Internet Service Providers

Parent Q&A

Best high speed internet provider in W. Berkeley Jul 16, 2018 (2 responses below)
Internet Service Providers North Berkeley May 30, 2018 (5 responses below)
My Comcast bill is $170 a month! Help me cut the cord! Aug 21, 2017 (10 responses below)
  • Hi everyone!

    We are moving to Berkeley - the Aquatic building on 5th and University in August. Wondering if any of you know what's the best internet provider in that area? Seems like you have different providers in the Bay Area than we do in Brooklyn, so just wanted to check before we sign a contract with one of them. 



    [Moderator Note: Here is advice from a couple months ago about service in Berkeley:

    Welcome to the Bay Area! I can't speak to Berkeley specifically, but since you're moving into a multi-unit building, check with them to see if you can get WebPass. It's incredibly fast and reliable (much more so than Comcast), affordable, and only available (I think) in apartment and condo buildings. Before we moved to a house, we used it in our condo building in Oakland and were very pleased. 

    We've been really pleased with Sonic for our single family home, and they are putting in gigabit fiber in Berkeley this fall.  Their CSRs are light years beyond what I've encountered with other providers.  We have internet bundled with a landline with unlimited calling (including some foreign countries) and other features for a fraction of what AT&T and Comcast charge.

    I don't know if/how they work with apartment buildings, either for individual units or the whole project, but it's worth asking them.

  • Internet Service Providers North Berkeley

    (5 replies)

    We're moving and I need to set up new internet service. I've been satisfied with the connection we have with AT&T but am interested in exploring a more local business like Sonic or LMI. We're more than 6,000 feet from Sonic's CO (moving to North Campus). Not sure where LMI's connection node is. Anyone in the North Campus area have experience with either of these providers? I work from home so stability and connection speed is pretty important.


    LMI has been fantastic. I moved from AT and T. Fast, reliable, personal customer service.

    I'm in Albany, dunno if that's close enough.  I have two teenagers who are online All. The. Time. and a husband who watches way too much Netflix TV.  We switched from AT&T to Sonic a few years ago, got considerably faster and more reliable service for roughly the same price we'd been paying.  Of course, the teens lobby for further upgrades, but we've been satisfied with what we have.

    I was so happy when I fired ATT and hired LMI. Only $50 month includes free long distance, land line, and wifi. Also another email address if you want one.

    Happy with LMI

  • My Comcast bill is $170 a month. This is a bundled package, but, I don't use the landline.  We barely watch TV anymore.....we stream the occasional Amazon or Roku movie and my husband watches a couple of shows at night.  Really, we are only using the internet service.  This is in addition to the $204 a month charge for the cell phones. THIS IS SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS.  How do I lower this bill?  What are my options to get rid of the $170 charge? Thank you for help.

    My wife and I cancelled our TV subscription and now only use Comcast for internet (although we're considering going with a lower cost option there as well). We use Netflix and Hulu for any TV shows we want to watch and will stream the occasional movie through our apple TV. You might consider going that route as well as removing the landline to save costs.

    I cut cable a while ago and never look back. I have sonic for internet ($60/month), because I dont want to negotiate with comcast every year to lower my cable. I got tv antennna (around $50 one time cost), I have netflix ($10/month), amazon (around $10/month paid yearly), sling tv (around $20/month), and I got hbo only during GOT shows. My total cost around $100/month plus HBO as needed. You can cut the cord, seriously! Especially if you dont watch tv much. Also, somwtimes you paid lots of money for faster internet service thru Comcast that actually not necessary. Comcast also doesnt guarantee you get the speed that you paid. I think $100/month is still a lot, but not having to deal with Comcast is priceless.

    Call and cancel, that's how you do it.  Cut down to internet only service.  Then, figure out how you can get the content you want, which you can do over time after cutting the cord.  Worst thing that happens is you call up Comcast a couple months down the road and ask them to turn the cable back on; they'll be thrilled, you will have saved a couple of hundred bucks in the intervening months, and you'll have learned that a cable bill is worth it to you.   In terms of finding the content you want outside of Comcast, first, if it is broadcast TV, obviously, connect an antenna.  Free TV!  For time-shifting, a lot of broadcast tv is avaliable for free on the network websites (if you don't mind watching on a computer or can otherwise get that content on your tv screen) or on regular (free) Hulu.  For non-broadcast, it sounds like you already have the hardware to use streaming services services, and that you're already paying for some of them, so just figure out which ones have the shows you want. You may need to add some service subscriptions, but even accounting for those monthly charges, you will likely still come out ahead.  Another option is buying seasons one at a time from Amazon - we did this when Planet Earth II was showing on BBC America, and the Amazon episodes were available one week at a time, as they were broadcast.  Depending on your viewing habits, this can be cheaper than the monthly subscriptions. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Experience with LMI ISP?

July 2014

Looking to hear about your experience with LMI, Berkeley's ISP. What do you think of their service, internet speed, how it compares to the large ISP, etc.? We're thinking about moving away from Comcast. Thanks! dragging internet

Saw your post and had to warn you. I am with LMI right now and really want to switch but just too busy at the moment to do so. When I first signed up with them I read all their great reviews on yelp. Now I think they must have tweaked the yelp reviews or something because I can't believe the reviews were so good. We have a wireless system that cuts out during streaming video regularly and also at other times. They have been out to the house a few times. Each time I don't see them operating in a systematic way to figure out what has already been tried and I don't see that they communicate with each other well at all. When I contact customer service through email or phone I get crickets. Even when I say, hey can you please contact me? nothing. I have even contacted the lead tech on his personal email and...nothing. The only time I got them fired up was when I dialed around their office after not reaching tech support and accidently got the owner. They reached me right away after that, but of course their service call did not fix the problem. Techie friends I know tell me I should go with Comcast for speed or with SonicNet for customer service. I haven't tried either so I can't say. Just want to stop you from making a big mistake. unhappy LMI customer

we love LMI. Fast, reliable, any issues quickly resolved. We also switched our domain and website hosting over to them. So helpful and reasonably priced. And solar powered. rose dakin

LMI is great. I haven't used any of the other big providers since the time when we still had numbers for email addresses but I love LMI. You can stop by and talk to them. If you call for help, you could well talk to the same person as in the past. When it turns out your problem doesn't relate to what they do, they will probably still walk you through a solution. They are like good neighbors. marcia

I have used LMI Internet for several years in Berkeley. Their Internet service is good & fast, customer service is great, and price is affordable with no contracts or added fees. I highly recommend them. Ariana

We've had LMI ISP for 1.5 years and have only needed to call customer service twice and both times they were very helpful. I am able to stream video and Skype with very few glitches, with the exception of the connection freezing when we turn on the microwave at the same time (in fairly close proximity). I feel that their service has been reliable and is fairly priced and I like the fact that it is a green, local company. In the past I had DSL with Verizon and then Clear Wireless when living on the East Coast and I have found the service with LMI to be just as (or more) reliable and their customer service is much, much better. I also visited their friendly office once on MLK when I bought a refurbished wireless modem from them.

I've been very happy with LMI other than one annoying lapse in service early on that was actually the fault of AT Since then I'm quite happy but I'm not super-fussy about speed. Not sure whether cable would be faster. (I have the PHLO service). happy customer

Although I was originally so excited about lmi enough to post on bpn that we were about to sign up with them for phone and internet, I've been pretty disappointed with the experience. We signed up just recently and it took days for them to get our internet connection on. That was frustrating, and they didn't act very motivated to help us get connected. Their availability is standard business hours, so I couldnt get help sooner since I was working the same hours.

Email responses have been pre-written canned responses that did not answer our simple and straightforward questions. It has required numerous emails to specifically request that they answer our actual questions. Nobody signs their emails, so we don't know who is replying. It is surprisingly like dealing with an impersonal and large company that does not read your actual emails.

My first call to a technician was disappointing, as he was flippant and unhelpful. When I needed to speak to a supervisor about this customer service problem, the supervisor ignored my 3 clear messages and days later left me a message that my internet connection was working. Communication has been pretty awful with staff, but we did have one person who was helpful and nice on the phone, so it's not everybody. Just 4 out of 5.

I'm trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. But to be honest, I don't feel happy giving them any of my money. thought I'd be a happy customer

We have had a good experience with LMI over the past couple of years. Affordable and local and allows us to use ooma for phone so that we only pay for Internet and nothing else. I would recommend. carolyn

Basic AT DSL - can I do better?

May 2014

We pay $40/mo for basic AT DSL service. The quality is poor, connections often slow; and $40 seems a lot for basically bad service. Is this reasonable? Are there better providers, services? I feel its hard to get decent information on what is possible. I get their telecenter calls weekly trying to upsell us with cable service, but the whole thing seems non-transparent. Help. I live in N. Berkeley.

Do you know about I love them! They are a small company located in Santa Rosa, with great service. For about $50 per month you get internet and phone service, all in one, and this includes local and long distance. It is a great deal, and you are not paying a company that supports the Tea Party ... Yvonne

We have DSL Extreme as our DSL and have been pretty happy with it. No upsell or anything -- we just have standard, basic DSL for about $20 a month. There have been a few outages, but we've had it for almost 3 years and have been pleased. DSL Extreme!

We have the AT UVerse internet. It's not the most reliable either (we probably have to unplug/restart our modem once a week or so), but it's fast enough and only costs $25 per month. We don't have a home phone or cable, just the high speed internet. Anonymous

We've used DSL Extreme very happily for about 5 years or so. Now that my AT phone bill has gone up, we are planning to try out which does both phone and dsl internet for $40 a month plus taxes and fees - and unlike many businesses, they tell you exactly what those taxes and fees are and what your total bill will be per month. They are a local Berkeley company and look pretty awesome. Check out their reviews on Yelp. I discovered them just by searching on yelp for 'internet service providers' which is how I found dsl extreme, as well. Since we've been so happy with a small company (and we'd stay with dsl extreme if they also did phone), we're confident that lanminds ( will also be a great company. and we're pretty excited to have just discovered them. Kirstin

You can do better than AT DSL! I was in a similar boat the last several months. I had AT DSL that was supposed to be up to 12mbps download speed and was realistically more like 5. The price steadily increased and I ended up switching to Comcast cable internet-only service. It's much faster, I no longer have problems streaming on certain websites, my speed is 50mbps and I've seen it go as high as 64mbps. I pay fifty bucks a month.

I live in Oakland and tried my hardest to find a local or smaller internet service provider. Unfortunately many of the smaller companies either don't service my area, or the speeds would be very low because of my location in relation to where their equipment is located. I recommend starting with the smaller companies and if you can't find anything, try Comcast. Try yelp to find a list of smaller internet service provider companies. L

I love LMI - I've been with them for 5 years or more for internet, added phone recently. If you are in N Berkeley you will likely have great coverage from them. They are real people who will help you over the phone or you can stop by their shop as needed. A super friendly business with great service, and I think the price is very good. I've also unfortunately had to use the laptop repair services at their office-sharing company Authorized Repair a few times, and they are very good also. - Happy Customer of LMI

Internet (DSL) options for Montclair and Piedmont?

May 2014

What are my options for internet access (DSL) in the Montclair and Piedmont areas ?

I currently have AT U-Verse in Montclair and it's just terrible. I do not want to pay the expensive cost of having Comcast because I travel so much and they have a limited option for turning off service while traveling.

For my parents in Piedmont, the expense of having Comcast is painful. Unfortunately AT only has the most basic internet speed available. Are there other options for them? Suggestions? Frustrated

You might consider getting an Mi-Fi hotspot. You will need to determine carrier reception in the area(s) you wish to use.

You can purchase used or refurbishsed if you are confident it will work for you. Even those option come with a 30 day return from Amazon.

T-Mobile (Sonic or Sonic 2), Verizon (Jetpack) and AT (Unite) all offer a hotspot. All offer \xc3\x82\xc2\xb15gb per month for $50, pay as you go, no contract.

We are near Park at Wellington and both TMO and ATT work fine.

Internet Connection in North Berkeley/Albany

May 2013

Advice needed for accessing internet. I just moved my College Counseling office to 1301 California St, a fabulous location across from the Monterrey Market Espresso Roma cafe, upstairs from Magnani, Lilly's Chinese Restaurant, etc... But there is no internet access. Does anyone have any solutions? Verizon claimed that they had a solution with a wireless USB stick, but when I went to the new store a few blocks away on Solano, THE VERIZON MAP OF NORTH BERKELEY AND ALBANY THEY SHOWED ME HAD LITTLE TO NO SERVICE FOR VERIZON PHONES IN OUR ENTIRE AREA. Yet, they required a 2 year contract, and a minimum of a $35 restocking fee to find out if the Internet connection worked at all anywhere nearby. Solutions welcome. Thank you.

two things: 1. I live a few blocks north of solano near colusa and I have great Verizon wireless service. have not had any problems. 2. I have had poor experiences at the Verizon store on Solano. I would not rely on this store for information about wireless service or anything else. This store is not a Verizon owned retail store. You will get more reliable information from the Verizon owned stores in El Cerrito Plaza or Emeryville. fwiw, I work for a Verizon wireless competitor and have a one of their wireless devices too. Wireless service in my neighborhood has also been good on the competitor's wireless device. I haven't had any trouble in the neighborhood you are asking about either. Maybe ask your neighbors what they use?

2011 - 2012 Reviews

Reducing phone and internet expenses

Oct 2012

I am trying to cut all extra expenses. I currently have a land line, and recently (last winter) bought a cell phone and and am on a basic verizon plan - no data (about $70 a month, but I will need to increase the minutes/upgrade plans if I get rid of my landline). I do use the internet at home, and need to have a fast, reliable connection. I do not have a smart phone, ipad etc. I have to admit, I do like the security of having a landline should there be an emergency or should I lose my cell phone. But I'm not at all convinced it's really necessary. Any recommendations? Do I need a landline? Would something like vonage suffice as a replacement? Oh, I also do not have, nor do I want, any sort of cable package. How much should I budget for these expenses? out of touch

We use and pay about $55 (including all taxes) for home phone and internet. Internet is not as fast as cable but perfectly fine for our needs (we watch netfix etc). Before that we had vonage as our home service and that worked great too - we just changed because it was cheaper to get the phone/ internet combo from sonic. The one thing about VOIP is that because it is over the internet if your power is out you have no phone service. Can't really speak to cell phone as my work pays for mine and my husband does not have one (yes! it is still possible!). frugal

High Speed internet in the Berkeley Hills

August 2012

AT is requiring us to upgrade to their new UVerse internet, which appears to have a 12 month contract, just so we can get the same barely adequate DSL speed we have had for 10 years (1.5 Mb/s). We live in the Berkeley Hills next to Tilden Park, so we are far away from the AT DSL centers, Verizon FIOS is not available, and I don't think we have line-of-sight to any of the wireless provider towers. So that leaves Comcast. Can anyone tell me whether Comcast speeds are better in the hills? Or maybe you know of a better option. Thanks. Steven

I also live in the Berkeley Hills near Tilden Park, switched from AT DSL to Comcast. I'm very happy with the speeds. During the day, I get as much as 20Mb/sec!]

When we lived in the flats we had AT DSL, then switched to Comcast. The speed/reliability was amazingly fast and good. Along with that came the high cable/phone/high speed bill. We recently moved to the hills (Marin near Grizzly Peak) and have switched to for a physical landline and DSL. About $55/mo including taxes, no contract, base rate is always $39.95. It was hooked up on 7/16 and so far seems fast. I'll check the speed tonight. If I understand correctly cable isn't affected by the distance or amount of people using it as DSL does. Al

I know that the default choice for most people is Comcast or ATT, but for philosophical/political/ethical reasons, I will never again do business with either company. Comcast and ATT actively work to harm the internet and democracy itself for their own short-term business interests, without even taking into account their own medium- and long-term business interests. They treat their employees badly, and they treat their customers even more badly. From a technical standpoint, I could easily recite a long list of things that they do badly as well. Whenever we in the computer networking field want a good laugh, we joke about getting service from (or working for) Comcast or ATT.

So, that's what I would not recommend.


Here's what I do recommend:

Unwired Ltd. ( They're a Berkeley-based WISP (wireless internet service provider) with an excellent track record for providing reliable, speedy, and customer-friendly service. At least one of the founders is from South Africa, hence the 'Ltd.' part of the name, but they are local. They also provide service to San Francisco, Marin County, and most of Alameda County. I've used them for more than a year in a half-dozen locations (residential and business) with consistently great results. ( They're a Santa Rosa-based ISP and phone company with a very long track record for providing reliable and customer-friendly service, although their speeds in this part of Berkeley leave something to be desired. They're owned their CEO Dane Jasper, who will never hesitate to engage constructively with you directly if need be. They provide service throughout California, but the speed depends on how far you are from the nearest telephone company building. Their phone service is fantastic - a real landline (=works even in a power outage), with 'unlimited' (there's a limit, but it's something like 8+ hours per day of constant usage) residential usage, tons of features included, and better call quality than ATT. is another local Berkeley ISP, and they're fine. I used them for a couple of months. They're nice people, and you can walk in to their office on MLK for a chat. But their DSL service is just resold from, without any advantages, and their more attractive wireless internet service is just resold from Unwired Ltd., without any advantages. Better than ATT/Comcast, but not as good as Unwired/Sonic.


What we have at home:

Because my wife and I each telecommute some of the time, and doing so is very important to us, we have dual internet connections at home.

We have the $90/mo 'Internet Advantage' plan from Unwired Ltd., which provides a consistent 10Mbps down and 6Mbps up, and which has only once ever given me trouble, and even then it was barely 15 minutes before Unwired fixed it. This is our primary internet connection, and it serves us well. It's provided by a wireless radio attached to a metal pole attached to the chimney. Unwired's installers do a great job - I've had them install gear at four office buildings (three of which run by a very particular property management firm with no tolerance for risk) and two residential settings, all with great results. The wireless radio points at a radio tower on the nearby ridgeline, so there aren't many things that are likely to interfere with or disrupt it.

We also have the $60/mo 'Fusion Broadband + Phone' service from, which provides a consistent 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Although I went for more than 11 years as a customer without any meaningful glitches, late last year I encountered endless problems with my DSL that, due to incompetence on ATT's part, were unable to fix. I ended up cancelling and getting Unwired instead. Then I got nervous about not having a landline for 911 at home with a toddler, and did the math on our international calling from our cell phones, and decided to get Fusion again if only for the phone service. So, between the fantastic phone service for our primary home phone, and the good-enough internet as a backup, it's worth it.

Good luck. Graham

Internet services in Kensington, not AT?

May 2012

We moved to Kensington 6 months ago and signed up with AT for Internet services. They are terrible and I am looking to change. What are my other Internet options or is it all the same? I know about Comcast, but are there others out there? Thanks.

Check out - they're a local computer repair shop (MLK & Virginia) that is broadening its services. I don't think they just resell ATT like some outfits. I haven't used them for this myself, but Jonathan (one of the owners) has been super with computer service/repairs/etc. over the years, and I would trust him to give you honest advice on how well their service might work for you. Tell him Norm sent you. Norm

Unless you want to go with a wireless connection, you're limited to the wires that run in your house already - phone and cable. You can sometimes get third party service, but they'll still use the wires owned by AT, so you won't see any improvement. Many of our customers (we provide computer services) out in your area have gone to Comcast for their broadband as well as their phone (they offer a phone-over-cable service). I don't have any affiliation with either company, but work with both services at customer houses and businesses, and I have to say I've seen far fewer problems with Comcast. Hope that helps. Kim

I switched from ATT to I now get their fusion bundle of home phone and DSL. As someone else pointed out, yes the lines are the same ones that I had through ATT, but my DSL service is way way more stable now. I use to have to re-boot my modem and/or airport at least once a week. The airport would constantly be flashing orange (meaning the signal was weak). Now it is always green. Maybe it is the new modem, that I got with the sonic servic, but I am also paying about $36 less per month with way better service and perks, so I don't really care. - out of ATT's clutches

Fed up with Comcast - alternative internet provider?

April 2012

We are fed up with Comcast and would like to find an alternative ISP, but we need a fast and reliable connection. My husband and I both work from home and are online essentially all day. We often need to download large files quickly, and we also video Skype a lot with family overseas. Our teenage son also likes to watch tv shows and movies online. Are there any other ISPs that can handle all this? Many thanks sick of Comcast

We have LMI and it's great-local Berkeley company, great service, competetive prices, plenty fast.

Try! We werent feeling very Comcastic either, so we switched to ATT, which turned out to be very problematic at best. When came to our area, we switched to them and everything has been great! They are affordable and have really good customer service. I'm not sure if they have the exact product you are looking for, but I would call them and ask them. They are very helpful. Happy Sonic Customer

AT wireless is constantly cutting out

Feb 2012

We have AT wireless internet service and it is constantly cutting out. It has become very frustrating, especially for my husband when he tries to work from home. Unfortunately it seems that a lot of internet providers don't cover our area. Does anyone in Rockridge have wireless internet that works well for them? Currently we have it together with our land-line phone service. We do not get cable. Tired of Waiting

I presume by 'AT Wireless Internet' you mean a DSL modem from AT that integrates a router and a wireless access point. i.e. It's on copper to the house, and wireless within. Before switching, you might try, if you are technically savvy...

1) Switch the modem to use a different WiFi channel - maybe you are getting some kind of interference.
2) Check all the telephone wiring. Ideally, the modem would be the last device on your telephone circuit in the house. Open up the jack and see if the wires run on to another jack somewhere else in the house. (This is known as a 'bridge tap' and can cause signal reflections, which take down the DSL connection intermittently.) If you push and persist hard enough with AT, they should be able to run a test from their office to detect a bridge tap, and/or send someone out.
3) Try replacing your DSL modem with a new one.
4) Try upgrading to a higher level of AT service - for one, you should get a discount on the first year of service, and it may be cheaper than what you pay monthly. For another, they will have to qualify the line for the higher speed, and this activity may help diagnose your current problem, or obviate it. Mr. Modem. ISP

Dec 2011

Just wondering if anyone has recent experience with's phone/internet service. Also could someone give me a ballpark figure for what the fees and taxes run on the $39.95 package. Thanks. Elaine

I signed up for the 'Fusion' service earlier this year and am very very happy. I highly recommend it if you want both DSL and a landline phone.

The internet is much faster than my old AT DSL, the phone service lets me make unlimited calls, and the company doesn't treat me like crap.

In Berkeley, the taxes come to about 11 dollars per month. So, my bill is around $51, which is the same amount as I paid before for the slowest AT DSL with phone. Of course, with AT I also had to pay extra for calls outside of the East Bay, so my bill generally ended up somewhat higher. really is far superior to AT -- faster internet and cheaper phone calls with better service. -happy customer

I switched to sonic 6 months ago after a friend recommended the service, and I have been very happy with it! Great internet connection at high speed, and great customer service support, plus the fact that I am not having to deal with and supporting AT!! I was told by Sonic how much the taxes would be and it depends on the city you live in. Mine (Albany) come out to a monthly fee between $51 and $53 on the $39.95 package, but perhaps double check with Sonic to see what they estimate.

Others may want to know that this package of $39.95 includes phone service AND internet connection. I am saving a lot by not having separate service with AT and internet provider payments to another. Very happy with sonic!

I have Fusion service. Including taxes it is $50 a month for all phone services for the landline. Includes very fast reliable Internet connection. I've had sonic for a number of years and recommend them highly. Excellent tech support from Sonoma county nerds. Kath in Albany

I just switched to Sonic last month for the phone/internet service. So far I highly recommend them. The customer service is outstanding- they even call you to make sure your problems are resolved. I have not yet had my first bill, so I can't answer the second part of your question, but at this point I am very pleased by the service both on the phone and the internet service itself. I am also happy to be using a local company and not having to deal with Att any more who I had several bad experiences with regarding service and fee changes. happy with sonic

Getting rid of cable - need internet provider

Dec 2011

We are getting rid of cable and need to find a new internet provider because Comcast internet alone is insanely expensive. I have looked at ATT Uverse (ATT regular DSL isn't available in my area), but can't seem to find any other inexpensive options besides Comcast and ATT. If you know of any inexpensive, reliable providers, please respond. Thanks.

We just switched to Sonic for internet (dsl) and home phone (including unlimited long distance). I'm very happy with them, but beware that ATT messed around on switching our service over, and we were without both for 3 days. Sonic answers when you call them--real live, helpful people. And it's less overall than we paid to ATT. CK

We moved from Comcast to Sonic (they are out of Santa Rosa) - we get phone (includes all calls, vm, caller ID) and internet for about $50 a month. No problems at all with them. They resell AT Its not as fast as cable but its fast enough for us - no problem streaming netflix etc. no longer being robbed by comcast!

We've just changed over to (on MLKJr Way in Berkeley!) for our internet service. So far, so good--$35/mo and I like that I can walk right in to their office, if I need to. Judy

Don't miss Great service and value. Independent local company. Has ISP, phone and TV. We happily gave ATandT the Boot!

Better internet service? AT is awful.

Oct 2011

AT is our internet service provider and it is awful. I work from home and multiple times a day the service just goes out. It isn't for long - maybe a minute or two - but it is very disruptive. (In the last hour it has happened 6 times!) Could this be a hardware problem? Do I need a better modem/router or is it just AT? If the latter, any suggestions on reasonable residential ISPs? frustrated

I had the same problem and switched from ATT to ComCast Cable service. I got a special promotional price of $19.99/mon for the first year. So far ComCast has been great!

We had ATT internet service for a year and it was terrible. We experienced anywhere from 1-25 disconnections a day, and it was very disruptive to the work flow. We had ATT techs out, got a new box but nothing helped. We switched to Earthlink and haven't been bumped off once. A friend of ours had exactly the same experience w/ ATT so I'm guessing it's them and not your equipment. If our experience is any indication, you'll be thrilled once you switch! Janet

Had the same experience - AT would say it was fixed and then the same thing would happen a few days later. Awful! Switched to Comcast - no problems. Very reliable, much faster, great customer service. cg

I don't have a solution, but I'm writing in to commiserate. After several years of reasonable (though not great) service, my AT internet is sporadic as well. I have spoken with AT to no avail: nothing changed. I work from home, so it's not a tenable situation. I'm reluctant to sign onto Comcast, as I don't do cable otherwise, and the prices after the first year seem hefty (and I really don't want to switch again after a year). So I'm eager to hear of other alternatives that have worked well for people. -timed out

We've used DSL Extreme for the past 6 years or so and have loved it. We've had relatively few disruptions, and when we do, we've always been able to talk to a real person about what's going on....and not been put on hold for hours on end. DSL Extreme works for us

I had a lot of problems with AT and have been really happy with (I think I recommended it recently in this newsletter). They are a local company and have great customer service. Sonic customer

Do you use a Mac? If so, that could be the issue. I had a similar problem -- service would cut out two or three or even more times a day. When I switched from using the AT router to using an AirPort Extreme for our router (Apple Product) our problems went away. It was expensive but worth it in the end. (Not to defend AT! Certainly could be their fault, too) Anna

We just left AT which was terrible and went to sonic net. We have been so much happier. The speed is so much faster. I feel like I have finally entered the Internet age. Also, it was very important for me to have a real land line for emergency reasons. and we are saving $25 a month. Look into sonic net

We have used DSL Extreme for over 2 1/2 years and we love it. It requires a landline phone line and costs under $23 per month for fast, excellent wifi in our home. When we moved, it was easy to get reconnected. We have never been dropped, and never had any hassles whatsoever.

We do everything from watch tv shows to downloading programs (I mention it because at a friend's house we couldnt watch tv shows online due to their dsl speed, alas!).

We have recommended it to our friends, as well, and have only ever heard of one problem: when a friend moved he had a hard time getting reconnected. I'm not sure what caused that problem, but he is up and running again. I found DSL Extreme by checking reviews, and they were known for excellent customer service. K M

Looking for high speed internet provider only

Oct 2011

hi all, I'm looking for a provider that can deliver enough internet speed to allow for streaming. I had used att u-verse previously which is good for the service (TV+high speed internet+tv+landline). It comes at a price though. I am now moving towards West Berkeley and want to limit my services to High speed internet access only (basically no more traditional TV for my children but only VOD). I couldn't find up-to-date info on this for Berkeley. Does anyone have any recommandations/suggestions/pointers for very fast reliable (and why not cheap) ISP? I appreciate your feedback. Merci.

I've been using Monkeybrains wireless internet ( for several months now and have been really happy with the performance (typically around 20 MB/s). They've been operating for several years in SF and are just moving into the east bay, so it's worth checking to see if you're in their coverage area. Plus, they only charge $35 a month. nb, the owner is a friend of mine, but you can check their great reviews on Yelp if you'd like less biased opinions. Kevin

For high-speed internet, we have and love, a local ISP based in Santa Rosa. They're reasonably priced and provide great service, and I love that if you call them, a real person answers who actually solves your problem or calls you back later if they can't figure it out right away. They also offer land line phone service if you need that; we have their combo package and have been very pleased. Happy customer

Internet Service Provider other than comcast, AT, Verizon

Aug 2011

I'm looking for an internet service provider from a different company other than comcast, AT, Verizon or other big, inconsiderate company. We've been using comcast and I'm fed up with the overcharging and poor customer service. I am constantly wasting time calling to correct my bill. I was wondering if anyone can recommend another service provider that serves the Berkeley area. Thanks. Renee

I highly recommend Sonic.Net. They are a local company based in Santa Rosa and provide great service. When we were totally fed up with getting the run-around from AT, Sonic worked with us to fix the problem. They have very friendly customer service - when I call, I feel like I'm talking to a real person who actually knows something about computers (compared with calling AT, where someone who knew nothing about computers was reading some lines from a customer service script). - Satisfied Sonic.Net customer

we've been very happy with which is in berkeley on mlk near virginia. very few problems w/our service and when there is one, they take care of it quickly. nice people, local company, good service and prices. happy lmi customer

Looking for less expensive Internet service

March 2011

I am looking to reduce monthly expenses. Presently I am paying around $70 per month for comcast cable which provides me with hi speed Internet. However, I don't use cable for anything else. We don't watch Cable TV. Instead, we stream video through Netflix and Hulu. I am looking for recommendations for a good Internet only service. What are your experiences with DSL? Does it work well with a wireless router? I have an Apple Airport and we usually connect two laptops and also the video streaming box. Also, am I paying too much? (Comcast claims that it would not cost me less to get rid of the basic cable service that is now included with my hi speed Internet. I have been very satisfied with the Internet service, but I have the feeling I am paying too much.) Any recommendations? Thanks!

For 14.95/mo., AT has DSL which works fine with our Apple airport and 2 computers. It's not quite so fast as cable, but it's much much less expensive. My husband, a computer consultant, says that Comcast wants to sell a package, and you are paying for one, whether or not you use it. The answers to your question are yes, it works with your equipment and yes, you're paying way more than you have to. Good luck. Judy

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Comcast for Phone, Internet & TV?

Sept 2010

We live in Upper Rockridge and have been told by AT that we cannot get a faster DSL line than we already have unless we install UVerse. AT tried to install it but it turns out that it's not available in our neighborhood. We are itching for faster DSL speed and are thinking of Comcast. The regular price of a Comcast bundle for phone, internet (at the high speed we want) & TV would be the same as what we are paying right now with AT and Dish Network. Does anyone have this bundle with Comcast? Is it ok? Not sure why I'm hesitating about switching... Need faster DSL

we have the bundled comcast service (phone, internet and tv). as soon as our contract is over, i plan on switching our tv and phone service. if you don't mind not being able to delete a voice message in the middle of it, or wait until the end of it to repeat it, then maybe you'll be find w/ comcast. also, when live tv is paused for a period of time, and then you return to resume watching, if you try to skip through a commercial it usually jumps to live tv. in order to get back to where it was paused, you have to rewind, which takes some time. these little *features* annoy me, as i know other providers have fixed these issues, and i also know comcast is well aware of them but they're not priorities. on the upside, the cable internet is fast and we've had very few problems w/ internet. not a comcast fan

I switched to COMCAST for phone and Internet about a year ago (I don't have cable); I'd been very unhappy with the service from AT and my ISP and they were offering a fantastic deal for a year. Before I switched I emailed two of my neighborhood listservs because I'd heard COMCAST quality is highly variable depending on your location. Almost all the reviews were great, so I took the plunge. There were some problems with my Internet connection the first week, but once they were ironed out, it's been mostly problem-free. There have been a couple of times when my phones and/or Internet have gone down, which is annoying, but they got things back up quickly and were generous with giving credits or service upgrades as compensation. Two additional suggestions. 1) NEVER use the online help! It is beyond awful. Always call the 800-#. 2) Bookmark or print the shortcuts menu for their voicemail so you can learn how to get quickly to the end of a voicemail you want to delete! You can choose some faster ways to get through your messages but you need to learn their system. I wouldn't switch back to AT if they paid me. Good luck! Delighted with COMCAST

Hate Comcast, need new internet provider

April 2010

Not much more to this... we've had it with Comcast. We only use the Internet portion of our Internet + cable package but have not been able to downgrade to an Internet-only option because their Byzantine downgrade rules make it incredibly difficult to do so. Any other providers out there? AT DSL is not available at our address. We will cancel Comcast and move on in a heartbeat if there are other options. We are in the Piedmont Ave area. Thanks! Sick of Comcast

We have used DSL Extreme ( for the past few years we've lived in Oakland, both in Glenview and on Oakland Avenue, so they should be available around Piedmont Avenue where you are. We are paying about $25/month for their Express DSL (1500/384 Kbps) service and have never had any complaints. Their customer service has been helpful and quick to respond to outages the few times we had to call in about them. Kevin

Internet provider that doesn't need landline?

March 2010

We currently pay $60 per month for landline/internet connection through AT Is there a provider cheaper than that? Or is there an internet provider that doesn't require us to have a telephone landline? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Jules

We switched from AT to Vonage about six weeks ago. $25 a month for unlimited calling, local, US, and 70 other countries. It was simple, and has been flawless, so we are very pleased. john

We too have AT I called and asked for a new ''Deal'' and voila! my bill went down to under $50! It generally runs around $40 for home phone (no long distance) and internet. I do have to call every six months or so to get the newest promotion, but it appears to be worth it for now. Lindsey

Hi, Jules, I'm a big fan of, a Santa Rosa-based internet service provider. They've been my ISP since 1999, in Santa Cruz, Davis, Oakland, and (now) Berkeley, and I'm excited that they're getting ready to roll out phone service as a supplement to their excellent internet service. Their phone service isn't available yet, but when it is I'm sure it'll be better than ATT's. If you need something in the meantime, you might want to consider VoicePulse. But anything that you use on an ATT internet connection is going to be limited by ATT's awful service. good luck, Graham

I work for AT, and you no longer need a landline from AT in order to have DSL from AT There are four DSL speeds, and monthly prices start at $19.95 and go on up to $45. Anon

Comcast vs. AT bundle

May 2009

We currently have Comcast cable for high-speed internet. We've been pretty happy with them. They cost ~$60/month. We have basic land line phone service that we barely use (alarm system and a few faxes) ... costs us $20/month. Altogether - ~$80/month. Just got an offer from AT to bundle phone service (with long distance) and high-speed internet for a total of $60/month. So, a $20/month savings to switch to AT Is this worth it? Have you had both and been disappointed with one vs. the other? I like our relatively high speed cable. But if AT works just as well ... why not? Your advice appreciated as always! wish I could just get rid of the internet! ;o)

I just switched to AT from Comcast. Yes, AT is cheaper. So far, I've reported them to the BBB once and will be reporting them again this week. I've spent no less than 5-6 hours on the phone with them over the past month, been delayed weeks in getting service and talked to at least 20 representatives - at least 4 of whom promised to follow through or call me back and never did. It's not been worth the switch at all - stick with Comcast. Debbie L.

I pay $37 per month, total including tax, for ATT basic home phone and basic internet (an online special one-year price for ATT home subscribers who are new to ATT internet; it will go up $10 after one year). I paid $90 for the wireless router. It is not a bundle, I found the bundles gave me more than I needed, even though the prices look reasonable if you need high-speed internet and long distance phone, which I don't. The ATT basic internet is not as speedy fast as Comcast, but it works fine for web browsing, video watching, and emailing. I haven't tried to download videos or music. -- frugal mom

I wished I would of asked the same question prior to switching to At I thought the same thing when making the decision, At bundle was $30 cheaper, then Comcast. Now that we have switched I hate At and cannot wait for the day when I can afford to switch back. For the following reasons:

1. Its slow
2. Drops the internet or freezes
3. They advertise up to 7mps(?) and my area is only eligible for 2 mgps. When I call to see if my area was upgraded every month or so, they have not! Comcast is like 16 mgps(?). HUGE DIFFERENCE!!
4. Customer service sucks! When I call them to complain, they tell me to do the same thing....restart the computer, restart the internet connection, unplug the connection, go on to the internet to check the network (WHEN THE INTERNET IS NOT WORKING)

My husband and I both need the internet for school and it has dropped/froze on us several times during actual exams. If you can afford Comcast and actually need it for work or school, my recommendation is to keep Comcast. They are pricey but its worth it. Less hassle!! Unfortunately nothing else compares at the moment when it comes to actual speed, trust me I have done the research.

Sorry for my blatant vulgarity, the thought of At really ruffles my feathers!

2005 - 2008 Reviews

Combined Internet, Phone and Cable Svc.

July 2008

I don't see any recent information on this in the archives. I have Comcast internet and cable (basic cable). And phone is Neighborhood by MCI. The ''free'' long distance is necessary for me. I am interested to hear if anyone has a combined, ? bundled ? service with Comcast, and if they are pleased with it. Or if not everything with Comcast, another way to lower the total monthly charges which are ridiculous. I am reluctant to use my cell phone (AT)for the long distance as I have some loooong long distance calls and we are all with different carriers so that may not work. I need to keep the cell with my current plan as it works with my son. Any recommendations? lynn

This is in response to two questions about comcast in this newsletter: You may want to read this before you give comcast (more of) your business: FYI

We just changed our cable service from Comcast to AT Uverse and are THRILLED! Comcast started to reduce their services, but increased their fees. Uverse has been fantastic. We pay a little less than before, bundled our cable, internet and telephone service and are saving $50 each month. Uverse throws in a DVR, so now we record all our favorite shows and forward through all the annoying advertisements. In fact, we rarely watch regular TV anymore. We'd rather record it and then watch it another time, so that we don't have to sit through all the commercials. joj

Wireless internet

July 2008

We are looking for basic wireless internet for our house in No. Berkeley/Albany area, possibly combined with cable (which we don't currently have but don't necessarily want). Any recommendations?

For wireless Internet (Broadband) in Berkeley, you have two choices. The telephone company (AT) offers DSL along with regular phone service and TV reception (if desired) by satellite dish. Comcast offers cable for both TV and high-speed Internet (at several levels of speed). The slowest cable speed (Internet) is significantly faster than DSL but it is a bit more expensive. The fastest cable speed (15Mbps) is almost as fast as a T-1 (commercial) connection. Robert

If you don't want cable, then your most likely choice would be adding DSL service to your home phone line assumming you have a land line. Wireless inside your home just piggybacks off cable or the phone line. Both Cable and DSL usually provide wireless access as part of their router device which comes with the service. The other option is broadband wireless which is used mostly by sales reps so they can get ubiquitous internet access while on the road. Steve

Internet Service Providers

June 2007

Help! I have been using AT for my DSL and a Linksys router to make my connection wireless. I am sick, sick, sick of AT I have called their customer service line and was told that although I was paying for high speed, our area didn't really have high speed until recently. They supposedly sped me up. My partner is particularly frustrated because we can't use Ebay. Personally it saves us money, her not getting into Ebay, but somethimes I understand the frustration. Now my high speed seems slower than ever. I'm paying $49.99 per month. So, what are other people using? How is it working for you? Do you use a wireless connection? How much are you paying? If you have problems or questions, how's the service? The furthest thing from an AT fan you can get

We've used Speakeasy for DSL for many years and their service is absolutely terrific. (We have a router plugged into the modem and a wireless router plugged into that). If your speed is slow then it's possible that you are far away from the CO. In that case you might be happier with cable. Check out to find out how far away you are, run speed tests and read reviews. Sophie

I have had as my ISP since I spent two months trying to switch my broadband modem from my old PC to a new one--that was when ATT was SBC. That was 3 1/2 years ago. Sonic gets rave reviews from many sites that compare ISPs. They are a local company based in Santa Rosa and their tech support has been excellent (friendly competent [local] techies). They helped me set up my router even though it's not within the scope of their support. Their monthly rates are in the same range as the big guys but depending what kind of internet service you need, they may save you money. Their service has been so trouble free that I recommend then whenever I can. Kathryn

If you're paying ATT $49, you're getting ripped. I pay $60 to ATT for DSL and unlimited phone service. If you don't like their service, there are lots of others, including LMI in Berkeley at about $30 month. But all DSL around here goes over the ATT lines, unless you get the Comcast service. But call and demand the $19/month price, and try to get it retroactive for several months. p

We've used Comcast for our digital broadband service for about the past 3 years. We live in El Cerrito. Our monthly fee is a little less that what you are paying now. I can count on one hand how many times that it's gone out completely. I remember that they've always been pleasant when I called and it was usually back within a few hours. As for speed, occasionally (maybe once or twice a month) it will feel a little slower but that's usually on a Saturday afternoon (when I guess there is a lot of traffic). I haven't had any trouble using eBay! Ruth

Oh my gosh, cancel your DSL service! Cable internet is a thousand times better: no exaggeration. While Comcast's customer service isn't the best either, there's only been one time (in 5 years of having cable internet in two states) that I've been unhappy with them. Much better speed and more consistent connections. -- never going back to DSL

We have DSL with PacBell and have had it for years and we are very happy with the service. We are both software engineers and we both work at home sometimes so we need a fast reliable connection, and we have found that with PacBell. My co-worker, who also needs a fast reliable connection at home, uses Comcast. Her internet goes out occasionally for no apparent reason. She may have no problems for a year, but then suddenly loses her connection and is offline for half a day. When this happens, she just can't work. Not good. In the last few weeks it's happened twice, and she has expressed frustration in dealing with tech support. She sometimes experiences slowness too. I wouldn't use cable internet if I needed to work at home. Happy with Pacbell

How to continue low fee from SBC Global

June 2006

When we signed up for internet service almost a year ago we got a good price on service. Now that the year is almost up they will increase the monthly fee to almost 50.00. Does anyone know how I could continue to get a low monthly fee from SBC? Thans! anon

When my year-long contract with SBC was up, I called them and told them that I didn't want to pay the $50/month rate when they were offering new customers a rate of $14.99/month, and when I could switch to a different service and get a much lower rate as well. They ended up LOWERING my monthly fee to $16.99/month (I had been paying $19.99/month). Hopefully they'll do the same for you! Ask and you shall receive

Sign up for another yearly contract to get the lower price. It may not be as low as the introductory price, but it should be in the $25 range Just did this myself

This is a relatively easy one-- just call them up and negotiate a new contract. I did it about 2 months ago with SBC and got another year at $19.95/mo. They will try to talk you into bundling other services (like long distance calling), but just say you want to negotiate a lower dsl bill and don't need their other services. For leverage, you can quote the lower fees of dslextreme (or even move over to dslextreme, if you don't mind changing email addresses, etc.). I got passed around on the phone to a couple different people (total time ~20 minutes), but they ended up offering the price I wanted. Who knows what will happen in another year, but we're ok for now jim

Just need to call them and sign up for another year of contract. We just did that and our bill is down from 50.99 to around $28 M

I believe SBC should be willing to give you a rate of $14.99. If you call them and ask for a better rate, they will likely negotiate with you, and you might even threaten to switch to a different carrier if they don't lower your rate. There are some internet chat boards that detail how people have been successful in getting the $14.99 rate, which you can search for online. Good luck! Tracy

Need a reliable internet service

May 2007

Help! We need a good reliable internet service. We currently have Earthlink DSL and it has been a total nightmare. We haven't had reliable service for the last 6 months. Every hour the internet connection goes down for 5-15 minutes, always when I'm emailing something important. I telecommute from home. I've been on the phone with Earthlink customer service for hours and each time I get the same response, ''Can you watch your computer connection for the next day and call us back?'' Also, any difference betwen DSL & Cable? The last postings on the subject were a bit old and I'm looking for more current recommendations. cindy

I've been using AT DSL since 2000 (first as Pac Bell, then SBC, now AT). We've had very few problems with our DSL. Sometimes we've been continuously connected to the internet for 30 days or more! I can count on one hand the number of problems we've had with our connection in these past seven years. I hate supporting the big corporate behemoth, but it works. Andi

We had a terrible time with Earthlink DSL . I waited out the one year contract because I couldn't bear the thought of another day on the phone with the Earthlink service department moving those dang filters around and waiting for the next instruction. They told me all kinds of stuff about antique refrigerators messing up connections, and microwaves, or radios too close to the phone line etc etc...

When I finally called to cancel they sent a tech out the next day. It turns out that our phone box is in our basement and that there is a part of it that was made to give the phone company info about the welfare of the phone line when they called it. This device was used in the 80's and isn't compatible with DSL or particularly useful to the phone company anymore either. The tech found the problem in 7 minutes flat, ripped it out and voila excellent DSL. He explained that when you order DSL the phone company gets an order from the DSL company to remove this device. If your box is inside the house and the phone company is busy, they may just drive away. Sorry that I can't remember the name of the part.

I would call them and insist that they send someone over to solve your problem. I was very upset to discover that I had wasted so many hours on the phone with the tech department and had to pay for a year of unacceptably bad service because of a little part in the basement that was supposed to have been removed to begin with. We lost our connection every time we used the phone.

In answer to your other question, cable is better, but more expensive. It's faster and more consistent. We had it for a year and loved it, but the price went up too much. We're now happy with our DSL, but switched to another and cheaper company after our experiences with the earthlink tech department. Natalie

LMI is great-they are a local small business with fantastic customer service, and reasonable rates. I highly recommend them for internet service. When you need tech support, you get someone in Berkeley, not someone in India! go to satisfied customer

Local Internet Provider

May 2006

I'm looking for a recommendation for an internet provider in Berkeley. (The last posting on the BPN was July of 2003.) I'm looking for a place that is local, ideally has an office I can walk into, and where people actually answer the phone. I've found Lanminds Inc. online, is anyone out there using it? Other recommendations? Thanks. Laura

Hi, My family uses LMI, and we've been really happy with their service. They are on MLK in Berkeley Jamie

Lanminds (LMI) is the best, I love them! Although, I've only used their web hosting services, not their DSL, but they really are great. I think I'm on a first name basis with everybody who works there; they're all really cool and knowledgeable and I love that they're only two blocks away from my house. The ONLY problem is that their tech support isn't really 24/7, I've had troubles over the weekend that I had to wait until Monday to fix, but maybe their DSL support is different from their hosting support? Jill

I design websites and have had a great history of service with The hosting fees start at 7.95 and that includes unlimited domains. You can register your domain for 9.95 a year, (this can cost up to $30-50 a year if you just go to a domain registry).

1. Domain name - GoDaddy is taken. Unfortunately, most cool names are taken, but you can get creative. You can do a search to find an available name at

2.Email: You can set your email as ''anything'' If your domain is, you could be bob [at] or coolguy [at] or boss [at], etc..

You can set it so that your Outlook or whatever mail program you use, collects the email. It is a little complicated, but dreamhost has an info page on how to do it, and they have support by email.

Let me know if you need more help. Good luck! AQUALUNA2

We finally got a computer ... which ISP?

May 2005

Hi, We finally got a computer and don't find really recent ISP recommendations on the website.We are thinking of going with DSL rather than cable. Two ISP's that I am particularly interested in are (if they service Alameda) and SBC, but any positive OR negative recs would be useful. We live in Alameda, which could affect what ISP actually delivers DSL. Cost, reliability, customer service, and ease of use are the main issues. Thanks very much! -New to internet

Try to find a service provider. We use dslextreme and like it (in Berkeley). nonet

DSL Reports is a highly regarded web site that includes a function that will give you a complete list of DSL providers that can give you service (based upon your area code and telephone prefix). See

I've had Covad DSL at my house in Berkeley for many years and highly recommend them.

In Alameda I believe you have a pretty good cable option from Alameda Power & Telecom. See DSL guy

We signed up for SBC DSL last July. Here are the high/low lights:

1/ BILLING - they double billed at the start. We called to fix; the phone bill was very confusing, but luckily we originally wrote down every cost involved, so we eventually figured it out and got an appropriate credit. No billing problems from then on.

2/ STABILITY - Internet was down a few crucial times for us, but by and large, the connection was stable and fast. I think internet occasionally down is common to most providers.

3/ CENSORSHIP - They ban some sexual content. This isn't a practical problem for most people, but is a philosophical concern if you think censorship is wrong.

4/ EARLY TERMINATION - We wanted to end our 1yr contract early, and SBC was going to charge a cancellation fee that exceeded what the remaining monthly fees would have cost. They would not waive it, nor would they move the contract to a new address to let us continue service with them. One of us is waiting to move because of this!

Would I go through them again? Maybe, if the deal was right. We plan to ditch them after the 1 year lowered-cost-contract is up. anon

We've used DSL from SBC for a few years now. It's been fine. No complaints. They usually have some sort of deal/sale where you can get your first year for around $25/month.

2004 & Earlier

Reviews of DSL service?

October 2003

Hi, does anyone have any recent reviews on an ISP/DSL provider, positive OR negative? The recent stuff I've seen on the parents webpage seems a little old; plus, the business is constantly changing, yes? We had some problems on our phone line, and an SBC guy came out to replace the line coming into our house (luckily, at their expense). I asked him about SBC DSL, and he, of course, gave it glowing reviews, and said we were only several hundred feet from a sourcebox [sic] (we're in the El Cerrito/Richmond view hills). When I went to, it indicated our CO (sourcebox?) was located more toward central Richmond-- which is more than ''several hundred feet' (more like 12,000 ft!) DSL reports was recommending Earthlink for our neighborhood, but the user feedback seemed kinda lukewarm. They also recommended Megapath, which seemed more for businesses (and was expensive). Any advice, greatly appreciated! Jim

have you considered cable modem? i just got the service from comcast and the modem thru (or something like that). when the software installation got a little tricky for me, i just called the toll-free number and the woman took me step-by-step. cable is fast! suzie

We recently had SBC DSL service installed (in N. Berkeley), and we're pleased, wished we'd done it long ago. But we warn you that SBC is dysfunctional - you have to talk with different offices about orders, equipment, installation advice, etc. etc. If you can handle the frustration, once you're set up, you're likely to be glad you made the change. Wireless access is a really neat feature if you have a laptop! anon

The best and most up to date info on broadband connections can be found here: We picked our current provider (Earthlink) through this website. It has thorough user reviews. It was very useful for getting exactly what you need.

Addition to earlier post: I just skimmed your post about dslreports; sorry about that! We have Earhtlink and my husband is a programmer who works from home. The service is pretty reliable; we've had few outages. Our complaint was that we couldn't get a static ip address, but if you don't need that, they're good. We have more than basic service, and pay $65/month. I would recommend them. Sian Sian

We have been very disappointed with our SBC DSL service- it is SOOOOOO slow! milli

We recently switched from earthlink dialup to earthlink DSL. I am disappointed in the speed -- it's just not fast enough to justify charging $30 more per month. I complained to earthlink and they sent me some suggestions for improving the speed. So far none have helped, but I haven't yet tried them all. I chose earthlink over SBC because I had heard mostly poor reviews about SBC (including from dslreports). Now I'm not so sure I made the right decision. Good luck.

They are a little bit pricier (I think), but the best in customer service and performance is I used to work at Covad and we always knew that if you wanted to find a Covad alumni, just assume their email address was their lastname [at] Ex covad employees, including myself, all seem to get speakeasy DSL because of their excellent customer service. I think that the reviews bear this out too. sarah

I've been a computer and network manager for more than 25 years. In fact, I was the manager and provider of the first computer Ginger used for I've also had DSL for over 4 years and have helped uncounted friends and neighbors get connected with both DSL and cable.

With all that experience I can say that both DSL and cable internet service are a crapshoot. You'll find as many people saying good things about one technology or company as you find saying bad. In my experience, most of the problems aren't caused by the DSL or cable service itself. Rather, it's often been the flakyness of Windows 95, 98, and ME. I've seen real improvements since Windows XP has become the prevalent desktop operating system.

Another way to improve your chances for success is to use a broadband router, even if you just have one PC. This approach lets you avoid having to install DSL or cable service specific software on your PC. Instead, the router handles all this. Plus, you get the added benefit of the firewalling done to various degrees by the various routers these days.

My recommendation is to talk to people in your neighborhood to see what their experiences are, and then to go with whatever people like. Then, make sure you have an experienced computer person you can call if things go wrong. Although some of the customer support people are very nice and try very hard, most of them really don't know much about computers or networking. Jon

OK, I thought I had posted this response but I must not have hit the submit button again because I didn't receive a confirmation and didn't see it in the newsletter.

I've been very happy with my DSL service from . The service has been wonderful. I chose it over pac bell because of the static IP. Pac Bell has extra software that you need to load on your computer to connect- not a big deal but just something else that could go wrong IMO.

Several months ago I ran speed tests on my service and that of 2 neighbors. The cable beat us hands down (of course). My neighbor's Pac Bell service was slightly faster than mine (speakeasy is provived by COVAD) but I'm not sure if type of computer effects speed. I did receive an email from speakeasy not too long ago that they were upgrading their circuits and we'd see an improvement in speed once that was completed.

Either way it's plenty for me. I bought a router and now have both of our home computers hooked up, so the kids can surf while I do.

One tip: At the time I signed up, pac bell had a promotion that included a reduced rate for a year. When I mentioned this to speakeasy they offered me a month's free service. Sophie

Looking for a DSL carrier

July 2003

We need to get internet service at home, and I am tempted to go with SBC yahoo since they are offering this deal at 29.95/month for the first year. Has anyone had any experience with them? Alternatively, does anyone have a provider to recommend? I think we prefer DSL. I looked on the parents' website, but only found old recommendations, and I know things have changed a lot in the past 2 years. Thanks. needing a hook-up

I recommend for your Internet Service Provider. I started with them in January after having had DSL from Pacbell since 1998, which became SBCYahoo last year. I never had a problem until they changed to SBCYahoo. The service itself became very advertising intensive on every page related to accessing email or my account. The user interface is hokey and designed to funnel you to their offerings. When I switched my computer to Windows XP, the SBCYahoo customer service related to getting support for the change from Windows98 to XP was horrendous: interminable waits on hold and poorly informed technical staff. After 6 weeks of trying to get them help me with the DSL changeover to XP, I switched to getting my DSL through which has excellent technical support and great customer service. In actuality, uses SBC cables so they're really a reseller, but so much easier to deal with that it's worth. (Usually bargains like the SBCYahoo special offers require you to sign up for a year or two or pay a large penalty.) With SBC I spent about $75 a month for my DSL and voice line. Now I pay about $57 for (and that includes a couple of static IPs which are extra from SBC) and it's a separate bill from the SBC phone bill which is down to about $20. So talk to before signing up and see what you think. Good luck! Kathy

I've used Northpoint and DirectTV DSL, all driven out of business due to Pac Bell's uncooperative (monopolistic) practices. Most DSL providers not affiliated/owned by a baby Bell phone company are driven out of business. The result is bad customer service, and ruthless pricing to drive out remaining competition. So, I would consider SBC/Yahoo an ISP of absolute last resort. If you just want to surf and download, you can use either cable or dsl. Cable tends to be speedier for the money. If you would like to host your own email or web server, then you'll need DSL with a fixed (static) address. The best deal for static address DSL with superior customer service is, a small L.A. based, privately held, profitable ISP. Read and compare reviews at They're charging $45/month for the first year and $50 thereafter with free self-installation and modem. Their dynamic address DSL is $35/month the first year. I recommend them whole-heartedly with one caveat: their tech support line is only available 9a-5p. I've used their customer support: they're young, competent, succinct, and most importantly, correct in their diagnoses. kim

I have my DSL service through ( is a local re-seller for Covad. has great customer service, and Covad's is reasonable for a large company.

You should also look at (, based in Berkeley. I buy my dialup internet access from them, and customer service is first rate.

I have not even tried SBC, because a number of my co-workers have tried them and had awful things so say. They reported long delays getting set up, and terrible customer support.

If saving money is your highest priority I doubt anyone can beat SBC (but you should contact the locals and ask whether they can meet or at least approach SBC's price) just bear in mind that some of your savings in cash may be ''spent'' in time and aggravation getting it to work and keeping it working. Jim

this may be damning with faint praise, but... we have had the sbc dsl for over a year, and have been satisfied with the long- term performance. we've only had one major outage, when some makjr accident occurred somewhere down the cable. on the down side, their customer serivce in the initial days was substandard- -but by then we had already given them our money! we did the installation ourselves, so i can't speak for their work on that part of the deal (regardless, we spent LOTS of time on the phone with them trying to get all the details ironed out). anon

We have had DSL through SBC yahoo for a year now and we have no complaints. My husband telecommutes so it gets used a LOT and he says the connection is pretty solid. I think we have only experienced one or two outages since we started our service. And based on our past experience (we had DSL through the local phone company when we lived in another state) that's really good. And since it's through yahoo you get access to their stuff (like games, etc...) that you can only use if you are a subscriber. Sarah

David Lazarus in the Chronicle Business section had a series of articles about SBC Yahoo fairly recently. The gist of it: Bad customer service, hardsell on Yahoo, extra fees if you used something other than YahooAuctions for selling services. I've also worked with a number of people who have had real problems using pop with their mail to the university since the reverse dns lookup from SBC works poorly. You have to go up a number of levels to get folks who might even know what you are talking about to resolve. The good news is that it's a great deal, and once it is in is fairly reliable. Good Luck.

I signed up for SBC Yahoo DSL about 10 days ago. I had to sign a one year contract, and in exchange for this got a ''plus'' connection for $30/month and a wireless router with built-in firewall for $50 after rebate. I bought a $40 wireless card from Dell for my laptop, and now have a home network on which I can share a printer plus have shared internet access from a WinXP desktop and a Win2k laptop. The standard software package installs with little input from the user and is necessary primarily to activate the DSL connection. The rest of the software on CD consists of service packs for different versions of Windows (a good thing) and add-ons to promote the use of Yahoo services whenever possible, including SBC-Yahoo browser which annoyingly suggests yahoo services whenever possible, bit fortunately can be easy uninstalled (to intimidate users, this browser is called SBC Yahoo! DSL in the Add/Remove panel - obviously to make them think that if they uninstall it, the whole DSL setup will go to hell, which of course does not happen). While the actual download speed may vary from location to location, I got speed close to the promised 1500 kbps (I actually measured 1250 kbps). This is very close to 1350 kbps which I measured using the same tool at my office, where I have ethernet. Upload speed is also quite close to what was promised (around 100-150 kbps). I knew that DSL would be faster than dial- up, but I did not expect download speeds close to those of ethernet, and was literally blown off by the performance I got. The wireless router has a hardware-based firewall which can be configured to limit certain protocols of inbound and outbound traffic. It also allows ''stealth'' mode in which the dynamic IP address which you get cannot be pinged on the web. Additionally, I got 760 MB of web storage and an e-mail address with 25 MB inbox plus several additional mailboxes with 10 MB limit.

In my opinion, SBC promotion is the best value for DSL available at this time. I cannot comment on their technical support since I did not need it.

By the way, if you wish you can sign up on month-to month basis, but the same service costs $50 per month and you get no rebate on the router. Andrei

Good Email and Internet Server

July 2003

I am having problems with my email and internet server, Earthlink. What companies are other people using and what are their pros and cons. Thanks dy

I started using LanMindsInc. (LMI) five years ago because I saw their office on MLK north of University ave. I started with a dialup for about $10/month and moved up to DSL at, I think, $60/month. Every once in a while I get tempted by SBC DSL ads or whatever the local cable company is - both are cheaper. But the thing is that LMI is small and responsive, so a/ it works almost always, and b/ when it doesn't work they answer the phone and respond to emails. I figure that getting a personal response quickly counts for a lot when it comes to the internet which is usually such an impersonal thing. You can check out their site at Dominic is the only way to go; I've been using them loyally for years now. They're great, they're smart, they actually answer the phone when you call and best of all: They're Local! They're right on the corner of MLK & Virginia in Berkeley. I'd highly recommend them to anybody Jill

I spent most of the dot com boom avoiding the big ISPs (like Earthlink and AOL and Mindspring, etc). All I wanted was a way to link to the net that was simple and had few adds. And was free. I found several but they all died back in 2001. I did get a hotmail address which allows me to move between ISPs w/o having to be tied to their e-mail service. Hotmail was bought by MS so you know it is never going away. Also, it is very easy to synch a Hotmail acct to Outlook Express since they are both MS products. I've now had my hotmail address for several years and I don't need to worry about it changing. In April 2002, I started using Access4Less ( for my ISP. It is bare bones and has no AOL type features but who cares as you can get something similar for free from MSN or Yahoo or Google or countless other sites. There is a one time $8.00 setup fee and then you pay $5.95 a month but it is only dial-up (no DSL connection). Works fine and has lots of local phone numbers and no pop-up adds or banners. I've never had problems w/ busy signals or broken connections. Also, A4L give you UNLIMITED HOURS and e-mail. For only $5.95/mon, that's a great deal! They have a secure website where you can log in and see all your hour usage, billing, etc. I never use phone support ($5/call) as I've had no problems. I also don't need large amounts of webspace for personal web pages (which Access4Less does not offer). But, hey, if you want a webpage, go to Geocity or MSN or Yahoo and get one for free! So, between hotmail and A4L, I am web enabled. Now I just need to find DSL for $9.95/mon and I will be in web heaven. Nick

Need a new email service

Nov 2002

My current internet provider, formerly dnai, now rcn, has proven to be a technical mess, forwarding e-mail into cyberspace. So I'm looking for a straightforward provider that can take e-mails from my domain and (ideally) can be picked up from computers other than my own. I'd welcome suggestions. I really don't want aol--I like to be able to use my browser without ads and frames. Thanks, meg

I have been extremely pleased with LanMinds, Inc. ( for the past 3+ years. Knowledgeable, personable, dependable. I think I remember 2 downtimes, each for less than 24 hours. They offer all kinds of connectivity. Please tell them I sent you. Jennie

Try They are a relatively small, local Berkeley business that offers a range of ISP services. They're also good people. Check out their web site, Toby

I've used Earthlink as my ISP for many years. Their customer support is excellent. I have Earthlink DSL which I have networked at home, and I access my email from my office by using Earthlink Webmail.

You can have more than one email address on your account (I have one email address I use only for junk mail/signing in to sites like amazon).

You can use Netscape or Internet Explorer as your browser (I think both come with Earthlink - I use Netscape because it is less often the target of viruses).

If you are away from your computer, you can check your mail with their WebMail page. (You can also use YahooMail to do this, but there are annoying flashing banner ads.) Also, if you use a PC, you can use their GoToMyPC service which allows you to access your home/business computer remotely. Other free services PopUp blocker which helps block those annoying popup ads, and a decent spam filter. Check it out at Natasha

I'm a loyal LMI customer ( and have been for years, they host several of the sites I manage and I'd recommend them to anybody and everybody. They're affordable, they have all kinds of packages that will work for your needs, they actually answer the phone when you call them! and best of all, they're LOCAL; they're right on MLK & Virginia in North Berkeley. They don't sell out, they support good causes, etc. etc. etc. :) Jill

DSL vs. Cable Modem

December 2001

We are switching from a dial-up to either DSL or a cable modem system for our computers and wonder if anybody out there has had a particularly good experience with specific provider. We value quality service and good customer service too. Lowest price is not the biggest issue. Thanks in advance Rob + Bobbie

We've been using Earthlink for DSL service recently... Overall, I've found them to be OK... They've gotten very big by buying up alot of smaller DSL services providers, so getting thru to a real person if and when you have a problem is sometimes time-consuming... Although, to their credit, I've found once I get thru, their people are friendly and fairly knowledgable. We pay $49.00 per month... I'm sure there are cheaper services out there... I'd just caution you to remember the old saying 'you get what you pay for'. This indistry is going thru ALOT of change right now.. Companies are going out of business and/or being bought up almost monthly. A good reference site for this type of information is Hope this helps Tom

I have been with AT the past two years and am seriously considering switching to DSL in the very near future. The switch over from the @home network to AT's own network has been extremely frustrating to say the least. They are limiting download speeds, there is no technical support if you have issues with the new setup (which I do in the case of accessing my work account), etc. etc. Bottom line, if you are not already stuck with this service, I certainly would not recommend it. Good luck. (By the way, I was pretty happy with it before the switch, but they have been just awful to deal with since the switch over.) Susan

I've heard nothing good about the switch from @home to att. It happened quite suddenly and many folks were without service for several days, and now there are multiple problems with their DNS. For a description of the problems some on-campus users have been having visit the Micronet website at: with threads alternately named AT Slough of Despond and Reach Out and Kick Someone. I have heard that the situation is much better for Macs than it is for PC's. We have DSL and have now been through three service providers. We are still using Covad as the provisioner, and they have recently come out of bankruptcy. Our current provider is SpeakEasy.Net and we like them a lot. Of course, this is an ephemeral business, apparently. Check and keep an eye on the business page to see what the scoop is with various providers. Myriam

I am very happy with my ATT cable modem. Except for the problems with the whole Excite business, I have found it to be very reliable and fast. Helena

try and get Earthlink. they were pretty good with me and customer service. we tried to do a router, and even though they weren't supposed to provide customer support, they gave very helpful suggestions. they're big and they're not going anywhere. their webmail, however is slow their last mile installer was Covad, but I think that co is bankrupt. Brendan

Sept 2001

I've been using Juno's free internet service about 5 hours a week, but they now block my access in the evening and send lots of vaguely harassing messages about paying for service. Net Zero supposedly does free internet for up to 40 hours a month, which sounds fine to me. Does anyone have experience with either Net Zero or any other free internet service they might recommend? Thanks for the advice. Melanie

I have had netzero for several years. Until recently, I would have recommended them highly. But...they have now started pushing their $9.95/mo platinum service, and have loaded all sorts of stuff onto the page, making it slower to open documents. Perhaps they are trying to make it more annoying on purpose so I will give in and pay the $9.95 instead of using the free service. On the other hand, it is FREE, so I can put up with a little annoyance. Give it a try! Janet

NetZero is okay as long as you don't mind the banner ads which will take up 20% of your browser window. You get 40 hours per month. I tried them but switched back to AOL because other family members found their interface easier to use.

Carrier for DSL

May 2001

For those of you with DSL lines in their home, could you recommend your phone line provider? Do any of you have strong negative or positive opinions about Earthlink, Flashcom, SBC, Qwest Communications or Verizon/Bell Atlantic ? I have heard that the installation process can take a long time in our area. How much time in advance should one begin the ordering process? I have read the comments posted on the Parents website but none of these companies were mentioned. Thank you

I would like to recommend Mindspring-Earthlink. I got DSL from them when it first became available in this area, now about 2 years ago. Installation was relatively quick but Covad (the installaton subcontractor) was not as good as Earthlink, however, Earthlink compensated for Covad's doofuses in the end. Their service has been beyond fabulous. Hours of help (even when the caller is crying and cursing computers!) by sweet and patient techies for no extra charge. The money I pay Earthlink is well worth it. They are saints. Christine

This website has all kinds of information, reviews, price comparisons etc. You can put your own zip code in there and get all kinds of info on what high speed connection is available and how closer you are to the connection point etc. Jared

We had DSLNetworks and had some idiosyncracies with them. Covad cut them off recently, so we had to switch. Our new provider is SpeakEasy out of Seattle. We are really happy with them so far (about a month). We needed a static IP address with some special considerations (reverse DNS lookup for Berkeley's servers, the ability to run our own domain, BIND and secondary DNS) and they have understood what we've wanted and been able to accomodate us. The switch was relatively seamless, we didn't have to spend any time on the phone at all (they have an excellent web account tracking page) and our speeds have actually been faster than DSL Networks. They cost about $80 a month for us, but they have a package as low as $40 without a static IP address. Myriam

In Response to the Recommendation of High Speed Internet Access. I had terrible experience with Earthlink DSL. Not only did they not know what the problem was that I was not connecting, I had to wait hours on the phone for tech support. When tech support could not figure out the problem, they stop helping me. I cancelled the service. Save yourself the trouble. Liquidimg

Juno email service

Mar 2000

My free e-mail provider, Juno, has been trying to entangle me in the Web; their latest offer is $2.95 a month for premium service. (I would have to sign up for a year, of course.) Does anyone out there get internet service through Juno? Any opinion of them? Melanie

For anyone who uses the internet, seriously consider signing up for one of many free internet providers. They truly are FREE (given a few conditions, like local number or system requirements). You can either do a search to find one (free internet access) or just check out the one I signed up with... I chose it because I have an iMac, it has relatively easy setup instructions and it was one of the first ones I found through a search for free access for Mac (it also has it for Windows and Linux). I know there is a local number for Berkeley (sometimes finding a company with a local number for you is a problem with free access). Anyway, GET ACCESS! We ALL have a right to FREE ACCESS!! M

We have used Juno exclusively and have been quite happy with them. We only had one problem and that was with access numbers that change on and off. Once the computer prompted us to change numbers and gave us choices to use. We chose one that we thought was not long distance and due to the timing wound up with 2 months phone bills for over $200. Juno said the phone company said it wasn't long distance and the phone company said we had to pay! I guess it was during the time when they were changing the phone lines. So now before we change our access number we call the phone company to double check Cindy

I use a local ISP named They provide internet service and do a good job of it too. Visit their site @:

Someone posted a message about their DSL, and in their message they noted that they also purchased a firewall because of hackers. I want to emphasize that there are hackers out there. I have a cable modem and because we did not have a firewall/security set up, they were able to get in.

This is in response to the long post on DSL service. I did not see the original post for recommendations, but I gather someone is looking into DSL service or other alternatives. I work as a technical writer out of my home office. As such, I am not a web master or otherwise using more than two machines at any given time, so my requirements may be different than others. I generally download software builds and things of that nature and then get off the network and work on my local system. Anyway, when we moved into our new house, I checked out both DSL (through Pac Bell) and the cable modem service which we now have and love. The reason I went with the cable modem is simple: we are at the outer reaches for the area currently served by DSL and the connection speeds are not that great. I was fortunate to have a next door neighbor who also works out of his home as a programmer and he has DSL and told me that he has experienced a lot of problems with connection speed. The cable modem install was fairly painless (for a dual-boot Windows 98/ NT 4.0 system) and I haven't experienced any problems so far. However, someone told me that there are security issues with cable modems, i.e. other people on your local network can easily hack into your system. Is this true? Does anyone know what I can do to prevent this from happening? I must admit, I didn't even think about that when I signed up the service, so if anyone who is particularly savvy about this stuff has recommendations I would really appreciate it.

First, I recently got cable modem service from ATT/@Home and was delighted both with the installation (prompt, friendly, helpful) and the service (download speeds up to >125K/sec.) is phenomenal. Second, the @Home website states that there *are* security issues re hacking as discussed in previous posts here. At a minimum you need to disable file sharing on your modem-attached computer, or set up a firewall if you have a network running behind it. Here's what their help page says: When you use the @Home network, your computer becomes part of our network of computers. Our installers configure your system so you have access to @Home's computer network, but no one else on the @Home network can look at your computer. (This is accomplished by disabling File and Print Sharing.) However, if you change your file sharing settings, you can make the data on your computer available to others on the network, enabling them to read, modify, or even delete your data. To prevent this, ensure that file sharing is disabled. If you need to use file sharing, ensure that it is protected by a password. There are also many other useful web resources on this issue, starting with the major sites like Yahoo, Excite, etc. Try, e.g., ity and check out the subtopics listed there (firewalls, hacking etc.) If you run a network behind a cable modem with a proxy server like Wingate, there are special security issues that are addressed by the proxy software.




Dec 1999

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has obtained residential DSL in the East Bay. We are moving to a new rental in Kensington and I am thinking about getting DSL. But there seem to be a zillion DSL providers out there, in addition to ol' PacBell itself. Surfing DSL users web sites turns up lots of horror stories -- two month waits, multiple missed installer appointments, miscomunication between phone company and DSL company and DSL network. So . . . anyone have praise to lavish, or warnings to give, or hints to share, about our local provider choices? Aspects I thought would be useful to hear about include (1) length of wait for service, (2) smoothness of install process, (3) total out-of-pocket cost (aka were there hidden costs?), (4) reliability and actual observed speed of service (getting what you paid for and getting it 24/7?), (5) competence in billing and customer care, (6) quality of the hardware provided. John

I have had residential DSL for about 14 months now and while it's been totally flawless for me, there are lots of horror stories caused by the vendors constantly changing products. I recommend you look at the usenet newsgroup ba.internet and see what people have to say. A lot of your experience will depend on a) your requirements and b) your line speed. Good research will help you understand your requirements and whether a specific vendor can satisfy them, but unfortunately, your line speed will only be known after the line has been installed (and you have committed to the big bucks.) And, depending on the lines in your neighborhood and the popularity of DSL there, your line speed may decrease weeks after your installation. DSL service is usually a joint service provided by two companies. One company physically provides a phone line that carries digital packets from your house to the phone company. The other company connects to your phone line at the phone company and hooks you up to the Internet. Our contract provides for DSL with PacBell the Telco providing the line, and PacBell Internet being our ISP. I received an Alcatel 1000 modem and one static IP address. I signed up for 384/128 service. I was told that if I wanted to run webservers from our home, that was no problem. Regarding your specific questions: I had about a 2 week delay to get the service installed. It was painless and very smooth (so since then they have changed vendors of course....). The costs were/are: Installation Costs Waived Alcatel Modem and line splitter Waived Monthly DSL Line from PacBell 49.95 Monthly DSL Service from PacBell Internet $10.00 I also purchased (not from PacBell) A four port 10BT hub with BNC $29.95 A Sonicwall firewall router $350.00

If you need a phone line, that will add $11 per month (plus installations costs). The waived charges would've been totalled $250. I purchased a firewall for security because I needed a router but I also feared that DSL lines would be subject to Internet hackers. That has been confirmed. Regularly, my firewall records various folks trying to hack our computer. Most people do not get a firewall. I believe this is out of ignorance. You can lock down your own Windows machines but I wasn't sanguine about that effort. Regarding speed and quality of the line and the service: About 4 months after receiving the service, PacBell upgraded it to 384+/128 service which means our download speed increased to 1200kbps. That was very nice. I've had no problems with the Alcatel. Other people have. It is now rare to get the Alcatel modem. I've had no problems with line sync. Other people have. I've had no problems with the speed of the line varying or being capped. Other people have.

Regarding line speed changing over time, it comes down to the PacBell-the-ISP warranty of 384kpbs. That is all they need to provide you. Everything above that is gravy and subject to change. PacBell the ISP now rarely gives out static IP addresses but is moving to Dynamic IP addresses implemented through PPPoE and PPPoA. PPPoE/A makes your DSL experience exactly like a dialup service. It makes it easy for the phone company to configure your system, but it removes lots of functionality. This practically means that for new customers, home networks, home webservers, Linux, OS/2, and non-Windows or Macintosh support is gone. And people with PPPoE/A are reporting that the Windows/Mac support for that is sketchy at best. Static IPs mean that you can easily run a webserver from home, run a web business from home, and get attacked by hackers from home. It's a mixed bag. I have had few problems with PacBell's uptime, or mail and news services. But all over California including the Bay Area, other people report all the time that their local DSL line is down, or mail is down, or news is down. My advice is that if you are going to use PacBell Internet for your ISP that you determine your requirements before hand, and get PacBell to agree to it and get names if not letters/faxes/etc. confirming what you believe you are getting. Make sure you read and print out your contract. Also note that at one time, people claimed that you could switch ISPs without cost if they fail to satisfy your needs. That may or may not be true anymore. Determine if you need a static IP address. You can still get PacBell the telco to provide you with a DSL line but you can use a different ISP and they can get you a static IP if you want one. Again, lots of info on ba.internet. So to summarize, we have had a great experience, but many other people have not, and what drives everyone crazy is that PacBell keeps on changing the product every several months, so no one is really sure what they are going to get in the future. Um, after checking out your requirements, you may wish to look at TCI for a cable modem. They were in my neighborhood recently claiming cable modems were down to $19/month with no installation

We were fortunate enough to be one of the very early adopters of DSL (and ISDN before it) through the munificence of a former employer. Our original service was through Rhythmns which was excellent, after a few small problems with installation.

Rhythmns had great service: They used to call us if they noticed we were off line for any length of time (usually the result of kittens pulling the power cable out of the wall or out of the hub for our LAN). When my husband left the employer that provided DSL we attempted to continue service through them, since we were already set up. Unfortunately, at the time they were doing only commercial installations. They have apparently changed this, and I'm considering going back to them.

We then attempted to get DSL Service through First World, since they had a power user package which gave us the multiple static IP addresses we wanted for our network of six computers. They put through the service order to COVAD who do most of the installations for DSL in the area. COVAD e-mailed a cancellation to us about three weeks after the installation request was put through telling us that we were too far from First World's switches. We found this puzzling since we had been wired for DSL before.

We then got in touch with DSL Networks, which was able to contract with Covad to do the installation in about three weeks. They've been fine, but their package for the number of IP Addresses we wanted was outrageous (since they consider six computers to be a small business installation not a home installation). We've resolved this by using WinGate software and a SAMBA server on our Unix box. Since we do some web page developement we paid for the more expensive upstream connection, but for folks who are simply doing web surfing, it's probably not worth the expense.

I am posting this only today, because yesterday and the day before I couldn't send any e-mail. You should read my story to understand why. I have decided to use PACBELL for my DSL provider. I have called them, and gave them my address in Kensington. It took them nine days to give me an answer whether my phone line qualifies for DSL. After receiving the answer, I have ordered the service. They scedulded me an all day appointment, 8:00AM to 5:00PM, two weeks ahead. The day has arrived, and I sat at home, waiting. On 3:00 PM the PACBELL technician called and said he is late, but he could come on 5:30PM. I agreed to wait. On 7PM he called me to say he arrives in half an hour, and on 7:30 PM he called me to say that it is too late and he can't come. He said that he can't schedule me a new appointment, and a scheduler would call me. The day after, in the afternoon, I called PACBELL, and this time they scheduled me an AM, appointment, ten days more to wait. The PACBELL technician arrived on time. Our phone line is in the storage room. The PACBELL technician asked me to take everything out of the storage room, and just stood there watching without giving me a hand while I was carrying havey stuff outside. There are two systems running on my computer, WINDOWS 98 and LINUX. On the phone I have told the DSL center that I wanted to use the Internet from both, but the PACBELL technician said she doesn't do LINUX. While she was working on the computer, I had a phone call. While I was talking over the phone, she came to tell me she is done. I wanted to use the e-mail. I have tried to send e-mail from OUTLOOK EXPRESS and from NETSCAPE messenger, but failed. I figured out that the mail has not been configured on my system, and I still need to do setup. I have called PACBELL to ask them what was my user-id, but it was after 5:00PM, so there was no one to speak with. When I called the next day, I have waited 25 minutes to speak with a tech support representative. He gave me the e-mail address, and told me there were instructions in the web site of how to configure the mail. I have tried those instructions, but they didn't work for the outlook express, only for the NETSCAPE. Since I always use the OUTLOOK, my entire address book is there and I didn't want to change my mail software. I have called PACBELL (more 25 minuets), to find out that they don't give technical support on OUTLOOK, only on NETSCAPE. And what about LINUX? No, they don't give technical support on LINUX, either. I am an experienced software engineer, and I found out myself how to configure the mail in OUTLOOK. The instructions on the PACBELL site were completely wrong. And now, that I can use my mail again, I could hardly wait to answer to the posting for DSL recommendation.

Avoid PacBell DSL if at all possible. I had a similar experience to Yoram and Tikva Bonneh. It took two months from my initial phone call before I succeeded in getting an installer to come to my door on the appointed *day*. My installer was at least polite, but the PacBell infrastructure behind him was abominable. Departments don't talk to each other, any time you call you can expect to spend 45 minutes on hold. I've learned from other people that they're changing the terms of their contracts in midstream and denying people static IP addresses. Regarding security, I'm running a Linux server as a NAT firewall, so my other machines aren't visible to the world. There's some good data on the Net about Windows machines on the Internet 24/7, a casual search turns up this: it seems to me the biggest point in the other stuff I've read was that any shared folders should be password protected. To the person who said I have a cable modem and because we did not have a firewall/security set up, they were able to get in, I would be very interested in hearing what the hacking was comprised of. Kevin

I had to write concerning DSL service. I am currently using DSL through pacbell. I, also, had a very difficult initiation into the DSL system. They called and gave me a 8am-5pm window and I arranged for all of my children to be taken to school, activities, etc. while I waited around the whole day. By 7:00 they told me it was too late and that they would have to come another day. I was seeing RED. The guy finally came the following week to set it up and I did log a complaint--no reply. Anyway, I am very happy with the line but I am very close to the central area and they said that my service will be even faster than they normally guarantee because of where I live. I am not going to change because despite the initial glitches with set-up, I have been happy with my service (now that it is in.) Rona

I have PacBell DSL which I've had since Apr. After the initial hiccups with getting the installation to work, have been very happy with the service. The setup was about $200 for the installation and hardware, and monthly is $50 which includes the ISP. E-trade was running a promotion if you opened an account with them and signed up for Pac-Bell DSL that got you three months free. Don't know if that's still available. I'm at the far end of the range up in the hills, but am generally happy with bandwidth. I do notice some times when the connection is slower then normal, but still much better then dialing in. Security issues with the static IP address mentioned in another message are true, so I just disconnect my computers when not using them. I telecommute and do a lot of work on my company network and have really noticed a huge increase in my productivity because of this. Well worth the initial frustration and $$. Ed

Need a reliable email service

June 1999

I have a private internet account, but I get cut off all the time (on average every 5 minutes) and the situation seems to be getting worse. Can anyone recommend a reliable commerical internet service provider? Thanks.

July 1999

We are finally purchasing a decent computer for home, & I hope to do a bit of my work at home fairly regularly after I return from maternity leave. I've been told that trying to get through to campus via modem is well nigh impossible, & that I really should get an outside internet service provider. I know that the question of good service providers was asked recently, but one person liked the SHIPS service, & I've been told elsewhere to forget it. Who's more right? Also, are there any major internet service providers we should steer clear of? Thanks!

Allison 7/99
I used for my internet access ( for 3 years and had few problems. They are located in San Francisco and have been around for a while now so they are pretty dependable. I had luck with their tech support (both Mac and PC) and had few problems getting into their servers. They have quite a few phone numbers around the bay to dial in which is convienient when something does go wrong with one of their servers. Just make sure you use one that isn't isn't a toll call from your house.

However we recently decided to go with a cable modem (TCI's @home) which is wonderful!!! They are a bit more expensive but way, way faster. They claim to be 100 times faster than a 56K modem with a traditional phone line. The cost is about $40 a month which also includes 3 email accounts. It doesn't work out to be too much more if you figure $15/month for an extra phone line (of course some people just use one phone line and let it be busy while they surf) and $20/month for your ISP. The installation can be expensive ($150) but I have seen coupons in the Chronicle and other places around town for up to $100 off. Right now they are having a special for AOL users. Another bonus is that they send someone out to your house to install the modem line and the software so it is up and running to go with little or no effort on your part. But beware of this also. Make sure you save a copy of your address book and bookmarks if you currently use Netscape to a floppy or as a last resort to your hard-drive before the installation. Somehow they managed to delete mine. I don't have a phone number for them but here is an email address that might be able to help: [at]

Note: @home is not available in all areas (Oakland has to upgrade it's cable plant before it's available)

Myriam 7/99
I'm the one who recommended the SHIPS service. For campus employees, it can be a great deal, and save you some hassle trying to access things that require an on-campus address to obtain (things licensed for here, like Lexis/Nexis, Encyclopedia Brittanica, Medline etc). I've recommended that the folks I work with use it ( rather than the general dial in modems) since it is faster (all 56k modems now) and rarely has busy signals. I have not heard of reliabilty problems but YMMV)

posted anonymously
When we lived in Oakland, we used to use Best for internet access, but it would always disconnect on us. Then we switched to DNAI and liked it.

Now that we live in Castro Valley, we just got a cable modem installed and really like it. It's much faster and it's great not having to always dial-up; the cable modem is always on. By the way, one person who posted said cable modems aren't too much more expensive than having a 2nd phone line and an ISP-- true. Also, TCI was (is?) having a special on cable modem installation. Our installation was free. It's a new recent promotion, at least in Castro Valley.

Jeanette 9/99
does anyone out there in parentland have digital internet access? If so, what do you think of it? Is it really faster? Is it worth the monthly price? Was it expensive to install? Thanks for your advice.

Joyce 9/99
There are actually two different technologies. Asynchronous digital subscriber lines (ADSL) and synchronous digital subscriber lines (SDSL). The phone company (PacBell) offers ADSL, which gives you 128k upstream and 384k downstream (asynchronous speeds). I find that's perfect for me because mostly I browse the Internet (that's downloading) and exchange e-mail. PacBell's rate is $39 a month ($49 if you want them as your ISP). The difference in speed from a 28.8 modem is amazing.

SDSL is better if you're moving very large files (like graphics) around--especially if you send them to people (uploading). You can get VERY fast speeds; the same both up and down (synchronous), which you may or may not need. That's what is offered by all the other companies. The difference is the price is a lot more.

The other option is cable; another technology. I personally prefer DSL.

Ginger 12/99
We got DSL a few months ago, changing from ISDN through the INDEX project at UC Berkeley. DSL is great. For us, cable modem was not an option because we wanted to run our own web server. We also needed 4 internet addresses. We have had a very good experience with DSL so far, and I was pleasantly surprised when I needed to get an answer to a technical question and was on the phone with a knowledgeable human at PacBell within 5 minutes. I compare this to my friend's experience with TCI Cable modem - it only took them a day to come install it, but it turned out to be incompatible with her too-recent copy of Netscape, so it crashed her Windows and her computer was rendered unusable. Bad, because she uses her computer to work from home a lot. The installation technician had no idea how to fix the problem. After four days of phoning, waiting on hold for 45 minutes each time to be referred to yet another clueless person, finally she was able to reinstall her operating system and get someone out to get her cable modem service working. Once it was fixed, it was great. However, I think you have to be willing to deal with the cable company if you go with cable modem and personally I'd rather deal with the phone company when things go wrong.

UC Berkeley has a web page with info about various ISPs and more general info about choosing a provider:

Anyone looking for a realiable internet service provider, I highly recommend Mindspring. They are reliable (I have never been dropped) and nearly always connect at the maximum speed allowed by the modem. They are very easy to set up and have great customer service.
B (6/99)

We used Idiom for several years with no hassles. We ended up switching a few months ago so that we could get DSL service. They are located in Berkeley (on College Ave); they're small but very reliable. I think it's $20/mo. You can reach them through the web at or by phone at (510) 595-4321 or (888) 663-8878.
Laurel (6/99)

If you are faculty, staff or student at UC/Berkeley, you should look at the SHIPS service. It's $10 a month and has 56K modems on the other end. It's a good deal and quite reliable. You can find information about it at:
Myriam (6/99)

I use It's incredibly inexpensive. Their real business is providing web sites and other services to businesses, but individuals can get an account there for what works out to about $10 a month for unlimited use. The only catch is that you have to pay a small one-time fee and pay for the year in advance. I've had good luck with them, and they're tech support has been very helpful. THey're at; phone 800-711-5353 - Linda (6/99)

Free Email Account


This question has probably been addressed before but I can't seem to find anything. I understand there are free email service providers such as Hotmail and Yahoo. Are there other providers where there is no charge? Any recommendations as to which one works best? Email usage would be infrequent.

A great service is For free, you get a web-based email address and your very own *local* phone number (if you live in one of their designated cities, and I know Oakland is one) which gives you a *free* fax receipt service and voice mail. Because it's web-based, you can read your messages on any internet-capable computer. Also, anyone can send you a fax which shows up as an email message which you can view, and if you want, print out. You also can listen to your voice mail messages over the phone or on your computer (if you have speakers).The number they give you for free has a personal extension number, but you have the option of paying $2.95/mo to get your own personal phone number with no extension (which I have done). Your significant other and kids can have their own email address, fax and voice mail, all for free. I used to have hotmail, but found it down or often inaccessible. is much, much better with more services.

I have been using Juno (support at, which is free in exchange for putting up with ads in the upper right-hand portion of the screen. Works pretty well and you may ask for more than one free account per telephone line.

Regarding free e-mail service I know of which provides free e-mail. However, if you are using this for professional e-mails, it may sound a little strange sending it to chickmail. On the other hand, once you have an e-mail address, General Magic provides a great service. The site is This site provides free voice mail services (for e-mail). If someone leaves you an e-mail, you can dial a toll free number to retrieve the e-mail. The system will read your e-mail allow and you to respond to the e-mail, via the telephone. It is a great tool for those on the go who need to keep in touch with their e-mail and it is free.

From my experience, Hotmail is the best of the free e-mail accounts--very little advertising, and a well designed interface within the e-mail browser. If you have a problem with Microsoft, Hotbot is another free account with little advertising. Juno offers a free e-mail account that includes free dial-up (you don't need an ISP) but had tons of advertising.