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CenturyLink vs. Cox Communications vs. Windstream Communications Internet plan comparison


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Researched by
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Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 6/24/24

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CenturyLink brand
Staff rating
4.0
Customer rating
4.0
(76)

  • Plans starting at $30.00
  • Download speeds up to 940Mb
Cox
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.1
(122)

  • Plans starting at $20.00
  • Download speeds up to 2 Gbps
Windstream Communications brand
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.0
(22)

  • Plans starting at $39.99
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
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CenturyLink brand
Staff rating
4.0

Great fiber service, if you can get it

CenturyLink offers excellent fiber internet, but it’s available only in limited markets. If you can't get fiber, you may be able to get a DSL connection but you'll pay nearly as much.

What we like

  • Unlimited data across all plans
  • Fast fiber connections in select markets
  • No contracts
What we dislike

  • Limited fiber availability
  • Much slower DSL internet speeds
  • Below-average customer service
Savings tip: CenturyLink often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Cox
Staff rating
3.6

Low starting prices and reliable internet speeds

Cox provides a great customer experience and reliable speeds, but you’ll spend more for higher-speed plans, extra data, and add-ons.

What we like

  • Plan variety and options
  • Great customer experience
  • Generous, unthrottled data cap
What we dislike

  • Expensive plans
  • Steep data overages
  • So-so availability
Savings tip: Cox often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Windstream Communications brand
Staff rating
3.6

Great rural internet provider, with some room to improve on customer service

Kinetic by Windstream aims to bring better internet to rural and remote areas. While it offers one of the best values in internet service anywhere, it’s hampered by a mediocre customer experience.

What we like

  • Good rural coverage
  • No data caps
  • No contracts
What we dislike

  • Limited fiber availability
  • So-so customer service
Savings tip: Windstream Communications often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
CenturyLink brand
Value
4.0
Great fiber value meets high-cost, low-performance DSL plans

CenturyLink offers two types of plans, depending on your location. The more common option is DSL, which is relatively slow and offers inconsistent speeds. The other option is fiber, which is extremely fast and reliable.

Generally speaking, the DSL options are not a great value. The price is reasonable, but the speeds mean you’re likely to get more for your money elsewhere (this is true for many DSL providers). The fiber plans are a much better value—they offer much more speed for the money than CenturyLink’s DSL plans and are competitive with other providers’ fiber offerings. In fact, CenturyLink's 940 Mbps plan costs a little more than half of the national benchmark for similar plans. (1) We highly recommend CenturyLink fiber if you have it available.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
CenturyLink's website
or call 1-833-804-2792 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Cox
Value
3.0
Good budget plans, but you’ll pay high prices for top speeds

Cox plans range from around $0.60/Mbps for low-speed plans to around $0.10/Mbps for the fastest plan, which is more expensive than other cable internet providers. The good news? Cox has more lower-speed plan options, so if your internet budget tops out at $50 a month, Cox might be your new best friend. At speeds of 200 Mbps and above, however, Cox loses the price war.

What you get for the money is pretty good. All plans have a 1.25 TB data cap (unless you pay an extra $50 per month for unlimited), but that’s more than most people need. And unlike providers where unlimited comes standard, Cox won’t throttle your speed if you get a little data-hungry. Just beware of overage charges (which can really add up) if you go over the limit.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Cox's website
or call 1-844-719-0028 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Windstream Communications brand
Value
3.5
Kinetic by Windstream is one of the best values in internet service today

Windstream’s Kinetic internet service offers a surprisingly strong value. Prices are competitive—in fact, the 1 gig plan ties Google Fiber as the most affordable option we’ve seen for gigabit download speed. They both cost just over 50% of the national benchmark for similar plans (1).

The advertised prices are for a 12-month introductory period and will increase in the range of about $15 after the first year. This practice of second-year price hikes used to be the norm, but the best fiber internet providers we review have abandoned the practice.

Overall, Windstream represents one of the best values in home internet if you can get fiber. It's also a good deal if you can get only DSL, but your speeds will be much slower.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Windstream Communications's website
or call 1-833-970-0802 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
CenturyLink brand
Performance
4.5
Performance is excellent for areas with fiber access

There’s a performance divide based on the type of service available. The CenturyLink DSL plans can range from 15 to 100 Mbps, which is a wide range. Additionally, 15 Mbps just isn’t great these days. It doesn’t even reach broadband speeds (25 Mbps or more). That said, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting the advertised speed—whatever plan you sign up for, you seem to get what you pay for with CenturyLink.

On the other hand, the fiber plans offer Gigabit speeds (up to 940 Mbps), which is excellent. Additionally, fiber internet offers synchronous download speeds and upload speeds, meaning you can game, video chat, or upload large files just as fast as you binge Netflix. Fiber also tends to be inherently reliable because of the way the technology works—the light signals in fiber optic cables can carry more information over longer distances than coaxial cables. We have no complaints about performance on these plans.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-804-2792 to speak with a CenturyLink rep or
go to its website.
Cox
Performance
4.5
Speeds are very reliable, but expect minor slowdowns at peak times

Generally, Cox delivers the speeds it says it does, sometimes even a bit higher—though the speed you experience also depends on lots of factors, such as the equipment you’re using and your distance from the router.

Cox specializes in cable internet, which is faster than DSL and satellite, but slower and less reliable than fiber. It’s also typically cheaper and more reliable than wireless internet. The US Federal Communication Commission, in fact, says actual speeds from Cox are faster than advertised and nearly identical to competitor Optimum. Those speeds are stable, too. The report found slowdowns less than 5% of the time. (1) However, cable internet is known to be slower during peak usage times because you and your neighbors are all using the same street lines.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-844-719-0028 to speak with a Cox rep or
go to its website.
Windstream Communications brand
Performance
5.0
Excellent performance for rural internet, particularly compared to competitors

Kinetic by Windstream is a fiber and DSL internet service. Normally, that would mean two sides to the performance story—excellent speed, reliability, and consistency with fiber, and then DSL. That’s technically true of Windstream, but there’s a big “but” to consider.

The “but” is that Windstream is primarily targeted at rural areas, where other internet options may be limited to satellite or even dial-up (yes, that’s still a thing). In these markets, the Kinetic service can actually be a breath of fresh air—including its DSL. Plus, there are no data caps to worry about, which is a major limitation with satellite. Finally, the fiber performance is excellent, with speeds up to 2 gigs.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-970-0802 to speak with a Windstream Communications rep or
go to its website.
CenturyLink brand
Equipment and installation
4.5
A fee for self-installation, but good equipment at a decent price

CenturyLink installation is more or less on par with other providers in terms of installation procedures and costs. If your neighborhood is wired for only DSL with CenturyLink, you can have your internet service set up by a pro for somewhere between $129 and $300 based on the installation requirements. You can alternatively choose to do a self-install for $15.

If you live in an area wired for CenturyLink fiber, your pro installation and equipment rental are free, and you may be able to self-install for free. You could also wrangle unlimited data and an included mesh wireless network if you sign a contract, so be sure to ask. This is about on par with other fiber internet providers.

Find out whether you need a professional to come by or if you can handle setup yourself.

As for equipment, the CenturyLink modem and router are also pretty standard stuff. The company charges around $15 per month for equipment rentals for DSL customers. The gear is nothing to write home about, but it works. You can also buy the modem outright from CenturyLink for up to $200—whether this is a good deal for you depends on how long you plan to have CenturyLink as a provider.

We don’t particularly recommend buying your own router. Both the DSL and fiber services require a modem certified by CenturyLink to function, so you may as well save some money and use the built-in wireless router.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
CenturyLink plans
available in your area.
View plans
Cox
Equipment and installation
3.5
Rent a Gateway or bring your own networking equipment

Cox’s Panoramic Wi-Fi Gateway ($13/month to rent) is a modem and router in one, and you can purchase (but not rent) additional Wi-Fi pods ($129.99 each) that plug into a regular power outlet to reduce dead spots in your home. Because these pods can be used only with Cox, they're only an ideal solution if you plan to be with Cox for several years. The good news is Cox is also compatible with tons of other modems and routers, so you could save a few bucks while using your own gear.

With Cox, a self-installation kit is free. But if getting set up on your own makes you sweat, a Cox professional can install it for $100... but that installation cost goes up if your home isn’t already wired up and ready to go. They’ll ensure cabling makes it from the street into your home, but you might need to hire a contractor or handyman to run wires to a specific room.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Cox plans
available in your area.
View plans
Windstream Communications brand
Equipment and installation
3.5
Misleading installation costs, but otherwise a decent experience

Windstream charges a pretty standard $10–$12 per month for equipment rental if you are in its fiber service area. This gets you a very usable wireless gateway.

If you are in a DSL area, you'll be charged a $10 monthly modem fee but will also need a router. You can technically bring your own equipment, but Windstream officially supports a very limited number of modems, so it might be easier just to rent one.

The Windstream professional installation fee seems very reasonable at first—just $35 (or free, with some promotions). However, there’s a $50 activation fee on your first bill that brings it more in line with other providers. If you need a phone jack installed, you’ll be charged another $65 on top of the other fees. Ouch.

You can install your DSL connection for free if you're home is already wired correctly, and online instructions make it a breeze.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Windstream Communications plans
available in your area.
View plans
CenturyLink brand
Customer experience
3.0
Below-average customer service

CenturyLink consistently scores slightly below average in customer satisfaction (2), largely due to complaints about a lack of responsiveness regarding customer service. The service also gets a lot of complaints from new fiber internet customers, but complaints are very common industry-wide.

CenturyLink hires techs and contractors from around the country, so some inconsistency is expected. It redeems itself slightly, though, with an easy-to-use support page.

The company is expanding and we hear that many new cities will have fiber internet hookups from CenturyLink within the next few years. If you can get only DSL, though, you may have a connection as slow as 3 Mbps or one as fast as 100 Mbps, with huge variation in latency depending on how far you are from the nearest access point.

We like that CenturyLink provides DSL to customers who may have no other option, but we don't recommend the DSL offering if you have access to cable or fiber internet from another provider.

Visit CenturyLink's website
or call 1-833-804-2792 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Cox
Customer experience
3.5
Decent customer service, and you can pay for extra tech help

Reviews for internet service providers are notoriously low in general, but Cox does pretty well according to our real customer reviews. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) ranks Cox ninth in customer satisfaction among internet service providers—the same as Frontier. (2) That's lower than average, but not by much.

We think Cox’s 30-day, no hassle money-back guarantee is solid. And in our own experience with Cox, we've had solid customer service interactions. If you opt for self-installation, you can still get plenty of help online or by phone if needed. But if you use your own gear or technology isn’t your thing, $10/month will get you extra help, day or night, for things like malware removal, software installation and reconfiguration, and general troubleshooting.

Visit Cox's website
or call 1-844-719-0028 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Windstream Communications brand
Customer experience
2.5
Windstream’s otherwise-good service is brought down by lackluster customer service

The customer experience with Windstream leaves something to be desired. The provider ranks low in independent industry benchmarks like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (2), with a score of 62 out of 100. This is slightly below the industry average of 64.

Customer reviews of Windstream are generally mixed, with some pointing out that since they are often the only decent choice in an area, they try to get away with the bare minimum customer service. Customers also complain about frequent outages that sometimes last for days (3). That said, if your only other option is satellite internet (with its high prices and higher latency), it may be worth dealing with less-than-stellar customer service.

Visit Windstream Communications's website
or call 1-833-970-0802 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
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CenturyLink
3.9
(76)
5 Star
34%
4 Star
41%
3 Star
16%
2 Star
8%
1 Star
1%
J
Jessicafrom Greenbrier, AR
CenturyLink Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
It is reliable and always works for us when we Need to do multiple things at once. It is good service. With good workers.
D
Davidfrom Colorado Springs, CO
CenturyLink Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Over all good service it does however bog down at some points
J
Johnfrom Minneapolis, MN
CenturyLink Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
It's too slow, I don't have the capability for fast internet,
R
Ronikkafrom Sidney, MT
CenturyLink Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Setting up was a pain but once on the board great service and great rate.
Cox Communications
4.1
(122)
5 Star
43%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
21%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
1%
M
Michaelfrom Las Vegas, NV
Cox Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
been with cox for quire a few years. service is ok
C
Cindyfrom Virginia Beach, VA
Cox Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
My review for Cox is a pleasant experience overall. Sometimes the reliability and speed is not consistent. This makes me long for a more reliable service.
T
Tiffaniefrom Las Vegas, NV
Cox Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
the value of cox i would say is just decent. they do not go above and beyond like they use to but its okay. the speed is hit or miss. and honestly its not very reliable as we always are having connectivity isuues. its crap to keep it sweet
M
Matthewfrom Alexandria, VA
Cox Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Cox has been very reliable over the past 18 months. The technician who came to my house was friendly and good at his job. I would love if their prices were a little lower, especially for cable.
Windstream Communications
4.0
(22)
5 Star
32%
4 Star
45%
3 Star
18%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
5%
D
Dillon from Lexington , SC
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
Service crashes all the time, customer service is not very knowledgeable, I feel like they train them for a day or two and then let them start answering phones after that whether they're ready or not
R
Ricofrom Lexington, KY
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
They are too expensive, other than that no issues
A
Anonymous
Windstream Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Windstream has work to be done. Sometimes the internet speed can be consistent but most of the time not so much.
S
Sandrafrom Coweta, OK
Windstream Communications Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Reliability is terrible, customer service is the worst.
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Endnotes and sources
1. "Broadband Insights Report (OVBI)," OpenVault. Accessed August 17, 2022.2. "Internet Service Providers," ACSI. Accessed Dec. 10, 2022.
Endnotes and sources
  1. "Measuring Fixed Broadband - Tenth Report," FCC. Accessed 5 August 2022.
  2. Internet Service Providers,” ASCI. Accessed 7 December 2022.
Endnotes and sources
1. “2022 Urban Rate Survey – Fixed Broadband Service,” FCC. Accessed 17 June 2022.2. “Internet Service Providers,” American Customer Satisfaction Index. Accessed 17 June 2022.3. "Windstream outages reported in the last 24 hours," Downdetector. Accessed 16 December 2022.