Making a switch

After complaining repeatedly in my column, and to my friends and elsewhere about my Internet service, I’m finally switching providers.

Here’s the surprise: I’m switching to Comcast.

After writing a recent column about my frustration with Earthlink as my broadband provider and with my lack of other choices, I went around scrutinizing those choices more closely. What I found was that at least for the next year, I can get phone and Internet service from Comcast that is less expensive than what I was paying Earthlink. And, at least nominally, my Internet service is going to be up to 10 times faster.

Here’s how it breaks down. I was paying Earthlink about $75 a month — $80 after taxes — for phone and DSL service. For the next year, I’ll be paying Comcast around $65 a month — about $70 after taxes — for phone and cable Internet access (not including the annoying $3 a month I may have to pay to rent a cable modem from the company — more on that later).

My maximum throughput will go from around 2 megabits per second on Earthlink to 22 to 30 megabits per second on Comcast.

Now, to be sure, that’s a first-year rate. If I stick with Comcast and am unable to negotiate another discount, I’ll be paying a lot more in a year.

How much? Well the phone service portion will go from about $20 to about $45. The high-speed Internet access will go from about $45 to about $63. So, all told, I’d be spending about $108 before taxes.

But I don’t plan to sit idly by while my rates go up. I’ve heard from other Comcast customers that the company, in order to retain subscribers, tends to offer new discounts to customers when the old ones expire.

If it doesn’t, I’ll explore other options: I can get Vonage’s phone service for about $25 a month, so I could save about $20 there. And I could throttle back my Internet service to a lower speed one and save at least another $10.

Assuming I took both of those steps, I’d be paying about what I pay for Earthlink now, but would still be getting much faster Internet service.

One thing to note, though, I didn’t go whole hog for Comcast; I didn’t sign up for the triple play and get TV service from the company as well. That’s because it just appeared like it was going to be too expensive, particularly if wanted to get a high-definition DVR — something for which Comcast charges about $13 to $15 a month.

I’m quite content to stay with Dish Network for now and pay a bit less.

I was pretty excited when I signed up for the service earlier this week. Unfortunately, I won’t get on Comcast’s network for another several weeks, apparently because Earthlink requires 15 business days to transfer phone numbers over.

There was one other annoying thing. Because, I’m signing up for one of the fastest tiers of broadband access from Comcast, the company says I can’t use just any old cable modem. Instead, it says there are only three that support the service, two of which are not easy to find online.

No problem, right? I’ll just order the third one, a Motorola model, and be done with it.

Not so fast. The Comcast representative I spoke with said that while that model supports the company’s highest-speed Internet services, it doesn’t support Comcast’s phone service. So, instead, I’ll need an entirely different modem, one that is not at all available for sale.

Will Comcast sell me the modem? No, of course not. Instead, they want to tack on a monthly rental charge of about $3 a month.

To be sure, for the short term, I’ll be saving money. The modem would have cost around $75, so, I would have to be with Comcast for more than two years before I spend that much on renting a modem. But after that, it’s all gravy for the company — and an increasingly bad deal for me.

On top of that, I’m now a bit anxious about the switchover. A colleague of mine here at the Merc just added Comcast’s Internet and phone service to his existing cable service — and it stopped working soon after the technician left his house. He’s been trying to get it up and running since — and trying to find the right person at Comcast to talk with about it — with little success.

I’m hoping that my experience will be better than that. Of course, that wouldn’t be that much better than what I’ve previously experienced with Earthlink.


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  • Roofus Roald

    We’ve had constant loss of connection with Comcast in the South Bay Area in Silicon Valley.

    And after 4 months of trying 4 different cable modems and 3 different wireless routers and having our brand-new inside wiring check 3 different times, Comcast *still* won’t tell us why the connection to the Internet keeps going down.