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CenturyLink offers some of the cheapest Internet and TV plans around. That said, these deals come with a lot of fine print attached.
The main decision you need to make is whether to opt for their “Prism TV” digital TV service or to bundle with DirecTV instead. CenturyLink has a partnership with DirecTV that allows them to offer discounts for satellite TV of around $10/month.
My two cents: go for the DirecTV bundles if you have space for a dish, especially if you’re an NFL fan (DirecTV has exclusive access to NFL Sunday Ticket).
One quirk to be aware of with Centurylink is that they often ask for access to the outside of your house during the two days preceding service so one of their techies can check the outside wiring. (AKA that box outside the house where the telephone line comes in.) In some cases, they will briefly turn off existing phone service in order to run checks on the wiring.
When the check-up is complete, the technician will leave a door hanger on your door letting you know about the appointment time and how to prepare.
On the day of the installation, the technician will go over the entire process with you to make sure you’re okay with everything. The technician will evaluate the wiring in your home to see if any additional wiring is necessary.
Once everything is in order, they’ll first start installing the Wi-Fi router or gateway and then handle the TV service, set-top boxes, and DVR.
As for how long the installation takes, in my experience the 4–6 hours they quote is overkill, but you may as well take off a few hours around it just to be safe.
CenturyLink has two main DVR options: the Genie HD DVR and the Whole Home DVR.
As the name suggests, the Whole Home DVR is basically a DVR for your entire home. You can watch and record multiple shows at once, and access your recordings from any room in your house. You can also pause live TV from any room, and control the DVR remotely. It's hard to live without once you've tried it.
The Genie HD DVR is CenturyLink’s most advanced DVR, and also has “whole home” functionality. It can record five shows at once, store 200 hours of HD programming, lets you watch and record shows from any room in your home, and offers you full HD DVR functionality on every one of your TVs. If you add a wireless Genie Mini (basically a DVR extension) into the mix, you can even do all those things from outside of your home.
CenturyLink uses wireless set-top boxes for Prism TV, so you don't have to mess around with wires and cables behind the TV.
CenturyLink offers modems for a monthly rental fee of around $9.
If you opt for their Prism deals, you’ll get a router that acts as a wireless access point and also provides firewall protection to any devices connected to your Prism service. Their routers tend to be mid-range devices that are suitable for a medium-sized home.
Some larger homes will require powerline extenders or other networking add-ons to reach all parts of the building.
If you have a modem, you should first see if it’s compatible with CenturyLink's network. If it is, I recommend using your own modem instead of getting one from CenturyLink, as you’ll have to pay around $10/month for it.
I also heard from some of their customers that you can purchase the CenturyLink Modem for approximately $150. If you don’t have a modem and don’t know where to get the right one, consider buying it from CenturyLink instead. Otherwise, it's easy to wind up with something used of eBay that doesn't quite work right.
If you’re up to it, you should think about doing a self-install. While CenturyLink does offer installation services, they generally cost anywhere between $60 and $99 (pricing can vary according to your area). Only the CenturyLink’s DirecTV deals come with free installation (as far as I’ve been able to find out), so if you don’t pick those deals, you should consider this option.
CenturyLink does offer helpful tutorials (here’s one for the Prism WiFi set-top box, and one for their modems/routers), so you won’t be on your own.
I really liked the fact that CenturyLink’s DirectTV bundles include the NFL SUNDAY TICKET which is not something you’ll see many other providers offering.
Also, when you order their bundles online, CenturyLink will offer you a $100 prepaid card ($150 with Triple Play deals). I would have rather seen a discount or free installation, but this little perk is nice too. And if you choose a Prism bundle, you also get one set-top box free for one year (you’ll get to save around $120 this way).
While Prism TV bundles do offer that perk, it’s also worth noting that said bundles are not very cost-efficient. In fact, they are quite pricey. What’s more, the Internet connection speeds that come with the bundles aren’t very impressive. In fact, in some cases, they might not even be available in your area, according to CenturyLink’s fine print.
Another thing I didn’t like was the fact that most bundles require you to sign a one or two-year contract. The only bundle I found to not require any contract was an offer for phone and Internet services.
All in all, if you’re mostly interested in TV services, I recommend just choosing their stand-alone TV packages — especially since their DirecTV plans actually include free professional installation.
CenturyLink’s Best Feature: Consistent Pricing
Unlike every other Internet company out there, CenturyLink will offer “price for life” pricing on some of their plans — or, at least, not jack up the price 50% after the first year. A CenturyLink customer I interviewed while researching this article vouched that they'd been paying the same price for eight years.
Fortunately, CenturyLink offers enough TV packages for everybody. If you don’t mind paying more money and want to enjoy high-tech features and fiber connections, Prism plans have got you covered. And if you’d rather choose a cost-efficient TV plan, you can do just that with CenturyLink’s DirecTV plans.
In case you’re not fully certain CenturyLink Prism TV is the right choice, I recommend checking out DirecTV’s deals or Dish’s packages. As for the Internet, it isn't as fast as cable, but the price is decent compared to the usual rates for DSL.