Cheapest Broadband By The Bay


By Cyrus Farivar

While I may not be a cheap graduate student anymore, I still try to pinch my pennies as much as possible. As such, as far as Internet service goes, I’m more sensitive to lower prices (for lower service), than I am to getting double or triple the bandwidth for $10 or $15 more.

My AT&T (formerly SBC) DSL costs me $40 a month for DSL service and a landline phone that I never use. My contract is up in early June, so I decided to explore my options for DSL in the area. I’m not interested in cable Internet, as I don’t have a TV. I asked around to some of my journalist buddies and called a few companies for quotes. Om suggested that I see what Comcast would charge for just Internet. They quoted me $60/month. As Om said, “Not bad for six megabits.” (Om adds: I am getting a 6 mb/s downlink though the service officially says 3 mb/s.) True dat, but still the most expensive quote that I heard. For me, I’d rather save $20 and cut that service by one third.

I tried Speakeasy, which seems to have become the cool kids’ ISP. Heck, even Paul Boutin endorses it. They quoted me 1.5 MB down/384k at $56 for naked DSL. A good deal to be sure, but if Om’s six megabits/second is right, then four dollars is a pittance for greater than three times the speed. One benefit of using Speakeasy is that they will let you share your connection without violating their terms of service. So that way I can be a Fonero in good conscience.

I also checked in with Covad. They quoted me the same service as Speakeasy, but for $10 more. No thanks. So what’s the secret, then, to super cheap DSL? Stick with AT&T. When I called them on the phone they said that they could renew my current service (at 384k down if you must know) at their current promo rate of $26/month (for a one year contract), plus what I currently pay for the phone line at $20/month.

But a quick visit over to their website illustrates that their online deals are better than that: $12.99/month for a year contract, or $5 more for 1.5 down/384k up — which is exactly what Speakeasy is offering. If I want the cheapest deal, I think it’s clear which one I’ll pick.

Cyrus Farivar is an assistant editor at Macworld. He is also the host and
producer of the Macworld Podcast



What about DslExtreme. I’ve been using them for 4 years (at various California locations) and they always deliver. A lot of my friends are switching over to them because its $13-$50 for good service and they are tired of the bad service/billing issues from SBC/ATT. Plus the $12.95 requires ATT service package and waiting for the $99 rebate on the modem.

They have good tech support and will even walk you through router configs. Check em out.

J Lee

Sounds like it is time to cancel the wireline and hang out at Starbucks on our WiFi laps. Just have to pay the customary $3 for the beans :) … On second thought, that might get expensive … sigh


I wonder why penetration rates are lower in france than the us, with such good deals- any thoughts?


Hi there,

Wow, the prices in USA are really high for internet. “They quoted me 1.5 MB down/384k at $56 for naked DSL” oh my god, $56 for 1.5mb? I’m in Paris and I use ISP. I pay 29.99 euros for a 20mb line, free 80 tv channels, free phone in france and 14 other countries. And I used to think that I was paying a lot. lol..
hope the prices drop down soon in the States soon because I’m going there in a couple of months and been spoiled using free/high speed/cheap internet services here in France. hehe

have a wonderful day,

Davis Freeberg

If you are lucky enough to live in Alameda, you can save a lot on high speed access. I pay $19.99 per month permanetely although at a slower download rate then what Comcast offers. Of course if you prefer the faster speeds you can still get the “Alameda” rate with Comcast which is about $10 less per month then anywhere else in the bay area. The next time you hear a telco arguing for local franchise exclusivity, you should take a close look at what happens to prices in a dual market for broadband.

Cyrus Farivar

Thanks for the comments. Looks like has a comparable deal, and I’m willing to spend a bit extra to support the little guy, I think.

And switching to a metered line isn’t a bad idea either — thanks for the tip!


Yes, roughly speaking those are normal prices in the US. You can get dsl from at&t for about $15, if you have phone service. Soon they will have to offer dsl even if you don’t have phone service, but who knows what they will do with pricing. Cable is generally much faster, but pricier.

Speeds are going up- 8mb speeds are becoming more common, and we are starting to see 20mb in some areas. Keep in mind that our per capita income in the US is about 30% higher than in the Netherlands, so it isn’t quite as bad as it looks.


Are those normal prices, in the US of A? Here in the Netherlands (the second, err, third country of the world in broadband penetration), you can get 20Mbit DSL for E25 (that’s some $30), plus some E11 for the phone line. And often there are deals like 2 Mbit for E10 for the first year (and E20 after that). Those are the low-cost deals, but the decent providers also charge something in the E30-E40 price range for 3Mbit or so.


Most interesting thing in this is,
“…as I don’t have a TV.”

And you are journalist. but its really interesting fact.



You’re paying too much for the non-DSL part of it: you can lower your land line cost by switching to measured service. The total cost (including taxes, fees etc.) is $11.23. I don’t have long distance service, long distance local or anything. When I really have to use the land line, I use a calling card, but that almost never happens…

My total bill for Pro DSL (3 Mbps) with SBC is $37.60. The slow, 1.5 Mbps should be around $5 cheaper.



Do yourself a favor. Get DSL from an independent ISP.
Keep the SBC (powered by at&t!!!) phone line.

Order DSL from one of the independent DSL resellers:
Sonic –
Coastside –
Bayarea –>

You’ll get reasonable prices, high speeds, and excellent technical support, plus you’ll be giving money to local businesses. Most of these ISPs have been in business since 1995, and they know their stuff. Can SBC say the same? No.

Can SBC offer you reasonably priced static IP addressing? No.
Can SBC offer you professional web hosting with PHP & MySQL? No.

You can search for a local independent ISP at the California ISP Association web pages:

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