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.
Metronet is a growing regional provider that offers value-packed internet service to customers. Its all-fiber network is fast and reasonably priced. Overall, we think Metronet is a solid pick for your next internet provider—if you happen to live in one of its coverage areas.
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.
Smaller, regional internet providers sometimes suffer a little in the value department. Either the pricing is good but the speeds offered aren’t up to snuff, or the speeds are fast but the price is outrageous. Metronet bucks this trend. In fact, the 1 gig plan actually starts out at a lower price than most competitors and less than half the national benchmark for similar plans (1).
You do have the standard rate hikes after the first 6-24 months, but the lack of equipment fees helps offset this. Competing internet providers sometimes offer small perks that make them more attractive, but Metronet definitely holds its own.
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.
Performance with Metronet is great. There are plans ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps, all of which offer symmetrical upload speeds. This means upload speeds are equal to download speeds—excellent for content creators, streamers, online gamers, and anyone else who shares a lot of large files. Best of all, there are no data caps.
Although some fiber providers have started offering 2 gig and even 5 gig plans, we don't think anyone needs to pay for that much speed (and if you're one of the few who does, you probably already know who you are). Metronet’s 1 gig option will be plenty for most needs, but extremely heavy users who require faster speeds will have to look elsewhere. Find out how much internet speed you need.
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.
Metronet provides all the equipment you need to get started free of charge, including an eero wireless router so you can get online quickly. This is a nice change of pace in an industry that often charges $10–$15 per month for mediocre gear. You do have the option of adding a wireless extender for $10 per month (called WholeHome Wi-Fi), but it isn’t strictly necessary.
More good news concerning installation—while most providers charge between $50 and $100 (or more) for installation, Metronet will bill you only $25. That’s not bad at all. Of course, when installation is a mandatory part of the service, we’d prefer it to be free, but we’ll take what we can get. Plus, all you have to do to receive a $25 installation credit (effectively making it free) is to sign up for automatic billing.
Our only complaint is the lack of any type of self-installation option, so you'll have to set aside a good two to four hours for a technician to come to your house.
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.
Decent value, fast performance, and reasonable equipment and installation costs make for a great experience overall. Metronet also claims to have 24-hour local support, and customers generally seem satisfied with their service.
There is one glaring issue, though: the provider charges a mandatory “technology service fee” of around $10 per month.
Metronet claims this is to cover the cost of service calls, tech visits, and equipment maintenance. However, we don’t see this type of charge from any other provider, and it effectively nullifies the free equipment, so we have mixed feelings.
We've also seen a few complaints from customers who feel like they were being charged more than advertised, but we thought that the price increases and fees were pretty fairly laid out on the website, so just make sure to read the fine print (2).