In this article, we’ve broken down the differences so that you can make an informed decision on which provider is right for your needs. AT&T and Spectrum both offer different levels of service, but the details are more or less the same across southern California and the Los Angeles Area.
Spectrum plans and AT&T plans offer somewhat different service levels. So, let’s take a look at what’s on offer at the top level before we break down the difference between them.
Spectrum vs AT&T Internet Basic Features
|Feature||Charter Spectrum||AT&T Internet|
|Starting price||$49.99/mo. sign-up price||$35/mo. sign-up price|
|Download speed range||100–940 Mbps||5–1,000 Mbps|
|Upload speed range||10–35 Mbps||1–1,000 Mbps|
|Network type||Cable||DSL, Fiber|
Spectrum vs AT&T Data Usage Policies
Many internet providers in California use data caps to manage their network, meaning that if you use more than a certain amount of data, you will be charged extra on top of your monthly bill.
Spectrum does not have data caps in California. AT&T offers unlimited plans with no data caps.
Spectrum offers internet plans with unlimited data
AT&T offers internet plans with unlimited data
Spectrum vs AT&T Pricing and Fees
Here is a breakdown of how common add-on fees compare for Spectrum and AT&T plans. These types of fees are common with internet providers, and can result in larger bill each month.
|WiFi equipment fee||~$5/mo.||~$10/mo.|
|Price increases||Bill increases after promo period||Bill increases after promo period|
|Early Termination Fee||Free cancellation||Free cancellation|
Note that fee amounts described above may vary by plan. See the plan comparison tables for Spectrum and AT&T below for more information.
Spectrum vs AT&T Internet-Only Plan Comparison
|Most Common Plan||Internet speed||Sign-up price||Final price||Avg price over 2 yrs|
|Spectrum Internet (Spectrum)||100 Mbps||$49.99/mo.||$69.99/mo.||$60/mo.|
|Fiber Internet 500 (AT&T)||500 Mbps||$45/mo.||$65/mo.||$55/mo.|
The price of the Spectrum Spectrum Internet internet plan is $49.99/month for the first Contract-Free. However, the price then rises 40% to a final price of $69.99.
So, that means the price you actually pay for internet, averaged over two years, is $60/month.
Remember that Spectrum Internet includes the following fees when you compare pricing:
- $5/month fee for WiFi equipment
Let’s compare that to AT&T:
The price of the AT&T Fiber Internet 500 internet plan is $45/month for the first Contract-Free. However, the price jumps up 44% to $65 after that initial period.
So, the price of AT&T internet is actually $55/month, when averaged over two years.
Fiber Internet 500 comes with some fees as well:
- $10/month fee for WiFi equipment
Spectrum vs AT&T Internet Plans Overview
|AT&T Internet||AT&T Fiber||Spectrum|
|Download Speed Range||Up to 500 Mbps||Up to Mbps||Up to 100 Mbps|
|Network Type||DSL or IPBB (FTTN)||Fiber (FTTH)||Cable|
As you can see there’s quite a big difference between these two providers. So, it’s important to dig into the details to work out which is best.
We should note that the prices of these plans are fixed for 12 months, after which they jump up anywhere from 10–40% depending on the plan. This is true for both providers (and virtually all internet providers, as it’s a common marketing ploy in the industry).
Spectrum and AT&T have more expensive packages which include a range of additional services and premium or HD TV channels.
Spectrum Internet Plans
|Plan Name||Download Speed||Final Price|
|Spectrum Internet||100 Mbps||$69.99|
|Spectrum Internet Ultra||400 Mbps||$94.99|
|Spectrum Internet GIG||940 Mbps||$129.99|
AT&T DSL Internet Plans
|Plan Name||Download Speed||Promo Price||Final Price|
|Internet 25||25 Mbps||$45/mo||$55|
|Fiber Internet 300||300 Mbps||$35/mo||$55|
|Fiber Internet 500||500 Mbps||$45/mo||$65|
|Fiber Internet 1000||940 Mbps||$60/mo||$80|
AT&T Fiber Internet Plans
|Plan Name||Download Speed||Promo Price||Final Price|
Plan and Provider Recomendations
We recommend that you opt for a minimum of 100 Mbps for an Internet connection in California. That’s because this provides enough bandwidth for an entire household. You can all stream video and do whatever you need to do effectively as well. Gaming, work, etc. should all be possible.
That means that both AT&T Fiber and Spectrum provide more than enough bandwidth. In particular, Spectrum recently upgraded their base internet-only plans to 200 Mbps minimum throughout Los Angeles.
The AT&T basic Internet plan, however, which was once the best value for money option, no longer is. Heavy internet users are going to resent the speed caps on this plan and the additional data charges once you surpass 1TB of downloads. The extra charges can quickly mount up.
Do You Get What You Pay For?
So, do you actually get what you pay for? We’ve already seen that there are differing download speeds between providers:
- Spectrum offers up to 940 Mbps download and 35 upload on their internet connections
- AT&T Fiber offers up to 940 Mbps download and 880 upload on their internet connections
FCC reports claim that many internet providers, including AT&T and Spectrum, actually provide over 100% of the advertised speed. That is, you get even more bandwidth that you pay for. 1
Independent review by sources like the Wall Street Journal have demonstrated that the service providers have an advantage in these rankings and can pick and choose the data that the FCC uses to base its conclusions on. In short, the FCC’s data is not independent, and you can’t entirely rely on it.
However, it’s fair to say that both Spectrum and AT&T do tend to deliver service speeds which are roughly as good as they claim them to be and there is no significant drop off in speeds.
What About Bundled TV Offerings?
You can get bundled TV with both providers as long as you are using the AT&T fiber service (the AT&T Internet service doesn’t have the bandwidth for this in all areas).
Spectrum’s TV + Internet Bundles
Spectrum offers a premium cable TV bundle with several tiers. It makes the most sense for families that need a wide variety of programming including a full range of regional and national sports networks. The Spectrum sports package adds 10 must-have sports channels like ESPN for $5 extra per month.
|Package||Download Speeds||Channel Count||Phone Plan||Introductory Price|
|Double Play Select||Up to 100 Mbps||125+ channels||N/A||$89.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled|
|Double Play Silver||Up to 100 Mbps||175+ channels||N/A||$114.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled|
|Double Play Gold||Up to 100 Mbps||200+ channels||N/A||$134.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled|
|Spectrum Internet & Phone||Up to 100 Mbps||N/A||Unlimited nationwide calling||$59.98/mo. for 12 months|
|Triple Play Select||Up to 100 Mbps||125+ channels||Unlimited nationwide calling||$99.97/mo. for 12 months when bundled|
|Triple Play Silver||Up to 100 Mbps||175+ channels||Unlimited nationwide calling||$124.97/mo. for 12 months when bundled|
|Triple Play Gold||Up to 100 Mbps||200+ channels||Unlimited nationwide calling||$144.97/mo. for 12 months when bundled|
As you can see, Spectrum make it easy for you to decide which precise bundle you want and what services you’d like to include. However, we’d note that their current offers all appear to offer a slower connection than you can get separately. This is something you might want to weigh up before making a purchasing decision.
AT&T’s TV + Internet Bundles:
AT&T recently launched a new TV product, creatively called “AT&T TV,” which provides a complex assortment of traditional cable channels as well as on-demand content.
AT&T also offers a fair number of bundles and they tend to include a few more channels than Spectrum but there are quite a few hidden charges with these bundles including connection fees and equipment fees to watch out for. The headline figures also don’t include any programming fees or local taxes.
Also, as with Spectrum those download speeds are much lower than the touted 1000 Mbps maximum available speed.
Spectrum vs AT&T Net Neutrality Policies
Charter Communications has public statements supporting open networks, but in practice has been applying to remove network management requirements imposed by the FCC during their merger with Time Warner Cable.
AT&T has a statement of support for Net Neutrality on their policy website, but has remained quiet on the topic of future paid prioritization for certain services.
Spectrum vs AT&T Customer Service Ratings
Let’s be fair and agree that neither Spectrum nor AT&T will be winning any industry customer service awards any time soon.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index gave AT&T 62/100 for the year 2018-2019 and Spectrum 59/100 for the year 2018-2019. That’s so close that we don’t think there’s much to get excited about in the 3 points of difference. 2
We’re also going to note that getting through to either of these providers can be a real pain.
One thing that you should be aware of though is that if they don’t deliver the advertised internet speed and this is consistently true and the difference is significant, you should be able to negotiate a discount on your service with them.
So, Should I buy Spectrum or AT&T Internet in California?
Between AT&T Internet, AT&T Fiber, and Spectrum internet, I reccomend them in this order:
- AT&T Fiber: Best speed and value
- Spectrum: Runner up, best availability
- AT&T Internet: Not reccomended
This would be an easy choice if AT&T Fiber were available everywhere. AT&T Fiber is cheaper, their bundles are a better value, and they offer ever so slightly better customer service than Spectrum.
But, for practical purposes Spectrum is the most likely top choice because AT&T Fiber is only available in a few limited areas for the moment. Compared to AT&T's non-fiber service area, Spectrum is faster and there’s no data cap.
In fact, we can’t really see the justification for AT&T Internet at all unless it’s the only service available to you or if it’s a plan that they are grandfathering existing clients onto. It’s the worse value for money by far. It was once a cheaper option, but it costs as much as AT&T Fiber now and the data cap means it’s likely to end up more expensive than Spectrum too.
Conclusion: go with AT&T Fiber first, with Spectrum as a back up
We hope that this guide has been useful. As you can see despite AT&T Fiber’s superior offering, the lack of coverage means that for most people, Spectrum is going to be the better choice. AT&T Internet simply isn’t a competitive offering in 2021.