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Reach Out and Torch Someone

Twelve months ago the cost of my internet service (DSL) jumped from $19 a month to $35 a month. A quick call to AT&T resulted in not only a reduction of cost to $23 but, as a way of saying "Thanks for being a customer for over 25 years", a doubling in bandwidth. A truly rollicking 6Mbps download speed.

Gosh! Thanks, AT&T!

Today I opened my phone bill to discover that the cost of my internet service had been doubled to $44. A quick call to AT&T resulted in the following response:

"Nertz to you! Actually, double-nertz!"

After 45 minutes of arguing with Ms. Patronizing Service Representative I got them to lower the cost back to the original $23 a month, but it required cutting my download speed in half, to 3Mbps.

Gosh! Thanks AT&T!

I was about to say "Fine! Whatever!" when they added "And this will require a twelve-month contract with a bazillion dollar cancellation penalty."

I hung up.

As far as internet service goes in America the major providers aren't stringing that much cable anymore and they damn sure aren't upgrading the present transmission lines to fiber. What they're doing can only be summed up in one word:


The major providers have sliced this country into noncompetitive quadrants and are now reaping the blessing of their monopolies by charging whatever they like. (Did you know you still pay an extra fee for touch-tone dialing? AT&T does.) And good luck finding an alternative, suckers.

Perhaps this sudden rise in prices is a reaction to Google Fiber, with the major providers seeing the writing on the wall and deciding to cash in while they still can. Google fiber is effectively banned from many cities by the phone giants who never met a congressman's palm they couldn't grease, but once it becomes more than just a techy meme it's just a matter of time before state congresses and city elders cave to public demand. We can only hope.

For a little unpleasant perspective countries like Japan currently charge 1/12th the average U.S. internet cost while providing connection speeds fifteen times faster than the national average.

For those having trouble visualizing the difference imagine getting fifteen Big Macs for twenty-five cents.


Even more galling, back in the 90s a bill was passed adding a tax to all phone service, tax money that was supposed to be plowed back into upgrading DSL to real broadband, namely fiber optic lines. Instead the phone companies just changed the rules to define anything over 200kbs as "broadband", called it a day,  and then proceeded to pocket over $200 billion dollars. And we're still paying that tax.

I'm still considering my internet options at the moment. Because of a fluke in the laws AT&T still competes head-to-internet-head with Time Warner here in Dallas, but the word "compete" might as well be "banana" when you compare pricing, of which there is little difference. As far as the amount of leverage Time Warner provides the average Dallas internet consumer I think Archimedes would be appalled.

I'm actually pissed-off enough at AT&T that I'm considering going pure scorched-Earth and dumping them altogether and switching to a combo of Clear and VOIP.

Incidentally, my troubles pale compared to Beloved Girlfriend. Though she lives but a scant 5 miles away from my front door, she has the choice of either Verizon, Verizon, or (let me check), oh, yeah... Verizon. And they've doubled her internet and home phone rates in the past three years.

For a history of broadband in America please read "Where's the Broadband in America?"



end rant

Today's Chart of the Day: Internet Speeds and Costs Around the World.

Larger version of chart can be found here.

(To spare you right-wing nincompoopery all comments are moderated.)
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