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AT&T Home Internet Review: Fiber's Quite Nice, but if You Get DSL, Think Twice

The telecom's broadband service is available to over 40% of US homes, but less than half have access to its faster fiber plans.

7.4

AT&T home internet

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Like

  • No contracts required to receive the lowest available price
  • No data caps for any fiber plans
  • Valuable perks and promotional offers

Don't Like

  • Much slower DSL plans are more prevalent than fiber options
  • Data caps enforced on all non-fiber plans

In this article

When AT&T reported its second-quarter earnings in late July, it revealed it had added approximately 2 million AT&T Fiber locations across the US this year. In May 2021, AT&T CEO John Stankey declared the company would focus more on expanding its fiber footprint, aimed at "the single goal of offering the best fixed-broadband service in the market."

In 2022, AT&T has leaned into that goal by announcing new multi-gig plans in more than 100 cities. The faster speeds are available to just over 7 million customers, a number that should continue to expand. Indeed, AT&T announced in late August it would be expanding its multi-gig plans to the area around Mesa, Arizona, covering over 100,000 households. 

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Where does all that put AT&T now? If you're living in one of the 21 states where AT&T provides internet service and are one of the 18 million customers eligible for the company's fiber plans, you're in a perfect spot. AT&T's fiber internet offers a great connection at a terrific value. However, many of AT&T's service area customers aren't living in homes wired for fiber. Instead, AT&T connects those customers using fixed wireless or a DSL hybrid service. That means worse value and much slower speeds than what you'll get with fiber. 

In other words, recommending AT&T Internet depends on where you live and what's available at your address. If AT&T Fiber is an option, move it to the top of your list. But if you're not serviceable for fiber, shop around to see if you can do better than AT&T's fixed wireless or DSL services.

AT&T Internet speeds, plans and prices

AT&T offers several fiber internet plans, none of which come with contracts or data caps. The company tells CNET that three of those fiber plans -- Internet 300, Internet 500 and Internet 1000 -- are available to approximately 18 million customers in the company's footprint. The multi-gig plans are available to a smaller portion of that base, currently just over 7 million.

The rest of the plans use a DSL/fiber hybrid approach to service the rest of AT&T's customer base, though the addition of DSL infrastructure means that speeds are a lot slower.

Here's your full list of options:

AT&T home internet plans

Plan Max speeds Promo price (first 12 months) Regular monthly cost (after 12 months) Equipment fee Data cap
AT&T Fixed Wireless 10Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $70 $70 None 350GB
AT&T Internet 10 10Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $55 $70 None 1TB
AT&T Internet 18 18Mbps download, 1Mbps upload $55 $70 None 1TB
AT&T Internet 25 25Mbps download, 2Mbps upload $55 $70 None 1TB
AT&T Internet 50 50Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $55 $70 None 1TB
AT&T Internet 100 100Mbps download, 20Mbps upload $55 $70 None None
AT&T Fiber - Internet 300 300Mbps download, 300Mbps upload $55 $55 None None
AT&T Fiber - Internet 500 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $65 $65 None None
AT&T Fiber - Internet 1000 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $80 $80 None None
AT&T Fiber - Internet 2000 2Gbps download, 2Gbps upload $110 $110 None None
AT&T Fiber - Internet 5000 5Gbps download, 5Gbps upload $180 $180 None None

AT&T offers at least three of the above plans for most of its serviceable areas. In a few geographic locations, mainly rural or suburban areas, you may only have access to AT&T Internet Basic (not shown in the table above), which features either a 5-megabits-per-second plan or one offering 1.5 or 0.8Mbps. Basic is the right word, and perhaps that's too generous.

AT&T trucks installing fiber-optic broadband

AT&T aims to expand its fiber network to cover 30 million customer locations by 2025.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

AT&T Internet connection types

There are a couple of potential outcomes when you seek to sign up for AT&T Internet. If you see the 300, 500 or gigabit speed tiers offered at your address, you can access AT&T's fiber internet service, which uses 100% fiber technology. Fiber connections are symmetrical by design, which means that your upload speeds will be just as fast as your downloads, unlike DSL, cable and other modes of internet. That's particularly useful for videoconferencing, transferring files (for those of us working and schooling from home) and online gaming.

Outside of the fiber plans, most of AT&T's plans are DSL, a hybrid of fiber-optic and copper cable. This means speeds are much slower than a pure fiber connection, and you won't see upload speeds as high as your download speeds. 

In addition to AT&T's fiber and DSL plans, the company offers a fixed-wireless option, which involves installing an antenna and wireless equipment within the home. Speeds won't get much higher than 25Mbps with a connection like that -- it's intended mostly for homes that lack other options for getting online.

According to the most recent report from the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T Internet plans are 32% fiber, 2% fixed wireless, and the rest are DSL. That said, the FCC's numbers are from June 2021 (and the data comes with plenty of other flaws, too). 

When we asked, an AT&T spokesperson wouldn't disclose the most current breakdown of its service plans, but the company says its fiber footprint is larger than the FCC's data suggests. As we mentioned at the top of the page, AT&T's CEO has doubled down on the company's commitment to fiber expansion. 

Map showing AT&T coverage

AT&T's broadband service is available in 21 South, West and Midwest states.

FCC/Mapbox

AT&T Internet availability and coverage map

AT&T's internet service area covers 21 states across the country:

Alabama Kansas Nevada
Arkansas Kentucky Ohio
California Louisiana Oklahoma
Florida Michigan South Carolina
Georgia Missouri Tennessee
Illinois Mississippi Texas
Indiana North Carolina Wisconsin

You can dig deeper on the AT&T coverage map to see the specific cities included within each state.

Here's what you can expect from your AT&T Internet bill

For the most part, AT&T Internet is straightforward. But there are a few differences from other internet service providers that should get our attention. 

You can now skip the equipment fee

Through 2021, AT&T charged an extra $10 a month to use its AT&T Wi-Fi Gateway. It didn't matter if you had your own equipment. That fee was inescapable. In 2022, AT&T will include the equipment rental in your monthly fee. This is great news for customers and a decent, fair move by AT&T. 

One-time fees

AT&T charges $99 for a full, in-home tech installation. For some addresses, there's no self-install option (you have to go online to find out if you "qualify" for the self-install kit). On the positive side, you'll frequently find online promos where the $99 fee is waived (typically for the higher-speed plans), so keep your eyes peeled for offers like that. If none are available, you could also ask them to waive it when you're calling to sign up.

If you're struggling to get a signal in the far reaches of your home, AT&T will sell you a Smart Wi-Fi Extender to pair with the gateway. Those will cost you $50 each.

No data caps (except when there are)

This is where things get a little squirrelly. For the most part, AT&T Internet plans don't come with data caps. Customers get unlimited data with all fiber plans. You won't have to track your data usage for fear of fees or throttling issues once you hit some arbitrary threshold. But there's still a decent chunk of AT&T's geographic footprint where fiber isn't yet available. In many of those cases, there is a data allowance. 

AT&T Internet plans from 0.8 to 75Mbps have a data cap of 1 terabyte (1,000 gigabytes). If you go over that monthly limit, you'll incur a $10 charge for each additional 50GB of data you use, up to $100 monthly. That's on par with other major providers who enforce a data cap, including Comcast Xfinity and Cox, but both offer a slightly higher cap, at around 1.25TB. Cox also waives all your overage charges the first month you break the cap. But don't expect a free pass like that from AT&T.

If you think you're likely to surpass AT&T's data allowance, you can upgrade your plan to include unlimited data for an additional $30 per month. Another option is to choose a TV and internet bundle, which would allow you to get unlimited data at no extra charge -- though there's usually a contract involved with any bundling of services.

One last caveat -- the data allowance for AT&T Fixed Wireless Internet is 350GB a month. While the $10 charge for each additional 50GB you use is the same as above, fixed wireless customers can be billed up to $200 extra per month for overage fees. That's a recipe for sticker shock, so you'll want to be extra cautious with your data usage if you're a fixed wireless subscriber.

AT&T Internet offers nice perks and promotions

AT&T likes to run short-term promotions and deals throughout the year. The main promo right now is an AT&T Visa Reward Card for new fiber customers who order online. Depending on your selected speed tier, the amount ranges from $150 to $200.

In addition, AT&T's nationwide network of over 30,000 hotspots is free to all AT&T Internet customers. This allows you to connect when you're away from home without using your mobile data. 

Chart showing customer satisfaction for internet service providers

AT&T Internet scored among the top-three ISPs in ACSI's latest survey.

ACSI

AT&T Internet flexes strong customer satisfaction numbers

AT&T crows that "you deserve the best," and the company points to its stellar showing in J.D. Power's US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study as evidence that it's delivering. AT&T nabbed the top spot in that study's North Central and South regions, with an average score of 738 on a 1,000-point scale. Only Verizon (758) and Midcontinent (754) can point to a higher average in the survey, but they each only competed in one region. AT&T locked horns with the competition in three areas.

AT&T Internet also fared well with the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which releases a yearly customer satisfaction survey for internet providers. AT&T's 2022 score of 69/100 was well ahead of the industry average of 64. Although those numbers were down slightly from the previous year, AT&T still finished in the top three among all major ISPs.

Summary of AT&T Internet

If AT&T Fiber is an option for your address, finding a better combination of service and affordability is tough. The catch? AT&T's fiber plans aren't an option for approximately two-thirds of the company's coverage area. All other AT&T plans are fraught with issues not faced by fiber, from slower download speeds to data caps. Simply put, don't hesitate if you can hop on an AT&T Fiber plan, but research your options if only lower speeds are offered in your area.

AT&T Internet FAQs

Does AT&T Internet Service require a contract?

No. While the promo price on some plans expires after your first year of service, you don't have to sign a term agreement to receive that price. The one exception is if you seek to sign a bundle deal. Standalone internet service doesn't require a contract, but if you bundle your broadband with another service, you may be required to sign a term agreement.

Is AT&T Internet fast?

The answer to this question always depends on which plans are available in your area. No matter the fastest plan that any provider might offer (say, the 6,000Mbps Gigabit Pro plan from Xfinity), it's moot if it isn't available at your address. For example, AT&T's new Internet 5000 plan is one of the fastest residential plans you can find from a national ISP, but it's not available to all AT&T areas. Currently, it covers just over 7 million households across 100 metro areas. 

For a third-party perspective on what's fast, the speed-testing website Ookla tracks ISPs based on its scoring system that looks at both download and upload speeds. Using the most recent metrics taken during the second quarter of 2022, AT&T came in fifth place, behind Cox, Xfinity, Spectrum and Verizon (in that order). 

Similarly, AT&T ranks in fifth place when you look at Ookla's Consistency Score -- a different measure showing how often providers deliver broadband speeds to customers. Surprisingly, it wasn't even that close, with AT&T Internet just below 81% and the same four providers ahead of them between 86% to 91%. 

Finally, remember that those scores consider all AT&T plans, not just the speedy fiber options. So the slower numbers from AT&T's DSL and fixed wireless plans come into play here, too.

Does AT&T offer any low-cost internet options?

Yes. Access from AT&T is an affordable option for eligible households within the 21 states that AT&T services. There are two tiers available. The first features internet service up to 10Mbps for $5-$10 a month. The newest tier features up to 100Mbps symmetrical speeds for $30 a month.

Both plans are available for limited-income households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or getting Supplemental Security Income benefits. All households that qualify for the government's Affordable Connectivity Program will also qualify for Access from AT&T.

How can I cancel my AT&T Internet?

You can start the process by going to the AT&T Contact Us page. You can cancel AT&T Internet anytime without an early termination fee since no contracts are required for service. However, since you get billed month-to-month, you will not receive a refund or credit if you cancel before the end of your billing cycle. 

Also, pay attention to the small print of your promo offers. For example, if you have an internet plan that gets you free HBO Max, you'll lose that access upon cancellation.

Lastly, if you desire to transfer your service, rather than cancel (for a pending move, for example), you can contact an AT&T moving specialist at 800-288-2020.

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