CenturyLink Internet Review: Say Bye to DSL, but Hello to Quantum Fiber

This provider's broadband service reaches 16 states, but its DSL alternative -- which is even more widely available -- falls short.

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CenturyLink home internet rating

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/ 10
Customer Care
  • Some of the most affordable fiber plans you can find with CenturyLink and its Quantum Fiber internet
  • Unlimited data and no contracts required, so no worries about cancellation fees or overage charges
  • DSL speeds can vary wildly based on address and sometimes fall below what the FCC deems as "broadband"
  • Overall plan selection is limited based on your address

Late in 2022, CenturyLink sold its service in 20 states to Brightspeed, a new telecommunications and internet service provider. Since that became official, you can now find CenturyLink service in 16 states. 

To many, CenturyLink Internet is best known for its former Price for Life deal. But me? My first introduction to the company was in 2011 with CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. I thought CenturyLink was a bank or maybe even an insurance company. But it's one of the country's largest ISPs, available to approximately 17% of the country (per the Federal Communications Commission's 2022 Communications Marketplace Report).

Since that time, CenturyLink (and the stadium it sponsors) rebranded itself to Lumen Technologies (no, not that Lumon). The CenturyLink brand still exists as the name of its internet service offering. If you live in the Northwest (and are perhaps one of the 12s, as Seahawks fans are lovingly called) or in any other states where CenturyLink is available, it might be one of your top home internet options.

CenturyLink offers customers either a digital subscriber line or fiber-optic internet service. Ground-laid fiber-optic cable is much faster than phone line-based DSL connections, so your speeds will vary significantly depending on what's available at your address. Of the 16 states it services, CenturyLink provides its Quantum Fiber internet to approximately 3 million locations, so not all its customers will have access to those faster speeds. If you do, don't hesitate to dive in -- it's one of the most affordable fiber plans you can find across the country. But if DSL is your only option, your internet experience might be lacking. 

Image of the continental US with Lumen markets colored in blue.

CenturyLink home internet service is available in 16 states and has over 3 million broadband subscribers.


CenturyLink home internet: Where can you get it?

You can find CenturyLink home internet service in 16 states across the US. Check out the list below:

Arizona MontanaOregon
Colorado NebraskaSouth Dakota
Florida NevadaUtah
Idaho New MexicoWashington
Iowa North DakotaWyoming

Show more (1 item)

According to a spokesperson for Lumen, "Fiber is currently available in about 50% of our footprint, including Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle," with additional cities planned throughout 2023. That list includes Las Vegas, Omaha, Orlando and Phoenix.

CenturyLink home internet: Plans

CenturyLink currently offers DSL internet plans, with speeds up to 100 megabits per second or a 100% fiber network featuring two available plans. A Lumen spokesperson told CNET that the company is continuing to invest and expand its fiber footprint, so it will continue to unveil its Quantum Fiber internet to new markets in 2023.

CenturyLink plans and pricing

PlanMax speedsMonthly costEquipment feesData cap
CenturyLink 20 20Mbps download, 2Mbps upload$50 $15 for modem/router rental (optional)None
CenturyLink 40 40Mbps download, 3Mbps upload$50 $15 for modem/router rental (optional)None
CenturyLink 60 60Mbps download, 5Mbps upload$50 $15 for modem/router rental (optional)None
CenturyLink 80 80Mbps download, 10Mbps upload$50 $15 for modem/router rental (optional)None
CenturyLink 100 100Mbps download, 12Mbps upload$50 $15 for modem/router rental (optional)None
Quantum Fiber 200 200Mbps download, 200Mbps upload$30$15 for modem/router rental (optional)None
Quantum Fiber Gigabit 940Mbps download, 940Mbps upload$70NoneNone
Show more (2 items)

CenturyLink offers just a handful of the above plans for its available addresses. In a few areas, you may have only one choice. That's unusual among ISPs, who offer three to five plans at most addresses.

As to the value of the plans offered by CenturyLink, the average cost per Mbps for the DSL plans is $1, which is a highly competitive rate for that particular connection type. By comparison, the average price per Mbps of the DSL plans offered by AT&T, Frontier and Verizon is $2.44. I should note that I'm comparing the regular rates, not promo costs, because CenturyLink doesn't do promo pricing. The price you get at the start is the price you'll have after your first year. 

On the fiber side, the average cost per Mbps of the Fiber Gigabit plan is just over 7 cents, which is less expensive than the cable gigabit offerings from Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity and Cox (all between 8 and 14 cents) and the gigabit fiber plans from AT&T and Verizon, which all hover around 9 cents. 

As it currently stands, CenturyLink's fiber plans are some of the best values you'll find for your home internet.

CenturyLink home internet: Fiber's fast, but DSL...

If Quantum Fiber plans are available in your area, CenturyLink's internet service is plenty fast. You'll find symmetrical download and upload speeds, which means better performance for work (no glitchy Zoom calls or frozen FaceTime frames) and play (less lag during online gaming and no issues streaming Succession in 4K).

That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that CenturyLink fiber isn't available at every address in the footprint. Service is only available via DSL in many regions, which lags well behind fiber and cable for speeds and performance.

For example, if you head to the speed-testing website Ookla, you'll find a Speedtest Intelligence metric that tracks the fastest ISPs based on median download speeds. Its most recent scores for Lumen, taken during the third quarter of 2022, list CenturyLink in seventh place behind Spectrum, Cox, Xfinity, Verizon, Optimum and AT&T Internet. That might not seem bad, but the six providers above it averaged approximately 170Mbps. CenturyLink rang in with a paltry 41Mbps, in comparison.

The gap isn't quite so vast when you turn to Ookla's Consistency Score, which looks at how often a provider delivers broadband speeds to its customers. While CenturyLink again came in seventh place, it notched a 58% score to the other six's average of 86%. Similarly, not stellar, but not as stark a difference as the previous comparison.

CenturyLink home internet: Other aspects to know

CenturyLink requires monthly prepayment to offer you its competitive prices and no-term agreements. But this also means no credit checks. Here are a few more details to consider when evaluating CenturyLink's internet service.

Additional monthly fees

Like many other ISPs -- including Spectrum, Verizon and Xfinity -- CenturyLink allows you to avoid a modem or router rental by using your own device. You can check the list of CenturyLink-compatible devices, but if you decide to go with your own gear, you won't be eligible for CenturyLink's free 24/7 tech support.

Going with CenturyLink's equipment will add $15 a month to your bill. One thing to note from the small print is that the monthly equipment fee does not fall under the previous Price for Life deal, so that portion of your bill could increase during your time of service.

One-time fees

While there's no charge for self-installation, not all addresses are eligible for that option. CenturyLink will charge $99 for professional installation if that's the case at your place. In some instances, that fee may go up to $149. Additionally, you can expect a one-time broadband activation fee of $20 when you begin service. 

If you wanted to avoid paying the additional monthly equipment fee, you could buy the CenturyLink modem for a one-time fee of up to $200. 

Lastly, CenturyLink currently has an online offer for new gigabit customers -- free installation and no charge for the CenturyLink modem. That's a solid value of $329.

No data caps on any plans

In previous years, CenturyLink reserved its unlimited data for DSL plans only. CenturyLink also includes unlimited data with all fiber plans as part of the rollout of Quantum Fiber. That's a significant change and means you won't need to monitor your data usage or worry about gobbling up too many gigabytes before your billing cycle ends.

ACSI 2023 rankings for US customer satisfaction with fiber internet service providers

While CenturyLink's DSL service rang up middling numbers, its fiber internet was second only to AT&T Fiber in ACSI's most recent survey.


CenturyLink vs. home internet competitors: Mixed customer satisfaction numbers 

CenturyLink saw a mix of good and bad with the 2023 American Customer Satisfaction Index survey. It did quite well on the fiber side, notching a score of 78 out of 100 points, which was good for second place. On the other hand, CenturyLink's DSL didn't impress consumers much. It landed third from the bottom, with 62 points, which was only better than Frontier and Optimum.

For the 2022 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study, CenturyLink scored 717 on a 1,000-point scale in the North Central region, 691 in the West and 665 in the South. Those scores were below the industry average for the South and West regions, but above the North Central region's mark. Overall, CenturyLink did a little better than it had the year prior. Also on the plus side, J.D. Power positioned CenturyLink above WOW, Xfinity, Spectrum, Mediacom, Cox and Frontier in the West region. Like the ACSI data, it suggests that CenturyLink is a solid but unspectacular, middle-of-the-pack performer regarding customer satisfaction.

The bottom line on CenturyLink home internet

CenturyLink scores top points for its affordable, high-speed Quantum Fiber product. It's available in more states than most other providers' fiber packages, and you'll be hard-pressed to find better rates. You've got a compelling product once you add unlimited data for all speeds.

But some of that enthusiasm is dulled once you realize that more than half of customers will only see CenturyLink's DSL plans -- and in some cases, those speeds are barely above the broadband minimum of 25Mbps download. As you'll often hear from us, the true worth of a service will depend significantly on your address and which provider plans are available in your area, and CenturyLink is no exception.

CenturyLink internet FAQs

What is CenturyLink Price for Life internet?

How do I get in touch with CenturyLink customer service?

Does CenturyLink internet offer any deals or promotions?

Is there a CenturyLink data cap?

What is Lumen Technologies and did CenturyLink buy it?

Updated on June 6, 2023

Written by  Trey Paul
CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid. Reviews ethics statement
Trey Paul Senior Editor
Trey Paul is a CNET senior editor covering broadband. His 20+ years of experience as a writer and editor include time at CNET's sister site, Allconnect, and working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. An avid movie fan, Trey's career also includes being a film and TV critic while pursuing a degree in New York.
Expertise Home internet and broadband, including plans, providers, internet speeds and connection types. Movies and film studies. Credentials
  • Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU and interviews with Conan O'Brien, Stan Lee and some of his biggest Star Trek childhood idols
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