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AT&T vs Spectrum®

Last updated: March 10, 2021

Starts at $/mo
Starts at $44.99/mo

Quick Fact

Charter Communications merged with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016. Existing customers under Time Warner and Bright House have been transferred to Charter. Internet plans under the provider are now sold under the brand name “Spectrum.”

AT&T Internet and Spectrum Internet® are two of the most common Internet options in the US, and often compete for the same customers.

Aside from their networks, the core differences boil down to comparing their TV options, supported equipment, and overall speeds.

Spectrum Internet: Recommended For Gamers, Cord Cutters & Family Homes

Spectrum Logo

Spectrum Internet is known for their cable Internet service, which pairs well with their cable TV and digital phone offerings. They’ve been progressively upgrading their networks since taking over Time Warner and Bright House. They also offer unlimited service (AT&T has data caps in most areas), making them a great choice for cord-cutters. As an added bonus, they have contract-free service — a nice perk for short-term residents and renters.

Recommended For:

  • Gamers
  • Cord Cutters
  • Family Homes

Check to see if Spectrum Internet is available in your area.

AT&T Internet: Recommended For TV Fans, Renters & Budget Shoppers

AT&T Logo

AT&T Internet, formerly known as “AT&T U-Verse,” is traditionally a DSL provider, offering slightly slower speeds at a slightly lower price. However, they’ve been expanding their network to include fiber service in some areas, which outclasses cable and provides gigabit upload and download speeds. Keep in mind that their fiber connections are currently rare, and most customers will only have access to DSL.

Recommended For:

  • Tv Fans
  • Renters
  • Budget Shoppers

Check to see if AT&T is available in your area.

Finally, there’s an outlier here: AT&T Fiber. This 100% fiber service offers some of the fastest upload and download speeds in the country at an extremely reasonable price point. It’s not for budget shoppers, but it’s our top pick if you’re in one of the few cities lucky enough to have the option. Unlike AT&T’s other plans, it has no data cap — good news for cord-cutters.

Compare AT&T Internet and Spectrum Internet at a Glance

Price Range $49.99 – $99.98/mo+ $49.99 – $144.97/mo+
Connection Type(s) DSL, Fixed Wireless & Fiber Cable & Fiber
Customer Recommendation Rating on 41.10% 50.00%
ACSI Customer Service Rating 64/100 63/100
Netflix Ranking 15th 5th
Population Served 122,849,582 102,726,027

Network Differences: Spectrum Internet Wins Out on Speed and Reliability

AT&T started as a phone provider, and their DSL network uses the same copper telephone cables that deliver landline phone service.

Spectrum Internet got their start as a cable TV provider, and their network still uses those coaxial cables originally installed for TV service.

AT&T’s DSL service is generally slower than the Spectrum Internet cable network. DSL usually delivers download speeds below 30 Mbps, although AT&T DSL uses advanced “Fiber to the Loop” network technology to deliver closer to 100 Mbps in some areas.

Spectrum Internet, on the other hand, offers maximum speeds well over 100 Mbps in most areas (wireless speeds may vary). However, that speed often drops in the evening hours, when everyone else in the neighborhood starts maxing out the shared bandwidth with streaming services like Netflix.

AT&T and Spectrum have both been adding more fiber to their “last mile” networks.
AT&T and Spectrum Internet have both been adding more fiber to their “last mile” networks.

In both cases, AT&T and Spectrum Internet have been building out fiber network “backbones” to speed up the network. This type of network is known as “Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial” or “Fiber to the Node.” Unlike DSL (telephone wires) or cable (coaxial TV cables), fiber-optic cables are much newer and use light to transmit data rather than frequencies transmitted over copper.

For most customers, data still travels over traditional copper DSL or cable networks for the “last mile” of the network between the provider and your house. Updating this “last mile” with fiber is very expensive, which is why 100% fiber networks like AT&T Fiber are rare. Once installed, however, they require little upkeep, which makes fiber service surprisingly affordable.

Speed Test Results for AT&T U-verse and Spectrum Internet

The big difference between AT&T and Spectrum Internet is the network variations discussed above. But how does that translate to real-world speed results? We’ve compiled speed test data on both providers so you can see the overall average performance of either network nationwide:

Austin 451.71 Mbps 247.22 Mbps
Bakersfield 116.42 Mbps 175.61 Mbps
Birmingham 218.83 Mbps 216.32 Mbps
Charlotte 425.3 Mbps 229.86 Mbps
Cleveland 212.39 Mbps 112.02 Mbps
Columbus 204.12 Mbps 130.88 Mbps
Dallas 490 Mbps 229.23 Mbps
Dayton 172.33 Mbps 115.04 Mbps
El Paso 116.75 Mbps 201.95 Mbps
Fort Worth 320.88 Mbps 219.81 Mbps
Indianapolis 236.55 Mbps 215.47 Mbps
Kansas City 220.25 Mbps 198.34 Mbps
Los Angeles 310.26 Mbps 234.18 Mbps
Louisville 228.54 Mbps 216.19 Mbps
Milwaukee 402.49 Mbps 219.06 Mbps
Orlando 263.64 Mbps 183.64 Mbps
Raleigh 398.64 Mbps 225.39 Mbps
Saint Louis 287.69 Mbps 207.77 Mbps
San Antonio 333.92 Mbps 227.96 Mbps
San Diego 252.01 Mbps 230.51 Mbps

*Speeds above are based on 48,431,184 speed tests over the trailing 12 months. Wireless speeds will vary.

Equipment and Installation

The process of installing AT&T and Spectrum Internet is very similar. You can either:

  • Have an installation tech come out and handle it for a small fee.
  • Order a self-install package and follow the instructions.
  • Purchase your own equipment and self-install.

Installation Considerations and Fees

Self-installation is advisable if you’d like to work around the standard installation fees charged by AT&T and Spectrum Internet. Customers we talked to have also had success getting installation fees removed by simply asking politely on the phone — however, this can’t be guaranteed to work.

Self-installation is simple and the instructions that come with your leased modem/router device are easy to follow.

Modem and router leasing fees

If you’d like to save the $5–10/month fee for leased equipment, both AT&T and Spectrum Internet allow you to purchase your own equipment instead.

This is ideal if you plan to use their service for multiple years, as the savings add up to hundreds of dollars. It is less ideal if you are a short-term resident, or if you simply don’t want to worry about setting up your own modem and router.

Each provider has their own list of specifications so far as what equipment is compatible with which services. Here’s a guide to modem and router options for AT&T, and here’s the Spectrum Internet page on modem and router options.

Buying your own equipment usually costs around $40–100 and you’re on the hook for replacement if it fails down the road, so it only makes sense for long-term customers who will recoup those savings.

AT&T Wins on TV Options

Directv Dish
AT&T offers excellent TV options, including DirecTV (Sunday Ticket, hundreds of channels) and digital “Prism” TV (flexible packages, low price).
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

AT&T may not have the best Internet speeds in most areas, but they tip the scales for those of us who rely on solid, comprehensive TV service. They have two options:

  • AT&T Prism TV: Digital TV service delivered over the same network as AT&T Internet.
  • DirecTV: Satellite TV service, which was acquired by AT&T in 2014.
    Of the two, DirecTV generally offers the most value, especially for sports fans. It also has nationwide availability, since it comes in via satellite. Anyone with room for a dish can get it. In the long run, AT&T will be packaging all their TV options into one product called “AT&T Entertainment.” For now, mobile customers are able to stream DirecTV channel offerings directly to all their devices free of data caps or fees — a glimpse of features to come.

Spectrum TV is a great budget choice when bundled with their Internet plans. However, you have to subscribe to one on their larger channel bundles in order to access premium channels like HBO Max™, Showtime®, Starz®, and etc. Their sports bundles also come at a higher than average price in our experience, and sports fans who “want it all” will wind up paying a premium for it.

Deal Alert

Spectrum Internet is offering to buy out your contract with another Internet provider to earn your service. This is a huge deal for customers locked in with an inferior cable company by steep early termination fees.

AT&T U-verse vs Spectrum Internet: Bundle Plans

If you want TV and/or phone service along with your Internet, getting a bundled deal from one provider is a no-brainer. The final rate you get is rarely as attractive as it looks up-front, but it’s always cheaper than getting services separate, not to mention less billing headache.

As a rule of thumb, Spectrum Internet is by far the best option for Internet-only customers, since they have unlimited data, faster than average speeds, and contract-free service.

AT&T has cheaper bundles in most areas, but it’s best for TV users since the Internet is generally less zippy. (At least, outside their fiber service areas.)

AT&T U-verse vs Spectrum Internet: Spectrum Internet Wins for Internet Service Quality, AT&T Wins for TV Options

Choose Spectrum Internet if you value Internet speed, and AT&T if you value TV options.

The bottom line with AT&T and Spectrum Internet is this:

AT&T is best for customers who want “okay” Internet at a great price and spend more time watching TV than surfing the web.

Spectrum Internet is best for customers who want excellent Internet speeds and would rather “cut the cord” from cable.

Our team’s opinion is that Spectrum Internet's unlimited data and contract-free plans offer the best value for the average home.