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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.