Competition Finally

October 24, 2018


Almost two years ago, I wrote about downgrading my Comcast internet service because they kept raising the price each year. I lamented in the post about how I wanted more competition in our area for internet service. At least actual competition, at the time AT&T only had DSL and that offering was pitiful.

A couple of months ago, AT&T started burying fiber on the main road outside our neighborhood. Then a few weeks after that, they started stringing fiber lines on utility poles. I checked to see if I could get AT&T Fiber last week and found that it was available. I ordered right away, for $8 more (what I figured Comcast would raise our price by at the end of the year) I could get symmetric 1Gbps fiber to the house with no data cap. Now that is true competition.

The Xfinity 1TB data cap annoys me because the last few months I have been getting "You've used 90% of your data plan this month" emails -- and annoyingly alerts injected into my web browsing stream.

Comcast may say that only their top 1% of users need more than 1TB of data, I don't believe that's true anymore. I restricted my own streaming of TV because I didn't want to hit the data cap. The kids and wife all watch YouTube. Xbox One updates are heinously large -- last month, the Halo: Masterchief Collection needed a 70GB update. Digital Xbox One games are also huge. There's also my data usage when I work from home and just general web browsing and other streaming.

Comcast has offers to lift the data caps. The first is to cough up $50 more per month. The second is get a Comcast Business account which has no data cap, but costs as much as a residential account with the $50/mo data cap removal fee.

Comcast internet service wasn't bad, over the last five years that we've had them, there were only a few brief outages. Their IPv6 implementation is solid. And they let me use equipment that I purchase myself -- plus, the cable modems have a true bridge mode.

Even so, it wasn't a hard decision to go with AT&T Fiber because of the speed, the price and most importantly, the lack of a data cap.

Installation

This is a tip if you are ordering AT&T Fiber and the fiber is coming from a utility pole. Prior to the installation, look outside at the utility pole and see if it is in your backyard. If it is not, then go speak with that neighbor (or neighbors depending on how far the utility pole is) to get permission for AT&T to enter your neighbor's property to do a line drop. It will save you time during the install -- my installation was scheduled for 9am, the neighbor wasn't home to give the AT&T tech permission to be on their property until lunch time.

From the time the tech got the line to my house, it took another two hours or so for him to get everything setup. Total work time on my premise was about the estimated four hours.

The tech that took care of my installation was super friendly and knowledgeable. He took care of the install and was helpful after things were all connected. He took time to explain things and made sure that things were working -- and made sure that I was getting good SpeedTest speeds. He left his number and his supervisor's number just in case I had any issues with the install. Thanks Jose!

Access

AT&T provides a Residential Gateway free, mine is a BGW210-700. It works fine for what I need it for -- authenticating the fiber connection. I have everything turned off on it (Wifi, routing, etc) and have it doing IP Passthrough to my Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite. Wifi is served via two Ubiquiti UniFi APs. The IP Passthrough is not true bridging of the connection, but so far it seems to work fine.

Cancelling Xfinity Internet

I braced myself for a terrible experience trying to cancel my Xfinity Internet -- based on all the horror stories I have read. To my surprise, the process was quick and painless. The process can be found here.

A tip: While the documentation says that cancellation can be done via the online chat -- it can't, the online chat will only tell you to call the Comcast number for cancelations. So, to save time, call the number.

The customer service representative asked why I was leaving ("To try a different provider") and asked was there anything that caused me to look elsewhere ("1TB data cap"). Then she processed my request and let me know that I should be expecting a pro-rated refund soon.

So Far


So far, the internet access from AT&T Fiber over the last five days has been great. Even though we have a 1Gbps connection, I doubt we will ever use the full pipe. Xbox downloads top off around 300-350Mbps -- which I am guessing is around the speed of the USB3 drive I have hooked up to the Xbox One. My general internet usage has gone up because of the lifted data cap -- I am streaming more now (4K iTunes, Netflix, Amazon and Vudu) because I can.

One benefit is that the upload speed is 200x faster than before, so using OneDrive is a much better experience now. Comcast's 5Mbps upload speed was a joke. Also, streaming music from my Plex server to my phone works much better now.

I'll see how it goes after a few months and report back.


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