The AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) estimates of instantaneous solar broadband fluxes (F) at surface have been validated through comparison with ground-based measurements of broadband fluxes at Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) and by the Baseline Surface Radiation (BSRN) and the Solar Radiation Networks (SolRad-Net) during the period 1999–2005 and 1999–2006, respectively. The uncertainties in the calculated aerosol radiative forcing (ΔF) and radiative forcing efficiency (ΔFeff) at the bottom of the atmosphere were also assessed. The stations have been selected attempting to cover different aerosols influences and hence radiative properties: urban-industrial, biomass burning, mineral dust, background continental, maritime aerosols and free troposphere. The AERONET solar downward fluxes at surface agree with ground-based measurements in all situations, with a correlation higher than 99% whereas the relation of observed to modeled fluxes ranges from 0.98 to 1.02. Globally an overestimation of 9 ± 12 Wm−2 of solar measurements was found, whereas for MLO (clear atmosphere) the differences decrease noticeably up to 2 ± 10 Wm−2. The highest dispersion between AERONET estimates and measurements was observed in locations dominated by mineral dust and mixed aerosols types. In these locations, the F and ΔF uncertainties have shown a modest increase of the differences for high aerosol load, contrary to ΔFeff which are strongly affected by low aerosol load. Overall the discrepancies clustered within 9 ± 12 Wm−2 for ΔF and 28 ± 30 Wm−2 per unit of aerosol optical depth, τ, at 0.55 μm for ΔFeff, where the latter is given for τ(0.44 μm) ≥ 0.4. The error distributions have not shown any significant tendency with other aerosol radiative properties as well as size and shape particles.