centurylink modem

CenturyLink Gigabit Internet Review (updated)

Google brought the concept of a consumer gigabit connection to the public’s attention when they announced (in 2011) and subsequently released their gigabit internet and TV service in Kansas City in late 2012.

Google’s goal seemed to be to “shame” other internet service providers (ISPs) into better service by showing that it can be done, or at least making consumers aware that it could be done, which would hopefully lead to those consumers putting pressure on other ISPs nationwide.

The effect on ISPs that were located where Google announced they would be offering gigabit service was visible. Connection speeds increased (though no where near what Google could offer) and promises were made that faster service would be available from companies besides Google. But has it had any effect on the rest of the nation?

Enter CenturyLink. Omaha, Nebraska and Las Vegas, Nevada were two cities where CenturyLink decided to launch their gigabit service. In the case of Omaha, there was a large amount of dark fiber (fiber lines that are already laid down but remained unused) put there by a previous company who CenturyLink purchased. With that infrastructure in place, all that needed to be done was running fiber directly to the homes where the service was purchased—much easier (and cheaper) than having to lay down fiber in completely new areas. Because of this, the gigabit service is only available to homes in a chunk of West Omaha and northwest Las Vegas neighborhoods.

Install

centurylink box

The install took about 2 hours. Fiber was ran from the nearby box directly to the house. It wasn’t burried at this time since it’s winter and the ground is hard (the technician said that will be done in a couple of months). From CenturyLink’s junction box, ethernet cable was ran to an outlet that was installed inside the house.

The modem is a Technicolor C2000T. It can be used for bonded DSL connections or for gigabit fiber with its 1GB WAN/LAN port. It has a built in 4 port gigabit switch and wireless N capabilities.

settings page

I am actually impressed with its management page, it seems full-featured and has a nice interface. The Prism DVR box is connected directly to the modem along with an accessory device that allows for wireless video to remote boxes. Everything else on my network is fed by the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 router. I left the Nighthawk’s router capabilities on, though it’s usually recommended not to have two devices handling the router functions. I found that speed was not affected when compared to running the router as a simple access point.

Speed

So, the all important question—how’s the speed?

From what I can tell so far, I am getting the fastest possible connection rate from any website I visit or download from. For some, that’s not really too much different from what I had with my 30 megabit cable connection. For others, the difference is large.

Speed test results have not approached 1000/1000. I have attempted downloading large files from several different sources and it seems the connection is around 300mbps right now. I haven’t decided if I should call CenturyLink and inquire about this or not…I would almost feel ridiculous “complaining” about a 300 megabit symmetrical connection. However, it isn’t what they’re advertising, so maybe I’ll look into it at some point. Video below shows two consecutive speed tests from different servers.

Update 2/1/2014: I bypassed my gigabit switch and saw a dramatic increase in speeds. The fastest speedtest.net server I found maxed out at about 510mbps, so I ran three tests simultaneously from different servers and got a combined ~800mbps download and upload. So…hooking up directly to the CenturyLink modem does make a difference, even if your switches are rated for one gigabit.

Update 2/6/14: Ran speedtest hosted by CenturyLink and got near one gig speeds (picture below).

centurylink_speedtest

Another thing to note is that I do also have Prism TV service which runs on the same fiber network which does reserve some bandwidth for itself, but I doubt it is a large amount since Prism is available for non-gigabit internet customers.

Impressions

I have had the gigabit connection for six days so far. At this time I am very pleased, especially now that I am getting much closer to the advertised 1000mbps speeds. It may not be running at what is advertised (again, I might contact them about this)

From what I can tell, I am usually getting the fastest connection possible to the servers I am connected to. For example, uploading the above video to YouTube went at about 20mbps (according to Windows Take Manager-Performance tab). This was immediately after running speed tests showing the connection is capable of over 25 times that speed.

Over time, websites, or more correctly, the servers that power those websites, will catch up to these connection speeds as they get more popular. It is comforting knowing that the connection I have is somewhat future-proof.

The big plus at this time is that multiple users in the same household can use bandwidth-heavy applications or view bandwidth-heavy applications, all at the same time while still having a great experience.

The icing on the cake—no bandwidth caps. CenturyLink has stated that, at least for now, their excessive use policy will not apply to customers with their gigabit service.

 

16 thoughts on “CenturyLink Gigabit Internet Review (updated)”

  1. Did you ever figure out why the gigabit switch was causing the slowdown? I just upgraded to the 1 Gig Century service and I can get about 800 connecting directly to the Centurylink modem but if I put my gigabit switch in between (which I need for all of my network ports) my speed drops to 100.

    1. Most Gigabit switches/soho routers will not actually provide gigabit throughput speeds on individual LAN ports. smallbuilder.net has a lot of performance and throughput tests you can review to get the most out of your connection by choosing the right home device. Typically to get a router/switch combination that can utilize Gig speeds, you are going to have to spend some money. That type of performance has typically only been found at the Enterprise level and other categories just haven’t caught up yet.

  2. Great review. I just signed up for fiber service in denver (100mb tier). I’m curious if with prismtv – you can record/watch 4 tuners in HD? Or just 2?

    Thanks!

    1. I’ve gotten much more regular 850-900+ Speed Tests since I initially wrote this post. I’ll try out dslreports speedtest; I’ve only used speedtest.net and CenturyLink’s own test (which is powered by Ookla).

  3. Brandon – I’m curious if you’ve tried removing the C2000T entirely and only using your Nighthawk? I had the exact same equipment you do initially. But I later removed the C2000T because it wasn’t giving me any value (http://kmwoley.com/blog/?p=3184). I’m not using the full gigabit service (I’m only paying for 40 down / 5 up), so I can’t test if the gigabit performance has changed – I’d be curious if you would see a difference with the same setup.

    1. I haven’t tried removing the C2000T because I didn’t think I could! I’ll read your blog post and maybe try that out sometime this weekend. Thanks!

  4. Have you tried to bridged the technicolor? I am pretty sure you will get faster speeds in your netgear nighthawk

  5. Well the C2000T has an hardware accelerator which your Netgear CPE doesn’t have.
    What does that mean ?
    It means that the stream (TCP/UDP) of data can bypass the CPU and be forward to small processor to accelerate the traffic. The C2000T can do 1.8Gbps aggregate, but you will never be able to test this on the Clink network.

  6. I would say the main thing to take away is that an individual user will hardly ever achieve these speeds as of now. It is still a great connection for multiple users watching netflix or vudu at the same time, but I have yet to break 350 Mbps for any one application, even threaded apps like Bit Torrent which since they come from multplie sources I thought for sure I could get some amazing speeds.

    1. I agree that it’s definitely not being fully utilized for individual users at this time.

      The fastest speeds I’ve got were from freebsd.org, downloading their Linux ISO. I hit 80MB/s (so, ~640mbps).

      Is your PC that you’re testing from hooked directly to the CenturyLink modem/router? My own router (arguably the best available, Netgear Nighthawk) which is hooked to the CenturyLink modem/router had my PC capped out at 350 mbps. When I switched it to direct connection the the CenturyLink modem/router, my max speeds jumped up over double. I still haven’t figured out why that is, since the Netgear should handle those speeds no problem.

    2. Actually, it was my other gigabit switch that was slowing me to about 300mbps. With the Nighthawk I could still get about 500mbps. Still slower than directly connected to CL modem though.

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