I switched from one evil monopoly (AT&T) to another (Comcast). My Internet connection speeds increased by a factor of 75 (1.2 Mbps to 89 Mbps) and the cost dropped 28% ($70 to $50).
2015-07-25: A Sonic.net representative reached out to me to ask if I had contacted them about upgrading my service. So I’ll clarify that I was already paying for the highest speed tier they offer. Which until recently provided me the approximately 5.5 Mbps download speed I was paying for. A speed fast enough for streaming video from services like Netflix. I am reasonably certain the problem was not with the Sonic.net service but rather with the AT&T infrastructure between my residence and Sonic.net (see below for why).
When I moved to Santa Clara, CA seven years ago I didn’t want cable or satellite television. I only wanted high-speed Internet access. So I chose a setup similar to what I had in my previous residence: DSL (digital subscriber line) service from the local telco (AT&T) and Internet connectivity from a local ISP (Sonic.net).
Until roughly six months ago I was satisfied. The download and upload speeds weren’t as high as those advertised by Comcast but were adequate and I valued the competency of Sonic.net. Also, even though AT&T repeatedly tried to cram unwarranted charges onto my bill (e.g., for long distance phone calls) I chose to stay with AT&T + Sonic.net DSL rather than switch to the most hated company in America.
Then my download speeds started to degrade and were highly variable. At first it was just an occasional pause while streaming a video from Netflix or Hulu. Then it became irritating errors and pauses accessing my Google mail. And finally it became obnoxious long pauses every few minutes while trying to stream a video from HBO or Netflix. I didn’t call Sonic.net because I was reasonably certain the problem was with the physical connection from my home to AT&T. Somewhere between my home and Sonic.net a transmission line or connection was deteriorating. I didn’t call AT&T because my past experiences dealing with them on such issues was so frustrating I’d rather get a root canal. And, most importantly, Sonic.net was no longer adding DSL customers. They were focusing on expanding their fiber optic network. Unfortunately that did not appear to include Santa Clara, CA in my lifetime. It was clear to me that existing DSL customers like myself were on life-support.
So I decided to ditch AT&T + Sonic.net. Yesterday the Comcast installer dropped a line to my home. After reconfiguring my router I find that my download speed is approximately 75 times faster and my upload speed is 10 times faster for a monthly cost that is 28% cheaper.
After the change to Comcast I spent several hours streaming videos from Youtube, Netflix, Hulu and HBO and didn’t notice any pauses in playback. Similarly my gmail access has not had any unexpected pauses or error messages. I was willing to live with an occasional pause streaming high-definition video. I was not willing to live with long pauses while doing something as simple as switching from one gmail folder (i.e., tag) to another.
Will Comcast convince me its reputation as the most hated company in America is justified or surprise me with (relatively) trouble-free service for the next year? Time will tell.
2015-07-25: A Sonic.net reached out to me to affirm that they do not hijack customer’s internet connections to deliver web content. So I’ve removed my assertion that Sonic.net had “descended into evil company territory”. Which leaves AT&T as the likely culprit of that obnoxious behavior. I’m reasonably confident that this is not the result of a malware infection because a) I’m browsing using Chrome on Mac OS X and b) I use [Little Snitch](https://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html) to monitor all of my traffic.