Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Pricing, Speeds, and TV Service Differences Between Two Common Internet Providers.
Cox vs AT&T
September 8, 2020
AT&T Internet (formerly known as “U-Verse”) started as a telephone company, but has since expanded their reach into a variety of services such as U-Verse fiber and DSL internet, television, and digital voice. The company has a reputation for excellent pricing, especially on bundles. Television service offered through subsidiary DirecTV is also one of the best TV networks in the country in terms of consumer rankings and HD channel offerings.
Cox has one of the biggest cable networks nationwide and is a quality choice for a mid-range TV and internet service. While they’re not necessarily a premium option, the company offers good internet speeds and a decent TV service at reasonable prices. In select areas, the company offers speeds of up to 1000 Mbps — a speed usually only offered by fiber networks.
AT&T has a relatively extensive fiber network when compared to competitors, and in those areas, the speeds offered are exceptional. That said, most customers will be on their DSL network, which is stable but slightly slower than cable or fiber.
Bundles often make AT&T cheaper than the alternatives for Internet + TV customers, despite offering services that are generally higher-quality than their more expensive counterparts.
Read our full review of AT&T Internet here.
Cox Communications offers a speedy connection and quality TV service at accessible price points. While their network is entirely made up of cable infrastructure, they manage to offer speeds that match the fastest that AT&T offers in several different areas.
Cox is also an excellent choice for renters and students, as there’s never a contract holding you down.
Read our full review of Cox Communications here.
Although both Cox and AT&T will have significant overlap in certain areas of the country, the actual availability in your home or business will vary.
Cox has strong coverage in suburban and urban areas. While Cox is one of the biggest providers in the US, there are lots of gaps in their national coverage.
AT&T, on the other hand, has a slightly more extensive reach, especially in rural areas. With the majority of the country covered, you’re far more likely to have access to AT&T or U-Verse service than Cox. With that said, there are significant holes in their coverage — namely in New England and a large portion of the Midwest.
AT&T offers service mainly through Fiber and DSL, which are at two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to internet speeds. While AT&T’s fiber connection is often speedier than Cox Communications’ cable network, it’s impossible to declare AT&T as the faster option, due to the huge variance in speeds based on where you’re located.
Cox, on the other hand, is almost entirely a cable network. Surprisingly, in several areas, they even offer 1000 Mbps service using the latest cable technology on a fiber backbone. Although the fiber from U-Verse is more widespread than Gigablast from Cox, in areas where they overlap it’s often a tossup when it comes to comparing speeds.
*Speeds above are based on 18,467,833 speed tests over the trailing 12 months.
As mentioned above, the two providers use different infrastructure to deliver internet service. In areas where fiber is available, customers enjoy top speeds from a network that transmits data through light that bounces through glass or plastic strands. This technology is the gold standard of internet speeds, but it’s also prohibitively expensive to roll out, which is why AT&T only offers their cheaper alternative (DSL) in many areas of the country.
DSL, or Digital Subscriber Lines, uses phone cables to transmit data. It’s much faster than dial-up and won’t tie up your phone line, but it’s also a bit slower than cable or Fiber. DSL does have its advantages, though. While the speeds aren’t as fast as alternatives, it’s an extremely reliable connection that will deliver the same speeds nearly all the time. If you get 10 Mbps in the morning, you’ll get 10 in the evening, regardless of your neighbor’s nightly Netflix binge.
Cable technology, on the other hand, does struggle with varying speeds. It’s one of the most common forms of internet service available, but that convenience is also a double-edged sword. As more and more people around you on the cable network start to use large amounts of data, the speeds will start to suffer. However, even under a heavy load, cable connections are usually faster than DSL.
Cox Communications’ cable network is one of the most extensive in the country, and they truly push the technology to its limits. While speeds are lower than AT&T in many areas, it offers comparable downloads with its Gigablast connection in a growing number of locales.
The best option for cheap internet, provided the plan is available in your area, is Cox Communications. Their Internet Essential plan offers 15 Mbps download speeds for roughly $30 a month. However, if you’re willing to pay a little bit more, you can get 50 Mbps from AT&T.
While Cox is technically the cheapest, paying $10 extra for five times the download speed is truly a no-brainer as long as your budget isn’t extremely tight.
In terms of installation, it’s far cheaper to do it yourself with Cox Communications. For a $20 fee, the provider will mail you everything you need to get started, along with detailed instructions to help you through the process. Professional installation will run about $50, so if you feel capable enough to plug in a few wires you should definitely opt for the self-install option.
AT&T installation is more expensive at around $99, with potential for extra fees based on which services you choose to install. Fortunately, you can also usually go the self-installation route. However, if you opt for TV service from DirecTV, you’ll need a professional to install a satellite dish.
If you cancel your AT&T Internet early, there will be an Early Termination Fee of around $180 in some cases, depending on the length of contract and time remaining. Additionally, there are a few extra costs that will be added to your monthly bill. Many AT&T plans advertise that equipment is included in the plan, but it’s worth your while to check your bill for any hidden “equipment fees.” The company has a bit of a reputation for adding miscellaneous fees here and there that don’t always match what you had expected.
The cost of your modem if not included with the plan will generally be around $7 a month, with the option to purchase the modem outright for around $100. In most cases, U-Verse does not allow customers to use their own modem. With TV service through DirecTV, there are additional costs for DVR service, with a $5 charge for each receiver after your first one.
Cox, on the other hand, has no early termination fees. Customers are allowed to back out of their service as their needs change, which is a major plus. Internet modem rentals are around $10, and the company is upfront with their pricing. TV equipment fees range from around $3 for a basic box, up to $29 for their high-end DVR.
U-Verse television service is offered through DirecTV, which is one of the highest quality TV providers nationwide. With over 350 channels, a wide variety of HD content, and a convenient DVR, service through DirecTV provides premium quality with a wide range of price options. Additionally, DirecTV offers exclusive access to NFL Sunday Ticket, which will give you comprehensive coverage of your favorite teams.
The main issue with AT&T’s DirecTV service is that it comes with a minimum 2-year contract. If you need short-term TV, Cox is the way to go.
Cox has a decent TV service, but they offer fewer channels than their competition — especially when compared to providers like DirecTV. The problem is especially apparent on the low-end of their packages, with basic plans only offering 40 TV channels. While quality may be better than quantity, 40 channels is just a little bit too low.
If you’re looking for basic TV service, either provider will serve you fine. If you want a little more, however, DirecTV through U-Verse is the way to go. The combination of a huge amount of channels, reasonable pricing, and some of the best sports packages around make it well worth the contract.
U-Verse service through DirecTV offers multiple options for their DVR service. The Genie HD DVR is their most premium model, and it allow you to record up to 200 hours of programming. The extra features from TiVo also make TV watching more convenient. TiVo has been in the DVR game almost as long as DVRs have been around, and their expertise truly shows. The first Genie DVR is included with your DirecTV service with no additional fees. If you want the capability to stream recorded content to any TV in your home, you can add the Genie Mini to your plan. There’s also an option to upgrade your Mini to a wireless model for around $100.
Cox Communications has a couple of different DVR options. The best model provides twice the storage of DirecTV’s model and allows you to watch multiple shows at once, but it lacks some of the convenient features that TiVo offers DirecTV users.
U-Verse is generally the better option for fast internet with one major caveat — their speeds are only faster if you live in an area with Fiber. U-Verse TV service through DirecTV is offered pretty much everywhere that AT&T is located, so they’re hands-down the best option for your television needs.
Cox Communications isn’t necessarily the best in any specific category, but their prices are reasonable and you know what you’re paying upfront. The fact that you aren’t tied to a lengthy contract and you know exactly what everything is going to cost you makes it much easier to buy from Cox with confidence.
Our winner overall would be AT&T, with a major catch. If you’re in an area that is only served by DSL, you’re going to be much better off with a cable package from Cox — unless TV service is your primary concern. The combination of high speeds in many areas as well as a TV service that outclasses Cox completely gives AT&T the win, but make sure you do some research on your geographic area and take into account the experiences of your neighbors before making a decision.
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