Monday, December 10, 2012

Cutting the cord is an abject failure

I can't quit you, Comcast, I can't quit you.

Last year, when we were headed into a period with a shifting cash flow as my wife started her in-home daycare business, I made the decision to try and switch to USI Wireless. I wrote it up here. I think it must have been working pretty well when I wrote that, as I seemed pretty satisfied with the service.

And quite honestly, we made it through many months with the service. There were sacrifices, like streaming video didn't work very well, and you'd have to wait 10-20 seconds for a youtube video to start, but for the most part, it was a reasonable service for checking email, looking at Twitter and Facebook and other general work. I tried to work at home a few times, and it was slow, but I could do it, as long as I wasn't doing file intensive work on the work servers (and that was probably due to the latency and low send speed more than anything).

Over the summer, we started to have issues. I had to reset my router/wireless AP a few times a month because it would hang, so I wasn't entirely sure if it was the router or the USI wireless that was having issues. The router was still having some issue post USIW but it was worse when I had the service. Then we had periods where it would get abysmally slow. Then it would be fast and usable for a few weeks, then it would get abysmally slow again.

We had the antenna for the unit installed in an optimal location on the outside of the 2nd story of our house. I had to run a somewhat convoluted wireless setup with a wireless repeater in the basement. It worked OK but probably contributed to speed issues on my overall network as well as probably introduced some local wireless signal strength issues. USI told me they could do a Ethernet drop but I never took them up on that because it seemed like the issues were mostly from their equipment to mine since I could achieve peak WAN speeds some of the time, and I just lived with the computer to computer LAN issues. But this may be an inconvenience for some people considering this product - they can't always install the router in an optimal place, so if you're not hard wired, you may have to stick your wireless router/AP in a sub-optimal location in your home.

Flash forward 11 months. I was already planning on going back to Comcast simply because the USIW wasn't cutting it anymore, but a few weekends ago it was grinding to a halt. So I logged in, found a good promotional deal from Comcast and signed up online. Was back up and running with them after a quick call to activate my existing modem.

USI was easy to cancel, and relatively hassle free - except that they sent me a notice saying they were going to bill me for a renewal, which I ignored.

I was very satisfied with them as a company, their service was good the few times I needed it, and the price was really good for service that was still better than the fastest DSL option. But it can't hold a candle to what Comcast offers.

USI is currently piloting fiber installations in a few Minneapolis neighborhoods and I won't hesitate for a second to switch to it if they begin to offer it in my neighborhood - right now they are charging 60% of the price for double the speed of Comcast. Even if they upgrade the wireless product at some point, I might be willing to try it again - I'd really like to reduce my dependency.

As for TV, well, ironically, now that we have cable back with Comcast I'm feeling more strongly about being able to cut the cable ties. We're not watching much original network or cable programming at all anymore, just a handful of shows during the week. Having kids has caught up with us, just no time to get into new shows. So as things have fallen off in our stable of aired shows, they have been replaced by things on Amazon instead. And with a 20Mb connection from Comcast, that streams anything in HD just fine. Sports is still the lynchpin here, as I subscribe to the Red Zone NFL Channel and watch a fair amount of NBA, NFL and MLB on cable. Still, I envision a day where the cost will exceed my willingness to pay, given Comcast's continued price increases.