CenturyLink vs. Xfinity[digg]
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
15 Mbps–2 Gigs
$24.99–$299.95 per month
Start at $11.00 per month
Starts at $60.00
*Pricing and speeds are subject to change but are current as of 05/26/18. Internet and television offers not available in all coverage areas. Restrictions apply. Pricing may increase after promotional period.
Should I choose CenturyLink or Xfinity as my high-speed Internet Service Provider?
Choose CenturyLink for affordable 1 Gig packages and locked-in pricing.
CenturyLink offers affordable pricing on its fast 1 Gig (Gbps) plans, and the prices on all its internet packages are guaranteed for life. CenturyLink customers can also bundle with DIRECTV, which offers special perks like NFL SUNDAY TICKET that you can get free for the first year with select packages. Speeds depend heavily on location, but if you have access to the faster fiber options like 1 Gig, CenturyLink makes a great choice.
Choose Xfinity for wide availability and fast speeds.
Xfinity is more widely available than CenturyLink and offers some of the fastest speeds available—up to 2 Gigs (2,000 Mbps) in some locations. Xfinity service tends to be expensive, but if raw speed is what you’re after, Xfinity has it in spades.
CenturyLink is widely available, offering coverage in thirty-six states around the US. And the spread is pretty even across the country, unlike some providers that tend to cluster in major cities. The only major thing to keep in mind with CenturyLink is that the speeds can vary widely from place to place, although this isn’t uncommon with Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
You can find Xfinity in forty states, with heavy coverage around Utah, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Xfinity’s largest coverage areas are more concentrated than CenturyLink’s, as you can see in the map below.
- New Mexico
- Washington, DC
Customer Satisfaction Ratings
Every year, HighSpeedInternet.com surveys internet subscribers to learn about their experiences. The survey includes questions about internet speed and quality, customer service, billing practices, and more. Check out the full 2018 survey results here.
Installation & Setup
CenturyLink offers two installation choices: you can have a tech do a professional install or you can grab a self-install kit and go the DIY route. Since there’s no extra charge to have the pro handle things, we think that’s the best option for most. If you’d rather get your hands dirty, though, you can click below for a walkthrough of the process.
Xfinity also offers a choice of pro install or DIY kit. In this case, we recommend going the DIY route. The process is easy enough that there’s no reason to pay that $60.00 fee. The exception might be if you have special wiring needs or another unique case.
CenturyLink offers a wide range of speeds depending on where you live. In some areas, especially rural, the slower DSL service is all that’s available, so speeds will be in the 20 Mbps range. That’s ok for basic use but not much else.
In areas where the company’s fiber service is available, things get more interesting. The CenturyLink 1 Gig service is excellent, and it’s hard to go back once you’ve used internet that fast.
Speed: 20 Mbps–1 Gbps
Xfinity offers an even wider range of speeds, with as low as 15 Mbps in some areas. At the higher end, though, Xfinity blows away the competition with the very fast and very expensive X1 Gigabit Pro. With speeds up to 2 Gigs (2,000 Mbps) with this service, this makes Xfinity one of the fastest internet services around, but it’ll cost you—$299.95 per month, to be exact.
Speed: 15 Mbps–2 Gbps
The low score may make CenturyLink appear unreliable, but that’s not necessarily the case. This is largely the result of the provider being mostly DSL service—DSL is just less consistent than cable service. We don’t think you’ll have many issues, but it’s something to be aware of. In fiber markets, reliability should be much better, thanks to that technology’s greater stability.
Xfinity ranks as one of the most reliable internet services out there. In fact, it came in second in our survey, behind only Optimum. Part of this is the cable infrastructure, which is inherently more reliable than DSL. Xfinity is rock solid even among cable providers, so if reliability is a big concern for you, we think you’ll be happy with Xfinity service.
CenturyLink pricing is a bit of a mixed bag. We feel the slower plans are a bit overpriced—$45.00 per month for 20 Mbps just isn’t great. The faster fiber plans are a much better deal, with 100 Mbps for $65.00 per month and 1 Gig for just $85.00 per month. CenturyLink also guarantees that price for the length of your service, something no other provider does. We think that’s a major point in CenturyLink’s favor.
Price: $45.00–$85.00 per month
Xfinity pricing is a little high for what you get, which is one of the reasons it scores so low in this category. Some of the budget packages are reasonably priced, like Performance Plus, which offers 60 Mbps for $39.99 per month. Things ramp up quickly, though, culminating with the X1 Gigabit Pro plan at a whopping $299.95 per month.
Price: $24.99–$299.95 per month
Technical Support & Customer Service
CenturyLink offers several ways to get help if you need it, starting with the support site, where you can find answers to the most common questions you may have. There’s also the standard online chat, which we generally recommend over a phone call. And if you need to have a technician come out, CenturyLink offers a useful tool for keeping track of where they’re at and when they’ll arrive.
Being a Comcast brand, you might expect Xfinity to rank poorly here. The company has made some strides in customer service though, beating out CenturyLink. The Xfinity support site is functional and easy to use, and the ability to request an agent to call you rather than waiting on hold is a welcome change of pace.
Advantages & Disadvantages
CenturyLink partners with DIRECTV to provide satellite TV service to customers looking to bundle TV and internet. Overall, we think this is a great solution. DIRECTV is one of the best TV services available, with a great DVR, good channel selection, and exclusive sports programming like NFL SUNDAY TICKET in select packages. Prices start at $29.99 per month, with the DIRECTV ULTIMATE plan being our pick for best value. ULTIMATE offers over 250 channels for $44.99 per month.
Bundles are available with any combination of CenturyLink internet, DIRECTV, and phone service. Bundle pricing starts at $74.99. DIRECTV ULTIMATE + Price for Life High-Speed Internet is our pick for best value, with 250+ channels and up to 20 Mbps internet for $89.99 per month. Phone service can be added to any plan for an additional $40.00 per month.
Xfinity offers a solid TV service as well. It has a good DVR and a large amount of on-demand content to choose from. TV-only packages start at $49.99. Our pick is the Digital Preferred plan, which offers 220+ channels for $59.99 per month. Why? This package strikes a good balance of cost and features.
Xfinity bundles are available with a choice of TV and internet; internet and phone; or all three (the Triple Play). Our favorite bundle is the Preferred XF Double Play, which comes with 220+ channels and up to 100 Mbps internet for $89.99 per month. Again, we feel this is one of the most balanced plans offered.
The modem-router combo provided with your CenturyLink service is basic, but it should be fine for most customers. There are a number of compatible modems and routers that work with CenturyLink, so you’re not limited to only the provided equipment.
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.
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 CenturyLink: Zyxel C1100Z
Xfinity’s provided router is surprisingly good. It supports the 802.11ac wireless protocol for Wi-Fi speeds up to 1 Gbps. Our only real gripe is that it seems to take a long time to connect after a reboot. If you’d rather use your own, the company provides a list of compatible options.
If you need something with more power, you can’t go wrong with the Nighthawk X10. This is one of the most powerful routers on the market, with support for the new 802.11ad wireless standard. This router supports speeds up to 7,200 Mbps—plenty of power for even extreme-use cases. It’s a little pricey, but if you need the best, this is probably it.
Our modem-router recommendation for Xfinity: NETGEAR Nighthawk X10
What You Should Consider When Comparing CenturyLink and Xfinity
When comparing CenturyLink and Xfinity, the main considerations are location and whether you are ok with satellite TV.
Both providers have speeds that vary widely from one place to the next, but CenturyLink’s fastest speeds tend to be confined to smaller areas than Xfinity. Your best bet is to use our zip code tool to compare the packages available in your city or town.
When it comes to TV, DIRECTV is great, but not everyone is a fan of satellite. It requires mounting a dish to your roof, and there is a (slight) possibility of weather-related interference during heavy rain or snow. We don’t think either of these is a deal breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind when making your choice.
About the Providers
CenturyLink is the third-largest telecommunications company in the United States, providing internet and phone service to customers in thirty-six states.
See if CenturyLink or Xfinity offers service 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.