My major DSL and Cable Internet providers are out. Am I destined to live in the netless stoneage?

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Offline © by mikecogh, used under Creative Commons license.
My girlfriend and I just moved into a new apartment on very short notice, and haven’t been able to get internet. AT&T strung us along for several hours’ worth of phone calls and then told us that our apartment isn’t set up for their service (even though adjoining apartments are) and RCN doesn’t service our area in Chicago. Comcast is too expensive for us.

The building manager says he has no idea why AT&T wouldn’t work for us and he’s never encountered that problem before. The only idea I’m left with is offering a neighbor $20 to piggyback on their wireless connection, but that seems too risky. What can we do here? Neither of us are tech-savvy and I’m hoping there’s a solution we’ve overlooked. -Will

AWESOME question. I’m curious, too — having had bad service from my regional conglomerate (and wanting fast, secure service for my high-usage home), I’ve found myself looking for other options.

Homies, help us.

Comments on My major DSL and Cable Internet providers are out. Am I destined to live in the netless stoneage?

  1. We berated Comcast into giving us the longest intro rate possible. Whenever they raise it, we call back threatening to drop service if they don’t match the newest introductory sale price. It’s worth more to them to keep a customer at the sale price than to find a new customer. If that hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t have known what else to do. Good luck!

  2. My advice would be to knock on a few doors in your building. Ask everyone what they’re using. If someone has AT&T, it’s time to make another call. If you hear someone who has Comcast, ask them if they don’t mind sharing with you how much they pay. If it’s less than the price you were quoted, get on the horn.

  3. My parents live in a rural area where they have few options for internet. They opted to add a wireless router to their cell services package. Basically, they have a credit-card sized device that connects to the phone satelites and provides a small area of wireless internet coverage. Now, they can take the internet with them anywhere they have cell service. Another option, if you have a smartphone, is to link your computer and cell. Talk to your service provider about this one; it might not be a good option for you if you’re on a limited data plan.

    • This is the option I would suggest. It’s basically satellite internet. The downside is that only one computer can be connected at a time, unless you get 2 cards.
      But there are many retailers, and you don’t necessarily need to go through a cell phone company to use it.

      • That’s not true. Mobile hotspots can connect up to five devices at once. Maybe you’re thinking of USB modems – those only work for one computer at a time.

        • The one I’m most familiar with is the one my grandmother uses. It’s a card that works with Verizon cell phone towers, and does not create a hot spot.
          Another one my mom uses with her laptop is similar and is true satellite internet service. It also does not create a hot spot.

    • That’s quite similar to us. We live in a remote town in Western Australia where ADSL internet connections are first come, first serve and quite hard to get. We ended up buying a tablet that acts as a hotspot. I’m on it right now! It’s wireless internet that runs off mobile phone towers/satellites.

      It is a bit pricey, but given we don’t ever expect to ever have an actual line connection, it does us well.

  4. I know this may not be super helpful, but sometimes the response you get on service depends on the sales rep you reach by the phone. Call back and ask why you can’t have service when your neighbors can. I’ve gotten two disparate responses from the same internet company because I called back a couple hours later.

    • I agree, I use to work in the call center for cable, internet and home phone. There are always a few sales reps that aren’t willing to look a little deeper. Call back and see what can be done. They should be willing to get the service set up so that they can provide service to clients after you as well. If other apartments have it then you should be able to get it, or they can send some to make the change they obviously did to make the other places work.

  5. Clear Internet!!

    I think that they are most developed in urban areas, but they sure saved my butt here in Boston. When I moved into my last apartment, it turned out that the cables were corrupt and Comcast was unable to find my connection in the basement. On four separate occasions. It was extremely frustrating.

    Clear Internet mails you a modem that you plug in, and TADA!! You have internet!! Sometimes it’s not the fastest service, but whatever. It’s also cheaper than the cable company.

    • as long as they’re available in the OP’s area, absolutely.

      we had Xohm when they were just getting started, and when Clear bought them we stuck with the service. it’s been the most reliable service i’ve ever had. it’s also faster than DSL (we’ve had two different services in this house) and isn’t Comcast. we have not had any sort of throttling issues, ping times are acceptable for FPS gaming and video streaming, and the only PROBLEMS we’ve had were weather-related. their support is top-notch, their response time via Twitter has been fantastic, and it’s pretty convenient to take my wireless with me wherever i go.

      i can’t say anything about the plan structure, as we’re grandfathered in under our old Xohm plan (we pay $50/mo for two devices).

      i think we would consider switching if FiOS were an option, but it will never hit our part of Baltimore. Verizon says it’s not in the plan. and that’s fine with me, because i hate them. 🙂

      • My fiance, His sisters fiance and I all have Clear. None of us has had any real problems and they do have various packages. I you live near a (gagvomitgag) Best Buy, they might have someone there from the company and you can pick up the modem right there in the store. Plus, if you;ease the device instead of buying it outright, and it breaks, they’ll mail you a replacement within a couple days.

    • I second this. My partner and I have used clear for years, and when I got my own space due to a new job, Clear was the first place I thought of. The best thing about it is that when Anthony joins me and we get a bigger space, all I have to do is unplug the modem from my old apartment, move it across town, and plug it back in again. NO HASSLE!

      I currently have 4G home, which is $50/mo. They have a cheaper plan that is $39, but I have never used it.

    • Clear!!! I first got Clear three years ago and I LOVE IT. I pay $35/month, my connection is wicked fast, and the one time I’ve had an issue, the customer service was fantastic. Like falnfenix said, sometimes we have weather-related issues but I had weather-related issues with Comcast too and instead of being back up and running in a few hours, Comcast would sometimes take DAYS to come back.

      The best part was than when I moved, Clear came with me. I was up and running almost immediately. I have been really surprised at how awesome Clear has been. We have two computers and the TV hooked up and rarely, if ever, have a problem.

  6. Mobile Broadband is definitely an option, but I’ve found it to be more expensive than traditional broadband, particularly for what you get.

    Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile all offer mobile broadband packages for about $50/month, but that only gets you 5GB of transfer. So if you do much besides check your email and browse Facebook you may hit the cap fast.

    The nice thing about the mobile broadband devices is you can take your internet connection with you anywhere, but you probably won’t be saving much (if anything) versus Comcast’s cheapest package.

  7. This seems strange. I live in an older duplex, and when we tried to set up Comcast internet they were going to charge us hourly to send out a technician to rewire the house, which was only set up with older telephone lines. But when we called AT&T, they just rewired it for free. Perhaps the difference is that we were doing UVerse and Internet? But UVerse isn’t available in all areas. I’m surprised they didn’t suggest a mobile plug thingy, I think they sell them.

  8. I used to use Speakeasy for internet (this was about 7 years ago, but the company still exists I believe). The company is based on the West Coast but I was able to get their service in eastern PA. My then-boyfriend worked in info security and was thus very computer-savvy so he handled the specifics, but it didn’t seem complicated. He didn’t have to do any wiring work or anything, he just made all the phone calls. He liked Speakeasy because it was fast and secure, and he hated AT&T and Comcast with a passion. I’m not entirely sure how Speakeasy works – I think they provide DSL through existing phone lines. Worth investigating for your situation!

    • We’ve used Speakeasy for years, but since their merger with Best Buy and then Covad a few years ago things seem to have gone downhill a bit. That said, they’re still not as bad as Comcast / AT&T / Verizon.

      I do remember the price being a bit steep for the speed, but on the flip side I always got a knowledgeable human every time I called.

  9. This is very helpful. I am trying to come up with a plan to get rid of cable but I want to still make sure I have the internet. Clear sounds like a definite option.

  10. I had the exact same problem at one of the apartments I lived at. AT&T told me that they didn’t offer service there, but I saw an AT&T van/installation tech in the parking lot all the time. Finally I just flagged down the tech and he was able to help sign me up. If you do see any installation or repair technicians in the area, try asking them for help!

  11. When I lived in an unpleasantly internetless apartment (seriously, NOBODY would give us service out there) a lot of people suggested AirCards to me, though we moved before I tried it.

    That said, if you talk to the Comcast reps and whine about the price a little, they will almost always go down for at least 6 months- and if you insist you JUST want internet and none of that package crap, that makes it quite a bit cheaper too. I’ve gotten service in the $20-30 range before. (And when you move, just cancel the service and start it up again, and you can get the deal again 😉 If you call and threaten to switch providers they’ll usually extend the low pricing, too.)

  12. For citydwellers, check to see if your city/suburb offers municipal wi-fi. We use it here in Minneapolis because it’s so much cheaper than Comcast. The speed and reliability aren’t as good but have improved drastically over the past few years. These days it works just fine most of the time.

    I think our network offers a couple of different options: a cheaper subscription if you just want to tap into the existing hubs placed through every neighborhood, or an option to have it installed directly in your home for better service. Even the most expensive option tops out at about $25/mo if you prepay for the whole year.

  13. I use my iPhone as a hotspot and it’s better than anything else I’ve used recently (dongle, marina wifi etc) I pay £35 per month mobile phone bill for totally unlimited wireless (no fair usage problems) so I’m really getting my money’s worth. 🙂 obviously it depends on your area and how good the signal is but I can do everything that house wired Internet can do.

  14. Depending on your usage and if you’re cool with your neighbors, it might be worth it to ask them. Before we went broke we had holy crap expensive Internet from the cable provider, we let our upstairs neighbor use it — she couldn’t afford Internet and only did routine net stuff. It didn’t bother me to let her use it, and she once gave us $20 (score!).

    That said, when we could no longer afford said Internet provider and spent the better part of 3 months without Internet, she did end up sans-Internet without warning. So that’s a risk. (We both ended up going AT&T, which is ridiculous about where they have service.)

    That said, I second using a city service if it’s available. The public network here is *terrible* if you buy a day pass, but it exists, it’s cheap, and some people report better quality when you buy a router from them. (It even offers free service for people who qualify financially, though we’re a small city. I don’t even know if we’re officially a city.)

  15. We pick up the Internet signal from a tiny restaurant downstairs, so it’s free. I’m not super worried about security, as the restaurant is 98% delivery business. But when service cuts out, as it has been doing frequently, you’re screwed. I’m typing this on my iPhone right now incidentally. :\

  16. I don’t have any helpful advice, other than to keep asking different people.

    We had horrible two months when we first moved in to this apartment — only Comcast would provide service to our area, seriously, no other providers under $200/month would even serve our county! — after service visits on an almost daily basis, new modems, new routers, etc — the problem ended up being the old cables in the walls, which the landlord wouldn’t touch, because “no one else had this problem.” Since we eventually found an email in which they’d told us that we would have “no trouble” with an internet provider, the landlords eventually agreed to let Comcast run a new cable around the entire building to get to us. After all of the back-and-forth and running from campus back to the apartment to wait for hours for the service visits, it was all resolved in twenty minutes, and most of that was spent drilling through the brick to bring the cable inside.

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