Cable One vs. Century Link in Boise, Idaho

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Living in Boise (or the Treasure Valley) limits your Internet options to just two providers.  Your choice comes down to cable provider Cable ONE or DSL provider CenturyLink.  There are advantages and disadvantages with each company and this article will look behind the marketing to discover which service is deserving of your hard earned money.

Speed

For many areas in the valley, download speeds will not be an issue with either service.  Both providers offer up to 100 Mbps for most locations.  However, Cable ONE has launched their GigaONE service that offers screaming fast download speeds and much higher upload speeds at the varying levels of service.

CenturyLink has very slow upload speeds until you get to their 40 Mbps tier or higher.  This will impact some of your daily Internet tasks at the lower packages, but the typical everyday user probably won’t see an major impact.

Verdict: For the typical home user, it is a tie.  If you want the fastest Internet possible to download and upload content, the clear winner is Cable ONE.

Data Caps

Unfortunately data caps are in place with our current providers.  This can be extremely frustrating to users that want to simply stream Netflix, HBO Now, MLB.tv, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.  It doesn’t take very long while streaming in high definition before your data usage starts to get out of hand.

CenturyLink offers a 600 GB cap on all packages except for their lowest offering.  This is a decent amount of data for typical streaming needs, but moderate to heavy users will still need to pay attention to the data levels they are using.

Cable One has just a 300 GB limit on their starter package which isn’t enough for most users.  The one advantage they have is the higher tiers that progressively allow higher data amounts (up to 1100 GB).

Each service has a three strike policy.  If you go over the allotted amount of data with Cable ONE, you will be forced into a higher subscription level.  CenturyLink will start charging $10 per 50 GB of data usage in excess of your plan with a maximum additional charge of $50 per month.

Verdict: We all lose.  You can’t call a winner here.  Data caps are the way these companies will make extra revenue.  Slight edge could go to CenturyLink for offering twice as much data when comparing the Cable One “Starter” plan to the the CenturyLink 12 Mbps and higher plans.

Cost (What they don’t want you to see)

This is where the two companies make it difficult to find the real numbers.  Even when going through the signup process you only see the promotional prices.  In fact, the regular monthly prices for each service are difficult to find, or not even made available on the company website when looking at CenturyLink.

The tables below are what the companies don’t want you to see.  They show a simple breakdown of the introductory and regular prices once your initial promotions end.  Also listed are the upload speeds and data caps for each level offered by each company.

CenturyLink Speed Down Speed Up Cost Cap
1 year contract 7 Mbps 896 kbps $29.95 300 GB
 1 year contract 12 Mbps 896 kbps $29.95 600 GB
 1 year contract 20 Mbps 896 kbps $29.95 600 GB
 1 year contract 40 Mbps 5 Mbps $29.95 600 GB
 1 year contract 60 Mbps 10 Mbps $39.95 600 GB
 month to month 100 Mbps 50 Mbps $123.99 600 GB

 

CenturyLink Speed Down Speed Up Cost Cap
Regular price 7 Mbps 896 kbps $49.00 300 GB
Regular price 12 Mbps 896 kbps $54.00 600 GB
Regular price 20 Mbps 896 kbps $64.00 600 GB
Regular price 40 Mbps 5 Mbps $74.00 600 GB
Regular price 60 Mbps 10 Mbps $98.99 600 GB
Regular price 100 Mbps 50 Mbps $153.99 600 GB

 

Cable ONE Speed Down Speed Up Cost Cap
Lite 15 Mbps 1 Mbps $40.00 50 GB
Starter * 100 Mbps 3 Mbps $55.00 300 GB
Family 150 Mbps 5 Mbps $80.00 500 GB
Streamer/Gamer 200 Mbps 10 Mbps $105.00 700 GB
Roommate 200 Mbps 10 Mbps $130.00 900 GB
Power 200 Mbps 10 Mbps $155.00 1100 GB
GigaOne 1000 Mbps 50 Mbps $175.00 1100 GB

* Cable ONE offers the “Starter” level of Internet service at a promotional rate of $35 for the first three months.

How much will each service cost over a three year period?  Let’s assume you already own the modem and like to stream movies and other media on a regular basis.

Cable ONE will cost a total $2745 over the three years.  The download speed will be nearly twice as fast, but the download cap will be 100 GB per month lower.

CenturyLink will cost a total of $2135.40 over the three years.  The download speed will be slower, but the data cap will be higher.

Verdict: CenturyLink wins.  The slower speeds will make no noticeable difference.  But, the 100 GB increase in the data cap is a big deal.  You essentially get 17% more data for 22% less cost.  In fact, the only advantage Cable ONE has with cost is over the first three months and then CenturyLink continues to save you money.

Power Users

What if you’re a power user?  This is where things get a little more interesting.  By selecting the “Power” plan with Cable ONE you will get some decent advantages over CenturyLink. First is twice the speed with a 200 Mbps compared to 100 Mbps.  While the cost is 7% higher with Cable ONE ($5580 vs. $5183.64) the data cap will give you a whopping 83% more data when selecting Cable ONE.

Verdict: Cable ONE wins.  If you want the fastest speeds for both downloads and uploads, the choice is simple.  Plus, with the higher data cap, you’ll be able to use those high speeds for longer before you start getting those nasty emails from the accounting department.

And, for just $20 more per month, you can go from 200 Mbps to the GigaONE service at 1000 Mbps.  Yes, the data cap stays at 1100 GB per month, but your upload speeds jump to 50 Mbps.

Final Thoughts

It depends on what your requirements are for Internet use.  For most users that stream and surf the net, CenturyLink appears to be the most cost effective solution.

For the power user that does online computer backups, downloads games, and streams often, the choice becomes clear.  Go with Cable ONE for the price-to-performance winner.

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