CenturyLink vs. Cox
Type of Service
20 Mbps—1 Gig
$45.00–$85.00 per month
$9.99 per month
Included in price
1 TB (DSL), None (Fiber)
Type of Service
10 Mbps–300 Mbps (1 Gig in some areas)
$29.99–$119.99 per month
$9.99 per month
*Pricing and speeds are subject to change but are current as of 4/12/18. Internet and television offers not available in all coverage areas.
Should I choose CenturyLink or Cox as my high-speed Internet Service Provider?
Choose CenturyLink for wide availability and affordable 1 Gig packages.
CenturyLink’s biggest selling point is availability—you can get it in a lot of places. And the speeds are nothing to scoff at either. Some areas even get the excellent 1 Gig fiber service. The DIRECTV partnership for bundles could be great for some (like sports fans), but others may not like the idea of satellite TV. Overall, CenturyLink is a solid option—especially if you have access to the faster speeds.
Choose Cox for better budget pricing and more consistent speeds.
Cox shines when it comes to providing consistent speeds. The average speed of Cox service across coverage areas is significantly higher than CenturyLink. Cox also offers better budget pricing. However, the coverage areas are smaller, and Cox is more expensive when it comes to 1 Gig plans. Cox is best for those who just want good internet at a reasonable price.
CenturyLink remains one of the most widely available Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the US. The company provides service in thirty-six states. The spread is pretty even across the country, but the largest coverage areas are Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. Check out the map below to see CenturyLink’s complete coverage area.
Cox serves a significantly smaller area than CenturyLink, with coverage in eighteen states to CenturyLink’s thirty-six. The service areas are pretty scattered, as you can see in the map below, but many major cities like Tucson, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California, are covered. Speaking of Tucson, Arizona is by far the best state for Cox coverage, followed by Rhode Island and Nevada.
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
Customer Satisfaction Ratings
Each year, HighSpeedInternet.com surveys internet subscribers around the US to learn about their experiences with their internet providers. The survey includes questions about internet speed and quality, customer service and support, and reliability. Check out the full 2018 survey results right here.
Installation & Setup
CenturyLink offers professional installation at no additional charge, so it’s almost a no-brainer to let the pros handle it. The process is pretty straightforward, and the company provides in-depth checklists to make sure your home is prepped to help the process go more quickly.
You can also self-install your CenturyLink service. This is a good option if you can’t schedule an appointment during service hours or if you just like to get hands-on with your tech. The process is pretty simple, but we’ve got a complete guide if you need some direction.
Cox offers both professional and self-installation options, but unlike CenturyLink, there are some fees involved. A Cox professional installation is $75.00, while a self-install kit will run you $25.00. For that reason, we recommend most people go the DIY route. Since Cox is a cable service, the setup is very simple. We’ve also got a full guide to the entire process, if you need some help.
CenturyLink speeds vary widely—depending on where you live, you could get anything from 20 Mbps to 1 Gbps. This is mainly due to the provider’s use of a mix of DSL and fiber lines. The most commonly available speed for CenturyLink service is 20 Mbps, with some areas getting as high as 100 Mbps.
It’s the fiber markets that really shine, though. These areas can see speeds up to 1 Gig, which is more than fast enough for nearly any use case. If CenturyLink 1 Gig is available in your area, we highly recommend it. Enter your zip code in the tool below to see what CenturyLink speeds you can get.
Speed: Up to 1 Gig
Like CenturyLink, Cox’s speeds can vary widely from place to place, anywhere from 20 Mbps up to the 1 Gig speeds of Cox Gigablast. The average speed for Cox is higher than that of CenturyLink, though, thanks to the cable technology. Cox connections average 100 Mbps compared to CenturyLink’s 20 Mbps average. In the end, though, the only way to really know what speed you’ll get is to check available packages. Use the Zip Finder tool below to see what’s available in your area.
Cox also offers the Panoramic Wi-Fi system for getting faster Wi-Fi coverage around your home, which is a big help with faster usable speed. And the network of Cox Wi-Fi hotspots lets you access fast speeds on the go as well.
Speed: 10 Mbps–300 Mbps (1 Gig in some areas)
CenturyLink scores quite a bit lower than Cox for reliability. Part of this can be attributed to the difference between DSL and cable: cable is just more stable and reliable for transmitting signals. Not that CenturyLink is unreliable—you just might see more hiccups than with other providers. If you happen to live in one of CenturyLink’s fiber markets, though, things look much better: fiber is extremely reliable.
Cox sits around the middle of the pack in this category. It’s not quite as reliable as some other cable providers (like Xfinity), but generally service should be pretty steady. There may be some slowdowns during heavy usage times, but that’s normal for all but the most powerful fiber networks.
Pricing is the only area where CenturyLink outranks its rival. CenturyLink is just an all-around good deal. Unless you live in an area that only gets access to the 20 Mbps speeds, you get a lot of internet for your money with CenturyLink. And the 1 Gig plan, at $85.00 per month, is a bargain. CenturyLink also guarantees the price of these internet packages for life—you’ll never have an increase as long as you maintain service.
Price: $45.00–$85.00 per month
Cox scores about average in every category except pricing. The reality is the provider just charges more than the competition for the same speeds. Looking at the top-tier 1 Gig plans, CenturyLink charges $85.00 per month and guarantees the price for life. Cox, on the other hand, charges $119.99 per month for its 1 Gig package.
The one area where Cox does do well is budget packages. A price of $29.99 for the 20 Mbps plan is a great value if you just need basic internet access.
Price: $29.99–$119.99 per month
Technical Support & Customer Service
If you need help with your CenturyLink internet service, the company offers several outlets. There’s a clean, usable support site that makes it easy to find answers to most questions. We had no trouble finding troubleshooting steps for problems with CenturyLink email, for example. And if the DIY approach to troubleshooting isn’t for you, CenturyLink offers the usual chat and phone support options. If you end up needing to have a tech visit, there’s a handy tool to track their location and expected arrival time. That helps alleviate one of the biggest hassles with ISPs: the huge windows for service appointment times.
Cox also offers solid customer support. The company provides access to a feature-packed support site, plus fast online chat. There are also pages to check for Cox cable outages and test your current network speed—which would come in handy if you need to troubleshoot a tricky connection. Cox is also active on social media, and they have Twitter and Facebook pages where you can get even more help.
Advantages & Disadvantages
CenturyLink customers looking to bundle TV are in luck: the company partners with DIRECTV satellite TV service to provide bundle options. DIRECTV is one of the best TV services around, thanks to their sports programming and the exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET football package. CenturyLink DIRECTV is the same as standalone DIRECTV service, too, so no worries there. Packages start at $29.99 per month, but we think the best overall value is the DIRECTV ULTIMATE package. ULTIMATE gets you 250+ channels for $44.99 per month.
CenturyLink lets you bundle any combination of internet, DIRECTV, and phone service to create the perfect package for you. Bundle prices start at $74.99. Again, for best overall value, we like DIRECTV ULTIMATE + Price for Life High-Speed Internet, which gets you 250+ channels and up to 20 Mbps internet for $89.99 per month.
Cox Contour TV offers 140+ channels, which is a decent channel selection. Packages for TV start at $64.99, and customers have the option of adding premium channels like HBO® and Cinemax® for an additional charge. There aren’t any special exclusives like NFL SUNDAY TICKET, though.
Customers who prefer to bundle services from one provider will be very happy with Cox. You can bundle any combination of TV, internet, and phone to create a double play or triple play package. Prices start at $89.99 per month for 140+ channels and 100 Mbps internet. We recommend the Silver Triple Play for a good balance of features and price—you get 140+ channels, 300 Mbps internet, and unlimited nationwide calling for $109.99 per month.
Both CenturyLink and Cox provide modems and routers for a monthly fee. If you would rather use your own equipment to avoid the fees or increase the speed of your wireless network on your own, check out our recommendations below.
CenturyLink provides a standard bare-bones modem-router combo that should be fine for most customers. The provider does have a list of compatible modems and routers if you need something with a little more juice, though.
Our modem-router recommendation for CenturyLink: Zyxel C1100Z
For folks who want to own their own equipment rather than lease it from CenturyLink, this modem-router combo is a great option. It can auto-configure itself for your network setup and offers built-in wireless with speeds up to 300 Mbps.
Our modem-router recommendation for Cox: ARRIS SURFboard SBG6900AC
This is a Cox-certified modem-router combo that offers 802.11ac Wi-Fi for maximum speeds. It’s a pretty standard-looking box, but the white color keeps it interesting if you’re tired of all-black electronics. It also has four Gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting devices—and just in case things don’t work out with Cox, it’s compatible with numerous cable providers.
What You Should Consider When Comparing CenturyLink and Cox
When looking at CenturyLink and Cox, location is going to play a major role in your decision. That’s because CenturyLink’s speeds vary widely depending on where you live. One area might see only 20 Mbps while another might get 1 Gig service. If all you can get is the slower DSL service from CenturyLink, Cox might make more sense for you.
Another thing to keep in mind is that CenturyLink uses DIRECTV to provide TV service. If you aren’t comfortable with a satellite dish mounted to your roof, that might be a deciding factor. However, DIRECTV is an excellent service, so we wouldn’t be too worried about it.
About the Providers
CenturyLink provides internet service to nearly sixty million customers in over thirty states, making it the third-largest telecommunications company in the US.
Enter your zip code to compare CenturyLink and Cox internet and television plans in your area:
Dave is a freelance writer with a passion for tech and how it improves our lives. His work has been published on a variety of sites around the web.