Xfinity from Comcast vs. CenturyLink Prism
The star ratings used in this guide come from CableTV.com’s 2017 Provider Customer Satisfaction Survey. If you’ve ever wondered how to find the best TV providers in your area for the way you watch TV, the answer is CableTV.com.
At a Glance
Data effective 6/21/2017. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
Should you choose Xfinity or CenturyLink Prism as your TV service provider?
Xfinity provides a huge on-demand library of almost 70,000 titles, solid internet service with good speeds, and reliable, contract-free cable service.
Xfinity also offers a much better DVR than its competitor in the form of the X1 system, which took fourth place in our 2017 DVR rankings. This is balanced by a relatively small selection of channels and an ongoing reputation of poor customer service in America. Despite that, Xfinity makes a solid choice for customers looking for a reliable cable service with fast internet and no contract.
CenturyLink Prism offers a wider range of channels, easy professional setup, and—depending on the market—fiber internet with excellent speed.
There are two big things to be aware of with CenturyLink: The first is that Prism TV is only offered in select markets. Outside those areas, CenturyLink partners up with DIRECTV to provide television service. The second is that this provider dropped significantly in our customer satisfaction survey this year and is now the lowest-ranked provider in overall customer satisfaction. However, if you are in an area that gets fiber service, CenturyLink provides a wide variety of channels, free installation, and the speed that only fiber can offer. It’s an especially good choice if the absolute fastest internet speed is important to you.
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Overall Customer Rating
- No contract required
- Wide availability
- Affordable packages
- Huge library of on-demand content
- Poor customer service
- Small channel selection
- Low DVR storage
Overall Customer Rating
- Larger channel selection
- Free installation
- Fast internet speed with fiber
- Required contract
- Poor customer service
- Limited fiber availability
Installation & Setup
Xfinity installation is generally simple. You can opt for a self-install kit if you’re handy or have a service tech set up your equipment for you, but this last one will cost you. How much depends on the specific equipment you order, but it can run as high as $50. As a consolation, Xfinity has some of the shortest appointment windows (two hours) in the business.. That means less waiting around for someone to show up.
CenturyLink Prism(2.79 /5)
CenturyLink provides free installation for Prism, which is always a plus. The process can be somewhat complicated, but the company provides excellent documentation and even a video outlining what to expect. Unfortunately, CenturyLink has developed a reputation for having techs show up late, which may have contributed to the major drop in satisfaction we saw in this year’s customer survey.
Xfinity Installation Fee: Up to $50
CenturyLink Prism Installation Fee: Free
XFINITY offers a pretty slim lineup of channels, topping off at 260. The upside to their service is the on-demand library, with a whopping 70,000 titles to choose from. Who needs live TV when you can watch whatever you want at any time? Xfinity also offers an affordable package of local channels, which makes a great choice for families who either don’t watch a lot of TV or who have a budget to stick to.
CenturyLink Prism(2.72 /5)
CenturyLink Prism offers a greater channel selection, but scores much lower in satisfaction in this category, proving that this isn’t purely a numbers game. This score is probably because CenturyLink’s packages are more expensive than competitors offering a similar number of channels. For example, the CenturyLink Prism Essential package offers 140 channels for $69.99, while the Xfinity Digital Preferred gets you 220 channels for $59.99—not a great value proposition.
Xfinity Channels: 260+
CenturyLink Prism Channels: 340+
When it comes to reliability, Xfinity is a solid choice. The company ties for third place in satisfaction in this area, and cable networks in general are pretty solid. Xfinity also has a support site where you can check the status of your connection and receive updates when there is an outage.
CenturyLink Prism(2.76 /5)
For a fiber network, CenturyLink has a pretty poor reputation for reliability. The company’s customer satisfaction score in our survey fell sharply, from 3.59 to 2.76, and it has actually been fined nearly $125,000 by the state of Washington for an outage in 2016 that left people unable to contact 911. While the odds of seeing that level of service issue are probably low, it’s something to keep in mind.
Xfinity Type of Service: Cable
CenturyLink Prism Type of Service: Fiber
Pricing isn’t a strong point for any TV provider, and Xfinity is no exception. You can see just how low the scores in this category are compared to the others. In its defense, though, Xfinity gives customers the benefit of low initial prices, and no contract means no early termination fee (ETF) if you decide the service isn’t for you. Packages start at $29.99 per month and go up to $109.99. Just be aware that those prices are usually only for one year, after which they can increase significantly.
CenturyLink Prism(2.35 /5)
Another category where CenturyLink saw big losses in this year’s survey was billing. There have been cases of door-to-door salespeople offering deals that turned out to be too good to be true, with monthly bills being significantly higher than expected. These cases likely contribute to the low satisfaction scores. For its part, CenturyLink does provide online support to help you make sense of your bill, which can help ease concerns. Packages start at $69.99 and run up to $124.99 per month.
Xfinity Price: $29.99–$109.99 per month
CenturyLink Prism Price: $69.99–$124.99 per month
Tech Support & Customer Service
Many people are probably aware of Comcast’s poor reputation for customer service, and both our scores and those of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reflect that. In our survey, Xfinity scored ninth out of fourteen while the ACSI ranked it twelfth out of fifteen. Ouch. We recommend sticking with the online chat for the best results.
CenturyLink Prism(2.66 /5)
It’s hard to imagine a company being beaten in customer service by Comcast, but here we are. CenturyLink actually scored significantly lower than Xfinity in our survey, coming in second to last. The provider’s spotty reliability and history of missed tech appointments could be partly to blame. CenturyLink is not ranked individually by the ACSI—it is lumped into the “All Others” category, which ranks sixth.
Internet service is one of Xfinity’s strong points. Speeds are generally excellent, and the company has begun offering Gigabit Internet in select markets (that’s 1,000 Mbps). Interestingly, these Gigabit connections run on Xfinity’s existing cable infrastructure rather than relying on fiber optics. This approach is different than most competitors, including CenturyLink, but it seems to be working—the provider was able to turn on Gigabit Internet for all of its service areas in Utah earlier this year, which is quite a feat.
In most areas, you can get speeds up to 200 Mbps—plenty of speed for most activities. There are also more budget-friendly options, such as a 25 Mbps package that starts at $44.99. And, of course, you can bundle your internet service with TV and phone to save some money.
CenturyLink offers its fiber internet service in select markets only, but those markets get all the benefits of a fiber connection, including Gigabit speeds and equal upload and download speed. Other areas get significantly slower speeds—typically DSL, at around 12 Mbps. Some plans go up to 40 Mbps, which is likely enough for the majority of users, but gamers and heavy downloaders are likely to be left wanting.
Like with Xfinity, you can bundle your internet with TV and phone service to keep things convenient and save a little money. Generally, if you’re going to have both internet and television service, it makes sense to bundle them and stick with a single provider.
More About the Providers
Xfinity is provided by Comcast Cable Communications. The company serves over twenty-two million customers in the United States.
CenturyLink provides TV, internet, and phone service across thirty-seven states in the US, with the largest coverage area being Utah. It is the third largest telecommunications company in the US, behind AT&T and Verizon.