Spectrum vs. AT&T 2021 | Internet Providers

Adina Hamb

Table of Contents Spectrum InformationAT&T InformationBottom LineInternet Service ProvidersOther Guides from 360 ReviewsOther Products to ConsiderHow U.S. News Evaluated Internet Service Providers While Spectrum’s legacy doesn’t stretch all the way back to 1876 like AT&T’s, it still has a well-established presence since 1993. Spectrum serves 29 million customers in 44 […]

While Spectrum’s legacy doesn’t stretch all the way back to 1876 like AT&T’s, it still has a well-established presence since 1993. Spectrum serves 29 million customers in 44 states, while AT&T provides service to more than 100 million consumers with TV, mobile, and broadband. If you’re trying to decide between the two, know that Spectrum doesn’t require a contract and AT&T does. Spectrum also gets the edge on data allotment with no cap, while AT&T has a 1 TB ceiling before your speed starts to slow except for on its highest plan.

Spectrum has moved up steadily in our rankings and is now tied for the No. 3 spot on our Best Internet Service Providers of 2021 list. Veteran AT&T has stayed steady, losing just one-tenth from its total score.

Popular Internet Service Providers

Tied for No. 3 in our rating of the Best Internet Providers of 2021, both AT&T and Spectrum offer a number of benefits. Bundled service is available from both companies, both offer near gigabit-speed downloads, and both experience very low packet (data) loss, which means games and video conferences will be smooth.

The main difference between these two large internet providers is in the level of commitment required; AT&T requires a 12-month contract, while Spectrum doesn’t. If you want to avoid a contract, AT&T’s internet plans may not be a good fit for you.

Spectrum’s internet packages start with a $49.99/month plan that includes 100 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds. To give you an idea of what you might need, streaming service Hulu recommends 3 Mbps for viewing at normal speed and 16 Mbps for 4K videos. The Internet Ultra plan bumps downloads up to 400 Mbps and uploads to 20 Mbps, and the Spectrum Internet Gig package provides up to 940 Mbps for downloads and 35 Mbps for uploads. The highest package is great for gaming and working from home, and also ensures more reliability for multiple connected devices and applications within your household. Spectrum doesn’t provide pricing data for its two highest plans on its website.

AT&T’s plans include Internet 100, Internet 300, and Internet 1000, which provided download and upload speeds of 100 Mbps, 300 Mbps, and 940 Mbps, respectively. The faster upload speeds will enable faster file sharing, as well as smoother video chats and online gaming. The top-level plan, Internet 1000, is the best value if you have a household full of connected devices, and it’s the only plan without a data cap.

On the other hand, you should note that a terabyte of data is a lot. Broadband Now says it’s equal to about 165 two-hour HD movies; 200,000 five-minute songs; or more than 300,000 pictures.

Spectrum Internet promotion price is $49.99/mo for 12 months. Wireless speeds may vary.

Spectrum Pros:

Spectrum Cons:

  • Slower and more expensive base plan

  • No fiber internet service

Owned by Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter Communications, Spectrum offers cable access to internet, TV, home phone service, and mobile phones to a wide swath of the country. Once several places behind AT&T, Spectrum made a strong showing in 2020, and is now tied with the telecommunications giant in our ratings of the Best Internet Service Providers.

Want to know just how fast Spectrum’s service is in your area? Enter your zip code on the company’s website for latest speed statistics. Spectrum claims it will never “throttle” (reduce) customer speeds regardless of data use or network traffic volume.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than 93% of Spectrum customers realized a median download speed of at least 95% of what Spectrum advertised. Packet loss is also excellent at less than 0.4 percent, which means fewer glitches overall.

Spectrum’s bundled packages bring new customers a unique benefit: The company will buy out your old contract’s early termination fee up to $500.

AT&T Pros:

  • Symmetrical download and upload speeds

  • Reliability rate of more than 99%

AT&T Cons:

  • Data caps on all but highest plan

In October 2020, AT&T stopped offering digital subscriber line (DSL) internet service. The company said that it wants to phase out outdated services like DSL, which will affect customers out of the range of its fiber internet service. Those already on the DSL network will be able to continue using the service for the time being.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that 80% of AT&T’s customers receive 95% or more of the internet speeds that were advertised; AT&T claims a reliability rate of more than 99% for its fiber service. In addition to its good reliability, AT&T offers access to its nationwide network of hotspots.

If you want an ISP without a commitment, go with Spectrum, which doesn’t require a contract or impose data caps. But if you’re looking for fast, symmetrical speeds and top reliability, AT&T is your best bet.

Internet Service Providers

Other Products to Consider

In addition to the companies in our rating of the Best Internet Service Providers, here are some others to consider:

How U.S. News Evaluated Internet Service Providers

We explain what matters when it comes to internet service by sourcing experts and professional reviewers. Then we provide an unbiased evaluation of internet service providers. Our goal is to empower consumers with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions. More information about our 360 Reviews methodology for evaluating internet service providers is here.

†Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter. Spectrum Internet® promotion price is $49.99/mo; standard rates apply after yr. 1. Taxes, fees and surcharges extra and subject to change during and after the promotional period; installation/network activation, equipment and additional services are extra. General Terms: INTERNET: Speed based on wired connection and may vary by address. Wireless speeds may vary. Services subject to all applicable service terms and conditions, subject to change. Services not available in all areas. Restrictions apply.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

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