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AT&T vs. Verizon Fios: Which home fiber internet provider is best?

Both offer fiber home internet connections to roughly 15 million Americans -- but which one does it better?

Most times, when you see a debate pitting AT&T and Verizon against one another, it's an examination of their mobile phone services. But these mega-companies are also two of the biggest home internet providers in the country. 

Verizon Fios is Verizon's 100% fiber-optic internet service, while AT&T Fiber features the company's fastest internet speed plan options. Both Verizon and AT&T offer other types of internet connections -- including DSL, fixed wireless and 5G between them -- but each company's fiber plans give customers the most value. The company's respective coverage maps don't overlap, so you won't have to choose between them when you're shopping for home internet service, but comparing the two still gives us a good look at the overall state of fiber availability in the US.

On top of that, comparing the speeds, prices, plans, terms and fees of each gives us a good opportunity to see which provider does fiber better. It's a close one by the numbers, so let's get right into the specifics to see how they stack up. 

Ry Crist/CNET

Let's start with what AT&T has going for it compared to Verizon Fios: availability and first-year pricing. AT&T is available to more households than Verizon and boasts greater fiber-optic availability overall. AT&T plans are also likely to be slightly cheaper, at least for the first year until the $20 price increase takes effect.

There's also a $10 equipment fee that will add to your monthly bill. While the fee is lower than Verizon's, it is unfortunately unavoidable, so you can go ahead and add $10 to the price of AT&T plans listed further down the page. Signup bonuses like rewards cards may help offset the mandatory fee, and AT&T runs them all the time. Currently, new AT&T Fiber customers can score a $200 rewards card when signing up.

Read our AT&T home internet review.

 

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Verizon Fios is the premier fiber internet provider in the Northeast, earning J.D. Power's highest rating in the East region in 2020, though it is worth noting that AT&T is not included in the East region. The ACSI also placed Verizon Fios at the top for customer satisfaction in 2021, but it shares the spot with, you guessed it, AT&T.

Fast speeds and decent value are probable contributors to Verizon's high customer satisfaction scores. Customers have the option of 200Mbps or 400Mbps speed tiers (300 and 500Mbps in New York) along gigabit service. Starting prices on comparable speed tiers are a touch higher than AT&T, but Verizon customers do have the option to use their own equipment and avoid the additional fee, which could make Verizon Fios the better deal in some cases. Another advantage to Verizon is that there is no introductory pricing so, though you aren't "saving" anything on the first year of service, you won't necessarily see a sharp increase in your bill from month 13 on.

Read our Verizon Fios home internet review.

 

The respective coverage maps for AT&T (orange) and Verizon (blue). Fiber plans aren't available everywhere in these coverage areas, but you'll find them in many of the major metropolitan areas located within.

FCC/Mapbox

Here's where you can get AT&T Fiber and Verizon Fios 

At first glance, Verizon Fios and AT&T Fiber appear to be evenly matched regarding availability. Verizon's fiber service reaches just over 15 million customers, and AT&T claims "nearly 15 million customers" for its fiber offering, per its second-quarter results for 2021

However, when you look closer at the actual locations, Verizon Fios can only be found in eight northeastern states -- Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia. Granted, there are some big cities within that area, including Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. But if you live in the Midwest, south of Virginia or anywhere out West, Verizon Fios isn't an option for you.

Meanwhile, AT&T Fiber isn't available in the Northeast, but its availability extends to 21 states, more than three times as many as Verizon Fios. Some of the more notable cities within its coverage include Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, San Francisco and St. Louis.  

So, while both reach a similar number of customers, AT&T can claim a more widespread availability for its fiber internet service. In fact, AT&T CEO John Stankey stated in May that the company is committed to expanding its fiber footprint and honing in on a goal of "offering the best fixed-broadband service in the market." Meanwhile, Verizon shared with CNET that much of the company's immediate expansion plans revolve around adding more cities to its 5G home internet service.

Compare plans, prices and speeds 

Both AT&T and Verizon Fios offer three different plan options for their fiber internet services. Let's dive in and see how they compare. 

AT&T Fiber plans and pricing

Max speeds Promo price (first 12 months) Regular monthly cost (after 12 months) Equipment fee Data cap Contract
300Mbps download, 300Mbps upload $35 $55 $10 modem/router rental (required) None None
500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $45 $65 $10 modem/router rental (required) None None
940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $60 $80 $10 modem/router rental (required) None None

Verizon Fios plans and pricing

Plan Max speeds Monthly price Equipment fee Data cap Contract
Fios 200 200Mbps download, 200Mbps upload $40 $15 (skippable) None None
Fios 400 400Mbps download, 400Mbps upload $60 $15 (skippable) None None
Fios Gigabit Connection 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $80 waived None None

Let's just say it: This looks like a win for AT&T. To start, the entry-level speed for fiber internet starts at 300 megabits per second for AT&T, while Verizon's lowest fiber plan starts at 200Mbps. Similarly, AT&T's midtier offering of Internet 500 is faster than Fios 400. The two top-end plans from both providers are the same, but overall, customers get slightly faster speeds on the AT&T side.

But it doesn't stop there. AT&T also has the edge when it comes to price. On the Verizon side, the price is the price. There's no promo deal or "act now before it's too late" type of pushy play. And while I appreciate Verizon's straightforward approach -- ISPs are known for gimmicky pricing that tries to lure you in but then ratchets up your bill exponentially down the road -- it actually falls short in comparison to AT&T's prices.

If we compare apples to apples and look only at the regular monthly rates between the two providers, AT&T is slightly cheaper. The average cost per Mbps between its three plans is $0.13 compared to $0.15 for Verizon Fios. Pretty close, certainly, but still some cost savings for AT&T customers.

What's more, consider that AT&T does feature a lower price for the first 12 months. That means you get a year's worth of additional savings where the cost for your home fiber internet service drops to an even more aggressive price of $0.09 per Mbps, averaged across all three plans. That's a compelling way to get you to sign up without dropping the hammer on you later.

In fact, this looks like a decisive win for AT&T -- until we talk about that equipment fee... 

Factoring in the terms and fees

Before we get to more good stuff about both providers' fiber internet service (cue the neon lights: No contracts and no data caps!), let's take a look at the additional fees and terms you'll want to familiarize yourself with. 

Monthly modem fees 

Based on plan pricing alone, AT&T Fiber has a definitive edge on Verizon Fios. But there's an additional monthly cost with AT&T that you can't avoid: the monthly modem/router fee of $10. All customers must use the AT&T Wi-Fi Gateway, so there's no way to skip that additional bump to your bill. 

Now, you might be thinking, "But Verizon Fios charges $15 a month!" Yes, but that fee is waived for Gigabit customers. So, when comparing the top plans, Verizon actually offers better value. The equipment fee isn't waived with Verizon's other two plans, but customers have the option of skipping it, either by using their own equipment or by choosing to buy the Fios router upfront for $300. Yes, that's a sizable one-time payment, but it's less money out of your pocket than if you rented the equipment for two years or more. And, if you already have a modem and router that you like, you don't need to pay Verizon for equipment at all.

One-time installation fee 

With Verizon Fios, your setup charge will be $99, which is waived if you order online. Similarly, AT&T charges $99 for its installation, which is also typically waived via online promotions.

No data caps to drag you down 

Customers of both providers will get unlimited data with all plans. This means you won't need to stress about possible data overage fees nor fear any throttling issues once you hit an arbitrary threshold. 

hbo-max-app-iphone-11-9835

Verizon's gigabit plan comes with a free year of Disney Plus, while AT&T's gigabit plan comes with free HBO Max for as long as you keep your plan.

Angela Lang/CNET

Let's line up the perks

In addition to unlimited data, Verizon Fios and AT&T Fiber customers are free of the constraints of a contract. While not technically a perk, it's definitely a relief knowing you won't have early termination fees looming over you. But see what else these two ISPs offer potential fiber customers.

Verizon Fios is currently offering a free, yearlong Disney Plus subscription for new customers who sign up for its Gigabit service. Those customers and any who choose the Fios 400 plan also receive a fourth-gen Amazon Echo Dot. Lastly, all Fios customers have an opportunity to save an additional $10-$20 a month if you bundle your Fios fiber internet plan with enrollment in Verizon Unlimited Wireless.

AT&T also knows how to entice customers with some sparkly items. First, all new fiber customers who sign up online will receive a $150 AT&T Visa Reward Card. Second, all fiber customers will get free access to AT&T's nationwide network of more than 30,000 hotspots. Lastly, whereas Verizon Fios gigabit customers get Disney Plus for a year, all AT&T gigabit customers will receive a free subscription to HBO Max for as long as they remain with the fiber service. 

Comparatively, Verizon's free Disney Plus is an $80 value, good for one year, while the HBO Max deal nets you savings of $150 each year over the length of the AT&T Internet 1000 term.

It's a matter of taste as to whether you're partial to the selections on Disney Plus or the variety on HBO Max, but there's no debating the higher value of the HBO Max benefit. Advantage AT&T.

American Customer Satisfaction Index

High customer satisfaction... for two ISPs 

We've said it before, but it bears repeating -- internet service providers are regularly at the bottom of all industries regarding customer satisfaction scores. With that clearly in mind, it's still worth noting that both Verizon Fios and AT&T Fiber typically trade places back and forth at the top of most ISP rankings. 

AT&T showed up well in J.D. Power's US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study for 2020. It claimed the pole position in three regions -- the North Central, South and West -- and had an average score of 751 out of 1,000 possible points. The only ISP with a higher average score was Verizon, with 769, but note that the company was only scored in one of the four regions surveyed, the East. AT&T, meanwhile, was able to tie Verizon's high score with a 769 of its own in the South region.

Over at the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the latest metrics show AT&T and Verizon Fios in a tie at the top of the charts with 71 out of 100 points. Both providers regularly score above the industry average as tracked by the ACSI. And while technically a draw, the 2021 numbers are a minor victory for AT&T because it's the highest score it's ever registered in the category, and the first time Verizon hasn't beaten it since 2015.

So, what's the final verdict?

If this were a race, it would certainly be a photo finish. I'm inclined to give a slight edge to AT&T based mainly on the value of its cheaper cost per Mbps and the higher value of its perks. But as we noted at the start, regarding availability, neither provider's fiber service plays in the same sandbox as the other. So, in reality, no customers will face the choice of AT&T Fiber or Verizon Fios. If your address is serviceable for either of these fiber internet offerings, rest assured that you've got access to one of the premier internet offerings in the country.