AT&T offers one of the best values in internet service—fast fiber internet speeds at reasonable prices, plus some of the best support in the business and rock-solid reliability. With no contracts, no data caps, and no monthly equipment fee, AT&T is one of the best home internet providers we tested.
Rise Broadband offers competitive fixed wireless speeds at reasonable prices for rural customers. While it won’t compete with your typical fiber or cable internet service, it offers a compelling alternative to satellite.
The AT&T fiber plans represent an excellent value proposition. The speeds are competitive, and the prices at any given tier are lower than nearly every other provider. One exception, Xfinity, offers slightly cheaper gig plans in some markets. Another, Google Fiber, offers $10 less on gigabit speeds. However, AT&T is more likely to be available in areas that have cable internet from Spectrum and Cox, and we think AT&T fiber is usually the better deal.
For the money with AT&T, you get outstanding download speeds and excellent upload speeds. And with unlimited data on fiber internet plans, you can actually use your gigabit connection without worry.
Some legacy customers may have DSL internet from AT&T. The most affordable AT&T plan is more than $50 per month, but this can either be basic DSL (speeds up to 75 Mbps) or the excellent, fiber-based Internet 300. If you can get only AT&T fixed wireless, you’ll pay higher prices, face data caps, and suffer through 1 Mbps upload speeds. Other providers just offer much better deals on plans in these tiers.
Rise Broadband is a tough service to rate because it’s not your typical ISP. Rise Broadband provides what’s known as “fixed wireless” service, which means the signal is beamed from a tower wirelessly to your home (rather than running through cable or fiber lines). It’s also generally aimed more at rural areas where cable lines don’t exist. This means it primarily competes with satellite internet and DSL. All this has to be taken into account when considering value.
So, where does Rise stand? Compared to DSL and satellite, it’s an outstanding value. It offers better performance and higher data allowances (with an unlimited data add-on available) than satellite and DSL, and at significantly lower prices. That said, if you’re in an area that has a cable or fiber option, you may find that those providers offer more for your money.
AT&T claims 99% reliability (1) for its fiber internet service, and that’s pretty accurate in our experience. In fact, over several years of constant daily use in a packed house (two people working from home, two kids doing schoolwork, lots of streaming video and calls), we haven’t had a single major disruption. This is a marked contrast to our previous provider.
Additionally, speeds are consistent, with little variation based on the time of day, activity, or even the particular speed test used. Its median download speeds are slightly slower than its cable and fiber internet competitors, but only by a matter of milliseconds (2). This all adds up to a great experience where the service “just works,” and nobody ever really needs to wonder if they’ll be able to do what they need to do.
It's also worth mentioning that because AT&T fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables, upload speeds are equal to download speeds. That means you can upload huge files in seconds, video chat, live stream game play, and more without a hiccup.
Performance-wise, Rise Broadband offers solid speeds—with the caveat that we’re comparing internet options in rural areas here. Most coverage areas have a choice of 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps plans, and some select areas have up to 100 Mbps available. These speeds would be pretty bad in areas with more options. However, if you’re considering fixed wireless, you probably don’t have many more options.
Compared to a satellite provider like Viasat, these speeds are about average—maybe even a little slow. However, fixed wireless like Rise won’t suffer from the huge latency of satellite internet, which makes it much more usable for gaming and other real-time tasks. Rise should handle HD streaming in a small household without too much trouble. You can optionally add unlimited data for an extra $10 per month, which makes a big difference without making the price unreasonable.
AT&T fiber internet installation is about as simple as it gets. You have two options: a $99 professional installation by an AT&T technician or a DIY self-install kit.
If you can get only DSL with AT&T, the equipment is still free but you'll be charged a $49 activation fee. If you don't want to self-install, you can have a pro come out for an additional $99.
The self-install is very easy and comes with clear instructions, so we’d recommend that for pretty much everyone. Activation and configuration of your Wi-Fi network are handled through the simple AT&T Smart Home Manager app, so you don’t even need to log into the router settings page like with some other providers.
It is worth noting that both of these charges are a bit higher than what the competition charges. CenturyLink doesn’t charge for self-installation, for example, while Xfinity charges only $89.99 for a professional install.
That said, if you do need a professional to come out, you can count on fast and friendly service. We’ve personally had techs out on a couple of occasions and were happy with the experience.
Learn more about whether you need a professional installation.
Finally, the AT&T wireless gateway is surprisingly nice. Called AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, it’s super simple to set up, provides solid range, and looks decent on a desk. Compared to the routers and gateways provided by some other providers, this one’s a breath of fresh air.
Rise Broadband offers surprisingly competitive equipment. The provider offers the TP-Link Deco M4 mesh system, which can easily cover an entire large home. Customers can choose to rent up to three of the devices for $5 more per month each, so you can save a little money if you don’t need the full range of all three routers.
Rise Broadband’s installation fee is a whopping $150. That’s one of the highest of any providers we’ve seen. However, many promotions waive this fee. If you can’t find one in your area, it’s also worth asking the sales rep about it—you never know.
Internet providers have traditionally had a terrible reputation for customer service, but AT&T scores above average with national rating organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). These ratings have improved over the last few years, which is encouraging.
AT&T offers several options for getting help:
The support site also has lots of information available. It’s easy to use, and if you do need more help, the options involving service reps usually get a quick, friendly response. While it’s not perfect 100% of the time, AT&T customer support tends to be better than average.
AT&T makes it easy to stay connected away from home, too. Subscribers get access to a nationwide network of free Wi-Fi hotspots. Since AT&T offers mobile phone service in addition to internet, you'll be able to log on in from almost anywhere.
The customer experience with Rise Broadband is good overall. It offers solid speeds at a great price—if you’re coming from satellite, it’ll be a whole new world. Our one major gripe isn’t so much with Rise as it is with fixed wireless in general: it’s more susceptible to weather interference than most other types of internet. If you’re in an area with frequent heavy rain or snow, you might have some reliability issues (although satellite would likely have the same issues, too).