Switchful Logo

CenturyLink vs. HughesNet Internet plan comparison


Headshot of Kathryn Casna
Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
Headshot of Dave Schafer
Headshot of Brittany McGhee
Researched by
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 6/18/24

We’re committed to transparency. We may earn money when you follow our recommendations, but compensation doesn’t affect our ratings. Learn more.
CenturyLink brand
Staff rating
4.0
Customer rating
4.0
(76)

  • Plans starting at $30.00
  • Download speeds up to 940Mb
HughesNet brand
Staff rating
2.1
Customer rating
3.1
(13)

  • Plans starting at $49.99
  • Download speeds up to 25 Mbps
city map lines pattern
Check availability
See what providers service your area.
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
HughesNet brand
Staff rating
2.1

Slow speeds, but more affordable satellite plans for casual users

HughesNet has the cheapest broadband satellite internet plans, with speeds up to 25 Mbps and data limits up to 100 GB. You'll pay a lot of money for not a lot of speed and not much data, but it's a workable way to connect for folks in rural areas. Where available, consider other connection types or satellite internet providers if you don’t want to be held back.

What we like

  • Affordable plans for satellite
  • Wide availability
  • Bonus data during off-peak hours
What we dislike

  • Slow speed
  • Price hike after six months
  • Two-year contract required
Savings tip: HughesNet 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
HughesNet brand
Value
1.5
The most affordable broadband satellite internet plans out there, but limited speed

With any HughesNet plan, you get the same 25 Mbps download speed, and you'll pay around double the national benchmark for similar non-satellite internet plans (1). This meets the minimum definition of broadband, but it’s still relatively slow, even for satellite internet. You’ll be able to check email and do basic web browsing, but it’s not ideal for more intensive use. HughesNet simply can’t compete in areas where cable or fiber connections are available.

HughesNet’s plans differ based on how much high-speed data you get and range from 15 GB to 100 GB. Like with Viasat, you won’t get any overage charges for going over your plan’s high-speed data limit with HughesNet, but your speeds will get throttled to a nearly unusable 1–3 Mbps. There are a couple of unique ways to get extra data with HughesNet. During the off-peak Bonus Zone hours of 2:00 am to 8:00 am, you get 50 GB of extra data. If you run out of high-speed data during a billing cycle, you can also get back up to speed by purchasing Data Tokens, which start at $9 for 3 GB and don’t expire.

The best HughesNet plan is the Fusion 100 GB plan, which improves latency by tapping into wireless networks for some online activities.

You’ll want to steer clear of lower data cap plans, as you’re likely to blow through a 15 to 30 GB high-speed data allowance within days, especially if you do any streaming.

HughesNet plans start out at about $20 less than Viasat plans, but jump up after six months. They're still slightly more affordable when standard pricing kicks in, considering that Viasat has its own price hike after three months. But if you want a satellite internet plan with faster download speeds or more than 100 GB of data, compare your options with Viasat and Starlink.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
HughesNet's website
or call 1-833-804-4974 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.
HughesNet brand
Performance
1.5
HughesNet’s 25 Mbps of speed does the basics, but don’t expect much more

With any satellite internet provider, performance will depend on individual factors, including your location and how well your dish is positioned. There are also factors beyond your control, such as bad weather and occasional outages. Cable or fiber connections tend to be faster and more dependable, while satellite connections have slower speeds and higher latency due to the long distance between your home and the satellite overhead.

According to data from Ookla, HughesNet’s median download speed in Q4 of 2021 was 20.92 Mbps (2). That’s not too far off from its advertised top speed of 25 Mbps. According to this data, its upload speed and latency are just a bit lower than Viasat’s. And, although Starlink seems to outperform both HughesNet and Viasat on each of those points, Starlink seems to have more issues with reliability and isn’t as widely available. Common complaints about HughesNet’s service on Downdetector include slow speeds and some outages, sometimes for days in a row (3).

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-804-4974 to speak with a HughesNet 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
HughesNet brand
Equipment and installation
2.5
Easy professional installation and reasonable equipment prices

When you sign up for HughesNet, you can decide to either lease or purchase equipment from the company. Usually, the cost for leasing equipment is around $20 per month and purchasing is around $450. Purchasing equipment is a good deal if you think you’ll continue your service beyond the two-year contract term, and it doesn't require a credit check.

Depending on current promotions, you can sometimes get discounts for leasing or purchasing and have the $99 installation fee waived. You may also be able to score a $100 prepaid gift card, even if you're using your ACP benefit.

Ordering online can sometimes save you up to $50, but the address system on the site is clunky. If you enter yours and Hughesnet says it can't find your address, you may need to call in.

HughesNet’s equipment costs and installation process are about the same as Viasat. Starlink, on the other hand, requires you to purchase the equipment up front for a higher cost and install it yourself.

HughesNet will send a technician to professionally install your equipment, which includes a satellite dish, Wi-Fi modem, router, and everything else you need. Installation typically happens within five days of signup, and service windows are about 3 hours long.

The technician will put the dish on your house, or on a pole mount in the ground for $25 extra, and ensure a clear line of sight to the satellite. A hole will be drilled into your home for the cable to connect to the modem inside. Once the system is active and tested, the technician will also connect up to two devices to the network for you.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
HughesNet 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
HughesNet brand
Customer experience
3.0
Plenty of support resources, and you can get actual human help

Customer experience with HughesNet is comparable to its primary satellite internet competitor, Viasat. For billing and tech support questions, the company gives you several ways to contact customer support: by phone, live chat, or email. HughesNet also has an online forum for customers to ask and answer each other’s questions, as well as FAQs and help articles. You can easily manage your account through the website or mobile app.

HughesNet also offers Voice, a VoIP phone service that uses your satellite internet connection, plus an internet security package. Both are free for the first month, but you'll be charged starting in your second month, so set yourself a reminder to call and cancel the extras if you're not sure you need them.

Visit HughesNet's website
or call 1-833-804-4974 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
city map lines pattern
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.
HughesNet
3.0
(13)
5 Star
7%
4 Star
31%
3 Star
31%
2 Star
23%
1 Star
8%
C
Carlos from Mojave, CA
HughesNet Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 6-24-2022
It’s slow and sometimes nothing will even load when we supposedly have 30 gb a day
A
Amberly from Canisteo , NY
HughesNet Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
I think this company provides very good service for the price I like that the price does not change it's a set set price every month their customer support team is great the response time is amazing and I like most everything about this company I do wish that their speeds would be a little faster but they aren't that bad.
M
Mauleenfrom Hemphill, TX
HughesNet Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
The internet service is not worth what’s being charged. If there were more options for internet in this area, I would definitely switch to a better service. No competition in this rural area.
D
Debfrom West Jefferson, OH
HughesNet Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
We live in a rural area and Hughes Net is the only option for us
city map lines pattern
Providers near you
See all options in your area within seconds.
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 17 June 2022.2. “Starlink Hits 100+ Mbps Download Speed in 15 Countries During Q4 2021,” Ookla. Accessed 6 June 2022.3. “HughesNet outage or service down,” Downdetector. Accessed 6 June 2022.
Popular Internet alternatives
Click on a provider to compare.
TDS Telecom
Google Fiber
Astound Broadband
Frontier Communications
Verizon Fios
Sparklight
Windstream Communications
Cox Communications
Smithville