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


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