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.
Sparklight, formerly known as Cable One, is a cable internet provider primarily serving suburbs and rural areas in over a dozen states. Its no-contract plans offer good download speeds to areas fiber doesn’t often reach, but its data caps aren’t ideal.
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.
Sparklight’s no-contract cable internet plans are generally a decent value compared to other providers available in the communities the company serves. While you might not be able to get fiber in these areas, you’re likely to find DSL, satellite, or other cable internet service providers (ISPs). The speed you get for the price is comparable to other cable providers or a bit cheaper, and the performance surpasses DSL and satellite. All of this means Sparklight’s plans are worth strongly considering if your address is in one of its service areas.
We recommend choosing a Sparklight plan with at least 200 Mbps of download speed, but ideally more if it’s in your budget. Since Sparklight is a cable provider, upload speeds tend to be far below the download speeds. Upload speeds increase with each pricing tier, so if you work from home and have multiple connected devices you may want to pick one of the more expensive plans for seamless video calls.
All of Sparklight’s plans have data caps, except for its most expensive Gig plan. Data caps are typical for cable providers. While some competitors offer data caps over 1 TB for all of their plans, Sparklight’s plans have data caps that range from 100 GB to 1.5 TB. You can get 100 GB blocks of additional data for $10 during months when you need it, or you can upgrade to unlimited data with any plan for an extra $30/month. When calculating your needs, consider that the average person uses 536 GB of data per month (1).
The Gig plan offers the most data for your dollar and the highest speeds, but it’s more expensive than fiber plans with comparable download speeds, at least in some of the service areas. If you don’t want to pay top dollar, the Internet 300 and 500 plans also offer good speeds and high enough data caps for the needs of most households. We wouldn’t recommend the Internet 25 plan because its low speeds and data cap won’t comfortably meet most people’s needs.
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.
Sparklight is available in mostly rural and suburban areas where customers probably won’t be able to get fiber internet. This makes Sparklight’s cable internet speeds the best option in some communities that are otherwise served only by DSL or satellite, which can be slow and unreliable. According to a report from Ookla, Sparklight had the highest download speeds among fixed broadband providers in North Dakota and New Mexico. (2)
Sparklight is a fiber-rich cable provider, meaning it delivers service using a mix of fiber and coaxial cables. While it can achieve download speeds of up to 940 Mbps, its upload speeds are much lower than that, reaching 50 Mbps. This is a technical limitation of cable connections that those with fiber connections won’t experience. While this isn’t ideal for households with several people who want to do heavy gaming or take video calls at the same time, Sparklight’s download and upload speeds are generally still sufficient for most households. And for regular browsing and streaming for multiple users, it's just fine. However, the data caps may hold you back if you’re a heavy internet user. Occasional outages and inconsistent speeds do affect service according to customer reports on Downdetector. (3)
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.
When you sign up for Sparklight internet service, you can call to schedule professional installation or choose self-installation. Both options are reasonably fast according to customer reviews. Professional installation is typically free and can be scheduled at your convenience. There's technically a $90 professional installation fee, but it is waived as part of a "permanent promotion." Self-installation is free and should take about 15 minutes once you receive your equipment in the mail.
You can choose to purchase your own Sparklight-supported modem or lease a modem from Sparklight for just over $10/month, less than some other providers. The installation cost, activation fee, and any equipment deposits may be waived for qualifying new customers.
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.
Customer experience with Sparklight is about average compared to other providers. Tech support is available 24/7 by phone or email, and there are plenty of help articles available online. Like most other providers, equipment installation is straightforward whether you have it done professionally or do it yourself.
Common complaints include unplanned outages, inconsistent speeds, and long wait times to reach Sparklight support by phone, according to user reports on Downdetector. (4) If you try Sparklight’s internet service and it doesn’t live up to expectations, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.