The service areas of Cox and CenturyLink don’t overlap much, but if you live in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, or Nevada, you may have the option to choose between the two. I recommend Cox Internet, but either one can be the better ISP for you depending on your location, budget, and speed requirements.
Both Cox and CenturyLink offer different types of internet services in different areas. In this review, I’ll compare Cox and CenturyLink and declare the better ISP for your location and needs. Let’s start with some background on Cox and CenturyLink that I’ll later use to compare the two ISPs.
Cox is primarily a cable internet provider that also offers all-fiber plans in some areas. It stands out for its transparent standard rates that don’t spike after a certain period. Plans range from 100 Mbps to 2000 Mbps at monthly rates between $49.99 and $149.99 per month (excluding discounts). Upload speeds depend on both the plan and location and range from 5 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Where all-fiber internet is available, the upload speeds are the same as the download speeds with each plan.
Cox is bringing fiber internet to more areas, but it’ll be long before it completely switches to fiber. For the time being, it’s adapting DOCSIS 4.0 technologies in its network to bring symmetrical multi-gig speeds to cable internet. The network already meets DOCSIS 3.1 specifications across 100% of Cox’s footprint. It’s currently the fastest ISP in Arizona and Arkansas and the second fastest ISP in the US overall according to Ookla Speedtest data.
Cox Internet is available in the following states, arranged in the descending order of population:
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Pros and Cons
|Wide AvailabilityGig speeds everywhereTransparent, standard pricesMultiple speed tiers30-day money-back guaranteeNo term contractsDiscounts with Affordable Connectivity ProgramSpeeds up to 2 Gbps||All plans have a data cap of 1.25 TB (1250 GB)Mostly available in urban areasSymmetrical speeds available in limited areas|
CenturyLink Internet is available in 16 states in the US. Its fiber plan is highly reliable and competitively priced, but its more widely available DSL service is only recommended in place areas where cable and fiber aren’t available.
The DSL option costs about $55 per month for a max download speed of 100 Mbps, although actual speeds may be lower in some areas. The fiber plan costs about $75 per month for a max download speed of 940 Mbps. This is among the more affordable fiber options out there, although the speeds available in your area may be lower.
In September 2020, CenturyLink changed its name to Lumen Technologies, while it still uses CenturyLink as a brand for its DLS and home phone services. Lumen now markets its fiber internet under the brand “Quantum Fiber.” It’s currently working on bringing gig and multi-gig fiber to more service areas.
CenturyLink Internet is available in the following states, arranged in the descending order of population:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
- North Dakota
Quantum Fiber is currently available in the following cities, arranged in the descending order of population:
- Phoenix, AZ
- Seattle, WA
- Denver, CO
- Portland, OR
- Las Vegas, NV
- Minneapolis, MN
- Tucson, AZ
- Colorado Springs, CO
- Omaha, NE
- Orlando, FL
- Des Moines, IA
- Boise, ID
- St. Paul, MN
- Albuquerque, NM
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Spokane, WA
- Tallahassee, FL
- Cheyenne, WY
- Ocala, FL
- Fort Meyers, FL
- Bozeman, MT
Pros and Cons
|Wide availabilityAlso available in suburban and rural areasAffordable fiber option99% network uptimeUnlimited dataNo term contractsSymmetrical speeds with fiber||Slow speeds with DSLLimited multi-gig internet availabilityFiber is not available everywhere|
Choosing Between Cox and CenturyLink
When to Choose CenturyLink Fiber (Quantum Fiber)
Quantum Fiber is a symmetrical internet service that only costs $70 per month. In my experience, Quantum Fiber is faster and more reliable than any cable internet service, including Cox Internet. However, paying $70 per month may not be justified for those who don’t use services that require high bandwidth, such as 4K streaming.
Choose CenturyLink Fiber (Quantum Fiber) if:
- You want symmetrical speeds
- You’re willing to pay for gig internet
- Quantum Fiber is available in your area
When to Choose Cox Fiber
The good thing about Cox Fiber Internet is that it’s available at the same prices as its cable counterpart. The plans are all the same where Cox fiber-to-the-home is available, only the speeds are symmetrical and more reliable. You can get a fiber connection even if you choose the 100 Mbps tier. However, Cox Fiber Internet is only available in a portion of Cox’s service areas.
Choose Cox Fiber if:
- Quantum Fiber is not available in your area
- You want to be able to choose from a range of fiber speed tiers
When to Choose Cox Cable
While fiber is undeniably superior to all other types of internet service, Cox cable comes pretty close to it. Cox Internet is powered by a hybrid fiber-coaxial network that meets DOCSIS 3.1 specifications everywhere. If fiber internet is not available in your area yet, Cox cable internet may be the next best thing.
Choose Cox Cable if:
- Fiber internet is not available in your area
- You want reliable high-speed internet
When to Choose CenturyLink DSL
DSL uses telephone lines to provide an internet connection, which has limited bandwidth for modern data rate requirements. Speeds with DSL max out at 100 Mbps—which is already much lower than fiber and cable—but actual speeds range from 5 to 50 Mbps.
If Quantum Fiber isn’t offered where you live, you’re much better off with Cox Internet. Still, DSL is superior to satellite internet—which has 31 Mbps average speed and horrible latency—and dial-up internet—which has a max speed of 0.056 Mbps.
Choose CenturyLink DSL if:
- Cox cable internet isn’t available where you live
- Your only other options are satellite or dial-up internet
Other Factors to Consider
CenturyLink Internet acknowledges the possibility of construction charges for new fiber installations. However, they demonstrate customer-friendliness by absorbing the first $1,500 of these charges. If installation is required, you will be responsible for the costs of installation to the extent they exceed $1500. If you’re a homeowner, this is an investment that will increase the market price of your house.
TV, Phone, and Additional Services
The choice between Cox Internet and CenturyLink Internet extends beyond just internet connectivity. Both providers offer additional services that cater to various entertainment and communication needs.
CenturyLink offers its own home phone service and collaborates with TV service providers to offer customers bundled options. On the other hand, Cox Internet takes a comprehensive approach by offering its own TV service, home phone service, and smart security service.
Reliable customer service is a critical aspect of any internet service provider’s offering. According to a Newsweek survey conducted in partnership with Statista, CenturyLink Internet has the best customer service among internet service providers with an impressive score of 7.43.
Cox Internet’s customer service reputation is also commendable, although it didn’t make it to Newsweek’s list of Best Customer Service 2021 companies. Cox does offer Cox Complete Care, which includes advanced tech support, internal wiring repairs, customer education, etc.
Latency is defined as the delay between data transmission and reception. It’s a crucial factor for online activities such as gaming, video conferencing, and real-time apps.
Fiber connections generally offer lower latency compared to cable connections, which makes Quantum Fiber superior in this regard. However, Cox Cable isn’t bad for gaming either. Its Elite Gamer service, a gaming VPN included with Cox Panoramic WiFi, utilizes smart routing to minimize latency during gaming sessions.
Fiber internet providers will have you believe that you need upload speed in the hundreds of Mbps, which cable can’t support. In reality, most people consume only a fraction of upstream data compared to their downstream data consumption. An average user will likely never use their max upload speed available with fiber internet. Symmetrical speeds are only a consequence of how fiber connections work compared to cable connections. It’s not a deliberate feature.
On the other hand, some people can benefit from higher upload speeds. For instance, professionals who go on video calls from home and gamers who live stream on Twitch may need an upload speed of up to 100 Mbps. So, if you’re opting for fiber solely for symmetrical speeds, reconsider your decision.
CenturyLink Fiber (Quantum Fiber) is one of the most affordable fiber options out there. However, CenturyLink provides its DSL service in most service areas, which is not fast enough for modern homes. Cox Internet is overall the better option with gig speeds available in almost all service areas.