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.
Verizon Fios offers fast, reliable fiber internet, along with one of the best overall customer experiences in the business. Verizon Fios is highly recommended, and it's one of the best home internet providers we reviewed.
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.
Verizon Fios is an excellent value overall. The provider offers three fiber-to-the-home plans, starting at about $50 per month for 300 Mbps, which is more for the money than you’ll get with many competitors.
Even though this is Verizon’s “slowest” offering, it’s still extremely fast and should cover a wide variety of households. In fact, we interviewed one customer who lives in a household of five internet users—two adults working full time from home, three children streaming videos and playing video games, and a plethora of internet-enabled smart home devices. She feels like they pay a good price for the 300 Mbps plan without losing out on speed. "I rarely have to think about it," she said. "If I don't have to think about it, then it's working."
The mid-tier plan is also a solid value. The highest-tier gigabit option is less competitively priced, at closer to $90 per month. However, that's still about 25% lower than the national benchmark for similar plans. (1) And you do get the benefit of symmetrical download and upload speeds with all of Verizon’s fiber internet plans, which you won’t find with every provider. This helps offset the cost somewhat. For an additional $10 each month at the highest tier, you get 2 TB of cloud storage, a subscription to Disney+, and a MoCA adapter for internet gaming.
It's worth noting that Verizon also offers DSL internet in some areas, with download speeds as high as 15 Mbps and bundled prices in the range of $75 per month, but is phasing it out in 2023. That's awfully slow compared to fiber internet, and quite expensive, but it's better than nothing. The good news is Verizon is rapidly building out its fiber-to-the-home network, so many households that have been stuck with DSL may soon be eligible for Fios.
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 is where Verizon Fios really shines. PCMag named it the fastest Major Internet Service Provider in 2022—and the 9 years before that. (2) The fiber-optic connections are rock solid, and the speeds offered are excellent.
Additionally, all plans have symmetrical download and upload speeds, which is ideal for anyone who uploads a lot of content. Some competitors have started offering 2,000 Mbps (or faster), but the vast majority of households won’t need those multi-gig speeds, so Verizon customers aren’t really missing out.
The likelihood of maintaining those fast advertised speeds reliably is also better with a fiber provider like Verizon than it is with some other internet types, but your experience may vary by location. In an interview, a Fios customer of over three years said that she sticks with Verizon because of the reliability even more than the price. At her current home in Buffalo, NY, she didn’t have any service outages or slowdowns even through the massive blizzards in 2022. When she previously used Verizon Fios in the Bronx, NY, the infrastructure had more outages and maintenance, though it was still faster and more reliable than another provider she tried in the area.
If you can get only DSL with Verizon, you'll only be able to download at speeds up to 15 Mbps and will pay a lot for the privilege. If you have any other option, we'd usually recommend it.
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.
Verizon Fios offers a pretty standard equipment setup for fiber: an optical network terminal (ONT) and a wireless router. Routers are included at no extra cost on each plan, and the fastest plan comes with an included mesh network called Whole-Home Wi-Fi.
Installation costs $99, and there’s no self-install option. A current Verizon Fios customer who moved from one city to another said that they didn’t have to pay for pro install because they use their own equipment and their new home was previously wired for Fios, so it’s worth checking whether you need installation at your address. If you do need installation and order online, Verizon will waive the fee. This can be an easy way to save some money on your first internet bill. That said, while the fee is expensive, it’s not unheard of among internet service providers.
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.
If there’s a leader in internet customer experience, it’s probably Verizon Fios. The service is absolutely rock solid, with hardly a hiccup. This, combined with the excellent speeds, makes for a seamless internet experience—it just works.
Verizon also consistently scores well in customer satisfaction. In fact, it took the top spot this year in the ACSI benchmarks (3), tied with AT&T. Meanwhile, PCMag's readers rank Verizon Fios third in overall satisfaction (4).
Connecting away from home is the only place Verizon falls short. With services such as AT&T and Xfinity, subscribers get access to a nationwide network of free hotspots. Verizon doesn't have this offering (but also doesn't trick you into using your home router to let strangers connect).