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AT&T vs. Spectrum internet: Two leading ISPs compared

  • August 01, 2021

Trying to find the right internet provider can be difficult, especially when every company only highlights the good parts of their services. We took a look at two of the top internet providers: ATT and Spectrum, and pulled together a complete overview for consumers like you. We are here to settle the score on Spectrum vs. ATT internet.We take a look at all the pros and cons of each company, what features they offer, and peek into their customer service. This way you can decide which company will be the best fit for you or your business.

ATT vs. Spectrum Overview

Customer service

We’ll be frank — the internet industry has a bad reputation when it comes to customer service. Whether it’s incorrect billing, being passed through phone trees, no-show technicians, or faulty connections, dealing with your internet provider can be a nightmare. But when your connection goes out, calling is about your only option. To minimize the pain, we dug into third-party ratings from J.D. Power, Consumer Reports, and the American Satisfaction Index (ACSI), to gauge customer experience.

When the question of who has the best customer service is ATT vs. Spectrum internet, ATT fares better, but Spectrum follows closely behind and is improving. The 2019-2020 Telecommunications report of ACSI shows a 7% year over year increase in customer satisfaction for Spectrum from a score of 59 to 63, while ATT had a 1% decrease from 69 to 68. The industry average for internet service providers is 65. At the end of the day, both companies have a reputation for being reasonable and helpful when it comes to customer service. Your own experience will depend on your local agents.

Speed packages

The speed options you have, with both providers, will vary depending on where you live and what technology exists in your neighborhood. ATT offers both DSL and fiber-optic internet, but rarely in the same area. While its fiber network is widespread, ATT fiber is only available in a limited amount of U.S. zip codes. To check and make sure that the fiber network covers your area, take a look at their live coverage map. You’ve got a higher chance of having access to ATT’s DSL, which features multiple high-speed tiers, depending on your location. For example, a resident in one state may have the option of up to 100 Mbps — while a few states over a customer might have access to a higher or lower Mbps. ATT has the same price for all their internet customers, $49.99, so you’ll pay the same no matter what speed you’re getting with DSL or fiber. But you’ll be happy to know that ATT got the top rank in our review of the top DSL internet companies in the U.S.

Spectrum customers only have the option for cable internet. Depending on your location, the speed capabilities will differ, but customers have choices of up to 940 Mbps. Spectrum’s speed caters to heavy internet users and large households. If all you do is email and web browse, Spectrum’s plans will be an overkill. But users who stream, download, and play online will appreciate the generous runways (especially because the starting price is the same as ATT). And Spectrum pairs these high speeds with an unrestricted data allowance, which ensures that users are able to fully utilize the speeds offered to them without having to worry about any extra charges at the end of the month. If your current internet is feeling sluggish lately, you may want to try some of our tips to increase your internet speed.

Bundling options

One of the perks of bundling with ATT is that you don’t need to add a phone plan to get the best promotions. ATT acquired DirecTV last year and the merger opened up the options for bundling internet and TV services to save money. In our review of the best TV providers, we found DirecTV to be a fan favorite. It has an impressive DVR, great sports programming, and six channel packages to choose from. The TV/internet bundle will include a free year of HBO Max, and, if ordered online, customers get a $300 ATT Visa Reward card. And on ATT’s fiber internet bundles, you’ll also get unlimited data usage.

If you’re looking for TV and internet service, Spectrum’s options aren’t as generous. Bundling just those two services will only get you the lower promotional price. While this does not come with as many sign-on perks, it does keep things simple and straightforward. Customers do not have to set reminders on when the free promotions run out so they can either renew or cancel.  One of the most appealing bundle deals is the Triple Play Silver, it features 175+ channels with internet and phone service for $124.97 per month That makes it a better option for trial runs than ATT, whose plans all come with one- or two-year contracts and steep fees for terminating early.

So, which is right for me?

How to Compare Internet Companies

Start with availability

There’s a pretty good chance your choices won’t be Spectrum vs. ATT internet, since it’s possible that neither will service your address. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that 85% of U.S. households have two or fewer internet options. Big cable companies intentionally avoid competition in places where one provider may already have a dominating presence. As you embark on your search for internet service, it’s essential to first figure out which providers will service your address. You can check by plugging it into providers’ websites or using online resources like Allconnect. Once you know what providers are options, you can start comparing them.

Gauge your speed needs

As you’re comparing internet providers, speed plans will likely be the most important point of comparison. In order to know which plan is best for you, you’ll have to gauge how much speed your household needs. The FCC reports that 39 Mbps is the median home internet speed. After consulting with network experts and the FCC’s speed guide, we’ve built a tool to help you find a baseline speed that fits your usage.

Internet Speed Guide

We recommend you pair that speed with an appropriate data allowance too. Light internet users won’t need more than 500 GB of data. If your household uses the internet for more demanding activities (like gaming, downloading files, and HD streaming), you’ll be better off with at least 1 TB of monthly data.

Consider price holistically

The best deal won’t be as straightforward as the lowest price. The value of an internet package has several components to consider. Fees and post-contract price hikes are hidden aspects that could cost you down the line. We recommend reading contracts carefully for any small fees and the price of your plan after your contract is up.

Bundling opportunities can add value, too. You’ll often save at least $10 on each service you bundle, and equipment ($5-$15 monthly) and installation fees (upwards of $100) are waived in most bundle promotions.

ATT vs. Spectrum, who has the best internet service?

ATT is best for customer service and bundling options, while Spectrum wins in speed and reliability of service. But when it comes down to it, internet providers are pretty similar to each other, the best internet provider for you will depend on what features are a priority for your household — whether that’s speed, price, bundling opportunities, customer service, or equipment capabilities.  Maybe neither ATT nor Spectrum are available in your area, so you might want to check out our review of all the U.S. top-rated providers for head-to-head comparisons of the nation’s largest providers.

Should I buy my own router?

Our network experts recommend most people purchase their own router. Not only will you save money on rental fees (typically $10-$15 each month), but it can also help increase your internet quality. There’s a good chance all your neighbors are renting the same stock equipment as you, and they all operate on the same frequency — slowing everyone’s internet traffic. You can find routers at pretty much any price point, but we recommend investing at least $70. We found four favorite wireless routers for all kinds of internet users.

What types of internet connections are there?

There are a handful of different internet types — cable, DSL, fiber-optic, and satellite. The best will depend on what you most value from a provider. Cable internet uses coaxial cables built into the infrastructure of your neighborhood. It’s the most popular type and you’ll likely find fair speeds for reasonable prices. DSL uses existing telephone wires, and is generally less reliable but with widespread availability. Fiber-optic internet is the latest technology — it’s super fast and really reliable, but availability is limited. Satellite internet is available in all 50 states, and to many remote locations. But it’s speeds are limited, and prices aren’t competitive.

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