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.
Rural south and central Indianans can get this company’s affordable, high-speed, reliable fiber internet with no contract and no data cap. And if you don’t have access to Smithville yet, you might soon. It’s expanding fast!
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.
Smithville Communications offers just one fiber internet plan, serving up 1 Gbps and unlimited data for less than about $0.70 per Mbps. Compared to the US benchmark plan for similar service ($134.62) (1), Smithville is a pretty sweet deal. And you won’t have to sign a contract to get it.
This low price is particularly impressive for fiber in rural areas since building infrastructure outside of urban centers can be incredibly costly. Smithville could easily charge higher rates for bringing fiber to rural Indiana, but it doesn’t. And we applaud that.
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.
Fiber is the fastest and most reliable type of internet available, and download speeds max out around 5 Gbps. Smithville fiber reaches only 1 Gbps, but for most people frustrated by slow or unreliable rural internet, it’ll feel like your browser just got a turbo boost. You’ll also see 1 Gbps upload speeds, which is less common among non-fiber internet types like DSL and cable. Everyone—from heavy streamers and online gamers to remote workers and avid YouTube creators—will have plenty of juice (and unlimited data) when they need it.
Unfortunately, there’s one caveat: In some areas, Smithville is still using legacy DSL infrastructure, so you might not be able to sign up for fiber just yet. Smithville is phasing out this infrastructure as it lays more fiber lines, and it was named one of the Top 100 Fiber-to-the-Home organizations by Broadband Communities magazine for its efforts in helping bring fiber internet to rural communities (2). Luckily, Smithville won’t lock you into a contract, so if you’re not happy with your DSL, you can cancel any time and come back later when you have access to fiber.
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.
Smithville provides a wireless router to all customers with no additional rental fees, which is a good deal. You will pay an activation fee of $25, and if you need any lines run or jacks installed, you’ll pay for those too.
You do have the option of using your own equipment, but you’ll have to contact customer service to find out if your gear is compatible because this info isn’t available on the Smithville website. And if you need help troubleshooting your equipment, you’re on your own.
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.
Smithville offers 24/7 tech support to all customers, which is helpful if you have trouble with its router, need wiring repairs or a jack replacement, or your service is otherwise interrupted and it’s the company's fault.
If a visiting technician discovers the problem was out of Smithville’s control, you’ll have to pay a $35 service fee and $90 technician fee for help. Most companies charge you only one of these fees. Smithville will waive these charges if you buy its Connection Protection plan for at least one year, at a cost of $3.95 per month. But technicians still won’t help you with your own equipment.