Comcast vs. Speakeasy

I woke up this morning to find that Comcast had upgraded my connection from 4 megabits down, 384 kilobits up to 6 megabits, 768 kilobits. Free of charge. They did something similar at my last house a year or so ago. Bumped us from 1.5 megs to 3 megs down, with no price increase. I pay a mere $60 a month for this massive pipe, and I get basic cable along with it (which would be a bigger bonus if I ever actually watched TV anymore).

Meanwhile, Speakeasy—in my opinion the best DSL provider in the country (despite the fact that they still don’t know how to deal with people living in apartment complexes)—offers almost the same package (6Mb/768Kb, 1 dynamic IP address) for $100 a month. Plus you have to pay $200 for the hardware (although sometimes they’ll give you a mail-in rebate). The only real benefit is Speakeasy’s open policy regarding servers and connection sharing.

What’s more, even after all these years, getting DSL installed is still a pain in the ass. Speakeasy has to talk to Covad, who more often than not has to talk to Verizon, who is Covad’s competitor and therefore tends to respond only grudgingly except when they’re required to by law. I’ve ordered Speakeasy DSL three times. The first time was a switch from another provider and went through without a hitch, although it took forever. The second was also a switch, but Speakeasy switched the line before sending me the DSL modem, so my office was without a connection for over a week. The third time was a complete failure because Speakeasy and Covad refused to deal with Verizon (they told me I had to do it).

On the other hand, both times I’ve ordered Internet service from Comcast, I’ve had a perfect connection working exactly as ordered exactly when they said it’d be working. Lower prices, easier installation process, and as if that’s not enough, they keep bumping up the speed without me even asking them to.

If I had to host a server from my apartment, I’d probably go to the extra trouble and expense of ordering DSL, but I wouldn’t enjoy it. Relatively few people host their own servers these days. Relatively few people even know or care what a server is. How, exactly, does Speakeasy expect to compete when their most attractive features are only appealing to a tiny portion of the broadband market and all their other features are available elsewhere for a much lower price?

I wonder.