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Life in the fast lane: What gigabit Internet makes better

Glenn Fleishman | Nov. 27, 2015
An upgrade from a trickle to a flood has made your reporter feel like he's living partly in the future: The Internet can still be really slow, even with a fiber link.

I can make back the $45 a month by wasting less time, frankly. So much of what I do involves moving files around, syncing them up, and testing online services—especially cloud photo ones recently—that as a freelance writer, it was easy to make the switch when it became available in early October.

Part of why I switched is because Comcast’s position on caps and overage fees is increasingly anti-consumer and pro-monopoly/duopoly bottom-line.

Why didn’t I stick with the devil I know and upgrade to 100 or 150 Mbps service with Comcast Business or with its residential division? A few reasons. Comcast’s service has gotten flakier and flakier for me. I’d done a lot of work to isolate causes on my network, and it appeared to be entirely their issue—proven now that I have a different ISP, since the network infrastructure is the same and I’m not having the same problems.

And because Comcast’s position on caps and overage fees is increasingly anti-consumer and pro-monopoly/duopoly bottom-line. In most markets, Comcast or another cable operator is the fastest provider and the only one with a triple play over the same wire. Some telcos partner with satellite or run fiber (like Verizon’s FiOS), but they’re at a disadvantage. Switching away from Comcast often means accepting low-speed service without much of a price advantage.

Comcast has been testing a monthly throughput limit in some markets, where they allow around 300GB and then charge $10 per 50GB (or fraction) above that. A few days ago, they rolled out a new option in some places: $30 or $35 a month gets you unlimited usage on top of your existing fees. Comcast Business offers service in the same cities and regions with no caps, although they require unbreakable multi-year contracts for the privilege—cancel, and you owe either 75 percent (in one previous contract I signed) or 100 percent (according to a colleague’s recent contract) of the balance.

I asked the local Comcast folks about residential service and caps. They couldn’t guarantee that I could switch to home service and get any exclusion. Comcast is starting to push out 1 to 2Gbps service, but the price is ludicrously high compared to existing gigabit fiber run by both municipal operations, Google Fiber, and telcos like CenturyLink.

I’d been collecting reports from folks who had signed up and were talking about it on NextDoor, the hyper-local community message board site. People were generally pleased. And CenturyLink has no caps on its fiber offerings. When I discovered in early October that the fiber I’d seen being pulled to my block in June was finally lit up, I was elated.

Somebody put an anchor on my sports car

 

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