Best broadband in Chicago?
July 5, 2010 4:40 PM   Subscribe

What's the best broadband solution in Chicago?

I have a DSL line through SBC and it is painfully slow. I am getting 1.22mbs download speeds with a non-wireless set up. SBC seems to offer some kind of upgraded DSL, but that is not available in my neighborhood, according to their website.

What should I switch to? I don't have cable, fwiw. North side of the city. I've been looking at Sprint/4G, but I see a lot of bad reviews.

posted by Mid to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
On my EVO I get anywhere between 2-6mbps when I'm in 4G territory. So, if the best you can do is 2 or 2.5mbps then you'll see an improvement, but not by much. You'll also have the added latency of a wireless connection, but its manageable with 4G, I think 80ms or so.

I initially tried to get Uverse, but they at first refused to sell it to me unless I got the video service. When I called back and asked for a manager they then allowed it, but then gave me some BS about how unless I get the video service they will not bother to make sure to keep my DSL up until the change over, thus guranteeing me several days of downtime. I just hung up on them at that point. I won't even go into how many trips it took them to install DSL and the nightmare that was. I'm very happy to be away from AT&T.

I'm currently pretty happy with Comcast. They took my order and had someone here in a couple of days. The speed package I have is 11mbps, but with speedboost I'm downloading at 22mbps. I often download files anywhere between 1.2 to 2 megabytes (not megabits) per second. Its pretty incredible.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:51 PM on July 5, 2010

I've been a Comcast customer for over a decade. Are they awesome? No. Are they responsive to trouble? No.

Is their connection speed fast? Yes.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:55 PM on July 5, 2010

4G is not reliable enough for home Internet use. It's nice when you're in a coffee shop and notice, "hey, I get 2Mbps download instead of 1.5Mbps download, and my ping time is twice as good"... but that doesn't happen as often as you'd think. At my home and at work (downtown), I get 2 bars of 4G reception, and this is barely enough to pull any bits at all. (It was quite good before the Evo was released, but after that, 4G has been terrible. Too many users, not enough infrastructure. Fucking Sprint.)

Anyway, I have Speakeasy DSL. It is 6M/1.5M, and you can get up to 15M/3M if you want. It's pricey, though, so keep that in mind. You're paying for no BS -- there are no restrictions on what you can and can't do, and you get 24 hour tech support -- with all the representatives in Seattle. They actually understand your problem and can provide you a solution in English. It's amazing.

But with basic DSL being $20 a month and Speakeasy being almost $130 a month... it's easy to see why they aren't more popular. I'm willing to pay for not being jerked around, but most people aren't. YMMV.
posted by jrockway at 5:43 PM on July 5, 2010

Yeah, I'll second SAS. I had to set up my own connection (Call in this MAC address and then sit on the couch and don't touch anything), it'll randomly crap out on occasion, and if there's a billing mistake, it's like pulling teeth to get resolved, but Comcast has the best consumer* broadband in Chicago. I had 16Mbps peak and 13Mbps pretty steadily.

*We get 100Mbps fiber in my office for $700 a month from Cogent, but that's only because they've already got equipment in our building. I asked how much to run that to my condo, and it's a $10,000 installation. So yeah, no.
posted by Oktober at 5:43 PM on July 5, 2010

Speakeasy had *phenomenal* customer service along with an internet phone package that was *the best* bar none. (in terms of management. voice mails could be emailed to me, I could maintain a block list, control when people could get hold of me (as well as putting some people in the "Can always get through" list)). They are, as jrockway said, very pricey.

I now have RCN because I can't stand to give Comcast money. 10 meg down with internet phone for $100 a month. We live in Rogers Park in Chicago. Also not terribly responsive and at times a bit sluggish during peak....but they've only had two outages that I can think of in four years.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:34 PM on July 5, 2010

We've got RCN cable broadband at home, and aside from the occasional outage, it's pretty solid and as speedy as I need it to be (I haven't checked speeds).
posted by me3dia at 10:25 PM on July 5, 2010

Speakeasy may not be any better. In Chicago they use AT&Ts lines or go through Covad, so if he's so far from the CO that he is only getting 1.2mbps then that's the same speed he'll get with Speakeasy.

As lousy as Comcast is for some people, its nothing compared to the incompetence of the local telco.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:58 AM on July 6, 2010

I've had Comcast cable for close to a year now after switching from terrible AT&T DSL. I don't know if their customer service is good or not because I haven't had any need to contact them yet since the service has gone out only once, and for about half an hour. The speed is great - just did the Speakeasy speed test and came back with 10.6 mb down and 3.8 mb up, although that's probably inflated a bit by the speed boost thing that Comcast does. I would try to hunt down a promotional price, though.
posted by sinfony at 7:57 AM on July 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I have decided cable is the way to go. Looks like Comcast is about 60/mo on promotional pricing and RCN is about 40/mo. But tons of bad reviews on RCN. Anyone have a view on RCN/Comcast?
posted by Mid at 8:22 AM on July 6, 2010

I had RCN for a while and never had a complaint. I would have RCN still if it was available in my neighborhood.
posted by kpmcguire at 3:46 PM on July 6, 2010

Comcast is pretty quick for me - with the Speedblaster or whatever their faster or fastest home speed is I pay about $63 per month and consistently get 20Mbps down (can't remember up, maybe 2 - 3 Mbps?). I have had, I think one outage in 3 years or so.

AT&T: I have heard that uVerse is good, but they don't have fiber in lost of parts of Chicago, and not where I live. DSL was terrible with them - lots of outages (averaging, seriously, once every few months that required a service visit), and no ability to get speed beyond 4 Mbps down and 500Kbps up. I am about 10,000 cable feet from the relevant physical location, but it seems stupid to me that they are set up so that some non-trivial percentage of the area can't get good service from them, and they just don't care. Their customer and technical services were terrible. Every one of my 10 or so outages during the time I had them was upstream from our network interface box, and every time before someone finally fixed it it was a half-dozen calls to get to the right people to fix it. Before that it is a constant refrain of "everything is ok on our end", "you must have a problem with your internal wiring, we'll have to charge you for that" "you have to be there to let someone in to fix it". They seemed to have all sorts of problems in general, and happening to see a guy with a truck working on the line if my line was already working basically meant that they were going to screw up my connection and I would have to call them a day later to have someone come out to fix what the first guy screwed up. They still operate like a monopoly.

Right now, I get 5-9 Mbps down (around 1Mbps up) on Sprint 4G, but I expect that will get worse as they get more 4G users. I can consistently get 4G in residences or small buildings, but anywhere much above ground or in large buildings means you can only get 3G. I do know some people using 4G as a home connection, though.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 7:51 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

For city/region specific ISP comparisons, I always run over to They have a ratings/review system that lets you see the average speeds that users report for their ISP by region, so you can see if there is a better provider in Chicago or if some other users of your current service have tips for how to get better speed out of it.
posted by Draxelion at 4:52 PM on August 4, 2010

« Older Want to pick the best option for my dog out of a...   |   I love you, but that's not enough... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.