Best net provider in Portland?
August 25, 2010 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Who is the best high-speed Internet service provider in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA areas?

I will be moving to Vancouver, WA (or thereabouts) in a few months. I will be working from home. I need a reliable high-speed Internet connection to do my work. Who's the best?

A somewhat related question - since I haven't found a place yet, are there areas of Clark or Cowlitz counties that I should avoid because it will be difficult to get service there?
posted by rikhei to Technology (13 answers total)
I hate to say this. It pains me... but... oh god, do I really have to? Fine. Here goes:

The best option is probably Comcast. Comcast is lightning fast and if you're going to get cable, you might as well save a few bucks and go with their internet too. It's super reliable. And did I mention fast?

Unless you need a land line, you'll overpay with Qwest. That was my experience, anyway. Also, Qwest farms out their support to Bangladesh (or have they moved it Mbatenaginagu?). I found it insanely frustrating. Like I said, if you call Comcast for any form of tech support, you're calling somebody in Beaverton. I've had very good experience with Comcast tech support, and my service has had very few problems.

One annoying thing about Comcast: you either waste money, or you call once every six months to play the rate game to get on a new "promotion" service price.

If you're not getting cable, you might want to look into Clear. It's not as fast, but it's wireless and you won't have to play the stupid rate game.

Good luck with your move!
posted by 2oh1 at 3:18 PM on August 25, 2010

P.S. I say "it pains me" to recommend Comcast because I hate that my bill fluctuates wildly if I play the rate game or it's too high if I don't. I don't like teaser pricing. Aside from that, my experience with them has been quite good. Then again, maybe I should be thankful I can save money by calling them every sex months to get on another promotional deal...? Maybe. I had Qwest for a few years and it wasn't nearly as good as Comcast. I'm in Portland.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:26 PM on August 25, 2010

I've had Qwest, Speakeasy, Clear and Comcast. I work out of a home office editing Web sites, so a reliable connection is pretty important to me.

- Qwest DSL (1.5 meg): It's been a while (about eight years) since I was with them. Reliable enough. Not very fast for my neighborhood. Nightmare when something went wrong. I switched for a while to keeping Qwest as the people who provisioned the line but with local ISP EasyStreet, which costs more than Qwest but provided static IPs and a more liberal policy on which ports I could have open.

- Speakeasy DSL (3 meg): I went with them because they could offer so-called naked or dry line DSL service and I was tired of paying Qwest + EasyStreet. I stuck with them for several years and had them provide my voice services as well. They remained pretty good, even after Best Buy bought them. "Good" means not a lot of downtime, and when there was downtime, they communicated about the problems well enough that I could call my boss and give him a timeframe for when I'd be back up (or decide whether I shouldn't schlep my laptop off to a hotspot or friend's house).

When we moved to the part of town we're in now (far southeast), Speakeasy's techs told me they could keep me at the 3 meg connection I had and probably upgrade me to 6 meg. On install day, the installation tech told me he could only get me 1.5 meg, and that it would involve losing some upload bandwidth. I had to drop them. The thing that's a real shame is that they were just plain wrong about how fast a connection they could provide. Might not have been their fault, since I'd guess the telcos provide them with the distance information they need to guess about connection speeds, but they did mess up and I was stuck with a termination fee that was pretty steep until I went through a lot of complaining and escalation to get it cut in half after their service department dragged its feet. I can't really recommend them unless you can talk to people in your new neighborhood who might be using them (or another DSL service) and see what kind of speeds they're getting and/or are available to them.

- Clear WiMAX (6 meg): I got a connection that seemed to be about what I paid for: A pretty steady 5.75 meg most of the time.

I write about this stuff sometimes. I wrote a review of Clear WiMAX before I had all the trouble I did.

The problem with Clear, which I discovered after three or four months of service, was that the Clear infrastructure is still shaky. I spent two pretty bad weeks with a constantly dropping connection. Worse, when I'd call support to see what the problem was, they'd be clueless beyond "reboot your antenna box and see what happens" or "yeah, there are problems but we have no idea what they are because they don't tell us."

That pretty much left me with Comcast, which I have now (for voice and data).

I've got a mid-tier connection and it's very fast and very reliable. I think in the eight or so months I've had it that I've suffered two outages (and they were late at night).
posted by mph at 3:41 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use Comcast and I've been pretty happy with it. There have been a few gripes, but overall it's been reliable, and the speed is decent.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:52 PM on August 25, 2010

I've had nothing but bad results when I tried to move off of Comcast, the evil empire.

At least it is a fast evil empire!

I've tried to kill the evil a few times. Mostly, the DSL folks get here and then suddenly the speed isn't quite what they claimed it would be. As in, half or less. Not acceptable.

I live in the southwest, near Multnomah Village. It might be better elsewhere in town, to be fair.

(off topic, somewhat)
Also, Portland and Vancouver are two *very* different cities, so much so that I hate to hear them mentioned in the same breath. They are merely near each other.

You couldn't pay me to move to Vancouver with Portland right next door. I worked there for a year, and in my experience, Portland kicks the bejeezus out of Vancouver in every measurable category, except price. YMMV. Are you sure you want to move to "The Couve?" You'll have more fun here, I promise.
posted by Invoke at 4:34 PM on August 25, 2010

I can say with absolute certainty you should not go with Qwest. At one point they shipped me three modems but never activated my service. When I moved to Vancouver (not to be preachy, but if you can avoid living there it would greatly improve your quality of life) our connection went down about every hour or so. Every time I called in to try and get something fixed I would wait for hours and things never got fixed anyways so I just gave up. It was awful. This was like seven years ago, though, so maybe things have improved. I doubt it though.
posted by calistasm at 5:58 PM on August 25, 2010

Verizon has been laying fiber in my area. I didn't go with it when they wired our complex, and I don't know anyone else who has, but in some areas FIOS is an alternative.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:03 PM on August 25, 2010

(You may benefit from FIOS even if you don't get it. When Verizon announced they were doing FIOS here, Comcast doubled everyone's bandwidth without raising prices.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:04 PM on August 25, 2010

I had Comcast when I first moved to the Portland area and HATED them. When I moved a year later I switched to Verizon FIOS and have been completely happy with it ever since (two years now). If Verizon FIOS is available in your area, I would definitely say go with that.

Also, when I first moved to Oregon, Verizon told me that it would be at least 2 months before they could hook me up with FIOS. Comcast promised me they'd have me up and running within a week of my move. So I got locked in with Comcast and ... they finally got me hooked up with Internet three months after my move. At least Verizon was honest, and I wish I'd gone with them from the beginning (but, how was I to know).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:50 PM on August 25, 2010

We had Comcast which was reliable but expensive. We just switched to Qwest DSL because they were running a promotion with 8MB for $20 per month.

We aren't happy. The DSL modem needs to be rebooted every 3 or 4 days because it keeps on loosing internet connectivity. I've just put it on a timer that will turn it off for an hour once per day. If that doesn't work we are going back to paying twice as much money to the evil Comcast empire.

On the positive side, installation was quick and easy for both providers.
posted by monotreme at 10:21 PM on August 25, 2010

I will add to the chorus of not going with Qwest with this anecdote:

When I moved into my apartment, they sent me a modem, but apparently they had never herad of a mac before because it didn't work at all. I called them to tell them my internet wasn't working. They told me to download an .exe file to diagnose the problem. I explained to them that my internet wasn't working and they floundered and I got passed around for a while until they found someone who actually had seen an apple computer before to tell me how to change some setting and get it going.

Comcast is annoying, but they are reliable, and I was connected within a week of calling them. Also, I think most of Vancouver should be avoided for living in, but it kind of depends on your demographic. I know some people with families who are into it, but for younger people interested in going out, it's generally a wasteland.
posted by ohisee at 10:56 PM on August 25, 2010

I have been unhappy with Qwest 1.5M service, but they are literally my only option in far far out Northwest. (Frustratingly, we don't have cable service on my street, even though Comcast's lines run above the street and they are constantly out servicing them.) I will say that about 6-10 months ago I noticed a bunch of Qwest trucks working by the router about a mile from my house, and after that our constant outages stopped, and our speed improved considerably to a functional 1.2 or so. They keep promising fiber, but so far nada.
posted by saladpants at 4:37 PM on August 26, 2010

The problem is that it comes down to choosing the least bad service.

We use comcast - and overall we have no major complaints. Speed is good (we basically only use wifi), rates are what any provider charges (after their sweet promo deal things).

Most people I know in Portland use Comcast. I know a lot of people who tried Clear and they all have horror stories.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:53 AM on August 27, 2010

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