Reliability: 3 ¼ Stars
Some of our readers were once again harsh with AT&T for its reliability, citing frequent outages and less-than-advertised speeds. However, at 3 ¼ (3.17) stars out of five, reliability was the company’s highest-rated category from our survey.
Overall, the latest FCC study on ISP reliability shows that the majority of DSL service providers fall a little short of advertised download speeds, with AT&T performing as low as 79 percent of advertised speeds on its lowest plan. However, this improves as the bandwidth goes up, and even shows that customers on the Max Plus (18 Mb/s) plan enjoyed slightly higher speeds than advertised. Here's what the 2014 report, titled "Measuring Broadband America," found:
|AT&T DSL Plan||Advertised Speed||Actual Sustained Download Speed||Actual Speed/Advertised Speed Percentage|
|Express Internet||1.5 Mb/s||1.18 Mb/s||79%|
|Pro Internet||3 Mb/s||2.52 Mb/s||84%|
|Elite Internet||6 Mb/s||5.56 Mb/s||93%|
|Max Internet||12 Mb/s||11.63 Mb/s||97%|
|Max Plus Internet||18 Mb/s||19.25 Mb/s||107%|
|Max Turbo Internet||24 Mb/s||23.20 Mb/s||97%|
This study is slightly dated, with the information collected in September 2013 and not published until October 2014, so it isn't necessarily indicative of current performance levels. However, it does provide a base data set to compare with, and it illustrates a slight peak bandwidth loss for the majority of plans and speeds (except for the 18 Mb/s option). DSL may occasionally suffer from these kinds of bandwidth losses depending on your distance from the central office, as we noted in our ISP review launch.
Downtimes don't appear to be a measurable statistic for ISPs (at least not from reputable sources we can cite), with the Federal Communications Commission ambiguously leaving out any data of that nature in its report. However, this shouldn't be a surprise because there isn't really a way to fairly judge an ISP's dependability based on downtime and uptime.
Downtimes are caused by a variety of factors, and are often isolated to either individual homes or areas, making it difficult to gather data on the frequency, length and reach of such outages. Furthermore, how would user error (we all know a guy that blamed the ISP for weeks about a modem he mistakenly plugged into the wrong port) be fairly applied to data of this nature? Without a truly unbiased way to measure outages, it would be difficult to put a grade on it.
That's not to say this isn't an important factor; at one point or another we've all watched that blinking LED, wondering when our connection would spring back to life. Some of our readers certainly were not shy in their disapproval for AT&T's downtime, with one commenting that "overall service is spotty at best, with frequent line drops," and another stating "I can't remember ever thinking 'what a fast, reliable connection I have.' In fact, as I was doing this, my Internet dropped for a few moments."
However, the majority of our surveyed readers rated the reliability offered by AT&T as quite high, with one reader noting its dependability. "AT&T is consistent, and that is ultimately what I demand for my day-to-day life." Others were not fans of the pricing or performance, but had to admit that reliability was exceptional. "It’s reliable, but I don't like the price or the speed." Some just had an overall great experience. "[The service is] always on, the modem never needs to be rebooted, and can consistently max the bandwidth and it always exceeds what I'm paying for." An overall score above three stars in our survey makes a strong case that AT&T has better-than-average reliability.