Tech Files mailbag: Searching for

I often receive email from readers of my Tech Files column who are looking for advice or recommendations. From time to time, I’m republishing edited versions of these question-and-answer exchanges here on SiliconBeat.

Q: Is there such an item as a reliable and inexpensive Internet hookup? I’m on a retirement income and besides that I’m cheap. 

A: AT&T offers a basic DSL service for about $15 a month. That’s an introductory price, though; the service cost jumps to $25 a month after the first year.

Comcast offers a similar basic broadband service and recently was charging just $20 a month for it on an introductory basis. However, that company’s offers change frequently. At last check, Comcast was offering no discount on its regular $50 a month price for this Performance Starter service. But the company was offering its faster Performance service for $30 a month for the first six months.

Meanwhile,, which serves many cities in the Bay Area, offers Internet access plus unlimited home phone service for a fixed monthly rate of $40 a month.

You can get a listing of the broadband providers in your area by going to a special site maintained by the State of California’s Public Utilities Commission. Once you enter your address, it will show the providers of wired, wireless and satellite access in your neighborhood. The site provides those providers’ Web site addresses and phone numbers which you can use to check on their rates.

Those outside the Bay Area can find broadband providers in their area by going to the National Broadband Map, a site run by a pair of federal agencies: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. To use that service, you similarly enter your address.

(Photo courtesy of AT&T.)

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (293 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for and CNET