A reliable — and not too expensive — internet connection is a critical piece of the puzzle if you're looking for more options besides a TV antenna to ditch your cable TV. Let's get into it.
Before we get into the options we do have locally, it's worth noting that recent legislation will allow the city can team up with a broadband provider like Google Fiber — think fast and affordable — to make the internet more accessible for everyone. It won't happen any time soon, but it's a definitely something to look forward to. Folks are fed up with the lack of options and pricing when it comes to internet providers.
The majority of us in the Springs have main Internet choices: Comcast and CenturyLink. Comcast often has the fastest options, but DSL — connected via existing phone lines — is picking up with CenturyLink. They are doing a chunk of fiber optic cable which allows for faster speeds as opposed to copper wiring in sections but only unto a certain point. That means you are not going to get super fast speeds that folks can get from say Verizon FIOS — a very fast fiber optic cable option with no copper connection). Comcast is sticking with something called DOCSIS, a way of sending Internet signals through their existing wiring that they can keep squeezing more speed out of. The one big argument that DSL likes to use is that users aren't sharing a connection; you're plugged into their hub unlike your neighbors using Comcast who share the wiring connections. Shared connections used to be prone to slower speeds during peak use times, but that issue has really diminished greatly, at least for most people.
Those in rural areas have fewer Internet options, and often pricier (sorry). Most of the providers don't have to guarantee access with copper wire or coaxial beyond certain areas. Users get stuck with a bill for the manual labor to install a broadband connection to your home from the closest available link which can get very expensive. You may need to start looking at a satellite set up like HughesNet and PCI that offer connectivity without the manual install. Though it's still pricey, satellite broadband has improved, and is a viable option when you fewer choices.
Unfortunately, when it comes to finding the best option for you, you have to play the game the companies make you play. There are a lot factors that companies use to determine pricing — it's extremely difficult to know what offers you'll find.
For cable customers, loyalty offers you little. As a matter of fact loyal customers can expect to pay $10-$20 more per month in many cases. If you're looking to lower your costs, start by calling and asking for a better rate. (Personally, I'd tell them you're a traveler who's rarely home but need a fast and stable Internet connection to see what they say). Do your best to get the representative to empathize. You may need to call more than once and ask for a manager, otherwise ask for someone in "customer retention." If you go the route of customer retention, be sure you have another plan to use as a bluff — "I'm looking at a DSL Internet plan that does not have data caps and is promising 40 Mbps downloads." I was paying $60 for about 3 years for a connection that allowed me to fulfill a data intensive work from home job for HP while also streaming anything I wanted to watch. I never saw it as a promotion, but that's what these companies love to do. The downside to promotions, of course, are the contracts that cost you a lot to get out of. Not to mention you rarely get to watch what you really care to see, and your bill will end up increasing later.
DSL has some of the same practices. I find the customer service employees rarely understand what they're trying to sign you up for. But I will say I see consistent offers from CenturyLink that seem to be similar to what I have now, but they never include a modem rental.
Finding a better, cheaper internet provider is no easy task, especially with so few options available to us locally, but now's a good time to start browsing around at prices and making some calls. Realize that your first call may not grab you the best price and don't get discouraged, you may need to try a few times. It's quite the annoying game!