Is it possible to find an internet and TV plan you actually like or are you forever forced to settle for the least terrible option available in your area?
As one of the country’s largest internet providers, CenturyLink is widely available, even in rural areas. But they offer a different type of internet than the competition, and their TV service has undergone a massive change just this year. Even if you’ve used their service in the past, you might want to take a closer look at what they offer today.
Here’s your complete, unfiltered review for CenturyLink internet and TV service in 2019:
CenturyLink: A Quick Overview
Like most major internet service providers, CenturyLink originally started as a completely different business. They began in 1930 as the Oak Ridge Telephone Company in Oak Ridge, Louisiana. Original owners William Clarke and Marie Williams even operated the company’s switchboard from the front parlor of Williams’ house!
Today, CenturyLink covers 48 million people in 37 states. While they trail Xfinity (the nation’s largest ISP by coverage area), CenturyLink is still an industry giant. They cover vast sections of the West and Midwest with the largest concentrations of services in these states:
- New Mexico
What Internet Options Does CenturyLink Have?
Let’s start with internet service, which is CenturyLink’s bread and butter. More customers use their internet services than their TV ones (and later on we’ll get into more detail as to why).
CenturyLink offers two types of Internet service:
DSL is their most widely available option. Fiber is the fastest possible option, but it’s not widely available.
The DSL Difference
CenturyLink is different than other large ISPs because they don’t focus on cable internet. Instead, CenturyLink primarily provides Direct Subscriber Line (DSL) internet.
DSL internet operates through the telephone lines. The residence doesn’t need to be wired for cable to receive high-speed internet.
There are two types:
- Asymmetrical DSL (ADSL)
- Symmetric DSL (SDSL)
ADSL has fast download speeds with mid to low-range upload speed. It’s the cheapest option but not ideal if you need to upload data regularly. SDSL had fast upload and download speeds. It’s a bit more expensive but provides a more complete internet browsing experience overall.
DSL Pros and Cons
Generally, cable internet can deliver faster top speeds than DSL. CenturyLink’s premier DSL plan maxes out at 140 Mbps. By comparison, Xfinity’s top cable internet plans exceed 150 Mbps, and special plans can go much higher.
The 10 Mbps difference isn’t huge, but those are the top speeds. Cable internet can deliver consistently higher speeds than DSL, which has a greater variation in speed from customer to customer.
DSL speed and overall quality are affected by the distance between your home and a CenturyLink hub. If you’re in an urban or suburban area, the quality will likely rival cable. However, it’ll be more inconsistent in rural areas.
Should I Choose DSL?
Many rural areas aren’t wired for cable, making DSL their only option. Even if the speed isn’t as high as you’d like, CenturyLink is still a reliable way to go online.
If you have the option of choosing either cable or DSL, the choice is less clear. Cable is usually more reliable and faster than DSL, but the difference can be minor if you’re in a suburban or urban area.
DSL is almost always cheaper than cable internet. If the quality between the two is only slightly different in your area, you can usually save big by choosing DSL.
CenturyLink DSL Plans
For $50 a month, their cheapest plan offers speeds up to 20 Mbps. That should be fast enough for browsing social media, shopping online, and streaming non-HD movies. At the time of this review, CenturyLink is offering a sale for new customers where this plan is $45.
Their next plan has speeds between 40 and 80 Mbps. It’s a good choice if you stream HD movies and play online games. The plan is normally $55 a month but is currently on sale for $45. (If you can buy the plan on sale, obviously there’s no reason to choose the first plan instead of this one.)
Finally, their fastest plan offers speeds between 100 and 140 Mbps. It’s the best option for households with many gamers and movie fans. Up to 10 devices can use the internet at once. This plan is normally $60 a month but currently on sale for $55.
Note these sale prices remain in effect for as long as you continue the service. You can lock in the $55 or $45 monthly fee for years or decades if you like. CenturyLink offers a Price for Life guarantee and requires no contracts. It’s a major benefit which we’ll discuss in detail later on.
CenturyLink Fiber Optic Internet: Is It for Me?
CenturyLink will never become a cable internet provider. Larger companies like Comcast already control that market. But CenturyLink still needs to expand its internet offerings to grow as a company.
They’ve recently added fiber optic options for select customers. While the switch from DSL to fiber was a bit surprising, it’s welcome news for fans of blazing fast internet speeds.
Fiber optic services (Fios) is the fastest, more reliable, and most sophisticated type of internet service. Data is transmitted via laser light across hundreds of hair-like strands of glass. Light pulses travel at 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light) until they reach your computer where they convert into electrical impulses your computer can read.
Fiber Internet Pros and Cons
To be completely accurate, you’re not getting “light speed” internet. The process of converting the data from light to electrical impulses does slow everything down a bit. But fiber optic is still the fastest type of internet by far. CenturyLink Fios can reach speeds up to 940 Mbps!
Fiber doesn’t have a ton of downsides, especially at the prices offered by CenturyLink. The biggest downside is limited availability. Fiber optic networks are only found in a few major cities.
Plus, expansion is slow. Google, Verizon, and CenturyLink – three of the largest Fios providers in the country – are finding it difficult to grow their networks. Every city, and sometimes every building on every block, has different rules and regulations for incoming internet service providers.
If fiber isn’t currently an option where you live, it’s unlikely to arrive anytime soon. Currently, CenturyLink offers fiber optic internet for the following cities:
- Boulder, CO
- Denver, CO
- Jefferson City / Columbia MO
- Las Vegas NV
- La Crosse WI
- Minneapolis / St. Paul MN
- Omaha NE
- Orlando FL
- Phoenix AZ
- Platteville WI
- Portland OR
- Salt Lake City UT
- Seattle WA
- Tucson AZ
Keep in mind it’s not available for every person living within the city limits of those cities. You’ll need to give CenturyLink your exact address to determine specific eligibility.
Should I Choose Fiber Optic Services?
The question usually isn’t “Should I use fiber optic internet?” but instead, “Is fiber optic internet available for me?”. Fiber optic is the best type of internet to have with almost no exception. Plus, at least with CenturyLink, it’s not significantly more expensive compared to DSL or cable. If you can get Fios, you probably should.
CenturyLink Fiber Options
CenturyLink offers three fiber optic option, similar to their DSL plans:
Their cheapest plan is $55 a month, although it’s currently on sale for $45. Speeds vary between 40 and 80 Mbps. Honestly, there’s almost no reason to choose this plan because the next option is much better.
Their mid-range plan offers speeds between 100 and 140 Mbps for just $55 a month, which is a discount from the regular price of $65. These high speeds meet the needs of most online gamers and movie streamers.
However, if you want the fastest internet possible, you should choose their third plan. It allows speeds up to 940 Mbps for just $65. The regular price is $85, which is still a great price for fiber speeds this fast.
Should I Select CenturyLink for My Internet Service Provider?
CenturyLink is a reliable, affordable ISP for a variety of situations.
First, it’s usually the best option for those living in rural communities. DSL can go where cable can’t or won’t. For many people, DSL is the only way to get online.
Unfortunately, many smaller DSL providers have unreliable service and inconsistent quality. CenturyLink often provides the steadiest speeds with the most accessible customer support compared to other DSL providers in rural areas.
But what about people living in suburban and urban areas with access to cable internet? CenturyLink is often the cheapest option, although you might have to sacrifice some speed. However, DSL should still be fast enough for gaming and movie streaming in most cases.
Finally, you usually can’t go wrong by choosing fiber optic internet from CenturyLink if it’s available where you live. Very few cities have two competing fiber internet companies, so the lack of competition can stagnate prices, but fiber internet is almost always worth the cost.
What TV Options Does CenturyLink Have?
Have you decided that CenturyLink is the ISP to get you online? If you’re like most people, you’ll probably want to bundle your internet with a package of TV channels. Not only is a bundle easier to work with compared to dealing with separate companies, but bundling often helps you save big on your monthly bill.
CenturyLink doesn’t offer “cable packages” because they’re technically not a cable company. But their package of TV channels is the same selection you’d find in a cable TV package from Comcast, Charter, etc.
CenturyLink has two ways to watch TV:
What is Prism TV?
CenturyLink created Prism TV a few years ago. It’s an internet-based TV service which is only sold to CenturyLink fiber customers.
Because it’s internet-based, it’s far more stable than satellite services, which can be affected by rain, wind, and snow.
Prism TV offers a robust selection of over 340 channels. You’ll find a variety of familiar favorites including ESPN, AMC, MTV, and the Cartoon Network. Plus, they offer popular premiums channels such as HBO and Showtime.
Up to three people can stream different content on different devices simultaneously. It’s perfect for busy households packed with TVs, smart devices, and game consoles.
Prism’s On Demand feature is fairly standard but allows you to record favorites to watch later easily.
Their On the Go service is a highlight. You can watch On Demand shows on your phone or tablet anywhere with internet access. Plus, you can control the DVR remotely from the app.
Prism Pricing Plans
Prism has four packages. Each requires existing CenturyLink internet service plus a two-year contract. The package includes one set top box with additional ones available to rent. A whole-home DVR is also included.
In most cases, you can set up Prism TV yourself, although free professional installation is available.
The basic option is the Prism Essential. It’s $69.99 a month plus $9.99 a month for set top box rental. It includes 165 channels. You get a hefty selection of mainstream options like MTV, CNN, and other traditional “basic cable” channels.
The next option is Prism Complete for $74.99 a month (plus that same set top box rental fee). With Complete, the selections become a bit more unique. You get BBC America, Discovery Life, Fuse and other more niche offerings.
The Preferred package gives you tons of TV for $89.99 a month. You get over 320 channels including Crime & Investigation, Fusion TV and probably quite a few channels you’ve never heard of. Plus, this package includes Starz, Showtimes, Indieplex, and Movieplex. At this level, you’re not charged for the box top rental fee.
Finally, the ultimate option is Prism Premium. For $124.99 a month, you get over 350 channels plus all the premium channels including a variety of different HBO channels (HBO coast feeds, HBO Comedy, and so on).
Prism TV Pros and Cons
Prism TV is fairly standard as far as TV goes. The prices are a bit on the high side compared to cable, but nothing completely outrageous. They have a fairly large selection of available channels, but you can find a slightly wider selection from DirecTV and Comcast.
Unfortunately, Prism TV also has a lot of problems. In 2018, CenturyLink announced it was phasing out Prism TV. You might still be able to order it if you’re an existing CenturyLink customer, but it’s not available for new customers.
Instead, CenturyLink has partnered with DirecTV. New customers can buy CenturyLink/DirecTV bundles with internet and TV services.
Should I Subscribe to Prism TV?
If you’re a new customer, no, because it’s not offered anymore. But, even if you could, you probably wouldn’t want to.
Nobody knows for sure what will happen to Prism TV. It hasn’t been officially canceled. Existing customers can still watch shows. However, the future certainly doesn’t look promising for the service. It won’t be completely surprising if existing customers get moved over to DirecTV.
The question for existing customers then becomes Should you stay with Prism TV for now or is it time to start looking for other options?
Switching from Prism to DirecTV
Of course, the most obvious alternative is DirecTV. Prism TV’s basic channel offerings are pretty similar to DirecTV’s, for about the same price.
The biggest difference between DirecTV and Prism is the delivery method. Prism is an internet-based service, which makes it far more reliable than DirecTV’s satellite-based system. DirecTV isn’t necessarily bad, but any internet-based service will be better.
As a current CenturyLink customer, you can bundle your internet with DirecTV, which helps you save.
Switching from Prism to Cable TV
Another option is to switch from Prism to cable TV from a provider in your area like Comcast. If you have Prism, you also have CenturyLink Fiber. Most likely, you don’t want to give up your fiber optic internet. However, you can still order just a TV package from the cable company.
On the plus side, cable service is generally more reliable than satellite-based providers. However, you might pay quite a bit for the channel package because you’re not bundling it with internet from the cable company.
What Bundles are Available for CenturyLink and DirecTV?
CenturyLink offers three bundles based on whether you want the internet and TV, internet and home phone or all three.
For $120 a month, you get high-speed internet between 40Mbps and 80Mbps along with home phone service and DirectTV Select.
For $85 a month, you get the same internet plus the home phone.
For $80 a month, you the internet plus DirecTV Select.
DirecTV Select has over 155 channels including local channels and a free trial of HBO and Showtime. Note that Select is the most basic DirecTV package. You can upgrade to packages with more channels, sports, and movies for additional costs.
What is the Price for Life Guarantee?
CenturyLink offers two services which you won’t find anywhere else.
The Price for Life Guarantee locks in your monthly rate for either your Internet service or bundled Internet/TV services. If you’ve ever been a long-time cable subscriber, you know how annoying those annual rate hikes can be! With CenturyLink, your bill stays consistent no matter how long you subscribe to the service.
Plus, CenturyLink doesn’t require long-term contracts. You can pay month to month and stop at any time without financial penalty. Most cable internet providers push you to commit to a one or two year contract to get the lowest rates.
Is CenturyLink Internet and TV the Best Choice for Me?
- Reliable service even in remote areas
- Usually more affordable than cable
- New fiber options offer blazing fast speeds
- Prism TV not well supported
- DirecTV Select is the most basic package offered
There’s a lot to like about CenturyLink. They offer affordable DSL, which is widely available in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Plus, they offer super-fast fiber options for a handful of cities.
While Prism TV might not be around for too many more years, it’s still a solid entertainment package for current subscribers. New subscribers to CenturyLink have the option to bundle their internet with DirecTV Select.
Whether checking emails, streaming movies, or playing games, CenturyLink Internet offers a wide range of affordable, reliable services worth checking out.