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CenturyLink vs. Frontier Communications vs. Hawaiian Telcom Internet plan comparison


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Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
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Researched by
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Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 6/18/24

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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
Frontier Communications brand
Staff rating
4.1
Customer rating
3.9
(50)

  • Plans starting at $49.99
  • Download speeds up to 5000 Mbps
Hawaiian Telcom
Staff rating
3.5
Customer rating
3.5
(2)

  • Plans starting at $19.99
  • Download speeds up to 750 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
Frontier Communications brand
Staff rating
4.1

Excellent service, if you can get fiber

The story of Frontier internet is one of two services: a slow and expensive DSL network and a fast and affordable fiber network. Which one you get makes all the difference.

What we like

  • Well-priced fiber plans
  • Fast speeds
  • No data caps
What we dislike

  • Limited fiber availability
  • Slow DSL in non-fiber areas
  • Poor customer service reputation
Savings tip: Frontier often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Hawaiian Telcom
Staff rating
3.5

A great value if you’re ready to commit

Hawaiian Telcom packs a lot of value into its plans, but it may not be fast enough for large families who do a ton of streaming or uploading. Opt for a short contract if available because paying out half of a two- or three-year commitment here will hurt!

What we like

  • Low startup costs
  • No hidden costs
  • Great service
What we dislike

  • High early cancellation costs
  • Underutilized fiber infrastructure and a tiny footprint
  • Contracts up to 3 years
Savings tip: Hawaiian Telcom 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
Frontier Communications brand
Value
4.0
Frontier offers excellent value on its fiber plans—if you can get them

Frontier offers two types of internet service: fiber and DSL. That means there are two sides to the Frontier value equation. Frontier fiber service is generally an excellent value—you can get 500 Mbps for around $50 per month or 1 gig for around $75, both of which are excellent prices well below the national benchmark for similar plans. (1) If you go for 2 gigs or even the newly available 5 gig plan, you'll pay quite a bit every month but enjoy excellent reliability and super fast speeds. If you go for 5 gigs, free tech support is included.

On the other hand, Frontier’s DSL plan is not nearly so exciting. It is around $50 per month for up to 115 Mbps, but the actual speed varies heavily with the specific area you’re in. Many places won’t see anywhere near 115 Mbps, but even if you do have that speed available, it’s not great for the price. There's also a required $85 installation charge. The good news, though, is that Frontier guarantees its DSL pricing for two years and doesn't require you to sign a contract.

To be fair, DSL service is almost always a poor value for money—it’s not unique to Frontier. And unlike some other combined fiber and internet providers, Frontier offers fiber in a good portion of its coverage area. (4)

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Frontier's website
or call 1-833-970-0804 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Hawaiian Telcom
Value
4.0
Come for the price, stay for the value (and to avoid early termination fees)

Hawaiian Telcom internet provides a ton of value no matter which plan you buy, but some plans offer more value than others. If fiber is available in your area, you can get 940 Mbps for around 56% of the national benchmark price. (1) Lower speeds (those as low as 11 Mbps with a DSL connection) cost as little as a third of the national benchmark.

Hawaiian has its flaws. You may not have access to its fiber infrastructure (yet), even if it's installed in your neighborhood. We've heard of wait times of several months. Then, even its fiber speeds aren’t as fast as technology allows. If you try to end your contract early, you’ll pay for that—big time. You may also see hefty price hikes in year two—some of the biggest we've seen, in fact.

But when you consider the great service you’ll receive, low-cost equipment and installation, and a refreshing lack of hidden fees at checkout, Hawaiian Telcom gives you one more way to make your mainlander friends envy your island life.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Hawaiian Telcom's website
or call 1-844-716-2785 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.
Frontier Communications brand
Performance
5.0
Outstanding fiber performance and so-so DSL service

Frontier continues the tale of two in the performance department. The DSL service caps out at a fairly slow 115 Mbps, and that’s only in certain areas. While that’s sufficient for many day-to-day activities and light streaming, larger families or those who want to stream in HD may be left wanting more.

On the flip side, the fiber service is predictably excellent, with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps and no data caps to limit you. In fact, Frontier's fiber plans are some of the fastest, according to PCMag (2). The service has the fastest ping of any provider, according and a study by the FCC (3), and it's neck and neck with the competition in terms of speed and reliability. These fiber plans also offer symmetrical speeds, which means the upload speed is equal to the download speed. This is handy if you upload or share a lot of large files, and it tends to be unique to fiber.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-970-0804 to speak with a Frontier rep or
go to its website.
Hawaiian Telcom
Performance
4.5
Fast, reliable fiber for the price, but it could be better utilized

Hawaiian Telcom uses an infrastructure of fiber, cable, and DSL. About 215,000 homes and businesses have access to Hawaiian’s fiber network. (2) That accounts for about half of Hawaiian's infrastructure, (3) which is impressive for a small provider. The other half is mostly DSL mixed with a bit of cable, which don't perform as well. The good news is Hawaiian is replacing its legacy cable and DSL lines, so if you don’t have access to its fiber network yet, you probably will within a few years.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-844-716-2785 to speak with a Hawaiian Telcom 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
Frontier Communications brand
Equipment and installation
5.0
No charges for equipment—seriously

Frontier redeems itself in a big way when it comes to equipment and installation. If you have Frontier's DSL internet, the equipment itself is fairly standard. It works, but it doesn't look great on a desk and the capabilities are limited. It's free, which is nice, but you might still want to use your own gear if you need more control over which devices on your network get bandwidth priority. DSL installation costs $85, and there's no self-install option.

If you have fiber internet from Frontier, you're in luck! You get free rental of an eero 6 on the Fiber 1 Gig plan or an eero6E mesh Wi-Fi system, on the Fiber 2 Gig plan. If you have the 5 Gig plan, you'll get the TP-Link AXE300 6E with an optional TP-Link RE815XE Wi-Fi extender for an extra $10 per month. You could still technically use your own gear, but it's hard to do any better than the latest and greatest from eero and TP-Link.

If you're eligible, you may be able to get a Frontier self-install kit—otherwise, a professional will come to your house to install the internet for you. If you need a pro to come out, you'll be charged $50 on your first bill. Cancelation is also free, but some customers are charged a $20 restocking fee for rented fiber gear and a $50 restocking fee on DSL gear.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Frontier plans
available in your area.
View plans
Hawaiian Telcom
Equipment and installation
3.5
Hawaiian offers good installation and gear

Hawaiian Telcom charges a moderate $9.99 to use its modem. You could use your own modem to save money, but you won’t be able to add Hawaiian’s Whole Home Wi-Fi or upgrade your service to Premier Value, Hawaiian’s tech plan. If you do go with Hawaiian’s modem, you can also rent between one and three Google Wi-Fi pods for just $7 per month total. Unless you live in a McMansion (more than 4,500 sq. ft.), you shouldn’t have any dead spots. Some of our top providers don't charge rental fees, and we would like to see Hawaiian Telcom follow suit, but we still love these low rates.

Both self-installation and professional installation are free, but you may need to cover a $34.99 activation fee (waived during some promotions). That’s steeper than most activation fees, but since professional installation usually costs $75 or more, you’ll still save a ton—and not have to worry about setting it up yourself. Plus, if you have a professional install your internet, they will repair any damaged wiring at no cost.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Hawaiian Telcom 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
Frontier Communications brand
Customer experience
2.5
Plenty of unsatisfied customers, and you can't order online

The Frontier customer experience is a mixed bag. The service itself is fairly reliable—especially the fiber. The DSL service is relatively stable, but more prone to slowdowns during heavy traffic times (like the evening). We’ve also seen some reports online of speeds that are inconsistent with what’s advertised, so keep that in mind.

Frontier has also received very low scores in customer satisfaction from organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). (3) The provider ranked second-worst in overall satisfaction in the most recent surveys, falling well below average. The complaints we’ve seen point generally to a broad pattern of poor customer service, so if that’s a key factor in your choice of provider, you might want to steer clear until Frontier can sort out its issues.

Unlike most internet service providers, the only way to order internet service is to call in. It works okay for most people, but some folks love the convenience of handling everything without having to deal with phone trees, wait on hold, or talk to a live human. At least the hold music is nice, though, and you can enter info via text message!

Visit Frontier's website
or call 1-833-970-0804 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Hawaiian Telcom
Customer experience
2.0
Customer service needs some improvement

We love that you can get started for around $35 and that the tech will automatically repair wiring if needed. But if you want additional technical support, you'll need for Hawaiian’s rather pricy Premier Value upgrade ($15.99 per month for two years). With it, a technician can help you with wire maintenance and Wi-Fi optimization, internet security for up to 10 devices, and priority for technician appointments. But we'd probably skip it at this price tag.

Unfortunately, many customers report problems with billing and customer service. If you go with Hawaiian, check your bill carefully and be prepared to sit on hold if you call in with issues.

Visit Hawaiian Telcom's website
or call 1-844-716-2785 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
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Made up your mind?
Find out what providers are available near you.
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.
Frontier Communications
3.9
(50)
5 Star
26%
4 Star
46%
3 Star
22%
2 Star
6%
1 Star
0%
L
Lucyfrom Englewood, FL
Frontier Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
there are to many breaks in service, but they do repair very quickly they should be able to stop the breaks better than do now
D
Douglasfrom Murphy, NC
Frontier Communications Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Good speed and network reliabilty. Customer service is very good and solve problems. The cost is a little high; sometimes worth it.
C
Cayleefrom Murphy, NC
Frontier Communications Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
Frontier has been a great company for internet. I like how high speed it is and how great the customer service is. It never fails to impress me. I think that they are great on every aspect.
R
Robertfrom Middletown, NY
Frontier Communications Customer for 8+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
It seems Frontier gives us very slow internet service.
Hawaiian Telcom
3.5
(2)
5 Star
0%
4 Star
50%
3 Star
50%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
R
Ravenfrom Waipahu , HI
Hawaiian Telcom Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 12-2-2022
Hawaiin Telecom has been okay, but the speed could be better
J
Janicefrom Honokaa, HI
Hawaiian Telcom Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
Hawaiian Telecom is good because they brought fiber optics to a rural location via a federal grant. They also are expedient in their service. However, I feel that they can improve by conducting regularly maintenance and check on customer’s network.
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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. “2022 Urban Rate Survey – Fixed Broadband Service,” FCC. Accessed 19 October 2022.2. "The Fastest ISPs of 2022," PC Mag. Accessed 19 October 2022.Internet Service Providers,” American Customer Satisfaction Index. Accessed 14 June 2022.3. "Measuring Broadband America," FCC. Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.4. "FCC National Broadband Map," FCC. Accessed Dec. 9. 2022. As an Amazon Associate, Switchful.com may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.
Endnotes and sources