Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
CenturyLink vs Comcast
September 29, 2020
When you look at the broad range of TV shows and movies now available through streaming platforms, it’s easy to see why cord cutting is the new norm. However, moving away from cable doesn’t just require subscriptions to services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix; it also requires a fast, reliable internet provider.
Fortunately, CenturyLink and Xfinity by Comcast have some of the best coverage of any internet providers on the market. CenturyLink and Xfinity offer similar internet plans with stable speeds and competitive pricing. However, most of CenturyLink’s subscribers only have access to slower DSL connections, while Xfinity offers internet through faster cable internet.
CenturyLink internet is available (in one form or another) in all 50 states, with its DSL network reaching nearly 50 million people alone. While Xfinity is only available in 39 states, its coverage is focused on some of the most densely populated cities. As a result, Xfinity internet reaches over 110 million people. Though both providers offer internet plans in many of the same states and cities, the type of internet they provide varies.
CenturyLink has two primary forms of internet: DSL and fiber. It also has fixed wireless plans, but they are available to fewer than 1,000 people nationwide. As previously stated, CenturyLink’s DSL network reaches nearly 50 million people. However, CenturyLink is actively replacing its copper cables with fiber cables, allowing its DSL network to slowly die out. As a result, CenturyLink’s DSL network is slowly shrinking, while its fiber network is rapidly expanding.
Xfinity’s coverage is a little simpler. The provider offers two kinds of internet: cable and fiber. The vast majority of Xfinity’s customers subscribe to cable internet, as it is available to over 110 million people in 40 states. However, it’s fiber internet coverage is far less impressive. While Xfinity has plans to expand its fiber network, it is currently available to fewer than 20,000 people in select areas throughout 19 states, plus DC.
There are a few key differences between the speeds and data caps of these two providers. CenturyLink’s DSL internet only has plans up to 100 Mbps. While this is enough for most cord cutters, it doesn’t give many options to consumers who want more speed. There are no in-between plans, either: Your only choice after 100 Mbps is the fiber gigabit plan.
Each of Centurylink’s DSL plans (and one of their fiber plans) has a 1,024 GB (or 1 TB) data cap. This shouldn’t be a problem for the average internet user. However, it could lead to overage fees for a household of movie buffs who stream all their movies. Watching more than 12 hours of video in HD per day will exceed your data cap.
When it comes to speed, Xfinity is the clear winner. Its cable internet plans go up to 940 Mbps, while its fiber plan goes up to an astounding 2,000 Mbps. Most Xfinity internet users get speed faster than what their plan advertises. But remember, individual speeds will vary based on the type of plan and your location. Plus, Xfinity has a slightly higher data cap than most CenturyLink plans do (the exception is CenturyLink’s up to 940 Mbps plan, which has no data cap at all).
CenturyLink offers subscribers a Price for Life guarantee, which means that your monthly premiums will never increase. A locked-in price makes it easier to stick to a budget; however, this promotion is only available on plans with speeds up to 100 Mbps. All four CenturyLink plans with a Price for Life guarantee cost $49 per month, are contract-free, and have a 1,024 GB (1 TB) data cap. Of your four options, three are Centurylink DSL plans (up to 20, 40, and 100 Mbps) and one is a CenturyLink fiber plan (up to 100 Mbps). Since all of these plans cost the same, it makes sense to choose the plan with the fastest speed.
While you will have to pay a little extra for some of Xfinity’s plans, you’ll also get better speeds and more options. Access to millions of public Wi-Fi hotspots and a free Flex 4K streaming device that has a voice-controllable remote help justify Xfinity’s pricing. Plus, if you choose an Xfinity cable internet plan that advertises the same maximum download speed as a comparable CenturyLink DSL plan, you’ll likely experience higher speeds and fewer outages. Unfortunately, Xfinity’s above-average promotional prices may require a one or two-year contract to lock-in. Each Xfinity internet plan can be contract-free, but you will have to pay the regular rate (which is normally $15-20 more than the promotional rate) if you want to go that contract-free route.
As much as I’m a fan of Xfinity’s perks and variety of plans, my frugal wallet still leans towards CenturyLink. If CenturyLink fiber is available near you, I think you should consider it.
Internet + TV: starting at $79.99 per month
Internet + Phone + TV: starting at $104.99 per month
CenturyLink’s bundle options are limited. The only official CenturyLink bundle available combines CenturyLink internet and phone service. However, CenturyLink does offer TV bundles through third-party providers, including Dish, DirectTV, and AT&T TV. These promotions vary based on your plan and the TV service provider you choose.
If you’re looking for more bundling options, Xfinity is the way to go. The starting price for one of Xfinity’s internet and TV bundles costs less than CenturyLink’s internet and home phone bundle. Your price will increase after the first year, but the perks of being an Xfinity TV subscriber may make the price hike insignificant if you're an NBC fan. Xfinity X1 plans include the X1, a cable box, 4K streaming device, and DVR all-in-one. You’ll also get a free subscription to NBC Universal’s streaming service, Peacock.
Professional installation: up to $129
Equipment rental fee: $10 per month
Professional installation: $89.99
Equipment rental fee: $14 per month
Whether you choose CenturyLink or Xfinity as your internet provider, you can save a lot in upfront costs by choosing self-installation. You can save even more if you use your own modem. However, keep in mind that you should look through the list of compatible modems from your internet provider. If you don’t want to rent a modem through the provider, you’ll need to make sure you find a compatible third-party modem. CenturyLink also gives you the option to buy your modem from them for a one-time fee of $150.
CenturyLink provides affordable fiber to millions of subscribers nationwide. It also offers the Price for Life guarantee on its 100 Mbps fiber plan with no contract required, making it my top choice for streamers on a budget. While its fiber internet may not be available for everyone, CenturyLink currently has one of the largest and fastest-growing fiber networks in the country.
However, if fiber isn’t available in your area or you want more speed options, Xfinity is the better choice. Xfinity’s cable internet is faster and more reliable than CenturyLink’s DSL internet, even if it does cost a little bit more.
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