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 of services, equipment, and satisfaction ratings so you can make the best decision for your connected home.

Should you choose CenturyLink DSL or Cox as your high-speed internet service provider? 


The Verdict:

Get Cox for faster internet. Get CenturyLink for lower prices.

When it comes to internet service, speed is a primary concern. Hardcore gamers and cord cutters may find CenturyLink’s DSL speeds inadequate, so we recommend they consider Cox instead. Not sure how much speed you actually need?Use our speed tool to find out. If your main concern is the bottom line on your bill, stick with CenturyLink.

Cable vs. DSL. As we compare these two providers, keep in mind that this is also a comparison of two different types of service: cable vs. DSL. Cable offers faster, more efficient speeds because it uses a coaxial cable to deliver internet, rather than phone lines, as DSL connections do.

Is Cox and CenturyLink available in your area?

Choose Cox for faster internet speeds, better customer service, and a free DVR.

Cable gets it done faster, but that’s not the end of the story. Cox offers up to 300 Mbps in some areas, but you’ll pay the price for it. The two providers have similar TV packages and channel count; however, Cox sweetens the deal with free DVR service. Be aware, though, that Cox utilizes the dreaded data caps, so households with heavier internet usage should proceed with caution.

Choose CenturyLink for cheaper bundles and more transparent billing practices.

Man households will find CenturyLink’s speeds perfectly adequate for low to medium usage. CenturyLink ups the value by offering attractively priced bundles with a three-year price guarantee. You’ll get no such promises from Cox. Thus far, CenturyLink hasn’t imposed data caps in any of its major markets. While you won’t get a free DVR, CenturyLink’s bottom line is so appealing, you might not miss it.

Cable vs. DSL isn’t the only differentiation. Both Cox and CenturyLink offer faster internet via a fiber network, but those speeds are only available in a few metro areas. CenturyLink’s 1 Gig product and Cox’s Gigablast have such limited availability that they just aren’t an option for most customers, so your choice will depend on your service priorities and how much speed you need.

Customer Satisfaction Comparisons

CenturyLink (DSL) Internet

Overall customer rating

(3.4 / 5)




Overall customer rating

(3.4 / 5)



Installation and Set-Up

(3.6 / 5)

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

(3.5 / 5)

Cox charges a $20 fee for self-install kits, but it still ekes out a better satisfaction rating. That’s probably due to an all-around better customer service experience, including an on time guarantee that puts $20 in your pocket if your tech arrives late.

Internet Speed

(3.4 / 5)

Yes, DSL is slower than cable. But for most households, CenturyLink will do the job just fine. And unlike cable, you won’t get slowing at peak times due to crowding at the neighborhood internet hub — or data caps to interfere with your Netflix marathons. Win, win.

(3.5 / 5)

Cox is fast — really fast.  But you have to consider exactly what you need all that speed for and if it’s worth it long term.   Cox also has other cool bells and whistles, like free cloud storage, that might make the extra expense worthwhile.


(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 the company’s footprint without the necessary infrastructure and support in place.

(3.6 / 5)

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

Monthly Bill (Pricing)

(3 / 5)

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

(2.9 / 5)

Price is where the rubber meets the road in Cox’s ratings.  Customers report steep price increases after three months, and the data caps aren’t helping. Cox’s surprise price increases is causing consternation among customers who were already feeling the pinch.

Tech Support & Customer Service

(3.3 / 5)

Yuck. That rating puts CenturyLink at the bottom of an already abysmal rate of customer satisfaction. Again, this is likely because of rapidly expanding service areas without proper support and having to apologize for outages and mistakes rather than avoiding them in the first place.

(3.5 / 5)

That’s not half bad for a cable company, and Cox certainly out performs CenturyLink in this area of satisfaction. A recently redesigned website and an overhaul of the customer experience has Cox sitting pretty on some collateral it’s earned for satisfaction.


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


  • Faster internet speeds
  • Bundling with phone, TV, and home security
  • Free Installation
  • No contract required
  • Fastest in home Wi-Fi (depends on market)
  • Access to 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Slower speeds than cable
  • Poor reputation for customer service
  • Some outage/reliability concerns
  • Data caps in some areas
  • Higher prices, hidden fees




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


  • DOCSIS 3.0
  • Up to 343 Mbps download/131 Mbps upload
  • 2 port
  • Built in Firewall
  • Monthly Fee: $9.99

TV Service

CenturyLink TV

Satisfaction rating :  (3.5 / 5)

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

Cox Contour TV

Satisfaction Rating:  (3.4 / 5)

  • Better customer service
  • Reliability

Meet 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 they provide internet services via phone lines. Its footprint extends across the central and western regions of the United States, 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.


Cox Communications is the third-largest cable provider in the United States, serving over 6.2 million customers in 18 states. Cox prefers to develop service areas in cable clusters and has sprinkled them throughout the nation, from California to Florida, with a focus on the southern United States. The company is based in Atlanta and is known as the first cable operator to extend telecommunications service to businesses in the early 1990’s. Cox Communications is currently the fourth largest provider of cable internet in the United States.

For more information about Cox Communications, visit our Cox Communications provider page.

Now that you’ve weighed 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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