CenturyLink vs. Cox

We compare two major internet providers on price, contracts, and extra perks.

Best for bargain prices

Customer rating: 3.7

Price: $19.99–$109.99/mo.

Speed: 25–940 Mbps

Internet type: Cable

Contract: Annual (month-to-month options available)

 

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Best for gigabit speeds

Customer rating: 3.5

Price: $50.00–$65.00/mo.

Speed: 1–940 Mbps

Internet type: Fiber, DSL

Contract: Month to month

 

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We think CenturyLink is the clear winner between these two providers because it gives you a great deal on fiber service and doesn’t monkey around with steep price hikes or excessive extra fees like Cox does.

However, CenturyLink’s fiber service is in short supply—if you can only get DSL from CenturyLink, then one of Cox’s cable plans may be the better bet since cable is much faster and more reliable than DSL. Cox is also the way to go if you want to bundle your internet with TV, and it gets much better ratings for customer service than CenturyLink.

Pros and cons: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Pros

  • Wider availability of fast speeds
  • Excellent customer service ratings
  • Lots of bundle deals

Cons

  • Annual contracts
  • Data caps on all plans

Pros

  • Unlimited data on all plans
  • Excellent price on fiber plan
  • No annual contracts

Cons

  • Slow speeds on DSL
  • Limited fiber availability

Want to know if you can find Cox or CenturyLink in your area? Find out by typing in your zip code below.

Plans and pricing: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Cox has a lot to choose from, including some impressive, budget-friendly packages. CenturyLink has just two packages—slow DSL or much faster fiber—but either way you get great perks like unlimited data and a month-to-month contract.

Cox plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeed (download/upload)Details
Internet Starter 25$19.99/mo. ($10 more per mo. w/out annual contract)*25 Mbps/3 MbpsView Plans
StraightUp Internet$50.00/mo. ($10 more per mo. w/out annual contract)25 Mbps/3 MbpsView Plans
Internet Essential 50$29.99/mo. ($10 more per mo. w/out annual contract)50 Mbps/3 MbpsView Plans
Internet Preferred 150$49.99/mo. ($10 more per mo. w/out annual contract)150 Mbps/10 MbpsView Plans
Internet Ultimate 500$69.99/mo. ($10 more per mo. w/out annual contract)500 Mbps/10 MbpsView Plans
Gigablast$99.99/mo. ($10 more per mo. w/out annual contract)940 Mbps/35 MbpsView Plans

Eye-popping price hikes and lots of extra fees

Cox has great prices up front, but each of its plans comes with a massive price hike after your first year. Depending on the plan you have, your bill could go up significantly or even double in price after 12 months of service. For example, the Essential 50 plan—which starts off at a thrifty $29.99 per month—goes up to $65.99 a month after the first year. Ouch.

Cox also charges some extra fees, not all of which you’ll have to deal with from CenturyLink. Cox’s internet plans come with annual contracts. If you cancel your plan before the year is up, you’ll have to pay $10 for every month left on your bill. You can waive the term agreement, but it will cost you $10 more per month on your bill. There are also data caps (albeit generous ones) and installation costs (although you can avoid those by ordering a self-install kit).

Fast speeds and wide availability—but slow uploads

Cox’s fastest plans, Internet Ultimate 500 and Gigablast, are probably the best deal. The price hikes aren’t as steep on them, and the faster speeds ensure your connection is powerful enough to support streaming in 4K, downloading massive files, and doing all sorts of other stuff on a large number of devices.

Cox’s upload speeds are a fraction of what you can get with CenturyLink’s fiber plan, which isn’t a big deal for most people. It may impede your ability to do things like hosting a livestream or attending Zoom meetings (especially big-group ones) if multiple people in your house are also doing upload-heavy tasks at the same time. But fiber is not as widely available as cable, so this may be your only option between these two providers if you’re looking for robust speeds and high performance.

Solid performance and some flexibility for budget users

Cox’s Internet Starter 25 plan is one of the cheapest internet plans you can get—and it gives you a solid deal, with respectable 25 Mbps speeds and a generous 1.25 TB data cap. But it’s only cheap for the first year—after that, the price goes up to $44.99 per month, which is pretty much on par with CenturyLink’s DSL service.

We’re also intrigued by StraightUp Internet, a prepaid internet plan that seems designed to compete with new fixed-wireless internet packages from providers like Verizon and T-Mobile. StraightUp Internet costs more than twice as much up-front as Internet Starter 25, but you can sign up for the plan without a credit check. And you get more flexibility, since StraightUp doesn’t require a term agreement and the modem is included as part of the monthly fee.

CenturyLink plans and pricing

PackagePrice*SpeedDetails
Simply Unlimited Internet$50.00/mo.Up to 100 Mbps/Up to 30 MbpsView Plans
CenturyLink Fiber Internet$65.00/mo.940 Mbps/940 MbpsView Plans

Fiber firepower, gigabit speeds, but low availability

If you can get CenturyLink Fiber Internet, we say go for it. It gives you superb speeds, and it’s relatively affordable, costing $35 per month less than Cox’s gigabit plan. You also get gigabit upload speeds, which isn’t available from Cox. Upload speeds are crucial if you spend a lot of time on Zoom, upload big files to the cloud, post a lot on social media, or regularly host livestreams.

Unlimited data, inconsistent bandwidth on DSL

CenturyLink’s other option is Simply Unlimited Internet: a straightforward DSL plan that gives you speeds based on whatever is available in your service area. Although DSL speeds top out at a potential 100 Mbps, in most cases what you get is a lot slower. You’ll still get a decent deal, though, if you can get speeds of at least 25 Mbps—especially considering that this plan gives you unlimited data and doesn’t require an annual contract.

Curious if you can get Cox or CenturyLink in your area? Type your zip code below to find out.

Extra fees: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Equipment feeInstallation feeOther fees
Cox$12/mo.Starts at $25 (professional installation) or $20 (self-install kit)$10/mo. (early termination), late fees based on state laws and regulations
CenturyLink$15/mo. or $200 to ownFree (self install), up to $125 (pro install), $85 (phone jack install for DSL)Late fee is $5 or a percentage of your total bill

Cox and CenturyLink both charge fairly standard fees. Cox’s rental modem is cheaper than CenturyLink’s. But Cox also has early termination fees for customers who cancel an internet plan before their annual term agreement is up.

Pro tip: Buy a router to save money

Renting a router from your provider is the easiest way to go, but it isn’t very cost effective—you’ll be running up rental costs till the end of time when you could simply buy your own equipment instead.

Buying your own modem and router also lets you choose more up-to-date equipment with additional speed, security, and parental features.

We have more info on buying routers farther down on this page, so take a gander for recommendations into the best equipment.

Customer ratings: Cox vs. CenturyLink

OverallReliabilityCustomer serviceSpeedPrice
Cox3.7/53.7/53.8/53.8/53.3/5
CenturyLink3.5/53.4/53.5/53.4/53.2/5

Cox has much better ratings than CenturyLink in our annual customer satisfaction survey. Out of 12 providers examined, Cox comes in third place for overall satisfaction and also ranks towards the top for speed, reliability, and customer service. Cox is especially well known for its customer service, so it’s no surprise that it performs well in that category. If you’re having any issues with Cox’s service, you can call its 24/7 tech support service or consult Cox’s live chat.

CenturyLink comes in last for overall satisfaction and most other categories. However, it’s worth noting that CenturyLink’s fiber customers actually seem quite pleased—fiber customers we surveyed gave CenturyLink a high score of 3.7 for reliability. An impressive 56% of CenturyLink’s customers also told us in our survey that they haven’t dealt with any unexpected price hikes or hidden fees.

Best TV and internet bundles

PackageInternet speedTV channelsPriceDetails
Cox Internet Starter + Contour Preferred25 Mbps140+$119.99/mo.View Plans
Cox Internet Preferred + Contour Preferred150 Mbps140+$201.99/mo.View Plans

CenturyLink doesn’t offer any bundle deals on internet and TV service. But Cox offers some solid bundles through its cable TV service, Cox Contour. Bundles give you a bit of a discount on TV and internet by letting you combine them. We think the best way to go is the Cox Internet Preferred + Contour Preferred bundle. It gives you 140+ channels (including  ESPN, HGTV, and the Food Network), 150 Mbps speeds, and DVR service for a year—setting you up for a proper home entertainment experience.

We also like Cox Internet Starter + Contour Preferred. The speeds are quite a bit slower, topping out at just 25 Mbps. But it’s a lot more affordable, and you still get the same channels and DVR capability.

Internet types: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Internet typeDetails
Cox Communications
Cox
CableView Plans
CenturyLink
CenturyLink
Fiber, DSLView Plans

Cox has cable internet, which runs over the same coaxial copper wiring as a cable TV network. Cable is fast, reliable, and widely available—our only quibble is that it doesn’t give you gigabit upload speeds like you can get with fiber.

CenturyLink delivers both DSL and fiber internet. Fiber-optic internet is by far the best internet around, since it can hit the fastest speeds possible and is impervious to the kinds of electromagnetic interference that can hamper cable and DSL lines. It has a much lower availability nationwide, but hopefully that changes in the coming years.

DSL is an old-school type of internet that gives you a connection over the copper wiring of your landline phone network. It tops out at 100 Mbps—a fraction of the speed you can get over cable or fiber—so it’s best if you have minimal internet needs and if you don’t share your Wi-Fi with more than a few others in your household.

Data caps: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Data capOverage feeDetails
Cox Communications
Cox
1.25 TB$10 per 50 GBView Plans
CenturyLink
CenturyLink
UnlimitedN/AView Plans

Cox has a 1.25 TB cap on all of its internet plans. That’s a pretty generous cap—it will be just fine for most people, but you’ll need to be more budget-conscious of your data use if you live with a lot of people and like to stream video in 4K. The more users on your Wi-Fi, the faster you’ll burn through data, and overage charges can really add up.

CenturyLink, on the other hand, has no data caps—yay! That means you can spend all the time you want attending Zoom meetings, streaming movies and TV shows, and downloading files from your email. No need to worry about network slowdowns or overage charges.

Pro tip:

A lot of internet providers have raised their data caps over the years, and some don’t have data caps at all. See our guide to data caps to find out which providers give you data limits and which don’t.

Contracts: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Contract lengthEarly termination feeDetails
Cox Communications
Cox
1 yr., month-to-month option for $10/mo. extra$10 per each month left on contract (up to $120 or $240 depending on length of contract)View Plans
CenturyLink
CenturyLink
Month-to-monthN/AView Plans

CenturyLink has month-to-month contracts with annual term agreements. That means you can cancel your internet any time and you won’t have to pay an early termination fee, the dreaded fee that goes up with each month you have left on your contract.

Cox lets you choose between getting a package with an annual contract or without. If you cancel early on a plan with a contract, you’re on the hook for $10 for each month you have left in the agreement. If you pick a plan with no annual contract, well, you pay $10 extra per month on your bill. You’re not gaining much that way, so you may as well just sign up for the plan with the annual contract.

Installation: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Installation optionsDetails
Cox Communications
Cox
$100.00 for professional install; free for self-install kitView Plans
CenturyLink
CenturyLink
$99.00 for professional install; free for self-install; $85.00 for phone jack installView Plans

The official price for professional installation from CenturyLink is $99—but lately the internet provider has been offering installation free of charge, with no extra charges added to your bill. However, you may need to pay an additional $85 to install a phone jack for DSL service if you don’t already have one in your house.

Cox charges $100 for professional installation, which means a technician will come over to your home and set everything up. You can save money by installing your new cable setup yourself—an Easy Connect self-install kit doesn’t cost anything extra.

Availability: Cox vs. CenturyLink

Cox is available in 29 states, and you can find CenturyLink in 36 states. CenturyLink has a much bigger US network overall—more than twice the size of Cox’s service footprint. But there’s a lot of overlap between the two providers, and the best way to figure out availability where you live is by using our zip code tool below.

Type in your zip code to see if Cox or CenturyLink is available in your area.

Final call: Cox vs. CenturyLink

The best way in this race is with CenturyLink’s fiber internet plan, which gives you gigabit speeds at a much more affordable price compared to Cox. You also get much faster upload speeds on that plan, along with unlimited data and no annual contract requirement.

But fiber isn’t available everywhere, and CenturyLink’s DSL plan is a lot slower than what you can get from Cox. Internet customers who need robust speeds for work or entertainment (or both) would be wise to go with Cox if fiber isn’t available. Cox is also the best option if you want internet and TV in one bundle package—and its excellent customer service ratings mean it’s a solid bet for folks who aren’t super tech-oriented.

CenturyLink’s DSL plan isn’t the fastest thing out there, but it has some strengths. You won’t need to sign up for an annual contract, and you’ll get all the data you need. We recommend the DSL plan only if you can get 25 Mbps speeds or faster in your area.

View Cox Plans

View CenturyLink 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 Cox vs. CenturyLink

What’s the best router for Cox and CenturyLink?

We think the Google Nest Wi-Fi System is the best router for a Cox or CenturyLink internet plan. It doesn’t cost much but supports fast speeds and gives you mesh networking for a wide signal—making it ideal for larger homes and even getting Wi-Fi in your backyard.

There are all sorts of routers available on the market, and many have different strengths when it comes to pricing, speed capability, and extra features. Look over our lists of the best routers to see what works best for you:

Author -

Peter Holslin has more than a decade of experience working as a writer and freelance journalist. He graduated with a BA in liberal arts and journalism from New York City’s The New School University in 2008 and went on to contribute to publications like Rolling Stone, VICE, BuzzFeed, and countless others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on covering 5G, nerding out about frequency bands and virtual RAN, and producing reviews on emerging services like 5G home internet. He also writes about internet providers and packages, hotspots, VPNs, and Wi-Fi troubleshooting.

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.

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