with industry expectations as well but are a little high at the top end.

The frustrating thing about CenturyLink’s fees (more frustrating than fees in the first place, anyway) is the lack of consistency. As is, you could move and decide to carry your CenturyLink service over to your new place, only to find that your modem rental has gone up $5 a month for no apparent reason.

Cox fees

FeesAmount
Installation$20–$75#
Early termination feeUp to $360**
Panoramic Wifi rental$10.99/mo.††
Data overage$10/mo. for 50 GB‡‡
Late feesUp to 25% of the balance owed and/or a fee of up to $25 (or up to the max amount allowed by law or regulation)§§
Returned payment feesUp to $25 or max allowed by law║║

#Cox.com, “Pricing and Plans
**Cox.com, “24-Month Service Agreement
††Cox.com, “Pricing and Plans
‡‡Cox.com, “Offer Details & Terms
§§Cox.com, “Residential Customer Service Agreement
║║Cox.com, “Residential Customer Service Agreement

Cox has a few more possible fees than CenturyLink (boo), including steep early termination fees and overage fees for using too much data in a month. The early termination fee doesn’t apply if you cancel your service within 30 days or sign up for a no-contract plan.

Cox has set installation and equipment rental fees. Both professional and self-installation fees are cheaper than with CenturyLink—that’s one reason it’s better for frequent movers. Renting the Cox Panoramic Wifi equipment, however, costs $0.99 more per month.  You can choose to self-install to save a few bucks, but the ISP charges a $20 self-install fee whether you rent a gateway from them or provide your own.

Internet contracts

CenturyLink doesn’t have contracts for its internet services. It uses its Price for Life program to retain customers. Not every CenturyLink plan is price-locked, but where it applies, we recommend getting a Price for Life plan because it’s a great safeguard against surprise price jumps as long as you stick with your plan.

Cox has both contracted and non-contract packages. With its contracts, Cox also offers low introductory rates that last as long or longer than your first contract term. But an internet contract isn’t great if you’ll be moving in the near future, as cancelling your subscription early can stick you with early termination fees.

Contracts and contract-less packages each have advantages. In these specific instances, a Cox contract gives you access to discounted rates for up to three years. Going without a contract with CenturyLink eliminates early termination fees.

Editor’s pick: Cox’s Internet Preferred 100 plan provides plenty of bandwidth for multiple users and is a great deal for families. This package costs $59.99 per month with a one-year contract. Translation: you’ll be able to stream Adventure Time, Riverdale, and Game of Thrones at the same time without buffering for a great price.

See if our pick is available where you live.

Equipment

Renting a gateway

Both CenturyLink and Cox can set you up with everything you need to use the internet and any bundled services. If you choose to rent internet equipment, you’ll get a gateway, also called a Wi-Fi modem or modem-router combo, which supports both Ethernet (wired) and Wi-Fi (wireless) network connections. Cox’s Panoramic Wifi gateway costs $10.99 per month. CenturyLink’s monthly rental fee can go up to $15.

Rental costs can add up significantly over time, but there are benefits to renting over buying. For starters, you can be certain that the equipment works with your service. Renting also makes it the company’s responsibility to troubleshoot, repair, or replace faulty equipment.

Buying a modem and router

Buying your own modem and router is generally better than renting a gateway from your ISP. It saves you money in the long run, since you can usually replace ISP-provided equipment for less than two year’s worth of rental fees. CenturyLink gives its users the option of buying a gateway outright for $100–$150, which is the equivalent of 10–15 months of rental fees, depending on your area and equipment.

Owning your equipment outright gives you control over your home network’s features, security, and performance. Most rental equipment is basic, so if you want better range or quality of service features to beef up your online gaming connection, you’ll need an upgrade.

When shopping for a modem, make sure it’s certified to work with your ISP. Both CenturyLink and Cox have lists of supported equipment available on their websites.

Pro tip: Want Cox but don’t want to pay over $130 a year for its Panoramic Wifi? Buy your own Cox-approved Wi-Fi modem instead and start saving money within a year.

Mobile apps

For account management apps, My CenturyLink and Cox Connect are pretty straightforward. Both let you view and pay bills, monitor your account, and contact support. Additionally, My CenturyLink lets you upgrade your internet speeds if a higher tier is available and notifies you of service outages in your area to save you the grief of trying to troubleshoot your network by turning everything off and on again.

Cox Connect is more robust and lets you monitor and manage Wi-Fi devices remotely, locate and access Cox public Wi-Fi hotspots when away from home, set up DVR recordings, or find one of the 134 brick-and-mortar Cox cable locations. Cox Panoramic Wifi users can also use the separate Panoramic Wifi app. This app gives you more control over internet access for the devices connected to your network.

Cox Connect is rated higher in the Apple Store and Google Play Store, but both apps are pretty low. A lot of the one-star reviews, however, are more concerned with the service as a whole rather than issues with the app. Star ratings aside, the Cox Connect and Panoramic Wifi apps are more useful day-to-day because they move beyond basic account management and let you remotely interact with your network.

My CenturyLink App

  • Google Play Rating: 2.3/5
  • Apple Store Rating: 1.8/5
  • Compatible Devices: iOS and Android

Cox Connect App

  • Google Play Rating: 3.0/5
  • Apple Store Rating: 2.1/5
  • Compatible Devices: iOS and Android

Data effective 05/31/2019.

Customer service

After you consider availability, price, and bandwidth, the next thing you should check out is customer support. While ISPs are not known for stellar customer service (just look at the hoards of angry reviews online), the companies do try to cushion their bad raps with customer-focused policies. Cox, for instance, has a 30-day money-back policy for new subscribers, so you can change your mind without penalties.

Installation and setup

CenturyLink

Installation fee: Up to $125

Installation type: Pro and self-install

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.79 /5)

 

Schedule an installation

Cox Communications

Installation fee: $20–$75

Installation type: Pro and self-install

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.8 /5)

 

Schedule an installation

Data effective 05/31/2019.

Whether you want a professional installation or a money-saving DIY setup, CenturyLink and Cox give you options. Cox has lower standard fees for both types of installation, but both sometimes waive installation fees for certain packages.

Cox provides free self- and professional installation if you bundle internet with home phone service.

Self-install costs for CenturyLink include modem shipping and handling up to $50 if you purchase or lease equipment from the company. Cox charges a $20 self-install fee whether you rent a Cox modem or provide your own. The downside to self-installation is that you won’t have a professional on hand if anything goes wrong with the process. That said, it’s cheaper and saves you from waiting several hours for a technician to show up. If you want to try, we’ve put together self-installation guides for CenturyLink and Cox.

Customer satisfaction

CenturyLink

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.65 /5)

Cox Communications

Installation customer satisfaction rating:

(3.76 /5)

Data effective 05/31/2019.

In our 2018 customer satisfaction survey, Cox cable internet scored higher than CenturyLink in installation and setup, technical support and customer service, reliability, and speed. CenturyLink won out on monthly bill satisfaction, but Cox cable internet customers are more satisfied with the service as a whole, which is why we recommend Cox for customer satisfaction. The biggest difference in ratings was in the speed satisfaction section, where Cox scored 0.29 higher than CenturyLink.

The survey looked at US internet reviews for 12 ISPs. Cox cable reviews put it in seventh place out of 12, and CenturyLink ended up in ninth. While neither ISP ranked in the top half for customer satisfaction, both have higher average scores across all categories compared to the last survey from 2016.

Availability

CenturyLink

Top 5 states:

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

Cox

Top 5 states:

  1. Arizona
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Nevada
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Kansas

Cox communication service areas are limited compared to CenturyLink. CenturyLink availability spans 36 states, while Cox is present in 18. They overlap in 14 states, including Arizona, where both ISPs have a strong presence. Beyond finding an ISP for your current address, wide availability is good if you want to keep your internet package at your next home as well.

Pro tip: Availability is the most important factor when choosing your ISP. Enter your ZIP to see all the high-speed internet options available for you.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

  • More availability
  • Equipment purchase options
  • No contracts
  • Price for Life guarantee

Disadvantages

  • Higher starting prices
  • DIRECTV under separate contract
  • Lower customer satisfaction rating
 

Advantages

  • Inexpensive starting rates
  • Panoramic Wifi
  • Better bundles
  • Contract and no-contract options

Disadvantages

  • Limited availability
  • Higher rates after promo period
  • Enforced 1 TB data cap
 

Our verdict

If you want a service you can set up once and use for years, choose CenturyLink. If you’re planning on moving in the next year or two and want a good deal, Cox is the better option.

 

Double-check your Cox and CenturyLink availability:

CenturyLink vs. Cox FAQ

Which is faster: Cox or CenturyLink?

When it comes to speed, Cox is faster than CenturyLink. Its Gigablast service can reach max speeds up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps), where CenturyLink’s fiber service tops out at 940 Mbps.

Who is more reliable: Cox or CenturyLink?

Based on our 2018 customer satisfaction survey, customers think Cox is more reliable than CenturyLink. Out of 12 ISPs, Cox ranked seventh, and CenturyLink was 10th.

Who has better internet deals: Cox or CenturyLink?

Cox has better internet deals when it comes to starting rates for internet and bundled services for the first year or two. CenturyLink often runs worthwhile internet deals as well, but Cox is the ISP to turn to if you’re looking for a bargain.

Who is better: Cox or CenturyLink?

CenturyLink is better for long-term commitments, and Cox is better for bundles and short-term bargains.

How much does Cox internet cost?

Cox internet packages start at $29.99 per month for a basic 10 Mbps speed package. Take a look at our Cox package overview to see pricing for more Cox plans. Not all speeds and prices are available in all areas, so you’ll want to check your ZIP to see what you can get.

About the Author

Rebecca has been writing about tech and home networking for more than four years. Her work has been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, and iMore. Rebecca considers herself a citizen of the internet and is passionate about internet accessibility. She has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Evansville.

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