What's the simplest, cheapest way to get home Internet access?
January 31, 2013 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I use Comcast cable service to get online, but it's expensive and I never watch TV so I'm paying for a lot that I don't use. All I want is Internet access. Is there a cheaper way? I live in the San Francisco Bay area, near Oakland.
posted by eeby to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well you know you don't have to bundle your Comcast services, right? You can just have Internet. That said, I hate Comcast and their horrible customer service so I am all for dumping them!

Sonic.net's DSL has been recommended to me. You can also get DSL from AT&T.
posted by radioamy at 3:07 PM on January 31, 2013

From the way you phrased your question, it sounds like you still have TV service through Comcast. If you do, you should be able to ditch the TV side and only subscribe to Comcast's internet service - I do this and it's cheaper.

I'd call Comcast & find out what the rates would be while comparing that to whatever other options you can find in your area.
posted by empyrean at 3:09 PM on January 31, 2013

Re: it being cheaper.

I am in this same boat. I have cable tv and internet bundled because it's actually cheaper than just the internet alone because Comcast is dumb. I was actually on the phone just yesterday with them trying to sort this nonsense out.

OP, check out some small company competitors. They may be local. Here in Chicago we have RCN, which is a great (and much cheaper) alternative. Unfortunately it's not available yet in my neighborhood.

This is something where opening an honest to god phone book and looking at the yellow pages might be very helpful to you. (Searching google will likely only bring up big names.)
posted by phunniemee at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2013

See if Sonic DSL or AT&T DSL are available in your area. I pay about $50/month for Sonic. I was paying less when I had AT&T but it was slower.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2013

The major non-Comcast ISP options in the East Bay are:

DSL through AT&T, the phone company.
DSL through Sonic.net, a competitive phone company.
Ethernet access through WebPass, who provides service to local apartment buildings.
Cable Internet from Astound, a competitive cable company. (They allow you to have Internet service at a reasonable price without needing TV or phone service.)

However, which service will provide the best speed/dollar ratio depends entirely on what's available at your specific address. DSL service is available almost everywhere, but the speed you get is contingent on how far away your house is from the DSL equipment at the phone company's local office. The offerings from WebPass and Astound aren't available in all buildings or neighborhoods. You'll have to check in with each of them to figure out what specifically they can offer you at your location.
posted by eschatfische at 3:37 PM on January 31, 2013

You can enter your location at dslreports.com to see what providers are available in your area, check out average speeds and get reviews about the service. tbh I haven't used it in a while, but when I did I used a reseller that leased from a larger company so I got better speeds at a lower price than going through the more commercial company.
posted by homesickness at 3:46 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Monkeybrains seems like a pretty good deal at 35 dollars a month, and they guarantee at least 8mbps speeds. They do have an upfront fee of like 250 dollars I think. Unfortunately, their service area is limited to the east side of SF, and I was really interested in signing up with them, but unfortunately, I don't fall in their territory.

Webpass also seems pretty great; I've read some reviews that talk about really quick speeds, but their service area is even more limited than Monkeybrains. I think it's only apartment buildings, so I couldn't even sign up if I wanted to.

Sonic.net's pretty solid depending on distance from the CO. I'm about 10000 feet from the closest CO and I get about 5 mbp/s for around 53 dollars a month. However, they have implemented a relatively new system where you have to rent a modem from them - you'll probably pay a little under 60 dollars a month. Also, the phone line / internet service combo is mandatory.

I really like their customer service, if that's something that matters to you. A quick anecdote - For a while, I would only get around 200 kilobytes internet speed, and I just thinking, "man, this shit sucks." At the time, they sent this email survey around asking customers what they thought of the service. So I filled out the survey and left a passive aggressive complaint mentioning how slow the service was. The next day (or the day after that, I can't remember) A customer service rep called me at like 8 in the morning and was like "Hey we fixed your problem. There was a short in your house call us back if shit messes up again." (Not a direct quote.) I just woke up, so I was pretty incoherent. Anyways, if you have a problem with any of your services, you should always call customer service first instead of passively aggressively complaining about it like me.
posted by Qberting at 4:18 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here in Atlanta FreedomPop is the cheapest I've found. You can check availability on their website. Our local cheapskate/consumer advocate Clark Howard is a fan.
posted by LiverOdor at 4:30 PM on January 31, 2013

Note that AT&T DSL (or what Sonic.net re-sells as DSL, several other providers probably have the same issue) is way slower than Sonic.net's Fusion (ADSL2+) or Raw Bandwidth Telecom's ADSL2+. Fusion, or an ADSL2+ product, is going to be faster than AT&T DSL.
posted by straw at 4:46 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in the Bay Area too, although not Oakland. Webpass is absolutely awesome: by far your best deal if it's available in your building. It's superfast and cheap (about 400 dollars a year) plus they never ever hassle you. Best customer service experience I've ever had.

If you can't get Webpass Sonic.net's secondbest. They are fast and cheap and they don't upsell or hassle you. And they protect their customers' privacy -- they throw away all logs after something like two weeks, and they have gone to court to avoid giving out customer data.

I had Comcast once and swore I would never do it again. They spammed me all the time, constantly changed their prices and tried to upsell me, made lots of billing mistakes and had terrible customer service and tech support. If you can get off Comcast, it's worth doing.
posted by Susan PG at 5:55 PM on January 31, 2013

I'm pretty sure there's a wireless startup in SF that provides free internet up to something like 1Mbit and then you pay after that. Can't remember the name, but it's worth looking into.
posted by zug at 5:55 PM on January 31, 2013

Comcast sent me a flyer for 14.99/mo internet for a year (no contract). It is their 'Economy plus' internet which is 3mbit. You can see if you have that in your area . (I am in Seattle).

I went with the full speed 20mbit at 29.99/mo for a year.

If you are a current customer, try calling and asking for promotions. I successfully saved between $10-20/mo off regular prices for a good 2 years just by asking.
posted by wongcorgi at 8:07 PM on January 31, 2013

Clear has wireless internet service available in your area that might be cheaper than Comcast. I was a Clear customer for a few years and was happy with the product and the customer service. The speed was noticeably lower than cable or DSL, so if you do a lot of bandwidth-intensive video streaming or downloading you might not want to go this route.
posted by mbrubeck at 6:33 AM on February 1, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the information, everyone. Several excellent suggestions. I appreciate the help.

Yes, Comcast is altogether evil. However, one does not simply switch to DSL. You have to get phone service to have that :(
posted by eeby at 12:10 PM on February 1, 2013

We have Astound which is OK and seems less weaselly than most people report Comcast as being. They'd prefer to sell you a bundle but do offer the components separately.

Speed has been as described, as far as I can tell. Reliability is good except for a few very occasional instances of systemwide blackouts (cable+net+phone all down), none recently.

(Oh, and their provided cable modem did crap out after a few years causing internet to slow down and frequently drop; they replaced it and service has been solid since.)

They do have data transfer allotments which haven't been an issue for us -- we don't download or stream much -- but could be a consideration.

As noted you'd need to be in their service area and check availability -- our apartment building was wired for both Comcast and Astound so they seemed the lesser of the two evils.

Possibly one more option: fiber. AT&T were very heavily marketing U-verse in our area a few years ago. Haven't seen a flyer from them for a while (at its peak they were blanketing the area with multiple mailings per week), maybe they gave up.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:29 PM on February 1, 2013

Yes, Comcast is altogether evil. However, one does not simply switch to DSL. You have to get phone service to have that :(

No, I have DSL through DSL Extreme and I don't have (and have never had) a land line. Honestly, I have no idea how it works, but when I moved I placed the order with DSL Extreme and then they called Verizon and the next day I had DSL. All I know is when I call DSL Extreme and they ask for my phone number I have to tell them that my phone number is 'random' and I give them my actual account number instead. Don't rule out DSL before calling some providers!

I'm in Santa Monica, but if DSL Extreme is available in your area I would recommend them.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:42 PM on February 1, 2013

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