May 10, 2011

721 words 4 mins read

Goodbye AT&T, Hello Sonic.net

The alternate title for this post is “Internet usage caps can kiss my ass” because that’s what prompted this post, but first a little backstory. Many people have had issues with big teleco (and specifically AT&T) provided internet and would assume that I loathe them for the same reasons, but I do not. I’ve had AT&T DSL since I got my first place in Nevada in 2003. I’ve moved a number of times since then, but I have always had AT&T DSL after each move. Partially because I loathe cable’s shared approach (and usage capping) and partially because I’ve never had a problem with AT&T. Hell, the one time I had trouble recently, that required a tech to come out… he was EARLY. So why the change in heart? Usage caps.

As a technologically enabled young’n, I believe very strongly in the internet. I’ve had it a long time and it hasn’t come without bloodshed. I remember having a CompuServ

email address that was all numbers. When we finally made the jump to DSL, it took Pacific Bell (or SBC, don’t remember which name they had at the time) over 2 months to get the order setup. I then proceeded to switch over from their dialer software to a Linux based router (which was essentially unheard of back then) because the concept of a home router was not yet invented. I even went as far as crawling around in the foundation of the house (queue blood, sweat, and tears) to run CAT5 to each room of the house for a home network (LOL, Wifi, what’s that?).

So… my internet access has been hard fought. In the nearly 20 years I’ve had internet access, I’ve never ONCE had a usage cap(*) and I have no intention of starting now. I thought Comcast’s 250GB limit was a wee bit low, but in the grand scheme of things, probably acceptable for most. AT&T took it a step farther and dropped it to 150GB. For a higher bandwidth user such as myself, or anyone with this cool thing called a “family” (I’m aware of the concept, just haven’t tried it myself)… this is silly.

Do I really think that I’m in danger of hitting this number? Honestly I’m not, at least not most months. I just checked munin, and the report for the network adapter that serves as my outside network connection says that I averaged a download of 204 kbps for the last month. That works out to roughly 65 GB downloaded in April. The upload report says that I sent roughly 110 GB up network, which makes sense since this last month I had Backblaze madly backing up an external HD with all the pictures I’ve ever taken. That was an aberration, but still, with a usage cap I’d have to sit there and worry about it constantly.

More importantly, the question is: Why? Some argue that all utilities (phone, power, water) are billed based on usage, so it only makes sense internet should be billed that way as well. The problem is that the internet isn’t exactly like the rest of those utilities. If you don’t use the water, it’s still there. If you don’t use your internet, the uplink fiber is dark… you can’t “save” it for a later date. Frankly, if they wanted to have usage based pricing, they should have started that way. The only reason that some ISPs want usage caps is because they oversell their network capacity. I’m perfectly ok with the idea of paying slightly more for my internet, if it means the ISP can afford the proper amount of uplink bandwidth. If they want to fight for the dirt cheapest rate to attract more customers… they are shooting themselves in the foot.

So AT&T can (and will) do whatever it wants, I’ve found a new home at Sonic.net. I placed my order on Sunday and received a confirmation and “install” date on Monday. Come Thursday, I should be writing to you from my sexy new Sonic.net DSL… well… maybe after I finish playing with my new static IPs and IPv6 tunnel service (I’d prefer dual-stack, but I’ll take what I can get).

* Does not include mobile devices. Generally I’ve managed to keep my unlimited on those too, but that’s a different kettle of fish.