If you're shopping for, then there's a decent chance that you'll find either or among your options. In some areas, you might find both available at your address. The two are among the largest providers of their in the US -- CenturyLink is a and that ranks behind only and (barely) in coverage; meanwhile, Spectrum is a top with a slightly smaller customer base than .
As such, the two are bound to share some service areas. In fact, CenturyLink and Spectrum coverage areas overlap in 27 states, though some states, like Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin, will have more households serviceable for both than others.
If CenturyLink and Spectrum are available at your address, how do you know which is the? They're both fairly straightforward when it comes to pricing and service terms, but CenturyLink's speeds can vary widely by location whereas Spectrum's are consistent throughout nearly all service areas. Consequently, the better option will likely come down to the CenturyLink speeds and service type available at your address. What exactly does that mean, and what else do you need to know? This page will cover it all.
As with any provider that uses a fiber and DSL network, the fiber side of CenturyLink's service is much more desirable than DSL, with faster speeds, better reliability and higher overall value. That said, CenturyLink's DSL service is by no means particularly bad -- speeds of 100Mbps or higher are available to more than a quarter of CenturyLink DSL service areas and two-thirds of households can get 25Mbps or higher -- but you'll get faster speeds for the same starting price with Spectrum.
Spectrum keeps it simple with three plan options and transparent pricing, no data caps, no contracts and a low equipment fee. Cable internet isn't completely without fault, however. Upload speeds are generally slower than a fiber-optic connection -- Spectrum's top out at 35Mbps -- and a cable network is more susceptible to slowed speeds due to network congestion, especially during peak usage times. All of which is to say that Spectrum's cable connection isn't quite as good as a fiber one, but it's still leaps and bounds better than DSL.
CenturyLink versus Spectrum availability and tech
CenturyLink's DSL network, which makes up roughly three quarters of its coverage area, primarily serves. You'll find fiber service in larger cities such as Denver, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Seattle -- but these areas are mostly or completely unserviceable for Spectrum. There are, however, some locations that are serviceable for CenturyLink Fiber and Spectrum, including:
- Grand Junction, Colorado
- Missoula, Montana
- Fayetteville, North Carolina
- Mansfield, Ohio
- Mount Vernon, Ohio
- Medford, Oregon
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Cheyenne, Wyoming
- Jackson, Wyoming
There are undoubtedly more places where CenturyLink's fiber network and Spectrum overlap, but many will only be eligible for DSL from CenturyLink. You'll have to run a serviceability check to see which version of CenturyLink service is available at your address. If it ends up being DSL, you can stop reading now and know that Spectrum will be your better option (or you can read why below). On the other hand, if CenturyLink's fiber service is available, you'll want a closer comparison of speeds, pricing and service details.
Comparing CenturyLink and Spectrum internet plans
If there's a common knock against both providers, it's that neither offers a particularly wide range of plans. CenturyLink DSL customers will essentially have one option while fiber customers will have two: 200Mbps or. Spectrum also offers a 200Mbps and a gig plan along with a nice middle-ground 400Mbps plan. Here's a look at those plans.
CenturyLink internet plans
|Plan||Starting monthly price||Max speeds (Mbps)||Equipment rental||Data cap|
|CenturyLink Simply Unlimited (DSL)||$50||140 down, 40 up||$15 (skippable)||1TB|
|Fiber 200||$50||200 down, 200 up||$15 (skippable)||1TB|
|Fiber Gigabit||$65||940 down, 940 up||None||1TB|
Spectrum internet plans
|Plan||Starting monthly price||Standard price (after 12 months)||Max speeds (Mbps)||Equipment rental||Data cap|
|Spectrum Internet||$50||$75||200 down, 10 up||$5||None|
|Internet Ultra||$70||$85||400 down, 20 up||$5||None|
|Internet Gig||$90||$115||940 down, 35 up||$5||None|
With CenturyLink DSL, you will receive the fastest speeds available at your address. Speeds max out at around 140Mbps, but you're much more likely to get speeds in the 20Mbps-to-100Mbps range. That's not bad, especially for rural areas whereis the only other option, but if Spectrum is also available, it'll be the better choice. With Spectrum, you'll get max speeds of 200Mbps for the same monthly price, plus a .
As for Spectrum versus CenturyLink's fiber service, both providers have an entry-level plan with max speeds of 200Mbps starting at $50 per month. Same speed, same price, but there are some subtle differences.
The fiber connection you get with CenturyLink is capable of delivering symmetrical download and upload speeds, so you'll get faster upload speeds for video calls, uploading files, gaming online and other. Spectrum will potentially be the , however, at least for the first year before the standard pricing goes into effect. Spectrum's lower router rental fee will save you $10 per month compared with CenturyLink, but that's only if you rent equipment. Both providers allow you to .
Entry-level plans from CenturyLink Fiber and Spectrum are pretty evenly matched, but if you're looking for faster speeds, CenturyLink will be your best bet. Gig service is your only other option with CenturyLink, but at $65 per month and no additional equipment costs, the plan is cheaper than Spectrum's gig plan. It's also cheaper than Spectrum's midtier plan, which offers max speeds of 400Mbps compared with the 940Mbps download and upload speed potential you'd get with CenturyLink.
Fees, contracts and the fine print
What else should you expect to pay for service from CenturyLink or Spectrum? Not much, actually. Both providers are fairly reasonable when it comes to added fees, contracts and data caps.
CenturyLink's equipment rental fee for DSL service and its 200Mbps plan is a little higher than most at $15, but again it is skippable when using your own equipment. And if you go for gig service, CenturyLink waives the fee altogether. Spectrum includes your modem but not a router,. Renting a router will only set you back an additional $5 per month.
, so no commitments or early termination fees to worry about. Spectrum also has a contract buyout offer, up to $500 toward termination fees with another provider, but you'll have to sign up for an to qualify for the deal.
You won't have to fret over, either. While CenturyLink does advertise a monthly data cap of 1TB, there is no fee for going over. Also, that's a lot of data. The average household uses . Spectrum is completely unlimited, meaning there is no hard or soft data cap and no fee for going over a certain limit.
Spectrum has a slight edge in customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction numbers are typically not pretty when it comes to internet service, but there's nothing particularly alarming about how either provider stacks up. The American Customer Satisfaction Index gave Spectrum a 63/100 in 2021 and 2020, just a couple of points below the industry average of 65. CenturyLink fared about the same, coming in at 62/100 in 2021 and 63 in 2020.
J.D. Power indicates a bit more favor toward Spectrum. Spectrum led CenturyLink in the North/Central, South and West regions with scores of 703/1000 to 641, 725 to 674 and 711 to 708, respectively. Kudos to Spectrum there, but again, neither provider's customer satisfaction numbers are impressive or dismal enough to sway me one way or the other.
CenturyLink versus Spectrum recap
If your address is only eligible for CenturyLink's DSL service and Spectrum is your alternative, I'd recommend going with Spectrum. Comparing CenturyLink's fiber service with Spectrum internet is a bit more tricky. For the absolute cheapest service, at least for the first year, Spectrum's entry-level plan will save you a bit on equipment fees. For high-speed internet, CenturyLink's gig plan will be lower-priced and faster than Spectrum's midtier and gig plans. Ultimately, neither provider requires a contract or other restrictive service terms, so if you're on the fence, feel free to try them out essentially risk-free.