What's the least awful ISP in Chicago?
June 24, 2014 7:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to set up internet service at my apartment. AT&T's downstream is abysmally bad for what they charge – 3 mbps for a lousy $30 per month. Comcast is better, but possibly more evil, and there are a lot of confusing legal riders in the contract that make me scared. Help!

The Comcast contract says something about "the first 12 months" which I take to mean they offer you a cheap introductory rate and then hope that you forget to renegotiate. AT&Ts seems more straight-forward, but too expensive for poor service.

Practically speaking, I just want to match my friend's connection. She gets around 4.5 mbps. I'd like to match that speed or get slightly better. I work from home often and watch a fair amount of Netflix. I am moderately satisfied with the video quality from Netflix at 4.5 so that's probably what I'm aiming for, unless going slightly below that won't significantly impact my Netflix-watching ability. Netflix's site claims that HD streams at around 5 mbps.

There are no other ISPs in my area. I'm not happy about the idea of signing a contract with either of these companies, but it looks like I have no choice. If you had to sign a contract with one of two horrible ISPs, which would it be, and why?

Also note: the building is outside the coverage range of RCN (the only other provider in our area) so that's not an option.
posted by deathpanels to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also: are mobile hotspot plans a viable alternative to the big bad cable companies?
posted by deathpanels at 7:34 PM on June 24, 2014

I'd go with comcast, because I would hate being throttled at 3megs. They're both evil companies, so go with whichever gives you the speeds you want.
posted by empath at 7:35 PM on June 24, 2014

Also: are mobile hotspot plans a viable alternative to the big bad cable companies?

Not really. You're just trading evil cable companies for evil cell phone companies.
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My experience through a decade or more with comcast is that their service is almost always awesome, but when it isn't, having to deal with their CSR's is a nightmare.

That said, I will never go with AT&T for exactly the reason you describe: incredibly low value.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:58 PM on June 24, 2014

I'd go with Comcast. I have it and our service has been good. I've heard more complaints about AT&T.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:01 PM on June 24, 2014

I initially read your question as "the least lawful ISP in Chicago" and I'm all like:

posted by Reverend John at 8:27 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

RCN doesn't have service everywhere in Chicago, but I've heard good things about them in the places they do serve. Certainly worth looking into.

If RCN doesn't serve your place, you're pretty much just screwed. Comcast sucks and AT&T sucks, but Comcast sucks at higher speeds.
posted by likedoomsday at 10:06 PM on June 24, 2014

Yeah, if your only realistic options are AT&T or Comcast, I'd say go with Comcast. Just don't get roped into getting their bundled Internet/TV/Voice service. You'll be required to lease their craptastic gateway hardware.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2014

I'd go with Comcast, as i have many times before in Chicago. Your service isn't going to be $30 after a year, but it might be as low as $45. They are not good people, but they do care about their network.
posted by wotsac at 7:08 AM on June 25, 2014

I went through the "anyone but Comcast" search in Chicago in the past year, and my conclusion is that if you can get RCN it's definitely worth a shot but otherwise there aren't any real alternatives.

Make sure to take a close look at how long the introductory rates last - for basic TV + Internet I got a twelve month introductory rate, whereas with Internet alone it was only six months. Doing the math it was actually cheaper to get TV + internet for 12 months than 6 months intro + 6 months normal rate for Internet only.

During the time frame that I didn't have landline Internet I used my T-Mobile LTE via tethering it worked fine for all tasks that weren't video streaming. If you can somehow limit yourself to ~5GB a month ($30; they have plans that go up to 11GB/mo for $70) it *is* technically an option.
posted by kaytwo at 10:26 AM on June 25, 2014

I'm in the same situation as you and choose Comcast. It's faster and more reliable. Yes, the pricing fluctuations are annoying but I don't think any companies are on the up and up with that. Keep in mind that if you rent a modem they charge up to $8/month and watch out for your bills. My bill for internet only (not the slowest, but not the fastest) can go up to $75 if I don't watch out. You'll have to do the negotiation dance with them every 3-6 months, unfortunately, but I get mine down to around $50. They bring the hard sell on their packages, especially for cable, and you may have to pay more for internet alone than internet and cable like I do.
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:21 AM on June 26, 2014

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