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  1. Adventures in Broadband

    brian on 2003.07.01
    at 09:07 pm

    Yesterday, I joined the present and ordered a DSL connection for my apartment. I had held off for financial reasons: in our household (two people) we had one full-time student, and one half income. Now we have one full-time income, and one almost half income, that stands to leapfrog the other's full-time income shortly. Broadband is expensive. In general, the slowest residential connection will set you back $50 per month, plus taxes. Verizon is offering a $34.95 per month deal, but it's terribly hard for me to decipher what I have to do to get that, and if it stays at that rate.

    At the moment we have contracts with Verizon for our local landline telephone and our wireless phones. We have long distance through some other company who I can't name, because they signed Amanda up over the phone. We have no contract, but service with Comcast for very basic cable television. It ain't much, but we're ecstatic that it's under $10 a month. I said basic. Bottomline is that none of these companies could break the $50 a month barrier, even in a package deal with our existing packages. Verizon claims to, but they would want to have us pickup a long distance plan as well, but we don't use landline long distance: their wireless division handles all the distance we need. What we'd add in per month extras to the long distance would essentially cover what they were going to knockoff in DSL charges.

    Anyone who knows me knows I prefer smaller, more customer-centric companies. So I went looking for one in the broadband market. The first one I encountered was RCN. We tried to sign up with them the day we moved to Brookline. Seeing their manholes on either side of our apartment lead us to believe this would be easy. Not so. After having their helpful agent enquire, we found they service all of our neighboring buildings, just not ours. However, they were looking to continue construction of their network that coming spring, and might hook our building up then. That spring came, went, without any RCN trucks on my street. One unanswered email to their company later, I left them for dead. A shame, considering their local telephone/ digital cable / broadband package looks to be the best deal I've seen anywhere. Talking to local customers with them confirmed those suspicions. So I moved on.

    Further research lead me to the independent DSL ISP "Speakeasy." I had heard mumblings about their "legendary" customer support around the web, so I investigated their service. Well, it's seemingly no bargain, at $49.99 a month for 608 kbps down, 128 kbps up. That's basically the same as everyone else. The difference, comes in the people running the company. They support Mac and Linux, and when you call, reports have it they are actually helpful. When you sign up, they don't even ask you what OS you're running. They don't care. How refreshing.

    Should service be needed, you get live, online tracking of its progress. Right now, I'm tracking the progress of my connection set up. I called to sign up last night, at 8pm, and at 3pm today I received an automated email that said at noon their vendor had set up the date to hook me into the central office, which will be July 7th. That seems to to be a ways a way, but I appreciate the up-to-the-minute status reports, which I can log into my account page and see in even more technical detail. I also received my IP addresses. Did I mention static IPs? That's terribly unusual. And a good thing: they're cool with you running servers!

    What's more, they are pro-WiFi. Yes, use wireless, and they think it's a good thing. Want to share with your neighbors? Go right ahead! You can start your own WiFi ISP, they call it NetShare. You get to choose what to charge your neighbors, Speakeasy takes care of their billing, and sets up email accounts, web space and other services for them. Of course, Speakeasy pockets 50% of your customer's bill, and you have to buy the WiFi equipment yourself, maintain it, and provide up-and-running tech support to your neighbors, but that other 50% goes towards your monthly bill.

    So now I have a week to see if I can find someone to sign up for their NetShare plan. I already own the WiFi gear, so why not try to make some money back? If I get enough interested souls, I might even be able to jump up a level in speed. They offer DSL at up to 3Mbps down/ 768 kbps up! I can't afford it, but if I have enough help... And if you're reading this from near the intersection of St. Paul and Parkman streets in Brookline, email me now! I'm not looking to run at a profit, so the more people I find, the less we all pay. By the way, if you think you might check out Speakeasy after reading this, please do so through the Speakeasy links I've provided here. I'll get $25 credit if you sign up as a residential customer, $50 if you're a business. Just stay a customer for 7 days, so the credit will go through (you have 25 days to back out, if you don't like their service). Thanks!

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