Comcast vs. CenturyLink Internet: An In-Depth Comparison

As two of the largest internet service providers (ISPs) in the United States, Comcast Xfinity and CenturyLink (now Lumen Technologies) have been competing for American households‘ business for decades. With seemingly similar offerings at comparable price points, many wonder – how exactly do Comcast and CenturyLink compare when it comes to home internet services?

In this 2000+ word guide, we‘ll analyze the key differences between these two telecom giants to help you determine which provider is the better fit for your home.

A Brief History of Comcast and CenturyLink

First, let‘s discuss the backgrounds of these two companies.

Comcast dates back to 1963 when it was founded as a small cable operator called American Cable Systems. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, it took on the Comcast name in 1969. Known for its cable TV and internet services marketed under the Xfinity brand since 2010, Comcast has grown into the nation‘s largest cable provider and second largest ISP.

CenturyLink has its origins as the Oak Ridge Telephone Company established in 1930 in Louisiana. It operated under various names like Century Telephone and CenturyTel as it expanded into one of the largest local exchange carriers in the 1990s. A merger with internet provider Savvis in 2011 helped spark CenturyLink‘s growth into business services. After acquiring Level 3 Communications in 2017, the company rebranded itself as Lumen Technologies in 2020. However, its consumer internet division still operates under the trusted CenturyLink name.

Now that we‘ve traced their histories, let‘s see how today‘s Comcast Xfinity and CenturyLink internet offerings stack up.

Availability and Coverage

When it comes to availability, Comcast Xfinity edges out CenturyLink in terms of overall footprint. According to recent data, Xfinity provides cable internet access to nearly 40 states. Its coverage is densest across Northeastern and Midwestern states.

CenturyLink‘s fiber and DSL internet is available in about 37 states – slightly less than Xfinity‘s range. However, CenturyLink tends to focus more on Western and Southern states with sparser populations. So depending on your location in the U.S., your options between the two may vary.

Both ISPs offer lookup tools on their websites to easily check availability by address. As a rule of thumb, Xfinity utilizes cable and fiber networks to deliver internet to more urban and suburban areas. CenturyLink is more likely to serve customers in rural locations with its mix of DSL and fiber, but isn‘t as widespread as Comcast infrastructure.

Internet Offerings Compared

Now, let‘s explore how CenturyLink and Xfinity‘s internet service offerings differ when it comes to speed, technology type, and monthly pricing.

Xfinity Internet Plans

  • Cable internet via coaxial cables
  • Up to 1Gbps with some fiber availability
  • 9 plan options ranging from $20-300 per month
  • Speeds from 25Mbps-1200Mbps download

CenturyLink Internet Plans

  • Mix of DSL and fiber optic networks
  • Up to 1Gbps fiber speeds offered
  • 12+ plan options ranging $20-$65 per month
  • Speeds from 12Mbps-940Mbps

A key contrast is that CenturyLink incorporates more fiber connectivity, while Comcast relies predominantly on cable internet transmitted through coaxial cables.

Fiber optic technology supports faster maximum speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connections compared to traditional cable. So CenturyLink edges out Xfinity when it comes to performance potential for those with fiber availability.

However, in terms of affordability, CenturyLink offers cheaper internet packages. Its lowest-tier plan starts at just $20 per month for 12Mbps speeds, while Xfinity‘s is $30 monthly for 25Mbps. Overall, CenturyLink boasts better value for money when examining speed-per-dollar.

Bundles, Fees and Contracts

Now, let‘s explore what kinds of bundles and packages these two ISPs provide.

Xfinity Bundles

  • "Double Play" packages – Internet + TV or Internet + Phone
  • "Triple Play" – Internet +TV + Home Phone
  • Availability varies by location
  • Service commitments of 12-24 months

CenturyLink Bundles

  • Internet + Home Phone
  • Internet + DirecTV (owned by AT&T)
  • No contracts or commitments

A key advantage CenturyLink provides here is no long term contracts. Their internet bundles allow flexibility to change or cancel service at any time without early termination fees.

Comcast Xfinity bundles can offer greater convenience by combining more services together. However, subscribers must commit to 1-2 year agreements for the best rates. So CenturyLink promotes more subscriber freedom.

In terms of equipment, fees and installation pricing, Comcast tends to cost less upfront. Self-installation kits start at $0 while professional setup runs about $40 with Xfinity. CenturyLink does not offer self-installation and requires $99 or higher install fees. Monthly equipment rentals are also lower with Xfinity by a few dollars difference.

Data caps are another major consideration many consumers make. All Xfinity plans carry 1.2TB monthly data caps while CenturyLink fiber and DSL plans are unlimited. Going over your cap on Comcast results in $10 overage charges per 50GB. So CenturyLink again is the less restrictive option for home data use.

Customer Satisfaction and Reliability Differences

When choosing an internet provider, customer service and network reliability also play pivotal roles. How do our two contenders compare on these fronts?

In 2022, Comcast Xfinity earned an ACSI customer satisfaction score of 62 out of 100 – a "fair" rating but lower than many competitors. CenturyLink came in very close with a score of 64 for a bit more favorable reviews.

Third party studies into network reliability have found Comcast also trails top providers with average connection uptime of approximately 99.9% yearly. CenturyLink fairs better at 99.99% or higher availability annually across most regions.

So while their customer satisfaction is similar, CenturyLink does appear to offer superior network reliability metrics on a nationwide level. This results in potentially fewer outages and service disruptions throughout the year for its subscriber base.

CenturyLink vs Xfinity – Which is Better For You?

When all factors around availability, speeds, technology reliability are considered together – CenturyLink takes a slight edge for best overall value. While Comcast Xfinity has wider overall availability, CenturyLink counters with cheaper monthly costs, fiber speeds where offered, no data caps, and higher demonstrated network reliability.

However, because availability is so location-specific, I recommend starting your search by determining which providers service your neighborhood. Use the address lookup tools to confirm if CenturyLink services your home. Since Comcast infrastructure covers a larger territory, chances may be good they can provide service if CenturyLink cannot.

If you have access to both, then weighing CenturyLink‘s unlimited data, no contracts freedom and network resilience against Comcast‘s faster maximum speeds and triple play bundles can steer you towards the right provider for your needs.

Hopefully this comprehensive overview has provided helpful insights to choose between CenturyLink or Xfinity. As the number two largest ISP overall, Comcast does maintain an advantage in reach. But CenturyLink frequently wins on performance and value – especially for fiber internet subscribers.

5 Must-Know Home Internet Statistics for 2023

To close this guide, let‘s also review a few noteworthy statistics all home internet shoppers should know this year:

  • As of 2022, 83% of U.S. homes are connected to broadband internet service – an all time high
  • Average internet speeds now exceed 124Mbps downstream in the U.S., a 33% yearly increase
  • Housholds now own an average of 13 internet-connected devices in the home
  • 78% of customers rank internet service as "very important" to daily life
  • The global average internet speed is just below 40Mbps

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Comcast the same as Xfinity?

Yes. Comcast is the parent brand and company name while Xfinity is the consumer-facing brand used to market its internet and TV products.

Is CenturyLink still around?

Yes. After merging with Level 3 Communications and renaming itself Lumen Technologies, the company kept the CenturyLink brand for its residential and small business services.

Does Xfinity have fiber optic internet?

Comcast Xfinity provides fiber in select areas of the country and offers fiber plans with symmetrical gigabit speeds. However, coaxial cable networks make up most of its infrastructure.

Does CenturyLink have data caps?

No. All of CenturyLink‘s DSL and fiber home internet plans come with unlimited data and no overage charges.

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