Internet Service suggestions?
April 24, 2012 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Looking for high speed internet service in the Peninsula, Bay Area. Your experiences (good, bad, indifferent) with the following companies? Any recommended plans?

I'm looking around for an internet service provider in the Burlingame/Millbrae part of the Peninsula.

In addition to all the standard email/web surfing/whatnot I'm going to be using my service for Netflix/ streaming so I'm particularly interested in a package with high (or no) data caps and limited (or no) throttling even if it costs a bit more.

I'm not particularly interested in TV/phone but wouldn't necessarily object to a package deal if it was a good value. I'd also be curious how much you pay for service and what your specific plan/package is if you'd care to divulge that info.

From some initial research it appears my primary choices are:

- Comcast
- Verizon
- AT&T
- Astound

Setting aside whether or not a particular company actually serves my neighborhood, I'm interested in hearing your experiences with these companies if you're a customer. I know Comcast and AT&T are members of The Collective Evil(tm) [my own relatives have had plenty of experiences in that regard] but I would like to get some feedback about the other guys on the list. Or another company if I've missed one. Or even hearing from satisfied Comcast/AT&T customers (I know there must be one or two of you out there...). Many thanks in advance!
posted by moxiequz to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Not a customer, but wish I could be: They're trying, hard, to do it better. They're not too big, but they've got solid customer service, and they're very pro-customer.

Take a look at this:

Which other ISP on your list would fight the feds for your privacy?
posted by jgreco at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite] is a perennial favorite suggestion here on AskMe, and for good reason. For one, they're the only option in your list that doesn't cap data. They care about their users, as jgreco said above. Their Fusion service is very good, as long as you're not too far away from your local central office. Check your distance on the signup form (don't worry, they won't spam you or force you to sign up). If it's less than 5000-6000ft, you'll have great speeds, but speeds go down the further out you are. You say you aren't interested in phone service, but it's not optional with Fusion. It's good service, though, with unlimited long distance. Expect to pay around $10 extra per month in phone line-related taxes and fees, though.

I had AT&T U-Verse service, too, and had no problems whatsoever. They seemed to be a better value for the speed compared to Comcast, especially when buying it without a TV package. They officially have had a cap for about a year but they don't seem to be enforcing it for whatever reason. I wound up switching back to when they first announced the caps.

Verizon isn't an option unless you live in one of the few areas where they're the incumbent carrier (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Los Gatos, and Novato, which are nowhere near where you are).
posted by zsazsa at 3:02 PM on April 24, 2012

Very happy with Sonic. The one time we've called them, they've answered the phone super-fast, and have been happy to actual the address issue vs. just telling us to reboot our modem and then putting in a ticket when that doesn't work.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:18 PM on April 24, 2012

I also have/love Sonic. I have Fusion which comes out to $52/month with (San Francisco) taxes and whatnot.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:00 PM on April 24, 2012

Another happy Sonic customer here.
posted by trip and a half at 4:49 PM on April 24, 2012

I had AT&T DSL for years. It was okay, but much slower and a little more expensive than I would have liked.
posted by smirkette at 5:17 PM on April 24, 2012

I'm with right now, and I only get about 3 Mbps down, .8 up with their Fusion service. If Comcast and AT&T weren't so evil I would have switched back, but I'm hoping that since I'm moving in a month or two, it will be closer to the CO and I'll get the closer to the ideal 20/1 speeds. If not, I'll probably bite the bullet and go back to Comcast, despite how much I love that they're fighting the good fight. But in yet another +1 to Sonic, they don't have yearly contracts, so you can try them, and if it doesn't work, cancel (they do charge an activation fee and I think you have the option of renting the DSL modem if you're hesitant to buy it)
posted by thewumpusisdead at 5:22 PM on April 24, 2012

I'm going to buck the grain and say I've had Comcast cable in the SF Bay Area for over a decade and its always been rock solid. Sonic sounds like a better deal if you get a good connection.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:24 PM on April 24, 2012

oh I pay $53 (plus*) bucks a month for Comcast and actually i could take that down $7 a month if I bought my own cable modem - which is about $65 (ironically brought up in another thread today made me wonder if I should buy a cable modem).

So I guess actually sonic may not be a better deal.

* I apparently spend a few other bucks a month in taxes and fees but these are combined with my cable and I cant' tell which ones are specific to which service.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:28 PM on April 24, 2012

I had AT&T DSL for a while when I lived in the Bay. My initial download speed was 3.5 KB/second, and that's not a typo. You could, if you put a phone on the line, hear the noise in the line, it was that bad. The wife and I spent a month wrangling with them trying to get them to send someone out to inspect the line. They kept putting us through the usual loop of reset your modem-reboot your computer-gosh your download speed is slow-have you tried restting your modem? It culminated in one of the techs telling my wife that we had the entry-level package, so of course it was slow, but if we'd only upgrade to one of the better packages, why, that'd fix everything.

Ironically, the only time they ever offered to send a tech out to inspect the line in a reasonable timeframe was when we called to cancel, but we'd switched to Comcast by then.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:07 PM on April 24, 2012

I've had Fusion for a month and am quite happy with it. I get about 18/1 speeds. My bill is around $50 with taxes and fees. I had AT&T at my previous place, and it was okay. 10/1 speeds. It would have been somewhat expensive without the promotional rate. Comcast would probably have been fine, but I wanted to try Sonic since they seem like the good guys. Also, it's a lot nicer talking to representatives than the ones from the big companies.

I didn't need phone service either, but Fusion is still a good deal. Buy a cheap phone and use the service. Or not. One cool thing is you can get a fax number for free (separate from your phone number). They email you the faxes as PDFs. Also, you can send faxes by uploading a PDF. I don't send or receive faxes much, but it's useful every once in a while.

You can also get a static IP for free if that's useful to you. The web hosting is more hardcore too. You can register a domain for free I believe.

Keep in mind that you'll have to pay upfront installation fees, and there are no promo rates. Also, if you move, you'll have to pay the fees all over again to set up your new place. I know a guy who switched to Comcast because he was moving and didn't want to pay those fees again.

Definitely see how far way you are from the CO before seriously considering Sonic. They told me on the phone they can't guarantee or predict speeds until it's actually set up. In general, the closer the better though.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 8:05 PM on April 24, 2012

I switched from Comcast to Sonic, and I was much happier with Sonic. Ultimately had to switch back to Comcast because the phone wiring in my building was too old and unreliable, but even then the guys at Sonic were great and made the experience painless (on their side, at least).
posted by heliostatic at 9:54 PM on April 24, 2012

One thing I don't like about Sonic: they don't have 24-hour tech support. So if you're a nite owl and your line goes bad, you'll have to wait to talk to them in the morning.

Unfortunately, my Sonic Fusion line has been very bad over the past 6 months or so, often losing sync and speed. It seems to not be their fault - probably the underlying phone lines that AT&T is responsible for - but still, it's frustrating to not have anyone to troubleshoot with late at night.
posted by mistersix at 1:28 AM on April 25, 2012

Thank you everyone for the answers. is looking like the winner here. Good to hear the positive reviews.
posted by moxiequz at 10:47 AM on April 25, 2012

Long-time subscriber to Sonic as my ISP here. Yes, I'm the luddite who's still been using dialup -- until last week, when I ditched my AT&T land line for Sonic Fusion, and it's great! But I'm still a bit ignorant about things like Netflix streaming so I'm afraid I can't speak to your question's specifics, although others have, upthread.
posted by Rash at 11:34 AM on April 25, 2012

So I just want to update this question for the benefit of anyone searching the archives. I've had Sonic for a few months now and am quite happy with the service and network speeds. Installation was easy as an existing AT&T customer - no technician visit required. They ported my existing landline number with no problems.

I was rather surprised to find out today - when I signed my dad up for the standard Fusion service - that they now require a $6.50/month rental of their own router/modem. No option to decline. Not exactly a deal breaker but really disappointing. I guess it's an industry trend now.
posted by moxiequz at 4:32 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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