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How Much Do You Pay Your ISP?

On Monday Ken Starks published an article on Internet access in his neck of the woods, which is outside the Austin city limits. That got me wondering how much most of you spend each month to have the ability to read articles on FOSS Force, watch the latest episodes of your favorite TV shows and check in with your friends on your favorite social network.

Here at FOSS Force we pay $35 monthly for a 4Mbs DSL connection with our local telephone company. Believe it or not, that serves us just fine. I suspect this is because we’re only about the third subscriber from the nearest switching station and we’re probably getting much higher speeds than advertised. All I know is that we can watch multiple movies and videos on multiple machines just fine, with no jerks or freezes. We certainly have more than enough speed for our normal work around here, which mainly consists of writing articles and posting them to the web, reading and sending email and spending way too much time avoiding work by playing on Facebook.

ISP Internet map

Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on opte.org.

The only problem we’ve had with this service is with the way DNS is cached. We discovered this problem a couple of years back when we moved FOSS Force from a reseller account we’d had since 2003 to a VPS. The DNS change propagated within a few hours and we were able to access the site on the new server, but at about the same time every afternoon we suddenly found ourselves accessing the old server, meaning we couldn’t get any work done. We fixed that problem by moving all of our computers to OpenDNS. Problem solved.

At our old location in Winston-Salem, which we vacated in May of 2012, we used Clearwire for which we paid about the same as we’re paying now for DSL. Although we never ran a speed test, I’m reasonably certain we weren’t enjoying anywhere near the speeds we were promised. To watch a YouTube video we had to let the whole video download first to avoid constant pauses and our Vonage phone was at times practically unusable. With our current phone company provided DSL, Vonage is indistinguishable from a land line.

How much do you pay monthly for Internet access? (Do NOT include mobile data plans)

Back in December the phone company notified us that we were eligible for a free upgrade to their newly laid fiber system and would receive 12Mbs for the same price we’re paying now. If we didn’t take them up on this offer, which ended at the end of January, we’d have to pay $60 monthly for the 12Mb service if we signed-up later. With some regret we passed on this offer because it would require letting them dig a trench from the road to our building. As the trench would pass directly by our sixty year old septic system we decided not to chance it.

I would think that by now Internet connections would be much less expensive than they are. After all, back in the early days of the Internet storage and memory were much more expensive than they are now. If memory serves, the computer I was using back in 1995 had 4Mb of RAM and a 100Mb hard drive. My how times have changed.

How much are you paying for your Internet? Take our poll and let us know. I’ll also be interested in reading your comments. Do you think your service provider is gouging? Or do you think the prices we pay are within reason? Let us know.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

19 comments to How Much Do You Pay Your ISP?

  • GrueMaster

    Out here in Saint Helens, Oregon, we have a choice of CenturyLink or Comcast as carriers. Neither are all that great. I have had my aDSL line through Quest (now CenturyLink) since 2003. It was always rated at 7.5/1.5 (although it usually capped out at 5.5 due to old wiring in the house). 2 years ago, it dropped to 4M/768K. Period.

    Turns out, CenturyLink dropped the speed to reduce interference from their newer vDSL technology (local speeds of 50M down). I can’t switch to vDSL though, because my ISP (Portland Internetworks) has been frozen out of the vDSL market. With them, I have a static IP, no port blocking, and no throttling, all of which I have come to like (being a Linux guy and all). CenturyLink won’t allow that unless I go with a business line, which they want more than triple for.

    I’m not running any public servers, so upload traffic is minimal. I do have a local mirror of the Ubuntu repositories though, so the speed is really nice to have. Plus there is Netflix.

    2 months ago, both my main DSL modem AND my spare modem died, same day, same way. CenturyLink sent a tech out, and he gave me a replacement that he had in his truck, but now (despite running only as a bridge to my Linux firewall), several ports are blocked, namely 22 (ssh), 443 & 943 (openVPN), and a few others that I discovered but don’t use.

    But I have no choices. Google may be coming to the Porland area, but not in my direction.

  • Mike

    @GrueMaster

    I’d complain that the modem was defective. Keep complaining until you get one that works.

  • joncr

    Three years ago, I was paying Time-Warner $60 per month for their cheapest cable TV plan and internet (near Raleigh, NC).

    Then, I cancelled the TV bit. Pulled the plug. Monthly bill dropped to $49.

    Now, it’s at $76+.

    A while back,after a prolonged outgae of more than 8 hours, I called TW to ask about having the outage period deducted from my bill. The poor folks who worked the phones told me TW didn’t give refunds. After rinse and repeat a few times, I called my city official who had the job of monitoring TW’s compliance with its monopoly service contract. She said: “Yeah, I know” and advised me to call back, get a supervisor, and specifically ask for a refund for the exact day and time of the outage. I did, and got a few dollars off the next bill. (The supervisor said TW didn’t give refunds for outages, however long, unless a customer demands it.)

    Worst Company In The Country. Should be forced to open their network to all comers. That won’t happen as long as state legislatures are populated with bought-off corporate shills.

  • ThatITPerson

    Verizon Fios 500/100, ~$450/mo

  • NoInfrastructure

    Utility services in the US are generally limited by the nature of a captialistic approach to providing utility infrastructure. The same problems were encountered and persist with electric service, gas service, POTS service, etc, you name it… Essentially there is no economic gain to be had from upgrading infrastructure for any of these services. The customer is going to pay regardless of the quality of the product because there are no other choices in the market. So once a basic infrastructure is in place, it is used and abused until it fails. Then it’s patched with the cheapest thing available until it’s unpatchable. Then it’s discarded and forgotten – think abandoned rail lines running to abandoned coal mines.

    There are some things which should and can only be built by a government. Utility infrastructure is one of those things that should be paid for through taxpayer funds. The providers of xyz service could easily be commercial entities. However, the infrastructure should be installed and maintained by the government. This would ensure that the US doesn’t lag behind the rest of the world on the technology front in the so-called Information Age. However, the corporations that control Congress will never allow this to happen.

    The poll:
    Verizon Fios / Residential — package deal or just Internet $80/month for 50/25

  • tony

    I live in Thailand and use True corporation company
    I pay 600Baht a month.
    This is just under $20 a month.
    My speed is 1.2 Gb/s down.
    I have unlimited downloads 24/7
    Upload is about 140 Kb/s and also unlimited.
    If I download in the morning, I get top speeds (plus) each and every time.
    If I download the same in the evening, I feel often the temptation to look for an axe and……got it ?
    But, downloading a movie in 20 minutes and watch it for 90 minutes, isn’t a bad deal….for $20 a month

  • Tracyanne

    I pay $AU129.00 per month for unlimited wireless broadband. I have choice of Telstra or Optus. Competition is non existant.

  • John B

    In my village in a rural part of upstate New York, I basically have two choices – the village telephone company or HughesNet. The phone company has decent throughput in its DSL offering, but I really would like to see a bit more competition to drive the price down. FWIW, I pay $59 per month for a 4 Mb/s down speed.

  • tony

    sorry: small correction

    My speed is 1.2 Gb/s down.
    should read : 1.2Mb/s

  • joncr

    >>”…Utility services in the US are generally limited by the nature of a captialistic approach to providing utility infrastructure… there is no economic gain to be had from upgrading infrastructure…”

    That doesn’t explain the grant of the monopolies in the first place. That is a political act.

    Providing countervailing influence is the fact that modern technological industries tend to coalesce into only a few very large entities. We saw this in the auto industry, for example, as the hundreds of small auto companies in the early 20th century evolved into the very few that exist today. We’ve seen it in th airline industry and in the aircraft industry. We’ve obviously seen it in personal computing and internet industry.

    Most of the time, consumers enjoy this state of affairs. Every so often, though, the lack of competition reminds them that things are not perfect.

  • NoInfrastructure

    @joncr:
    While it may seem that many industries collapse into only a few players, the utility services are very different. You give the example of the auto industry. In fact the auto industry has not collapsed into only a few players. In the last 30 years there are several auto companies that have risen to major player status that previously did not exist. We now have Kia, Hyundai, etc… here’s a list of car manufacturers:

    http://www.car-company.org/list_of_car_companies.aspx

    Looks can be deceiving…
    If you look carefully you will notice that in every industry – EXCEPT the utilities – there are new players that distrupt the old guard. And many times there new players displace a portion of the market while only shrinking the original top player’s market share. This can easily be seen in the web browser space. After the rocky start only a couple of browsers were viable with IE taking roughly 90% of the market. However, at this point, there are about 8 or 9 top quality web browsers in active use and development…

    In contrast, without government intervention, the US would still have only one phone company – one electric company – and probably a single cable television company. The limiting factor is the investment in wiring and interconnection of millions of end users. And there are no other industries where this is true. A car company can be, and has been, started as a small shop business with little initial investment. A software company can be quite profitable being run by a single individual with nearly no capital investment at all. And even a manufacturing business can be started with a small investment in 3D printers or used CNC machines…

  • joncr

    @NoInfrastrucutre —

    We’re talking about, and interested in, different things. You’re about infrastructure. I’m about monopolies handed out as political booty, as well as the tendency for certain industries to naturally coalesce into monopolies and oligopolies.

    In the U.S., there been a demonstrated tendency for businesses that depend on technology to sell technology to evolve from an initial flowering of many vendors to a few. We saw that in all the industries I mentioned. That it remains possible for someone new to attempt an entrance does not negate history.

    Consumers like and welcome the de facto standardizations provided by the Ma Bells and Microsofts. They may grump and complain, but, if faced with a multitude of incompatible phone networks or incompatible hardware and software choices, their buying decisions would eventually force those markets away from the unwelcome diversity into a comforting commonality.

  • David

    I pay something like $70 per month here in Norway, for 40 Mb/s up and down. And it really is 40 Mb/s each way – regardless of the time of day, I have not known it to be more than about 10% slower when checking the speed to fast enough servers.

  • NoInfrastructure

    @joncr:
    My point is that an ISP requires a physical line connection to your location. This requires significant investment per end user connection. This requirement is precisely missing from any and all non-utility companies and services. A car company is specifically not required to ensure the door to door delivery of its end product to each and every purchaser. It’s important to remember that the last mile is the most expensive to install and maintain. It’s like the difference between an on-line presence with a 99% uptime versus a 100% uptime… That last 1% will cost you more than the previous 99% combined time…

    My second point is that, like roads and bridges, wired data infrastructure should be built with taxpayer dollars… and just like roads and bridges, various ISPs will populate the taxpayer built infrastructure and “drive” the data to the end user…

    Lastly, the many to few players argument is wrong. It doesn’t work like that in the general market. Although it’s easy to understand that it looks that way — but, in fact, markets in other product areas all compete – and there are winners and losers and products that stay on top for a while… but in the end, the patents run out – and the market expands to many players…

    Right now there are competing products in the “Office” software area… there’s Microsoft Office with its “standard” OOXML and there’s an actual standard ODF. The market is playing it out, and the Microsoft method will lose — because it must… the king will always be knocked off the dirt pile — it’s the patent industry that supports the “king” artificially for awhile, but that won’t last… However, in the utility services world – once you build the empire – no one else can use it… unless forced by the government…

    So…

    In software, the government is granting an artificial monopoly – built with patents.
    In utilities, the government must break up a necessary monopoly – built by normal capitalism.

    Imagine if the roads and bridges were not built with taxpayer funds… It’s bad enough that states control access to and add tolls to major interstate roadways…

  • NoInfrastructure

    @joncr:
    Here’s a good read about that last mile connection.

    arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2010/03/fiber-its-not-all-created-equal/

  • Abdel

    I live in Tunisia (North African country). I pay 149 Tunisian dinars ($100 approximately) annually. Plus 15 Td ($10) monthly. For these fees, I get 2Mb down and 1Mb up.

  • joncr

    @Infrastructure —

    We’re still talking about two different issues.

    I’m talking about political grants of effective monopoly, in this instance, by my state legisalture to Time-Warner.

    I’m also talking about how consumers reward market dominance in mass technology businesses and how that has shaped those markets over the last hundred years or so, putting aside secondary factors like government and good or bad behavior of sellers in the market.

    It’s a mistake to think consumers *always* want competition and assign it a higher priority than anything else. Competition is a means to an end for consumers. In the mass technology market, consumers value the uniformity, the easy compatibility, the reasuuring familiarity, delivered by market dominance. They would rebel against what they would see as the confusing chaos and the unwelcome choices forced on them by an actually diverse and competitive mass technology market.

    OOXML versus ODF is an example. Any competition between OOXML and ODF is in the eyes of the beholder. Consumers do not know these things exist. They have no reason to care about what they would see as rather academic and unenforceable standards contrived by some committee someplace. What consumers care about is that they can buy Office, run it on their PC, and not even give a thought to the notion that someone else won’t be able to load and edit their documents.

    Wake then up in the middle of the night and, sure, they’ll tell you free competition is vital. Ask them after breakfast if they are prepared to inconvenience themselves about it and you will get a different answer.

  • NoInfrastructure

    @joncr
    OK.
    So… Which law did your legislature pass that granted Time Warner a monopoly?

    There are very few states that have only a single broadband provider as can be seen here…

    http://tiles.mapbox.com/fcc/map/connect2compete

    In fact it looks like there is only one state with a single broadband provider – Utah. Also it’s very likely that the population density in conjunction with extremely high costs of “the last mile” are to blame for the single provider.

    It’s also very doubtful that any legislature would get away with naming a single company as the provider of a commercial product. So, I surmise that what you mean is: Your legislature has failed to act to break up the existing natural monopoly that Time Warner happens to have — due to the nature of what it means to build a utility company… with most of the costs being sunk costs building the last mile connections… And that’s what I was referring to in my first post regarding Congress… First that Congress would be loath to break up a natural monopoly. Second that the current natural monopoly would lobby hard not to allow passage of laws setting up a publicly paid for utility infrastructure.

    However, the existence of the utility monopoly is a natural cause of markets. And it is decidedly non-capitalistic to demand that a commercial entity destroy its own market by allowing all comers to transmit through the installed utility… it is not public property, and was not paid for by the public — and thus my point — if it WAS paid for by the public, then all comers would by necessity have access already, since it was they who purchased the pipe…

    One last point — incompatible electric utility grids abound in the USA. They are not all synchronized and there are voltage differences between carriers, networks, etc… The same is true for water companies, natural gas companies, etc… most utilities are incompatible. However, they exist as stand alone entities with their own customer base… just like the end of the cable providing data to your home router.

  • I don’t know what 702 charges for approximately 3MB/sec on a slow-assed dsl, but Cableone charges me $50 (+ tax) for a 50MB/sec cable modem connection. I know that they have a 79MB/sec, and probably faster.