Spectrum vs. AT&T Fiber: Is Spectrum Internet Better?

  • pro
    Price: $55.00–$225.00/mo.
  • pro
    Speed: Up to 5,000Mbps
  • pro
    Internet type: Fiber
Spectrum
Spectrum internet
  • pro
    Price: $29.99–$89.99/mo.
  • pro
    Speed: Up to 1,000Mbps
  • pro
    Availability: Cable
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Dave Schafer
Dec 14, 2023
bullet4 min read

Rural internet is tough. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to have a choice of a few cable internet providers, plus slow DSL. For many, satellite internet is the only viable option.

However, AT&T is starting to offer some serious competition as it builds out its speedy fiber network. How does AT&T compare to our favorite rural cable provider, Spectrum? Let’s dig in and find out.

Enter your zip code to see if AT&T or Spectrum internet are available near you.

Spectrum vs. AT&T plans and pricing

Provider
Price
Data
Download speed
Get it
ATT$55.00–$225.00/mo.UnlimitedUp to 5,000Mbps
Spectrum$49.99–$89.99/mo.UnlimitedUp to 1,000Mbps

AT&T internet plans and pricing

AT&T offers a number of different plans based on speed and location. Speeds range from 300Mbps to a ridiculous 5,000Mbps with prices from $55 to $225 per month. Choosing a plan is a matter of deciding how much speed you actually need—sometimes easier said than done.

AT&T’s price-to-speed ratio is quite good—not the least expensive we’ve seen, but very competitive. AT&T is also the only major provider to offer a 5Gbps plan at this time. Admittedly, it’s almost certainly overkill for 99.9% of users, but it’s nice to have the option.

It’s also worth noting that AT&T does still maintain DSL service (speeds up to 75Mbps), but no longer offers these services to new customers. Long term, the plan seems to be to phase out the service entirely, but for now, you may still see references to it online. These plans tend to be a teeny bit faster and more affordable than satellite, but won’t hold a candle to cable or fiber.

Spectrum internet plans and pricing

Spectrum’s plan selection is much simpler than AT&T’s. There are three options: 300Mbps, 500Mbps, and 1,000Mbps. Prices range from $49.99 per month to $89.99 per month, making this a much better value than satellite.

Compared to AT&T, the 300Mbps plan is actually more affordable with Spectrum, but the other two options both cost more. Spectrum’s 1,000Mbps plan is particularly pricey compared to many competitors. However, the simpler package selection is nice since “analysis paralysis” is definitely a thing.

Enter your zip code to see if AT&T or Spectrum internet are available near you.

Pros and cons of Spectrum vs. AT&T

AT&T internet

Pros
pro Extremely fast speeds
pro Strong customer service
pro Highly reliable
pro No data caps
Cons
con Limited availability
con Some plans require contracts

Spectrum internet

Pros
pro Simple package choices
pro No equipment fees
pro No data caps
pro No contracts
Cons
con Gigabit plans are expensive
con Wi-Fi charge somewhat negates the lack of equipment fees

Spectrum vs. AT&T speeds

AT&T is just plain faster than Spectrum—there’s not really any other way to spin it. It caps out at five times the download speeds of any Spectrum plan. Additionally, even on plans where download speeds are equal, AT&T offers symmetrical speeds, while Spectrum doesn’t.

“Symmetrical speeds” means upload speeds are the same as download speeds. This is possible on fiber connections thanks to the massive bandwidth available, whereas cable connections (like Spectrum) have to devote most of their bandwidth to downloads to hit top speeds.

Faster upload speeds are useful for sharing large files (like photos and videos) as well as getting on video calls. It’s not strictly necessary, but it can make a noticeable difference.

Spectrum vs. AT&T availability

Here’s where Spectrum really starts to pull away—it’s much more widely available than AT&T, especially in rural areas. This is largely due to fiber networks still being built out—providers typically start in larger urban centers. Cable, on the other hand, is more widespread and already exists in many spots.

AT&T’s availability is mainly concentrated in the Southeast with a smattering of coverage in some Midwestern states, like Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as a bit in California and up near the Great Lakes.

AT&T’s DSL service is more widely available, but the company no longer offers this service to new customers. For this reason, we aren’t factoring this availability into the equation.

Spectrum is more evenly distributed around the country, including some spots in the Pacific Northwest and New England. It offers coverage in a number of states that AT&T isn’t in at all, like Colorado, Nebraska, Maine, Montana, and Oregon.

Spectrum vs. AT&T data and equipment

Both AT&T and Spectrum offer unlimited data, which means you can stream, download, and video chat as much as you like without worrying about overage charges or big slowdowns (and you can likely stream without much buffering, thanks to the fast speeds). Even better—neither provider charges extra for it, which isn’t always the case.

When it comes to equipment, AT&T and Spectrum both provide a modem/router combo, although in practice this will look slightly different. Since Spectrum is cable, it’s just a basic hookup to the cable jack in your wall, and you most likely won’t need additional installation work done.

AT&T is fiber, though, which means you’ll need an optical network terminal (ONT) installed. An ONT is basically a modem for fiber connections. However, they tend to take up more space and are often installed in garages, closets, and other out-of-the-way places as a result. Unless your home is already wired for AT&T fiber, you’ll likely need some installation work done.

The final take: Spectrum is the default choice for rural residents, but AT&T is fantastic if you can get it

AT&T and Spectrum both offer fast speeds at reasonable prices. AT&T offers faster speeds (if you need them) and is a bit more affordable. But Spectrum has much wider availability, particularly in rural areas. As a result, it’s likely to be the go-to choice for rural residents. That said, if you can get AT&T, it’s definitely worth a look for its reliability and speed.

Spectrum vs. AT&T internet FAQ

Are AT&T and Spectrum the same company?

No, AT&T and Spectrum are not the same company. AT&T is its own entity, and Spectrum is the trade name used by Charter Communications for its internet and television services.

Is AT&T more expensive than Spectrum?

Generally, AT&T is less expensive than Spectrum for an equivalent speed. However, faster plans, like AT&T Internet 2000 and Internet 5000, are more expensive than anything Spectrum offers. 

How much internet speed do I need?

How much internet speed you need depends heavily on what you do online. If you just check email and Facebook and browse the web, you can probably get away with as little as 10–20Mbps. However, if you stream a lot of 4K video, download large files, or rely on internet for work, you might benefit from having 100Mbps or more. Check out our complete guide to how much internet speed you need for more details.

Dave Schafer
Written by
Dave Schafer
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).