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Xfinity has fast, reliable cable internet packages and one super speedy (and super expensive) fiber plan—some of which are available without contracts (for a fee). And its xFi Advanced Gateway is a pretty sweet modem/router combo.
If you’re an internet god with disposable income, or a large family in need of maximum bandwidth, Xfinity’s equipment, reliability, speed, and value are for you.
CenturyLink has slower, less reliable DSL internet packages with fixed prices, no contracts, and the Price for Life guarantee. It also has a fiber plan that’s half the speed of Xfinity’s, but 80% cheaper—and still plenty fast. But it’s not eligible for Price for Life. Also, CenturyLink’s modems are a mystery.
We recommend CenturyLink for everyone from independent singles to couples to families who don’t need super-fast speeds or surprise rate hikes.
✓ Fast, reliable speeds
✓ xFi Advanced Gateway XB7 modem/router
✓ Free Flex streaming device/service
✗ Fees for no-contract plans
✓ Price for Life
✓ No contracts
✓ Cheaper fiber service
✗ Poor range of speeds
Xfinity offers its internet-only customers a free streaming device/service called Flex. It offers hundreds of live TV channels and many thousands of on-demand movies and shows from Xfinity’s deep on-demand library as well as its integration of free streaming services like Pluto, Xumo, and Tubi.
Flex also works with your Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and HBO subscriptions, with Hulu and NBC’s Peacock services coming soon.
CenturyLink offers a free modem and installation (combined $299 value) for new customers when they sign up for the Fiber Gigabit plan online.
|Type of service||Cable||DSL, Fiber|
|Download speeds||15–2,000 Mbps||15–940 Mbps|
|Data cap||1 TB||1 TB|
|Contract||On most plans |
(additional fee for no-contract plans)
|Installation fee||Self-installation: starts at $15.00|
Pro installation: $89.99
Pro installation: $99.00†
|Modem/router rental fee||$14.00/mo.||$10.00/mo.|
|View Xfinity plans||View CenturyLink plans|
Data effective 12/14/20. Not all offers available in all areas. *Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. **Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply. Speeds may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection. †Tech installation required for 80–100 Mbps plans.
|Package||Price||Download and upload speed|
|Performance Starter||$29.99/mo.||Download: 25 Mbps|
Upload: 2 Mbps
|Performance||$34.99/mo.||Download: 75 Mbps|
Upload: 5 Mbps
|Performance Pro||$49.99/mo.||Download: 200 Mbps|
Upload: 5 Mbps
|Blast! Pro||$64.99/mo.||Download: 300 Mbps|
Upload: 10 Mbps
|Extreme Pro||$74.99/mo.||Download: 600 Mbps|
Upload: 15 Mbps
|Performance Pro (no contract)*||$70.00/mo.||Download: 200 Mbps|
Upload: 5 Mbps
|Gigabit||$84.99/mo.||Download: 1,000 Mbps|
Upload: 35 Mbps
|Blast! Pro (no contract*)||$80.00/mo.||Download: 300 Mbps|
Upload: 10 Mbps
|Extreme Pro (no contract)*||$90.00/mo.||Download: 600 Mbps|
Upload: 15 Mbps
|Gigabit Pro||$299.95/mo.||Download: 2,000 Mbps|
Upload: 2,000 Mbps
Data effective 12/14/20. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. † For the first 12 months. ‡ For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement. * With a 2-year agreement
Since cable internet technology is faster and more reliable than DSL, Xfinity has the edge over most CenturyLink plans. Most Xfinity plans require contracts (some are available month-to-month for a fee), but most of CenturyLink’s plans do not.
Regarding value, Xfinity’s cable plans are at once cheaper and more expensive than CenturyLink’s DSL plans. Xfinity’s Performance Starter ($29.99 a month) and Performance ($34.99 a month) are 30%–33% cheaper than CenturyLink’s two slowest plans, with 20%–40% faster speeds.
The next plan up, Performance Pro ($49.99 a month), gives you 200 Mbps. That’s double CenturyLink’s highest DSL speed for only a dollar more (CenturyLink’s DSL plans are all $49 monthly, regardless of speed).
Plot twist! When we get into fiber speeds, CenturyLink’s a better value than Xfinity. We explore this more after the table.
|Package||Price‡||Download and upload speed|
|CenturyLink Fiber Internet||$65/mo.†||Download: 940 Mbps|
Upload: 940 Mbps
|Price for Life Up To 100 Mbps||$49/mo.||Download: 100 Mbps|
Upload: 30 Mbps
Data effective 12/14/20. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. † Fiber plan not eligible for Price for Life. ‡ Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
CenturyLink’s five DSL internet plans all cost $49 whether you’re getting 15 or 100 Mbps, and they all qualify for CenturyLink’s Price for Life guarantee, which promises no rate hikes for the life of your plan.
CenturyLink Fiber Internet plan ($65 a month) gives you download and upload speeds up to 940 Mbps, but it’s not eligible for Price for Life.
For the same 65 bucks, Xfinity’s Blast! Pro (technically $64.99 a month) offers only 300 Mbps, and Extreme Pro ($74.99) gives you 600 Mbps. When Xfinity finally gets up to 1,000 Mbps with the Gigabit plan, it runs $84.99 a month.
But now, instead of comparing CenturyLink DSL plans with Xfinity cable plans, we’re comparing Xfinity’s cable speeds with CenturyLink’s fiber internet. Fiber is faster and more reliable than cable, and only fiber gives you symmetrical download and upload speeds.
What does that mean? Well, with Xfinity’s cable Gigabit plan, you get speeds up to 1,000 Mbps (download) and 35 Mbps (upload). CenturyLink’s Fiber Internet gives you more reliability, plus up to 940 Mbps (down and up)—for $20 less per month.
So, if you can get fiber where you live, that’s what you want.
Neither Xfinity nor CenturyLink hit you with fees or extra charges on your monthly bill. Huzzah!
|Professional installation fee||$89.99||$99|
|Schedule a Xfinity installation||Schedule a CenturyLink installation|
Both Xfinity and CenturyLink offer self-installation at a deep discount (83% and 100%, respectively), so DIY is the way to go.
Don’t fret, technophobes: self-installation is easy. You don’t even have to do it yourself. Just order the self-installation kits and offer 20 bucks to a friend or neighbor. You’ll still save big over the pro-install price—and you won’t have to take time off of work to meet the installation tech.
Then again, letting the professionals do it does give you peace of mind. And it’s probably going to go faster since they do this stuff all the time, which means you can enjoy most of that half-day escape from work. Is that worth $90–$100, though? That’s up to you.
|Modem/router model||Xfinity xFi Advanced Gateway (XB7)||CenturyLink mystery modem/router|
|Purchase price (through provider)||Rental only||$200|
|Supported speeds||300 Mbps–1.5 Gbps||15–940 Mbps|
|Standard||DOCSIS 3.0||DOCSIS 3.0|
|Modem channels||Four dual-band||Unavailable|
|Ethernet ports||4 (one 2.5 Gbps, three 1 Gbps)||Unavailable|
|View Xfinity plans|
View CenturyLink plans
Xfinity’s xFi Gateway modem/router combos are popular with its customers—79% of them use one instead of a third-party option. The xFi Advanced Gateway XB7 is brand new and made for connections of at least 300 Mbps up to 1.5 Gbps.
You can’t buy the XB7 outright—you have to lease one from Xfinity for $14 a month. But leasing isn’t all bad because you’ll get free replacements if the unit fails and a free subscription to Xfinity’s Advanced Cybersecurity service (reg. $5.99 a month).
CenturyLink rents modem/routers for $15 a month and sells them for $200. But it won’t tell us which models go for that price. Instead, a rep sent us a list of CenturyLink-compatible devices. If you’d like to learn about those, here’s our guide to the best CenturyLink-compatible modems.
Although it’s 40% more expensive, we recommend Xfinity’s souped-up xFi Advanced Gateway over CenturyLink’s mystery box.
Overall rating: 4.03/5.00
Overall rating: 3.99/5.00
|% Using provider’s modem||79%||64%|
|Install and setup||4.27||4.11|
|% Pro install||57%||50%|
|Bundle with TV||67%||0|
In our 2019 customer satisfaction survey of internet providers, Xfinity finished in 4th place with an overall score of 4.03 out of 5. CenturyLink came in 6th place with 3.99.
In the table above, the bold numbers show which provider had the edge in each category. There wasn’t a ton of variance between them. Xfinity rated higher in technical categories, while CenturyLink fared better when it came to customer support, billing, and value.
Xfinity offers double- and triple-play bundles that include up to 260+ channels and internet speeds up to 500 Mbps. Double-play bundles range from $79.99 to $139.99 a month. Triple-play bundles run from $119.99 to $159.99 a month.
Unfortunately, since breaking off its relationship with DIRECTV, CenturyLink does not currently offer bundling with TV—just home phone service. We’ll update this article if CenturyLink pairs up with a new TV provider.
Wanna know what else is out there besides Xfinity and CenturyLink? Use this handy ZIP-finder tool to see offers from other internet providers in your area.
For equipment, reliability, speed, and value, Xfinity is your best bet. CenturyLink’s Price for Life DSL plans, however, are good for people who don’t need super-fast speeds—and like the idea of never experiencing a rate hike.
CenturyLink’s internet plans are DSL and fiber.
Xfinity is mainly a cable internet service provider, but it also offers a single fiber internet plan.
We suggest a minimum of 25 Mbps to accommodate all of the devices and services in your home. You can do a lot of streaming and gaming with that much speed, even on multiple devices at once.
Remember, though, that internet service providers guarantee only up to whatever speed comes with your plan. So you’ll first want to check with your provider to see what speeds you can get at your location.
If, after checking, you qualify for more speed than you need—and it fits your budget—consider paying for the next-fastest plan to accommodate for slow-downs that may occur.
DSL is good for streaming, but cable and fiber internet are faster and more reliable.