Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The State of Internet Access on my Street

In the summer of 2008, I moved to Utah with my wife to escape the gaping maw of the recession in California. While living in an apartment, we were able to secure Internet access from Comcast. We lived there for about 7 months. During that time, on at least one occasion, Internet service failed for one whole day. On more than one occasion, Internet service failed for more than an hour. But at least we had something.

In May of last year, we bought a house. Before we moved, I did a lot of research about Internet access and found that there were 3 potential providers for my area: UTOPIA - municipal broadband, Comcast and Qwest (the bane of Internet access). After we closed the deal on the house, I started calling everyone and checking their websites for availability. Turns out the only one we could get was Qwest.

To their credit, Qwest helped resolve a wiring issue for us in our house so that DSL service would not have wild swings in performance. Xmission couldn't do anything about it because Qwest owned the line. Since then, DSL service has been fairly stable, but we have had outages from time to time.

I had read about and wanted UTOPIA, but they had been stifled by an expensive lawsuit and after it's conclusion, had decided to pursue an expansion in other cities. What's so interesting about UTOPIA is that they were offering 15 mbs for $35 a month. Unfortunately, their cable run stops about a block from my house. That lawsuit? That was from Qwest, a company that seems to think that competition is an aberration in Utah and that it should be quelled at any cost. It's also worth noting here that Qwest is the *only* tier one service provider in the state. Qwest had sued UTOPIA over the use of 28,000 telephone poles in my city. They wanted to do discovery on each pole, one at a time, anything they could do to delay UTOPIA was fine with them. Never mind that they got a great deal on their easements to run their cable.

From the beginning, Comcast revealed that they were not offering Internet access in my area. I used their website to determine if service was available at my address, and according to their website, it was. But when I called their toll-free number to see if access was available, they said that my house was not listed in their database. I've done this several times to no avail.

But what Comcast didn't tell me is that they were servicing my neighbor's house. I came home last Sunday to see that they had two trucks parked in front, one in front of my house, the other in front of my neighbor's house. I talked to the tech and asked him about service. He pointed to a wire above and said that's the one. He said I should call them and check it out. "How long has it been there?," I asked. Ten years.

So, for whatever reason, perhaps it was lack of competition, Comcast has made a decision not to provide service to my house. Now there is still a chance that Comcast may come around, as I'm waiting on a phone call from their rep. I'll provide an update if anything changes.

For now, UTOPIA stopped one block from my house. Comcast could service my house, but won't. And Qwest is selling access at retail prices to competitors like Xmission. So I'm buying from Xmission to make sure there is quality control.

This is the state of Internet access on my street. Selective service has an entirely different meaning here.

Update, 4/27/10, 7pm: No phone call from Comcast. I guess they don't offer service or have any plans to.
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