My switch from cable to fiber internet – The Mercury News

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my initial difficulties installing AT&T fiber internet in my home. The good news is that a few days later a team showed up and installed a 1 gigabit fiber service that costs me $80 a month. That’s less expensive than the Comcast cable service it replaced. As with cable, prices vary based on speed, with AT&T starting at $55 per month for 300 megabits of service — more than fast enough for most uses, including video streaming and conferencing.

AT&T says there are no automatic price increases after 12 months and no equipment fees, data caps or contracts. You can cancel at any time. Comcast’s advertised prices are typically 12 to 24 months and then go up. Comcast also charges $14 per month for modem rental, although you can buy your own cable modem. Currently, AT&T offers a $150 Visa card for customers who sign up online. If you are an AT&T wireless customer, call 611 from your cell phone to see if there are other discounts or bundles. AT&T also offers a 2GB service for $110 per month and a 5GB service for $180 per month, but this is overkill for all but the most extreme of users. I am a demanding user with multiple devices including smart TVs and the 1GB service is fast enough.

The installation involved laying fiber optic cable – significantly thinner than the coaxial cable used by Comcast and other cable providers. AT&T has also installed a free gateway device that serves as both a “MODEM” and router as well as Wi-Fi. I already have an Eero router with a mesh WiFi network that extends my signal to other parts of the house, so I chose to disable AT&T’s WiFi and use my existing router for WiFi. For customers who need to cover large areas and don’t have a mesh router and extenders, AT&T offers rental extenders for $10 a month.

I am based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is primarily served by Comcast and AT&T. Other areas may have other providers. But even people in the Bay Area may not have access to fiber or gigabit cable. It depends on your neighborhood. AT&T only recently started offering fiber services in my area.


When I test my service with Okla’s Windows Speed ​​Test app, I usually get about 945 megabits for my PC connected to the AT&T modem/router. That’s about the same as what I got from my 1 gigabit Comcast service, but in the case of fiber, you get that speed both ways. My cable service was 1 GB download, but only about 45 megabits for upload. Honestly, the cable worked fine and other than the results I get from testing, I notice very little difference between fiber optic and cable in real life situations. The only minor differences might be how I look in video conferencing, where the extra upload speed can provide slightly better resolution. Gamers who need lightning speed in both directions will definitely notice the faster upload speeds. Gamers will also appreciate that fiber has a lower latency than cable, making the first connection faster. I notice that some websites load a little faster, but the difference is barely noticeable.

As with any internet service, the actual speed you get will depend on your connection and equipment. My Wi-Fi devices are slower depending on how far they are from a router and what type of Wi-Fi technology they use. To get the fastest speed, you’ll need IP-6 compliant devices, but most computers and streaming devices and all but the latest smartphones don’t support that protocol yet. Still, faster service from your carrier can translate to faster performance, even on older devices, if you have multiple devices in use at the same time sharing your bandwidth.

Sonic might be faster and cheaper if you can get it

There’s another high-speed internet company in the Bay Area, but depending on where you live, it might not be worth using. In my area, Sonic resells the AT&T service. The service, equipment and base prices are about the same, but Sonic gets very high marks for its customer service. However, if they only resell the AT&T service, they won’t be able to improve the speed, nor will their technicians be able to fix a major outage in your area. They rely on AT&T engineers for that.

That’s starting to change. Sonic is rolling out its own super-fast and cheaper service to Bay Area communities with service up to 10 gigabits for $39.99 per month. The service is already available in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay and is expanding to the Peninsula and other communities, according to a Sonic blog post. You can see if your home is being served on I haven’t experienced 10 GB service, but with that speed and price, I suspect I’ll sign up immediately if and when it comes to my neighborhood

I also changed TV service

When I canceled my Comcast Internet, I lost access to the “double play” cable TV bundle, which made my TV service much more expensive. So I decided it was time to ‘cut the cord’. In a forthcoming column, I will detail my journey from cable to streaming live TV.

Spoiler alert – it’s a one-way ticket. I doubt I’ll ever go back to cable.

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