AT&T vs. Spectrum

  • Fast speeds
  • Variety of plans
  • Limited fiber coverage
  • Simple package choices
  • Wide availability
  • Fewer plan options

Update: HBO Max, AT&T’s blockbuster streaming platform, launches on May 27, 2020. If you’re signed up for AT&T’s Internet 1000 plan, then you get a subscription for free. The service lets you tap into everything on HBO®, original content, and thousands of titles from Warner Entertainment. Yup, that includes a Friends cast reunion and Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon.

Bottom line

AT&T is perfect for speed demons who don’t want to pay too much. Packages like Internet 1000 give you all the bandwidth you could want at an affordable price. Unfortunately, the gigabit fiber plan is still limited to select metropolitan markets.

Spectrum offers a faster average speed over its coverage area, thanks to extensive cable infrastructure. It also has wider availability, so it makes a great choice for customers in more rural areas that fall outside AT&T’s fiber coverage zones.

Both providers offer solid customer experiences and reasonable pricing, so it’s hard to go wrong with these two.

Ready for new Internet service? Enter your zip code to compare packages in your area.

Comparing AT&T vs. Spectrum

AT&T Spectrum

Type of service

DSL, Fiber

Type of service

Cable

Introductory price

$35/mo. for 12 months

Introductory price

$49.99/mo. for 12 months

Contract

None

Contract

None

Download speeds

768k–940 Mbps

Download speeds

Up to 940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

Equipment fees

$10.00/mo.

Equipment fees

$5.00/mo. for router (optional)

Installation fee

$99.00; $35.00 for self-install

Installation fee

$49.99; $9.99 for self-install

Customer satisfaction

(3.83/5)

Customer satisfaction

(3.81/5)

View AT&T plansView Spectrum plans
AT&T

Type of service

DSL, Fiber

Spectrum

Type of service

Cable

AT&T

Introductory price

$35/mo. for 12 months

Spectrum

Introductory price

$49.99/mo. for 12 months

AT&T

Contract

None

Spectrum

Contract

None

AT&T

Download speeds

768k–940 Mbps

Spectrum

Download speeds

Up to 940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

AT&T

Equipment fees

$10.00/mo.

Spectrum

Equipment fees

$5.00/mo. for router (optional)

AT&T

Installation fee

$99.00; $35.00 for self-install

Spectrum

Installation fee

$49.99; $9.99 for self-install

AT&T

Customer satisfaction

(3.83/5)

Spectrum

Customer satisfaction

(3.81/5)

AT&T View AT&T plans
Spectrum View Spectrum plans

Packages and pricing

Let’s jump right into the meat and potatoes: what packages do these providers offer, and how much is service going to cost you?

AT&T packages

PackageIntro. PriceSpeedInternet type
Internet 100$35/mo.*Up to 100 MbpsDSL
Internet 1000$60/mo.†940 MbpsFiber
PackageInternet 100
Intro. Price$35/mo.*
SpeedUp to 100 Mbps
Internet typeDSL
PackageInternet 1000
Intro. Price$60/mo.†
Speed940 Mbps
Internet typeFiber

AT&T offers two packages—the bare-bones Internet Up to 100 Mbps and the blazing-fast Internet 1000.

The Internet Up to 100 Mbps plan offers a variety of speeds based on what’s available in your area, so it could be quite low or relatively fast. Overall, the prices are reasonable here. We do think it’s worth jumping to the Internet 1000 plan if it’s offered where you live. As an added bonus, signing up to Internet 1000 gets you a free subscription to HBO Max, AT&T’s new streaming service, which is chock full of content from HBO and Warner Entertainment. HBO Max launches on May 27, 2020.

Otherwise you’ll be good to go if you can get an Internet Up to 100 Mbps plan if it’s 25 Mbps or faster. (The Federal Communications Commission defines 25 Mbps as the base level for high-speed broadband internet.)

There are also bundles available with TV and phone service. AT&T bundles with AT&T TV and DIRECTV satellite TV. DIRECTV is excellent, especially for sports fans. We like the DIRECTV XTRA + AT&T Internet bundle, which gets you 235+ channels along with internet and phone service. It’s a lot of bang for your buck at $104.99 per month.

Spectrum packages

Package nameIntroductory price*Download speedType of service
Spectrum Internet Assist**$14.99/mo. for qualifying households30 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)Cable
Spectrum Internet®$49.99/mo. for 12 mo.*100 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)Cable
Spectrum Internet Ultra$69.99/mo. for 12 mo.*400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)Cable
Spectrum Internet Gig$109.99/mo. for 12 mo.*940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)Cable
Package nameSpectrum Internet Assist**
Introductory price*$14.99/mo. for qualifying households
Download speed30 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
Type of serviceCable
Package nameSpectrum Internet®
Introductory price*$49.99/mo. for 12 mo.*
Download speed100 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
Type of serviceCable
Package nameSpectrum Internet Ultra
Introductory price*$69.99/mo. for 12 mo.*
Download speed400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
Type of serviceCable
Package nameSpectrum Internet Gig
Introductory price*$109.99/mo. for 12 mo.*
Download speed940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)
Type of serviceCable

Spectrum keeps it simple with its Internet packages, with high-speed plans that range from up to 100 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) for $49.99 per month for 12 months, and up to 940 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) for $109.99 per month for 12 months.

This is both good and bad. It makes choosing a plan easy. (Just look at all the AT&T plans above!) But if you don’t need the fastest speed, you could be paying for service you’re not using.

As for Spectrum bundles, we like the Triple Play Silver. It offers 175+ channels with internet and phone service for $124.97 per month†.

Important features

Speed

When it comes to speed, AT&T seems to have a clear advantage, since its gigabit plan is cheaper than Spectrum’s. Those fast 1 gig plans aren’t widely available, though, because it’s on a fiber network. So, depending on the area, you may end up with a more accessible option by going with Spectrum.

Want to know what speeds are available in your area? We’ve got you covered: enter your zip code below to see available packages.

Internet type

AT&T Internet comes in two flavors, depending on the plan you choose: DSL or fiber. Fiber tends to be both faster and more reliable than other types of connections, including DSL. But the catch is that it’s not always available.

Spectrum is a cable provider. Cable falls somewhere in between DSL and fiber in terms of speed and reliability. Again, though, which of these providers is faster depends more on where you’re located than anything else, since infrastructure varies so much from place to place.

Equipment

ISPs (Internet service providers) provide modems and routers to customers, so you can use your service right away without having to go out and buy anything else. However, if you already have equipment or have a specific need that the included gear doesn’t meet, you can grab your own. Which option is right for you?

Advantages to using AT&T and Spectrum equipment

Modems and routers are pretty reliable devices, but if you do encounter an issue and need to reach out to tech support, you’ll probably have an easier time with the ISP-provided gear. Technicians are more familiar with it and have better documentation on it as well.

5 reasons to use third-party equipment

On the other hand, some users find the ISP-provided gear doesn’t quite meet their needs. Some reasons include the following:

  1. You live in an unusually large house and need extended range.
  2. You live in an average-sized house but still can’t get a decent signal strength.
  3. You have a lot of devices on the network at once.
  4. You have devices that aren’t compatible with the provided equipment.
  5. You need a feature offered only by a third party, like a gaming mode.

Upgrading your equipment

If you do want to upgrade, you’ve got a ton of options.

For streaming Netflix and binge-watching movies and shows, our best streaming routers guide has top recommendations on equipment that will get you the lowest buffering and maximize your bandwidth capacity.

If you live in a big home and lots of people are using devices regularly on your home network, our long-range routers guide will give you plenty of insights on long-range routers and mesh networks. You can also take a gander at our top picks for modem/router combos—this gets you two pieces of WiFi equipment for the price of one.

Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s compatible with your ISP. Spectrum provides a list of approved devices you can use with its network.

Customer experience

These days, the customer service and support a company provides is just as important as the product. Customers want to be treated like they matter—otherwise, they’ll take their business elsewhere. How do AT&T and Spectrum measure up?

Installation

AT&T and Spectrum both charge an installation fee, but AT&T’s whopping $99.00 fee can be harder to stomach than the $49.95 charged by Spectrum. There’s not much you can do about this, short of asking for the fee to be waived, and we’d definitely recommend you do that. You can also get the fee waived with either brand if you opt for self-installation—instead you’ll just have to pay a $35 “activation fee” from AT&T or $9.99 for a self-installation kit from Spectrum.

As for the installation itself, the process should be fairly simple regardless of which provider you go with. We haven’t heard any major complaints about either AT&T or Spectrum.

Customer service

AT&T

Overall Customer Service Rating:

(3.83/5)

Spectrum

Overall Customer Service Rating:

(3.84/5)

AT&T ranked seventh in our annual customer satisfaction survey for its customer service. It sits in the middle of the Internet providers, but it has a strong reputation for customer service and subscribers are generally very happy with all its services. The support website is clean and easy to use, and we had no trouble finding answers to common questions.

Spectrum scores sixth in our satisfaction survey for customer service, also around the middle of the pack, but it still provides a good overall experience with an easy-to-use support site.

Notable extra features

Both AT&T and Spectrum offer some extra goodies in addition to Internet service. Let’s take a look at what you can expect from each.

Apps

These days, we’d be surprised if a service didn’t offer an App. Both AT&T and Spectrum have Apps to manage your service and accounts.

myAT&T

  • Google Play Rating: 7/5
  • Apple Store Rating: 4/5
  • Compatible Devices: Android, iOS

My Spectrum

  • Google Play Rating: 4/5
  • Apple Store Rating: 5/5
  • Compatible Devices: Android, iOS

Coverage area

AT&T Internet

Top 5 states:

  1. Illinois
  2. Kansas
  3. California
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Texas

Spectrum Internet

Top 5 states:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Ohio
  3. Kentucky
  4. North Carolina
  5. New York

See what packages are available in your neck of the woods by entering your zip code below.

Pros and cons of AT&T and Spectrum

We’ve highlighted the important stuff in the chart below.

Pros

  • Fast speeds
  • Good customer service reputation
  • Wide coverage area
  • Great DIRECTV bundle options
  • Affordable fiber plans

Cons

  • Limited fiber availability
  • Inconsistent speeds that vary by location

Pros

  • Wide coverage area
  • Consistent speeds
  • Simple package choices
  • Affordable pricing

Cons

  • Expensive gigabit plan
  • Confusing support site

Don’t forget to bundle with TV service

Both AT&T and Spectrum offer TV and phone service, and there are plenty of bundle options available. This is a great way to save money and streamline billing. Check out your bundling options below:

Verdict

In the end, it’s hard to go wrong with either of these providers. If you live in an area with access to AT&T’s faster options, like Internet 1000, we’d probably go that route—speeds like that can really change how you use the Internet.

Otherwise, Spectrum makes a great, reliable choice with affordable packages and wide availability.

FAQ about AT&T vs. Spectrum

What’s better—cable or fiber?

In theory, fiber is “better.” The technology can carry more information at faster speeds over longer distances than cable. However, things aren’t always that cut and dried. In practice, the fastest networks tend to be fiber, but some providers do offer cable networks that can match fiber’s speed.

Why is fiber availability so limited?

The short answer is cost. While some fiber infrastructure exists in most areas, extending it to each individual home gets expensive fast. For many ISPs, it just isn’t worth the expense—at least not yet. Providers are adding service areas all the time, but the pace is slow. If you’re anxiously waiting for fiber to come to your area, hang in there!

What is gigabit Internet?

Gigabit Internet, sometimes called “1 Gig” by providers, is Internet with speeds of at least 1 Gbps, or 1,000 Mbps (like AT&T’s Internet 1000). These plans are fast. They are most often fiber plans, thanks to fiber’s greater capacity, though several cable providers like Xfinity have cranked up the speed and now offer their own gigabit plans. If you have 1 Gig service in your area, it’s definitely worth a look—these speeds have to be experienced to be believed.

Pro tip:

Read our guide to gigabit Internet for more information on gigabit speeds and plans.

Is HBO Max free with AT&T?

You can get a free subscription to AT&T’s new streaming platform, HBO Max, if you’re signed up for the AT&T Internet 1000 plan. The promotion begins when HBO Max—which includes the entire HBO catalog along with original titles and tons of content from Warner Media—launches on May 27, 2020.

You can also get a subscription at no extra cost if you have AT&T TV NOW Max, AT&T TV Max, or an AT&T Unlimited Elite cellphone plan. 

Author -

Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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