Picking a good plan
August 25, 2009 8:10 PM   Subscribe

In need of a cheap high speed internet/cable package shared among 7 college girls in MD and not sure where to start. Help!

Six other girls and I will be moving into a house in College Park, MD 20740. A friend of mine has looked into Verizon for a plan. Unfortunately, she says that that particular plan only works with flatscreen TVs which we do not have.

I have looked at comcast as well as reviews of comcast saying that they are overpriced with not-so-great customer service.

After looking at some DSL vs Cable sites, it seems that cable is pricier but has faster connection. Because the internet will be shared among seven girls, I wanted to know whether or not paying for cable will become a necessity and if we should go for a package that has a minimum of X MBPS.

I would prefer a high-speed internet service coupled with a fairly basic TV cable plan. I am worried about internet being too slow if shared between so many girls. I am also bringing a wireless router to the house (will the internet company I choose help me install that at all?).

I am feeling slightly overwhelmed because we are moving in in two days and classes start on Monday. Any input would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
posted by pulled_levers to Technology (12 answers total)
I'm calling bullshit the plan only working with flat screen TVs. Could be her, could be someone at Verizon, but someone's wrong there. Cable doesn't care what kind of screen you have. It might care if you have a TV that's digital ready. I know mine are so I never really worried about that part. Chances are that unless you have a weather radio with a built in TV or something similar you'll be fine just hooking the TV up to cable. Which doesn't mean that they won't try to sell you a digital converter box anyway. They did it to my wife and I for our second TV, but we think it's worth the $5 a month for the cheap-o box they gave us because we get a super stripped down version of the guide that would otherwise be unavailable on that TV.

Go ahead and bring the router, but don't have the cable company help hook it up. It literally takes two minutes (which includes walking to the kitchen to get a drink because you get thirsty in the middle) and I'm sure you can find someone who will be willing to do it for free. The cable company won't, and on top of that they'll most likely try to charge you for having it.

All cable companies suck in their own special way. There's no way around using someone with a reputation of bad customer service. That being said, I'd take cable over satellite anyway. You don't have to worry about the weather that way.

You don't have to have cable TV to get cable internet in some areas, although doing both usually results in a discount.

The speed you'll need depends on what you'll be doing on the internet. Downloading large files? Streaming lots of videos? Figure that out first. Then remember that people will always end up using more than they say they will.

It's really not a hard process at all. The hardest part is deciding whose name the account will be in. Find someone who will be in the house for a while and is responsible enough to pay the bill and not use the money for pot like one of my wife's former roommates. Try to set it up so you can pay your bill online for as many things as possible. Then you don't have to remember stamps or actually go anywhere to pay.
posted by theichibun at 8:28 PM on August 25, 2009

Can you guys get RCN over there? I had it in Gaithersburg and liked it okay. It was cheaper than Comcast. The cable had its moments, but I have a feeling that the wiring in my building was a little off because a friend who lived in the same area never had problems.
posted by Nolechick11 at 8:43 PM on August 25, 2009

If by "talking to Verizon" you mean asking about Verizon's FiOS service, definitely get that, especially if you are going to have several potentially high-bandwidth users all beating on it. Unlike Comcast, Verizon does not have data transfer caps and their speeds are renowned for being top-notch. FiOS TV does work with televisions that are not flat panel; the rep may have meant that HD service will only work with a flat panel TV (i.e. if you have a regular square tube TV don't bother with HD television service).

I have FiOS for Internet and TV service, and I highly recommend it.
posted by fireoyster at 9:09 PM on August 25, 2009

If you go the wifi route for the 7 of you, definitely get wireless N (the latest edition.) For some reason, at my house, our cheapo "wireless g" modem struggles when one person wants to use the internet for video- (ie, youtube) for them it's fine, but it kills the bandwidth for the rest of us- not great for family harmony when an angry person is storming through the house growling "who is hammering the internet?"

Go with fibre (FiOS?) if you can.

Don't ask "how much will you use" because most people genuinely have no idea. Ask "what do you use"

internet radio
buying music
downloading articles for school
downloading other stuff
general surfing
internet games

Our family of 4 (all with internet addiction) go through about 10GB a month, this may be low/high for other people. (We are in Australia and have 512kbps, ymmv)

Definitely try to get "shaping" where your speed is slowed if you go over your download limit, rather than getting hit with exorbitant fees for each MB over the limit. (ymmv, not sure what the USA is like fees-wise)
posted by titanium_geek at 9:39 PM on August 25, 2009

People bitch and moan about Comcast, but for the most part you don't have a lot of choice in your ISP or cable provider, and they really aren't any better or worse than most gigantic multimillion dollar corporations. If you can get Verizon FIOS, then by all means do that. Otherwise, just go with Comcast. I imagine that if you ask the install tech nicely and offer him some delicious fresh baked goods he would be happy to plug in the router for you as well. The real problem is going to be the fact that every other college student is also moving in this week, and you might have some trouble booking an appointment for the next few weeks, let alone by Monday.
posted by sophist at 10:05 PM on August 25, 2009

I just moved into your same area (sort of, just west of you all, I think!) and set up utilities, and as per theichibun, I also agree that Verizon FiOS will most likely work with your non-flat TVs, just not HD service. I'd call back and clarify.

If you decide on Verizon, you will have to call them or use their website to determine whether or you can get FiOS (fibre optic) or DSL. My building has switched to fibre, so I have fiber optic/FiOS. They give you a wireless router to use for this, and are fairly helpful in setting up your computer. There's a network name and password on the side of the wireless router -- it's fairly straightforward. And, yes, I found their customer service to be very good here in MD.

I had Comcast where I lived in another state, and so far the FiOS signal has been more consistent. YMMV.

Protip: Know that Verizon FiOS requires installation of an ugly ass box (my pic here) which I'd recommend picking a non-conspicuous location for. (Thankfully, I had that eyesore moved lower/behind some furniture)
posted by NikitaNikita at 10:07 PM on August 25, 2009

Also, if I was moving in with that many people I would definitely spring for the movie channels, digital box on the main TV, and whatever the fastest service they have is. It's the difference between $10 and $15 a month per person, maybe less depending on whatever deal they have at the time. If other people want lines in their room, you can sometimes convince the tech to set it up while he is there.
posted by sophist at 10:11 PM on August 25, 2009

Another thing to mention: Know that FiOS internet comes in three speeds. the lowest speed is similar to Comcast/cable. Faster speed plans = more expensive, obviously. I'm fairly satisfied with the cheapest plan, but that's usage-dependent (I don't d/l movies or anything)
posted by NikitaNikita at 10:13 PM on August 25, 2009

Aaaand one more Verizon tip: Make sure you ask if the rate they quote you is for month-to-month ot a one year or two year contract, because they have discounts based on how long you prmoise to keep the service for, yadda yadda.
posted by NikitaNikita at 10:16 PM on August 25, 2009

The only real killer would be P2P apps. If all of you want to download torrents all day it could be a problem. If you're going to be watching a lot of youtube videos, it could make things run more slowly.

I would imagine if you can get more then 10Mbps though you'll be fine.
Definitely try to get "shaping" where your speed is slowed if you go over your download limit, rather than getting hit with exorbitant fees for each MB over the limit. (ymmv, not sure what the USA is like fees-wise)
Heh. There's no capping in the U.S, except in the case of wireless broadband (which uses the cellular network)
posted by delmoi at 12:06 AM on August 26, 2009

There's no capping in the U.S, except in the case of wireless broadband

Satellite has very tight caps.
posted by Bonzai at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2009

Comcast has caps. They're almost a year old.
posted by fireoyster at 2:14 PM on August 26, 2009

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