Should I ditch Comcast's Triple Play in Chicago for DSL?
September 7, 2008 7:31 PM   Subscribe

Thinking of switching from Comcast cable modem to DSL for broadband--will I notice the difference?

I'm in Chicago and currently have the Comcast Triple Play package (cable TV/digital phone/Internet) which ends up costing $123.44 a month. My year of service is almost up and I'm not interested in paying even more than I already am, so I'm considering getting rid of Comcast and switching over to just a broadband provider.

I'd stick with Comcast if they could offer Internet only for $50 a month or so, but that's not an option with them as far as I know, so I'm thinking about switching over to AT&T for DSL service.

I'm a fairly heavy bandwidth consumer--in addition to typical browsing, I download a lot of binaries via Giganews. I usually get speeds of around 1000 k/s.

Other than AT&T, are there any solid options for broadband Internet providers in Chicago? And if I switch to DSL, will I notice the difference when doing regular browsing? Slower binary downloads don't bother me unless it's, like, way slower than what I'm used to.

posted by bdk3clash to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The thing is DSL will vary greatly in quality depending on where you are located. It really drops off in speed as the distance from the switching office increases. Unless you know a local AT&T tech who can give you the low down, you probably won't know what type of speeds you're going to get until after the fact.

Regardless, it is significantly slower than cable. That 1000 kbs? Try 150 - 300 on a good day.

On the plus side, AT&T offers DSL as a "dry loop" (if you ask) which means you don't have to get the phone service. So the service is actually quite cheap. I think my DSL bill is around $23 a month or so...
posted by wfrgms at 7:53 PM on September 7, 2008

Regular browsing? No. I have AT&T in Chicago. I live so far from the CO that I can only get 1.5 mbps down and 384 up. In download terms I get 150 KB/s. That's more than enough for everything I need. 28 dollars a month.

I download a lot of binaries via Giganews. I usually get speeds of around 1000 k/s.

AT&T sells service up to 4 or 5 mbps, but you'll need to live close to the CO. This is comparable to Comcast's speed. I just make my big downloads run overnight if need be.

Other than AT&T, are there any solid options for broadband Internet providers in Chicago?

RCN cable.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:53 PM on September 7, 2008

In the past we have had Comcast internet with just the basic, basic, basic cable (ie just NBC. ABC, etc). The cable was like $10 a month and then the internet was $50/month. so, ~$60/month.

We now have DSL and I don't really notice too much difference for just surfing. If you are big into downloading music and stuff all the time you will probably notice a difference. But for the occasional huge pdf or exe file, not such a big deal.
posted by ian1977 at 7:54 PM on September 7, 2008

Also its worth noting that Comcast will move to a 250 gig monthly cap soon. So even if you stay with them you may hit that cap and pay extra fees.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:54 PM on September 7, 2008

If your cable service is solid, and the DSL isn't, yes, you will. If they're both bad or both good, probably not.

Their inherent differences are exceeded by the problems you can face with speed.
posted by gjc at 8:10 PM on September 7, 2008

I had the basic comcast and switched to the best dsl offered in my area. Comcast advertised 6 mbps down and I frequently found I was downloading stuff as fast as a megaBYTE a second. Now that I am on DSL they advertised 1.5 mbps down and I am downloading maximum at 75 kiloBYTES a second- I am switching back to comcast- you'll realize it's worth the money- I can't even stream youtube videos while I am browsing something else!!!!
posted by Large Marge at 8:15 PM on September 7, 2008

I have just the internet from comcast, no cable TV, no phone so it's certainly an option.

I switched from DSL a while ago and Cable is MUCH faster and up much more often.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:17 PM on September 7, 2008

I live in suburban Chicago. I just switched from Comcast to AT&T in the past month. My current speed (tested 10 seconds ago on is
5142 kb/s download and 674 up. I'm on a wireless laptop (PC). I don't notice the difference at all. My browsing usually consists of metafilter, email, some youtube/other video, and iTunes downloads.
posted by desjardins at 9:27 PM on September 7, 2008

sorry about the link, I thought it was supposed to go directly to my results.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 PM on September 7, 2008

AT&T offers speeds of up to 6.0Mbps with their "Elite package." I have AT&T service through and get about the same speeds as desjardins. I can download from Usenet at about 650 kilobytes/second. You may also want to see if you can get their Uverse service which is much faster than normal DSL. It's bundled with TV service, but you can cancel the TV and just keep the internet.
posted by zsazsa at 11:27 PM on September 7, 2008

I forgot to mention that I have the elite super-duper DSL package that's around $35/month. I can't speak to the speed of their other packages.
posted by desjardins at 12:08 PM on September 8, 2008

I just switched from 6mbps Comcast to 6 mbps AT&T U-Verse and the improvement in speed is stunning. I'm getting the advertised speeds in tests, but my latency has dropped considerably. Browsing is noticeably faster and now torrents work too.

Not to mention the TV service is outstanding. I get more channels for less money than with Comcast. The DVR is included, the guide is lightyears ahead of Comcast's and I can manage my DVR programming online. The picture quality of both SD and HD channels is superior to Comcast (with the exception of fast-action sports coverage on ESPN and the networks, but I don't watch sports). It's a fantastic service.
posted by prozach1576 at 1:28 PM on September 8, 2008

It really depends what you're doing. Basic web browsing and email? You won't notice too big a difference.

Downloading big files? Ginormous difference between Cable and 6mbps (AT&T's fastest) DSL. Seriously. Comcast was upped to 16mbps and it makes a big difference, as much as I despise them.

Unfortunately, AT&T U-Verse isn't available in the city of Chicago yet, though I was told by someone at the AT&T store that it's "coming soon" -- that could still be months off in the future, though.

One thing to consider is that if you're willing to risk them saying "Okay" and cancelling your service, you might call to cancel and explain that your reason for cancelling is that you're not happy with the price increase now that your trial period is over, and AT&T comes out to be cheaper. Often times their retention department will offer you another year at that price, or even a permanent price decrease.

I've currently got Comcast for TV and internet (but not phone), and I used to pay more than your $123 just for those two. Now I'm paying a lot less than that, and the price will last me about a year before it bumps up again (after which I'll probably weigh my options again, and u-verse might be out)...
posted by twiggy at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: I'd stick with Comcast if they could offer Internet only for $50 a month or so

Comcast offers their second-lowest (I think of three) speed of cable internet access (I think up to 12 Mb down and maybe 1.5 Mb up?) for around $60. With all the taxes, my bill is $63.15/month. Their slowest speed might be 6 or 8 Mb down, I'm not sure. I see pretty close the the listed speeds, I think that Speedtest shows me getting like 12 Mb down for longer transfers. I think that the cheapest speed will probably set you back about $55 for a stand-alone price.

I switched to Comcast about 6 months ago from AT&T, after getting sick of being so far from the CO that I couldn't get more than 1.5 Mb down (officially). In practice, I probably got about 100 KB down, max. You might be able to get somewhat faster depending on where you are, but AT&T DSL is not that fast anywhere in Chicago. If you are looking to switch to save money, they aren't a bad choice, but you will probably be disappointed by the speed.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 2:58 PM on September 9, 2008

I see that I am late to the party, but just in case someone else comes across this down the road [esp. with the link from Lifehacker].

Previous commenter: I first read your name as "I know Biz Mark." :)

OP: said you do news downloading, so you would probably see a hit -- but we pay about $45-50 a month for the most basicest, basic Analog cable -- basically broadcast, community access, and a handful of basic-cable staples like TNT and Disney Channel -- and the "budget" high-speed internet from Comcast. I think I usually top out about 80k a second when I'm pulling down, say, a system update, but for e-mail, youtube, RSS, browsing, it's just fine. We dumped the HD DVR and digital cable and bought a TiVo, and I'd say we've paid for the TiVo and 3-year service plan with how much we saved.

My lovely wife had to push and prod Comcast to offer us those plans, but it was worth it. Getting less TV has made us watch less TV. If I could add one channel a-la-carte it would be USA for Monk, Psych, and Burn Notice. I'd gladly give up Fox News for that.
posted by britain at 7:16 PM on September 19, 2008

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