Category: ISP

The old phone company

Today’s topic should give you some food for thought – Can you trust the local phone company?  Are they still relevant as an internet provider?

This article signals to me that Connecticut’s local phone company is “on the ropes.” How long can they keep it up?

I would like to share a couple of anecdotes.  I have one customer who was promised 6 mbps (megabits per second) by the phone company and is barely getting 1. At times their service is so bad, they have no connection at all.   Another client is being promised 12 mbps, but may only get 8 or 9 on a good day.  They also have no other hope of wired internet service internet service in their neighborhood.  Ma Bell customer #3 is stuck with with 7 mbps of internet speed and the cable company is nowhere to be found on their street.   As a point of comparison, you need to know that typical cable internet speeds are 50 mbps and higher.  The vast majority of my customers have cable internet.

The speeds of 6 or higher that I have mentioned, if consistent, are fine for basic Google searching, e-mailing, and a low res video here or there.   However, these slow speeds really hamper the playback of high quality video streams on services like You Tube, Hulu, and Netflix.  Furthermore, major software updates can be a real time warp. 

I worry about the local phone company’s neglect of copper phone lines.  It seems like they are committed to their fiber optic areas, but some neighborhoods will never be upgraded to these high speed lines.   Wireless may be the only option for old phone lines that are beyond repair.


ATT DSL to UVerse transition

Just wanted to give you a heads up that if you are an AT&T DSL customer — you may be getting a notice from them in the very near future.


I’m getting wind that letters are being sent out to customers in Connecticut about transition from DSL internet to U-Verse internet.


This is not a great cause for concern  — its only the technology behind your internet that is changing.  You may notice a slight speed improvement as well.    I had alerted you to this change several months ago and while I don’t have a phase in date for each community in CT — the transition is coming.     It actually makes a lot of sense — in areas where they offer U-Verse (the next generation of ATT phone, TV, and internet)  — why should they offer two products that do the same thing?


ATT sends a lot of junk mail  — but I guess you’ll have to open every envelope now and I will too.


Essentially the letter is going to say something like this:


Your ATT DSL service is being transitioned to ATT U-Verse internet service.   You will get a new modem in the mail in X # of days.  You do not have to pay for this modem and you can keep your current price for another year.


I think those last two details are great.   Technically they do not have to give you the modem for free because you are not under contract with them.   I don’t think you absolutely need to call ATT to find out when your transition is going to happen, but if you receive the letter they will provide this number for you to cal  1-877.377.1686.

Exploring Third-Party Firmware for Consumer Routers – Your Best Wi-Fi Router Bets for Use With DD-WRT |, ISP Information

Exploring Third-Party Firmware for Consumer Routers – Your Best Wi-Fi Router Bets for Use With DD-WRT |, ISP Information.


If you are looking for a highly customizable wireless router for your internet connection — one of the models described in this article would serve you well.

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.

*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.
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.)

ATT U-Verse marketing gimmicks

The subject of this e-mail could have easily read:  Beware of Comcast pricing scam, but I am picking on AT&T today because I have lived in a community where their U-Verse TV (and advanced internet) is available.  In the past 15 months I have been bombarded with no less than a dozen notices asking me to switch to their service.  Often, HUGE rebates were promised.

Please note:  I am not writing this update to criticize THE AT&T U-VERSE PRODUCT.  I think it can be just as swell as TV service from your cable company or the two satellite companies.   What I want you to be straight about … is the pricing!!

I love troubleshooting your technology issues, I love setting up your new gadgets and devices, and I immensely enjoy empowering consumers to make wise choices about their entertainment technology.

The Facts:

In many communities across Connecticut and in about 13 U.S. states, AT&T has begun offering U-Verse TV and premium U-Verse internet service.  This is not to be confused with AT&T DSL, which is also considered high speed internet.  If you have AT&T DSL, no one is forcing you to switch to U-Verse at this time, but AT&T would certainly appreciate it if you did.   The U-Verse TV service is streamed over fiber optic telephone lines and into your home over the traditional phone lines from a nearby pole (aka. node).  AT&T installs the service to feed into the existing cable outlets in your home.  Massive amounts of drilling and cutting holes in walls are not necessary.  It will SEEM just like another cable TV service.   For all intents and purposes it is.  I have no issues with it as a product / service.

The hype:

Potential customers who live in a community where U-Verse is available get bulletins promising incredible savings and typically a $300 rebate.   No monthly pricing is ever listed in these promotional materials.  My opinion:  I believe the omission of pricing is the worst offense of all.

The facts:
A mailing I just received today specified in fine print that the $300 rebate would only apply if I subscribed to one of their highest levels of U-Verse TV and internet service plus either the U-Verse phone service (replaces traditional AT&T home phone) or ATT cellular service.

Roughly speaking this package would cost close to $200 a month.   Is that what you were expecting from such a great deal ??

Furthermore, ATT’s rebates come to customers in roughly 4 to 8 weeks on a prepaid credit card.  These credit cards CANNOT BE USED TO PAY YOUR ATT BILL !!   They cannot be used for online purchases where your address needs to be verified.  You must use them at places where they can be SWIPED.  My opinion:  this sounds like a very restrictive rebate.

The math:

You have the option of signing up for AT&T U-verse TV without any other products or gimmick pricing.   Let me give you a breakdown, without discounts of what ATT’s standard package would cost versus a comparable package from Comcast.  I am basing this on Hartford, CT area pricing and Connecticut taxes.   Friends reading this in other parts of the country should check for local pricing, but I think it will be comparable.   The following comparison reflects a fairly good estimate  for 1 TV, but may not be exact to the penny.

AT&T U-Verse 100 TV:
Base price:  $ 54
HD box:  $ 10
Taxes:  $ 3.84
Total:   $67.84

Comcast Digital Starter HD
Base price:  $62.95
HD box fee:  $7
Taxes:  $ 8.04
Total = $ 77.99

In Connecticut, cable customers and satellite TV customers have to pay a 5.5 % additional tax each month on top of the 6% sales tax.  Due to political gestures, AT&T U-Verse customers only pay the 6% sales tax.  This may change.


Dollar for dollar AT&T’s standard package is about $10 cheaper than a comparable offer from Comcast.  Your actual pricing may vary due to your subscription to multiple services and promotional deals.  If you want a consistent bill each month, you can always opt for the standard (gimmick-free) pricing.   However, do remember that the $300 rebate advertised by AT&T is only applicable to a significantly pricier level of service.

Internet pricing-the low end and the high end

I think I’ve told you before that many customers I work with simply want the best pricing on their internet service, while others DEPEND on their connection for home or school and do not really care about price. This 2nd type of customer wants reliability with a capital R. AT&T and Comcast, the two largest service providers in the country, are giving you a choice on both ends of the pricing spectrum. I’ve broken down two current promotions / offerings from these companies so that you can get a grasp as to what is available in the market.

Thanks to their partnership with Apple, A&T’s wireless division (AT&T Mobility), is bringing in record profits for the company. AT&T is also continuing to see gains with their (somewhat) fiber optic TV service, known as U-Verse. However, their DSL subscriber base has been declining. In order to change the tides in this mature product line, AT&T is offering their DSL Elite service for 19.95 for 12 months. This deal is for new customers only and represents a 50% savings off the regular 40.00 per month.

Comcast’s package that is most comparable to AT&T’s DSL Elite is their “standard” High Speed Internet at a cost of $44.95 per month. Note: this price point had been $42.95 since it was introduced in Connecticut in late 1998 and was only raised earlier this year. Several of my customers, along with Comcast internet subscribers throughout the country, have had significant technical difficulties over the past few months. When their service goes down, Comcast often cannot make a service call until 10 days later. Customers often have to have me come out for a visit. However, while I can often get the service working again, underlying issues with Comcast’s end of the operation linger on. (Consider yourself lucky if you have not had a problem.)

However, this may not be a reason to abandon Comcast outright. They have recently begun offering a Business Class level of service to residential customers. It costs $15.00 more ($59.95 / month), however they promise service visits within 24 hours (and in many cases same day) and offer a separate number for telephone support. If your home (or small office) connection is “mission critical,” you may want to consider Comcast Business Class. A 2-year contract and $99 installation charge are required. The Business Class service is billed as a separate account. A professional grade cable modem is provided to you with the service and no monthly rental fee is charged. From what I was able to find out, taxes and junk fees are only 75 cents per month.