Should I jump ship from AT&T DSL to Charter Internet?
March 9, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Should I jump ship from AT&T DSL to Charter Internet, and if so, what should I be aware of?

I've been getting DSL through AT&T (SBC, etc.) for ten years. I've dropped my landline and current paying $35-40 for a la carte DSL. I see that I can get faster up/down speeds through Charter for about the same price, so I'm thinking of jumping ship. Should I? What do I need to know? It looks like I have to buy or rent a cable modem? If so, what do you recommend? We watch a lot of Netflix Instant, will I run into any bandwidth caps? Anything else I should be aware of?
posted by entropicamericana to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I"m in the same boat. Had a chat with one of their reps the other night and the chief difference I can see is the bandwidth cap. They're "express" package has a 100gig/month cap. That seems like a lot, but when nextflix streaming takes about 1gig/hour, you can burn through that in a hurry. They offered me a 24 month price lock on the express package at $35/mo. I'm sticking with ATT for the moment, just because I don't want to deal with worrying about bandwidth cap.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2011

I've been a relatively happy Charter customer for five years. At my outskirts-of-San-Luis-Obispo location, DSL is not a viable alternative (and I've been avoiding the various incarnations of AT&T since the 80s when MCI Long Distance first became available). The company has been through some rough times and was ranked among the worst Internet providers for a while, but it has improved in more recent rankings to somewhere in the middle; for me, it has been almost two years since my last more-than-an-hour-I-noticed outage, and, again, I am on the outskirts, so that's better than I expected.

Yes, a Cable Modem is required; the advertized package should include it but after you're out of that window-of-time, owning one will pay for itself in less than a year. The big question is bandwidth caps; I don't Netflix but local fellow Mefite (and Charter customer) filthy light thief does and he is having issues. Where exactly are you located? Service may vary between Charter in California and Charter in North Dakota...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:53 AM on March 9, 2011

See Acceptable Use Policy – Residential Customers: 14. NO EXCESSIVE USE OF BANDWIDTH
Residential service usage for Customers subscribing to the Lite or Express packages should not exceed 100 Gigabytes ("GB") of data per month. Usage for Customers subscribing to the Plus or Max packages should not exceed 250 GB of data per month and usage for Customers subscribing to the Ultra60 package should not exceed 500 GB of data per month. Charter reserves the right to revise or implement additional usage limits at any time.
I've been a long-term customer, and I'm currently paying $78 per month for Plus or Max (not sure, they don't tell you anywhere which package you're using). As oneswellfoop said, I've had issues for excessive bw use, and my current router can chart my bw usage, because Charter doesn't tell you. Their company line is that the 100gb cap is enough for most people, and that the "average user" won't exceed 40 gb/mo.

I don't think that takes into account people switching from Cable TV to some streaming video source, though I think that the Lite or Express package should be sufficient if your biggest bandwidth usage is for streaming Netflix. We were watching Neflix Instant on a big ol' HD TV, and it looked great on the Express package speeds. There were rarely streaming issues, but nothing that lasted more than a moment, and that didn't saturate our connection, so we could browse the net while watching Netflix.

But if you're using your connection for other potentially bandwidth-intensive uses, you may want to think about upgrading to a different "package".
posted by filthy light thief at 10:03 AM on March 9, 2011

Response by poster: Located in California and I don't torrent if that helps.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:03 AM on March 9, 2011

I torrent like crazy (and online game and netflix frequently) and had the 250 gig cap with Charter, but never ran into a problem with them personally. Bbuying a modem is the cheaper option in the long term. Charter was decent on customer service, I had no particular complaints with them.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2011

I use Charter in Massachusetts. I have the cheapest package, which is supposed to be "up to 1 Mbps." I tried both Express and Plus but I can't tell the difference - I had the same problems with the fancier service as I do with the basic (things hiccup and hang), which might not be Charter's fault at all; it could be because of a problem with my (owned-by-me) modem/router.

Sometimes it takes Netflix movies a while to load, and sometimes they are not at the full high-def resolution, but once they're going they're generally fine (on my LG Blu-Ray player). I probably watch 20+ hours of Netflix a month, sometimes more. I've never run up against a bandwidth cap that I've been made aware of in any way.

Oh, and they have some kind of hate-on for Skype; when I try to use Skype (even just having it running in the background, no calls in progress or anything), everything stops. Torrents I've had varying degrees of luck with.

Basically, I've found them to be acceptable for the price I'm paying; I don't love it, but I don't hate it enough to try another provider.
posted by mskyle at 10:39 AM on March 9, 2011

Best answer: Never rent a cable modem. Always buy it outright.

Reluctant about adding the extra fee to your first bill, which is already pretty high, with the hook-up fees and all? I feel ya!

What you want to do is run the numbers. You'll have the modem for at least five years. So multiply the monthly rental fee X 12 X 5, and see how that compares to the fee to just buy the thing.
posted by ErikaB at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2011

I'm actually considering this option as well, so I have the same questions as you mainly. I'm not as concerned with the bandwidth caps, because I measure my bandwidth already and I'd fit right into the Max package. But I do torrent a lot and I've heard that Charter throttles bittorrent. Anybody had any issues with that?
posted by katyggls at 1:30 AM on March 10, 2011

Response by poster: Oh hey, AT&T is announcing bandwidth caps.

Also, I've been told Charter never gives away modems and you'll want a Docsis-3.0 modem to get the most out of your connection. Newegg has decent prices.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2011

Best answer: Given the fact that there's caps on both AT&T and Charter now, there's no reason not to go with Charter which is about 8 times faster for the same or less. Be sure to buy your own modem (Docsis 3.0) and you're good.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:14 PM on May 7, 2011

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