AT&T Internet Review – 2020

As a giant in the field, AT&T is pretty difficult to beat. It benefits from years of investment in its telephone and data networks and has laid a comprehensive grid of wires and cables across the USA.
Rating:
4.8/5

Overview of AT&T Internet Services

AT&T is the world’s largest telecommunications company. As the owner of WarnerMedia, it is also the world’s largest entertainment company. Its roots go right back to the creator of the telephone system, Alexander Graham Bell, making AT&T also one of the world’s oldest telephone companies.

With its size and long history of innovation, AT&T has a lot of power in the field of internet provision. Creating and maintaining any network that delivers the internet to homes across America requires a lot of infrastructure and that needs a lot of money and expertise.

A downside to its size and history is the risk of complacency. The company’s established position in the internet industry means it has the skills and procedures in place to supply a reliable service but it can be set in its ways. It can be reluctant to cut prices down to the levels of the mean and hungry new players in the market.

Nonetheless, the nature of the internet market in the United States means that AT&T cannot rest on its laurels. Small, competitive internet providers can’t challenge AT&T nationally, but there are many rivals in local markets all across the country. Internet provision is a patchwork in the United States with some providers fighting vigorously for market share in the rich urban markets, while rural areas find themselves with few options. In many areas of the country, AT&T is the only business offering internet services.

Table of Contents

Pros of AT&T

  • One of the largest service areas in the industry
  • Service in rural areas
  • A choice of speeds and connection types
  • Entertainment bundles in partnership with sister companies
  • High level of technical competence
  • Very reliable service

Cons of AT&T

  • Less imaginative marketing than newer rivals
  • Can be slow to set up connections
  • Likes imposing data caps

Some Points About AT&T

AT&T History

AT&T was originally part of the Bell Telephone Company, which was founded by the inventor of the telephone system, Alexander Graham Bell in 1877. The company ran a monopoly and was forced to break up into regional components in 1982.

What is now known as AT&T started off as the Southwestern division of Bell and was spun out to become the Southwestern Bell Company. To this day, AT&T’s network is strongest in Texas and the surrounding States.

The company is also very strong in the South East, particularly Florida. This is due to subsequent takeovers and mergers that have occurred since Bell was broken up. Before being split up, Bell had changed its name to AT&T and after the breakup, Southwestern Bell took over the former parent company, acquiring its name. In 2006, AT&T bought out BellSouth, hence its strong presence in the South East – the home market of BellSouth.

AT&T Plans

AT&T offers three types of internet service: DSL, fiber, and fixed wireless. The company’s internet division doesn’t offer satellite or cable services. Its DSL system is available in two service levels: Internet Basic and Internet. In many areas, customers don’t have a choice between which of these plans to go for. Within each plan type, there are further speed options. These are:

 

Internet Basic

 

o   768 Kbps

o   1.5 Mbps

o   5 Mbps

 

Internet

 

o   10 Mbps

o   18 Mbps

o   25 Mbps

o   50 Mbps

o   100 Mbps

 

 Internet Fiber

 

o   100 Mbps

o   300 Mbps

o   1000 Mbps

 

Fixed Wireless

 

o   25 Mbps

 

 

The company’s website is cagey about promising any options until the visitor has entered a zip code into the quotes page. This is because the AT&T network’s performance is not uniform across the country.

 

The variability of service across the country is common in the industry. Although AT&T is one of only two internet service providers that have national coverage, some rivals cover large sections of the country, encompassing many states. Even those smaller rivals can’t guarantee the same level of service in all of the territory that they cover.

 

Some companies choose to address the uneven quality of service by altering their prices from location to location. The market for internet services in the USA is truly local, with some places in the country having many suppliers while other areas have none at all. This is another reason why some companies vary their prices across the country. If they have to compete viciously for customers in a location, they will offer better deals; in areas where there is no competition, customers get charged more.

 

To AT&T’s credit, it has not opted for a variable pricing strategy. Instead, its need for a zipcode from a potential customer is because it doesn’t offer all plans and speeds everywhere.

 

Although AT&T headlines the speed of each plan, it doesn’t actually guarantee those speeds in the fine print of its contracts. The table below shows a selection of AT&T plans with the real speeds that the company admits to deeper into its website.

 

 

Plan Download Speed Upload Speed Data Cap Feature
Internet Basic 5 3 – 5 Mbps 0.6 – 1 Mbps 1 TB Light video streaming, downloading music, and

social networking

Internet 50 30 – 50 Mbps 6 – 10 Mbps 1 TB Video streaming on multiple devices and online gaming
Internet 100 80 – 100 Mbps 12 – 20 Mbps 1 TB Streaming HD videos, online gaming and sharing large files
Fiber Internet 300 150 – 300 Mbps 150 – 300 Mbps 1 TB Large families streaming, online gaming, sharing large files
Fiber Internet 1000 500 – 940 Mbps 500 – 940 Mbps None Heavy video streaming, competitive gaming, telecommuting
Fixed Wireless 10 Mbps 1 Mbps 215 GB Can be bundled into a DIRECTV package

AT&T Pricing Overview

A surprising fact about AT&T pricing is that almost all of its plans have the same price. For example, the slowest Basic Internet plan, which delivers 768 Kbps costs the same as the Fiber Internet 100 Mbps plan and the Internet 100 plan.

 

Why would anyone take out the slowest plan when they could get a much better service for the same money? The answer is that AT&T expects most people to take out the best plan that the company can deliver in the area. The slower plans are only offered where no better service is available.

 

The table below shows a selection of AT&T internet service plans and their prices.

 

Plan Introductory Price Standard Price Setup Cost Equipment Fee
Internet Basic 5 $50/month first 12 months $60/month $35 or $99 $10/month
Internet 50 $50/month first 12 months $60/month $35 or $99 $10/month
Internet 100 $50/month first 12 months $60/month $35 or $99 $10/month
Fiber Internet 300 $50/month first 12 months $80/month $0 $10/month
Fiber Internet 1000 $70/month first 12 months $100/month $0 $10/month
Fixed Wireless $60/month first 12 months $70/month Up to $99 $0

AT&T offers discounts on the Internet Basic service to low-income families that benefit from the US Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These lower tariffs are called Access Plans.

AT&T Customer Service

The AT&T Customer Service department can be reached by phone, email, chat, or social media. A call to the Service Center is held up by the inevitable queuing system, featuring cheery advertisements and music. Fortunately, the company provides a freephone number for contacts, so you don’t have to pay for all the time you spend waiting.

Although the help service is not perfect, it is rated as one of the best in the ISP industry with a 2019 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) rating of 69/100. Only Verizon does better.

Choosing AT&T Plans

Always read the fine print when you are comparing internet plans from different providers – even when comparing plans with the same company. As the outline above makes clear, AT&T is a little slippery when depicting the qualities of its plans. The headline speeds that they declare are all undermined by clarifications in less prominent areas of the AT&T website.

AT&T is by no means the only ISP that overpromises performance in its headlines. In fact, it is one of the most reputable services out there, so be doubly careful when an agile startup ISP makes big claims about its services. Set up and equipment fees and other hidden charges can really jack up the price of internet service.

Even if you think you have identified the exact costs and the precise speeds of your chosen plan, double-check the contract when it arrives. It could contain some variations on previous promises and ultimately, it is what the contract says that counts.

AT&T has a good reputation, offers reliable service and is highly rated by its customers. You should certainly consider AT&T as an option when you are shopping for an internet service provider.