Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Which Is Best for TV and Streaming?
CenturyLink vs Spectrum
September 8, 2020
There’s a lot to consider when you’re picking an internet and TV provider. How expensive is each service? Which provider is better for internet? How about TV? Asking these questions is an important part of the decision-making process.
CenturyLink and Charter Spectrum have their differences, but they’re evenly matched as internet providers. Both offer simple pricing that doesn't creep up over time like other cable and DSL companies, but their differences make it clear which provider is better for different types of internet users. If you have the option to get CenturyLink Fiber, which is only available in part of CenturyLink's network, that's the clear choice for me because of the superior speed and quality. However, if only CenturyLink's DSL service is available, Spectrum is a better choice because of faster plans and better pricing.
CenturyLink is the third-largest DSL internet provider and the fourth-largest fiber internet provider in the US. It’s hard to miss CenturyLink DSL, since it’s available in every state. But CenturyLink Fiber is much harder to find. Fewer than 30 cities scattered across the US have access to CenturyLink Fiber.
Spectrum, on the other hand, uses a cable network to deliver its internet. The network is available in fewer states than CenturyLink (which is available in 44 states), but Spectrum’s internet coverage is two times larger than CenturyLink’s DSL and fiber internet coverage combined.
CenturyLink’s DSL internet plans have varying speeds depending on where you live. They mostly advertise four DSL plans, with up to 10, 20, 40, and 100 Mbps. It’s safe to say you’ll have reliable speeds if you get the 100 Mbps plan: most users get an average download speed of 93 Mbps. It’s surprising CenturyLink doesn’t have a plan with speeds between 100-1,000 Mbps like Spectrum. We’re still able to stream on two TVs, play Anthem online, and have more tabs open than necessary on my browser with up to 100 Mbps in my house, but I do plan on upgrading speeds soon.
Spectrum is equally reliable. The FCC reports most Spectrum customers get more than 95 percent of their advertised speed. The best part about that is Spectrum normally advertises plans with up to 200, 400, and 940 Mbps. Even if you don’t have the Spectrum Internet Gig plan available, their starting speed is still faster than CenturyLink’s.
CenturyLink’s Price for Life guarantee is a great deal, but it’s only available for plans with speeds up to 100 Mbps. All CenturyLink plans with a Price for Life guarantee cost $49 per month and have a 1,024 GB (1 TB) data cap. Paying for peace of mind is always worth it in my opinion, but Spectrum has better pricing when you compare CenturyLink’s and Spectrum’s most available plans: CenturyLink’s up to 100 Mbps plan and Spectrum’s up to 200 Mbps plan.
You can get up to 200 Mbps and no data caps for $49.99 per month for your first 12 months with Spectrum. The price increases to $69.99 per month afterward, but that’s still a better deal if you look at the price per Mbps. CenturyLink’s most available plan costs $0.49 per Mbps while Spectrum’s cost about $0.24 per Mbps. If you’re someone who’s always on-the-go, Spectrum also offers more valuable perks along with their plans than CenturyLink, i.e. access to more than half a million public Wi-Fi hotspots.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with access to CenturyLink Fiber and Spectrum Internet Gig, I’d recommend choosing CenturyLink Fiber. It costs less than Spectrum’s Internet Gig plan and also has no data caps.
Internet + TV: starting at $89.98 per month
Internet + Phone + TV: starting at $99.97 per month
If you want a bundled plan, Spectrum has better prices and plan options. I haven’t had a home phone in years, but I know there are benefits to having them (they can still connect when my cell phone loses signal during a storm). Spectrum’s home phone service only costs $9.99 when you bundle with Spectrum Internet, and you get a bigger discount when you upgrade to a Triple Play plan. Bundling Spectrum Internet and Spectrum TV doesn’t come with a discount, but you do get access to the Spectrum TV mobile app so you can watch TV wherever you go.
CenturyLink offers home phone service, but they don’t have their own TV service anymore. Instead, CenturyLink “partners” with traditional TV providers like DISH and DirecTV, as well as with all the major streaming TV providers. I put “partners” in quotes because, unlike with true “bundles,” you won’t get a discount if you get TV service this way. Plus, you’ll still have separate bills for each service, which defeats the purpose of bundling in my view.
CenturyLink has fewer setup fees and additional monthly fees than Spectrum, but you could still spend more on these fees with CenturyLink if you need professional installation.
When you first sign up for CenturyLink, you’ll more than likely have the option to choose either self-installation or professional installation. You can avoid setup fees with CenturyLink if you opt for self-installation, but if that option isn’t available for you, be prepared to pay CenturyLink’s $129 professional installation fee. It’s a one-time fee, but it costs more than Spectrum’s basic professional installation.
Most Spectrum internet users will get Spectrum’s self-installation kit for $9.99. If you need professional installation, you’ll pay $49 if you have the Spectrum Internet or Spectrum Internet Ultra plans. Be prepared to pay $199 if you get the Spectrum Internet Gig plan.
In the long run, you’d pay less for equipment and installation with Spectrum than you would for CenturyLink (even if you choose the Spectrum Internet Gig plan). Installation fees are one-time. The price to really consider is equipment fees, since you’ll pay them each month. Spectrum doesn’t charge a monthly equipment fee, but there is a $5 a month Wi-Fi fee for using the wireless router function of your Spectrum modem. It’s an unusual fee, but it still costs less than most providers’ equipment fees. CenturyLink charges about $15 a month for their modem. It’s an avoidable fee if you have your own modem, but the perks of having your provider’s modem make it worth paying for.
Overall, Charter Spectrum has a number of advantages that set it apart from CenturyLink. While CenturyLink offers DSL internet, which is capable of fast speeds, they don’t have the network infrastructure to provide speeds as high as Spectrum.
Charter may be a better option if CenturyLink Fiber isn’t available in your area or if you’re budget-conscious like me, but in general, is less fully-featured than other providers.
Your email address will not be published.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.