CenturyLink vs. Cox
Expert advice to help you choose between Cox and CenturyLink internet
No data caps
No TV bundle
Inexpensive introductory rates
1.25 TB data cap for all plans
Data effective 7/19/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
The bottom line
CenturyLink is good for long-term internet subscribers. Its Simply Unlimited Internet pricing and cheap equipment purchase options make it a no-nonsense choice for your 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.
CenturyLink vs. Cox internet
Type of service
Type of service
10 Mbps–940 Mbps
25 Mbps–1,000 Mbps (1 gig)
Up to $15.00/mo. or $150 one-time purchase
Up to $125.00
|View CenturyLink Plans||View Cox Plans|
Data effective 7/19/2021. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas
*for 12 mos. w/ 1-yr. term agrmt.
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.
|Package||Price||Speeds||Internet type||View plans|
|Simply Unlimited Internet||$50.00/mo.||Up to 100 Mbps||DSL||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Fiber Internet||$65.00/mo.||940 Mbps||Fiber||View Plans|
Data effective 7/19/2021. Pricing and speeds are subject to change.
CenturyLink has two main internet plans, but availability varies depending on your area. 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 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.
|Package||Price||Speed||Internet type||View plans|
|Cox Internet Starter 25||$19.99/mo.*||25 Mbps||Cable||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Essential 50||$29.99/mo.*||50 Mbps||Cable||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Preferred 150||$49.99/mo.*||150 Mbps||Cable||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Ultimate 500||$69.99/mo.*||500 Mbps||Cable||View Plans|
|Cox Internet Gigablast||$99.99/mo.*||940 Mbps||Cable||View Plans|
|StraightUp Internet (Prepaid)||$50.00/mo.*||25 Mbps||Cable||View Plans|
Data effective 05/31/2019. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas
*for 12 mos. w/ 1-yr. term agrmt.
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 50 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.
Who has the fastest internet speed (and more)?
Cox and CenturyLink offer comparable speed tiers starting at 25 Mbps and going up to gigabit speeds. The Cox gigabit service, dubbed Gigablast, has download speeds up to 940 Mbps. CenturyLink’s fiber service falls a little short by comparison with max speeds of 940 Mbps.
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.
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.
Cox has a 1.25 TB per month data limit for most residential plans. 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 have data caps. The DSL plans are called Simply Unlimited Internet because they give you all the data you desire. The fiber plan also gives you unlimited data. This is when we give CenturyLink props for doing away with its data caps.
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.
|Installation||Up to $125*|
|Equipment rental||Up to $15/mo.†|
|Equipment shipping and handling||Up to $50‡|
|Late fees||Flat rate starting at $5 or percentage of balance owed§|
|Payment declined fee||Up to $25 per incident║|
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.
|Early termination fee||Up to $360**|
|Panoramic Wifi rental||$10.99/mo.††|
|Data overage||$10/mo. for 50 GB‡‡|
|Late fees||Up 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 fees||Up to $25 or max allowed by law║║|
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.
CenturyLink doesn’t have contracts for its internet services. It uses its Simply Unlimited Internet program to retain customers with the perk of no data caps. But if you’re unsatisfied then you can cancel any time without paying early termination fees.
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.
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.
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.
Data effective 05/31/2019.
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
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.
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.
Data effective 07/19/2021.
In our annual customer satisfaction survey, Cox cable internet scored higher than CenturyLink in every category: speed, price, reliability, and customer service. It also outscored Cox overall, which is why we recommend Cox for customer satisfaction. The biggest difference in ratings was in the speed satisfaction section, where Cox scored 0.4 higher than CenturyLink.
The survey looked at US internet reviews for 12 ISPs. Cox cable reviews put it in third place out of 12, and CenturyLink ended up last. But it’s worth noting that CenturyLink’s fiber internet customers were generally more satisfied with their service than CenturyLink customers with DSL connections.
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.
Advantages and disadvantages
- More availability
- Equipment purchase options
- No contracts
- No data caps
- Higher starting prices
- No TV bundle
- Lower customer satisfaction rating
- Inexpensive starting rates
- Panoramic Wifi
- Better bundles
- Contract and no-contract options
- Limited availability
- Higher rates after promo period
- Enforced 1 TB data cap
CenturyLink vs. Cox FAQ
Who is more reliable: Cox or CenturyLink?
Based on our customer satisfaction survey, customers think Cox is more reliable than CenturyLink. Out of 12 ISPs, Cox ranked sixth, and CenturyLink was 12th.
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 25 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.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.
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.