Several weeks ago I wrote about my initial difficulty getting AT&T fiber internet installed at my home. The good news is that a crew showed up a few days later and installed a 1 gigabit fiber service that is costing me $ 80 a month. That’s less expensive than the Comcast cable service it replaced. As with cable, prices vary depending on speed, with AT&T starting at $ 55 a month for 300 megabit service – more than fast enough for most applications, including video streaming and conferencing.
AT&T says that there are no automatic price increases after 12 months and no equipment fees, data caps or contracts. You can cancel any time. Comcast’s advertised prices are typically for 12 to 24 months and go up after that. Comcast also charges $ 14 a month for modem rental, though you can purchase your own cable modem. Right now AT&T is offering a $ 150 Visa card for customers who sign up online. If you’re an AT&T wireless customer, call 611 from your cell phone to see if there are any other discounts or bundles. AT&T also offers a 2 GB service for $ 110 a month and a 5 GB service for $ 180 a month, but this is overkill for all but the most extreme users. I’m a demanding user with multiple devices, including smart TVs, and the 1 GB service is fast enough.
The installation involved running a fiber cable – considerably thinner than the coaxial cable used by Comcast and other cable providers. AT&T also installed a free gateway device that serves as both a “MODEM” and router as well as Wi-Fi I already have an Eero router with a mesh Wi-Fi network that extends my signal to other areas of the house, so I opted to turn off AT & Ts Wi-Fi and use my existing router for Wi-Fi. For customers who need to cover large areas and who do not own a mesh router and extenders, AT&T offers rental extenders for $ 10 a month.
I’m based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is served primarily by Comcast and AT&T. Other areas may have other providers. But even people in the Bay Area may not have access to fiber or gigabit cable. It depends on your neighborhood. AT&T only recently started offering fiber service in my neighborhood.
When I test my service using Okla’s Windows Speed Test app, I typically get about 945 megabits for my PC that is hardwired to the AT&T modem / router. That’s about the same as I was getting from my 1 gigabit Comcast service but, in the case of fiber, you get that speed in both directions. My cable service was 1 GB download but only about 45 megabits for uploading. Truth be told, cable was working fine and, other than the results I get from testing, I notice very little difference between fiber and cable in real-world situations. The only minor differences may be in how I look in video conferences where the extra upload speed may provide slightly better resolution. Gamers who need lightening speed in both directions will definitely notice the faster upload speeds. Gamers also will appreciate that fiber has a lower latency than cable, which means that first connection takes place faster. I notice that some websites load slightly faster, but the difference is barely perceptible.
As with any internet service, the actual speed you get depends on your connection and equipment. My Wi-Fi devices are slower, depending on how far they are from a router and what type of Wi-Fi technology they use. To get the highest speed, you’ll need IP-6 compatible devices, but most computers and streaming devices and all but the latest smart phones do not yet support that protocol. Still, having faster service from your provider may translate to faster performance, even on older devices, if there are multiple devices in use at the same time that are sharing your bandwidth.
Sonic may be faster and cheaper if you can get it
There is another high-speed internet company in the Bay Area but, depending on where you live, it may not be worth using. In my neighborhood, Sonic resells AT&T service. The service, equipment and basic prices are about the same, but Sonic gets very high marks for its customer service. However, if they’re only reselling AT&T service, they can not improve on the speed, nor will their technicians be able to fix a major outage in your area. They rely on AT&T technicians for that.
That’s starting to change. Sonic is rolling out its own superfast and less expensive service to Bay Area communities with service up to 10 gigabits for $ 39.99 a month. The service is already available in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay and, according to a Sonic blog post, is expanding to the Peninsula and other communities. You can find out if your home is served at Sonic.com. I have not experienced 10 GB service but, at that speed and price point, I suspect I’ll sign-up immediately if and when it comes to my neighborhood
I also changed TV services
When I canceled my Comcast internet, I lost access to the “double play” bundle that included cable TV, which made my TV service much more expensive. So I decided it was time to “cut the cord.” In an upcoming column I’ll describe my journey from cable to streaming live TV.
Spoiler alert – it’s a one-way journey. I doubt if I’ll ever go back to cable.