August 2, 2007

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So I’m taking an apartment for the next year, near Cambridge, Mass. As it happens, there is an abundance of fiber (ftth) and copper to homes there, including ours. The three competing suppliers are Verizon FiOS, RCL and Comcast.

For the customer interested only in maximal Internet service (such as yours truly), rather than a “triple play” including phone and television, the offerings are confusing to the verge of opacity.

Here’s Comcast‘s come-on:

Get on the fast track…fast. With Comcast High-Speed Internet, surf the web at lightning speed – up to 4x faster than 1.5 Mbps DSL, 7x faster than 768K DSL and 100x faster than 56K Dial-up. And now with PowerBoost[trademark], our fast connection gets even faster, with an extra burst of speed up to 12 Mbps when you’re downloading large files like videos and games. Plus, stay safe from nasty viruses and spam, and keep your kids safe online with advanced security protection from McAfee┬«, included free with service. Experience amazing broadband features, like free Video Mail, Rhapsody┬« Radio PLUS, Disney kids’ activities and The Fan[trademark] Video Player- which allows you to click-and-play video clips. You’re sure to say “Whoah!” Just select the plan that suits your needs and add it to your cart. Happy shopping!

…. followed by four plans, the best of which (Internet-wise) is “High-Speed Internet for Non-Comcast Cable Customers”, which offers no details beyond the above, until you click on “See all features”. There you find Or, for just $10 more per month, you can enjoy our top-speed connection, 8 Mbps/768 Kbps, and enjoy download speeds up to 142 times faster than 56K dial-up and four times as fast as 1.5Mbps DSL. It’s so unbelievably fast, you’ll wonder how you ever surfed the Web without it. Our 8Mbps/768Kbps service is also ideal for gamers. You’ll get the Comcast Game Invasion package, which includes free membership to the IGN Founder’s Club, a $119 annual value.

So their top speed is 8 Mbps/768 Kbps. That’s for $67.95. I see by the other offers that the monthly fee is about $50 for TV customers.

No doubt the medium is copper co-ax, though they don’t say that.

As a non-TV customer of Cox Cable in Santa Barbara I’m paying $60 for 10 Mbps/1Mpbs. The downstream isn’t provisioned yet, so I’m getting about 6/1. Still, what I want most is the upstream speed, plus the least possible crippling of pure Internet service. With Cox, all the crippling I get are port 80 (web server) and port 25 (outbound mail) blockages, plus no IP addresses. I have to buy a business account for that, but at much higher prices. Not worth it.

Next is RCN. Here the delivery is via fiber. Speeds are “Up to 1.5Mbps, 5Mbps, 10Mbps or 20Mbps* download speeds”. Nothing about upload. To find out what they offered on the upload side, I stopped by the RCN office on Massachusetts Avenue. After about a five minute dialog the customer service agent revealed that the best they can do is 2Mbps on the upstream side. Nothing on the site gives a price. Just a number to call. In their office the agent told me the price is $50. She knew nothing about port blockages, but she did know they offered no business services and nothing faster than 2Mb upstream. The capacity of fiber, of course, is a thousand times that or more.

After qualifying my address with Verizon FiOS and finding that I qualify, I read this in the fine print:

FiOS Internet limited time promotional offer expires 8/18/2007 and is applicable to customers who order the Verizon FiOS Internet 5/2 Mbps , 10/2 Mbps, 15/2Mbps or the 20/5Mbps speed package with an annual plan ONLINE. Customer will receive Target gift card 10 to 12 weeks after FiOS installation. One gift award per household. First month free with bill credit. Monthly rate of $29.99 applies to months 2-7. Monthly rate of $39.99 applies to months 8-12. $99 early termination fee. Rate increases after first year. $19.99 activation charge. Additional charges, taxes and terms apply. Service availability, speed and uninterrupted service not guaranteed.

That’s just one paragraph among five at the bottom of the page.

Still, Verizon appears to be the best of the three, simply because it provides 5Mbps upstream. But at what cost otherwise? What are the restricitons on use? In one paragraph it says Acceptance of Verizon Online Terms of Service is required. What are those?

With technology this advanced, why hide the serious benefits in a cloud of crap?

I’d write more, but I’m waiting for a plane. See ya on the far side.