Home internet warnings and wisdom

Every so often I send out an update that makes great reference material that is worth of printing out or saving.   THIS WOULD BE ONE OF THEM.  It is OK if you cannot read this all at once.

1.  As of the beginning of May, both ATT and Comcast internet will no longer truly be unlimited.   Yes, you can use your home internet for an unlimited period of time during the month, but no longer can you consume an unlimited amount of data.   The appropriate terminology for this data (uploaded and downloaded ) is referred to as BANDWIDTH.  This may be too elementary for some, but it is worth sharing.  When you retrieve e-mail, you use data.  When you play a song or a video, you use data — whether that media is played directly or downloaded onto the computer and then played.  In all of these scenarios, you are using your BANDWIDTH.

Actually in the fall of 2008, Comcast started capping your bandwidth at 250 GB per month.  This applied to internet only and not Comcast TV.  Starting in May, ATT will begin capping your bandwidth at 150 GB per month.  GB = gigabytes.  Should you go over the limit with either service, you WILL NOT be disconnected.  You will simply be charged overage fees.   I have looked at the overage charges and they are not excessive — perhaps $10 for every 10 GB that you use over the limit.

THE GOOD NEWS: Most of you will never approach these limits.  They are artificially high, to discourage only the most blatant abusers.  Comcast and ATT would both say that these limits only apply to about 2% of their customer bases.     The average home internet user consumes 15 to 25 GB of bandwidth a month.  You can breathe a sigh of relief.

The category of use that consumes the most data is internet based video.  This would include video on your computer or that played through new Blu Ray DVD players with streaming capability, or standalone boxes that hook up to your TV and play streaming video — such as  the Apple TV and the Roku player.   A typical, full length two-hour movie uses about 1 to 2 GB of video.

2.  Many of you may be thinking about or have heard of people who have begun streaming video from the Internet through their TV. Yes, this technology which was only fantasized about in the 1990s is finally here.  As I just said, most of the Internet to TV video comes through the newer BluRay DVD players, the Apple TV box (not a TV itself), the Roku player, or even some 2010 or later model TVs that have Netflix and other services built in.   Netflix has said they want to be more of a streaming company than a DVD rental company, going forward.  So if you love your Netflix, as many of my customers do, you should start thinking about buying one of these boxes to play the Netflix movies on your TV or at least learn how to play the movies on your laptop.

The Roku box is the cheapest way to accomplish this, starting at about $69.  The Apple TV (box) costs $99 and a decent Blu Ray player with internet video built in will run you at least $150, however you do get the added benefit of playing the new BluRay DVDs.

WARNING:   The Apple TV and any BluRay DVD player must be plugged into an HDTV.  The least expensive Roku player can be plugged into one of the older (picture tube) TV models.

WARNING:  If you have DSL Internet — your speed is likely rated at 1.5, 3.0, or 6.0.  If you have Cable internet, your speed is rated somewhere between 8.0 and 12.0.       To simply watch internet based video through your TV, a 1.5 or 3.0 connection may get you in the door.  However, if you plan on streaming HD video to your TV as Netflix and other services offer, you need a connection of 6.0 or greater.  Streaming HD video can use up to 3.8 (mega bits per second) by itself.    So a faster DSL connection, the new ATT UVerse (internet) service, or cable internet are really required to get the most out of streaming internet video to your TV.

3.  I really hate the idea of bundling services.  I think it is a big joke and borderline scam.  You may reap some short term savings by having phone, internet and TV with ATT or Comcast, exclusively.  However, this means you are bound to that company.  I like keeping my services separate.  This allows a lot more flexibility to change when things go wrong.

4.  You may have heard some of your neighbors or friends talk about having ATT Uverse TV installed in their homes.  This is a new service in parts of Connecticut, that runs over fiber optic phone lines.  You have have heard good and bad reviews, but the point I am trying to make is that you do not need to take the TV service if you want the new ATT Uverse Internet service.  Uverse Internet is faster than DSL, and has pricing at $45 and $55 per month – very similar to cable internet (in speed an price).   If you do not take the Uverse TV along with the Internet, they will charge you $150 for the installation.  Unlike cable or DSL installation — this is not something that I could do for you because it involves doing work at the pole and other wiring.    If you are really interested, try to negotiate that installation fee down to $75 or $100 when you order with ATT.

5.  When you are running Internet through your computer, second computers, third computers, iPods, iPhones, Androids, and now to your TV — you need a good tool to ROUTE that connection all of these different devices.   Most of you have gotten by for years with a $50 to $60 ROUTER purchased from a local electronics store or maybe received one from ATT when you signed up for their service.  However, once you start feeding internet to your TV, you really need a better router.  It is time to step up to the major leagues.

I am recommending one and only one router.  It is surely the most expensive sold for the consumer market, but if this doesn’t work — TRUST ME, NOTHING ELSE WILL.   Presenting the Apple Air Port Extreme (you do not need to own an Apple computer)   $179 and there may be discounts in online Apple Store.

Also remember, the router is not your modem.  That is a separate box likely provided by your cable company, phone company, or is something you purchased independently.

6.  If you were to ask me, what is the best Internet I can get at my home?  Here is my answer….

Best is a relative term, but I am answering with a customer who works from home or has their own business in mind.

For Connecticut, I would consider two options to be the BEST available (in no particular order)

Netplex DSL (Hartford, CT based company) — $50 a month for 3.0 speed, including all taxes.   This is roughly $12.50 more per month than what ATT charges for the same speed, however all of your data flows through the Netplex servers and not ATT.   I have been a Netplex customer 4 of the past 5 years.  http://www.ntplx.net

*This would not be appropriate for streaming HD video, but it handles the three computers running in my home without a a hiccup.

Comcast Business Class Internet– available to residential customers in all Comcast service areas.   $66 per month including taxes.  http://business.comcast.com/
Netplex requires a 1 year contract (no installation fee).  Comcast requires a 1, 2 or 3 year contract and the installation fee ranges from $49 to $149 depending on which you choose.

AT&T DSL and regular Comcast can be good, but I was giving my opinion as to what the BEST was.  (Some of my customers have Cox cable internet.  I have looked and see that they do offer Business Class service at the same price as Comcast.  I do not know if residential customers can order it.)