Spectrum VS AT&T Internet In California

The choice between Charter Spectrum internet and AT&T internet is extremely common in California, especially in SoCal and Los Angeles county where they have significant network overlap. In fact, they are the only wired internet options for most homes in Los Angeles.

Brand Service type Speed range Price range Contact
Spectrum Cable 100–940 Mbps $49.99–129.99/mo. (855) 243-8892
AT&T DSL, Fiber 5–1,000 Mbps $49.99–59.99/mo. (844) 886-4258

Fees and fine print Compare plans

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.

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

FeatureCharter SpectrumAT&T Internet
Starting price$49.99/mo. sign-up price$49.99/mo. sign-up price
Download speed range100–940 Mbps5–1,000 Mbps
Upload speed range10–35 Mbps1–1,000 Mbps
Network typeCableDSL, Fiber
Contract termsContract-freeContract-free

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 uses data caps on some plans. 1TB is a common data limit for AT&T plans.

Charter Spectrum Data Caps

Spectrum offers internet plans with unlimited data

AT&T Internet Data Caps

AT&T places data caps on some plans.

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.

FeeSpectrumAT&T
WiFi equipment fee~$10/mo.~$10/mo.
Price increasesBill increases after promo periodBill increases after promo period
Early Termination FeeFree cancellationFree 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.
Internet 100 (AT&T) 100 Mbps $49.99/mo. $59.99/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:

  • $10/month fee for WiFi equipment

Let’s compare that to AT&T:

The price of the AT&T Internet 100 internet plan is $49.99/month for the first Contract-Free. However, the price jumps up 20% to $59.99 after that initial period.

So, the price of AT&T internet is actually $55/month, when averaged over two years.

Internet 100 comes with some fees as well:

  • $10/month fee for WiFi equipment
  • Fees for using more than 1 TB

Spectrum vs AT&T Internet Plans Overview

AT&T InternetAT&T FiberSpectrum
Starting Price$49.99–59.99/mo.$49.99/mo.49.99/mo.
Download Speed RangeUp to 100 MbpsUp to 1000 MbpsUp to 100 Mbps
Data Cap1 TBUnlimitedUnlimited
Network TypeDSL or IPBB (FTTN)Fiber (FTTH)Cable
ContractContract-FreeContract-FreeContract-Free

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 NameDownload SpeedFinal Price
Spectrum Internet100 Mbps$69.99
Spectrum Internet Ultra400 Mbps$94.99
Spectrum Internet GIG940 Mbps$129.99

AT&T DSL Internet Plans

Plan NameDownload SpeedPromo PriceFinal Price
Internet Basic 55 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 2525 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 5050 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99
Internet 100100 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99

AT&T Fiber Internet Plans

Plan NameDownload SpeedPromo PriceFinal Price
Internet 10001000 Mbps$49.99/mo$59.99

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.

As you can see from our original table if you can get AT&T Fiber it’s cheaper than the Spectrum service. Though we’d note that in the small print you can only get this pricing if you have another service already from AT&T valued at $19 plus $10 worth of itemized billing. That makes Spectrum’s price the most attractive unless you need an AT&T landline service.

We’d also note that to get these prices you have to commit to a 12-month contract. That means none of the plans offers an edge when it comes to the ability to cancel.

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 on their internet connections
  • AT&T Fiber offers up to 1000 Mbps on their internet connections
  • and AT&T Internet offers 5-100 Mbps

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?

Yes, 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:

PackageDownload SpeedsChannel CountPhone PlanIntroductory Price
Double Play SelectUp to 100 Mbps125+ channelsN/A$89.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled
Double Play SilverUp to 100 Mbps175+ channelsN/A$114.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled
Double Play GoldUp to 100 Mbps200+ channelsN/A$134.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled
Spectrum Internet & PhoneUp to 100 MbpsN/AUnlimited nationwide calling$59.98/mo. for 12 months
Triple Play SelectUp to 100 Mbps125+ channelsUnlimited nationwide calling$99.97/mo. for 12 months when bundled
Triple Play SilverUp to 100 Mbps175+ channelsUnlimited nationwide calling$124.97/mo. for 12 months when bundled
Triple Play GoldUp to 100 Mbps200+ channelsUnlimited 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:

PackageDownload SpeedsChannel CountPhone PlanIntroductory Price
DirectTV SelectTMUp to 100 Mbps155+ channelsN/A$79.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled
DirectTV ChoiceTMUp to 100 Mbps185+ channelsN/A$89.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled
DirectTV XTRAUp to 100 Mbps235+ channelsN/A$99.98/mo. for 12 months when bundled
DirectTV SelectTM and Phone UnlimitedUp to 100 Mbps155+ channelsUnlimited nationwide calling and Canada and Mexico$99.98/mo. for 12 months

As you can see 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 taxes.

This can make it hard to compare the two and these kinds of complex fees feel a little anti-consumer.

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 Spectrum Net Neutrality Stance

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.

Spectrum Net Neutrality statement
AT&T Internet Net Neutrality Stance

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.

AT&T Net Neutrality statement

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:

  1. AT&T Fiber: Best speed and value
  2. Spectrum: Runner up, best availability
  3. 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 2020.

Page Summary
  • AT&T Fiber is the best option for home offices and cord cutters in California. However, it has limited availability (17% coverage within the state, 21% in Los Angeles).
  • Spectrum is the the best mix of price and value compared to AT&T. Their 100-200 Mbps basic plans are more than enough for most homes.
  • AT&T Internet should be considered a backup for most users. Outside fiber service areas, AT&T Internet is slower than Spectrum and only a few dollars cheaper.

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Last Update: July 01, 2020
Published: May 06, 2020
CC BY-ND 4.0

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