Today, I changed dsl providers from AT&T / SBC to Sonic.net. The result: one very happy Sonic customer.
Those who know me appreciate that inertia is a steady influence on my actions. I first signed up for SBC dsl in 1999 (back when it was PacBell) and I have been a customer ever since despite a high monthly rate and mediocre speed. Last month I encountered intermittent trouble (dropped sync, line errors, heavy static on my voice line) and I contacted SBC internet support to try to get help. This was a big mistake.
It is very frustrating explaining to CSRs in India that, despite their support scripts, unplugging my modem and waiting 60 seconds does not cure all ailments. It was similarly pointless to argue that removing my functioning router and plugging a computer directly into my dsl modem wouldn’t change anything.
The day staff in San Jose was no better. They seemed confused by the concept of “intermittent.” When their line tests suggested trouble they sent out a tech. When he was able to get sync (just like me 80% of the time) they closed the ticket. The process repeated itself, and then ended with their advice that I buy a new modem. The Advanced Solutions group insisted that the problem was either my modem or my internal wiring, and for $150 I could request an inside technician to tell me which one.
Fortunately, the folks in the quite separate SBC voice division are much more competent. After I opened a different trouble ticket for the static, SBC voice sent out 3 repair technicians to isolate the external problem. My thanks to Steve, Splicing Technician #973 for finding and fixing the bad connector. Better still, SBC voice credited me a month of service without me asking.
In contrast, when the voice repair also resolved my data issues, I contacted internet billing to request a similar credit. A maddening hour and no credit later, a new force took hold – rage – and I began researching for SBC alternatives.
I use Broadband Reports for line speed and quality tests. The tests are free, anonymous and accurate. Additionally, Broadband Reports compiles reviews of ISPs, a service that was great for my situation. I was tempted by cable internet. The promised speeds are fast and Comcast is running a sale. Also, in switching to a new technology there would be no downtime. However, after reading the stellar customers reviews I decided to try Sonic, a small regional provider based in Santa Rosa.
Before placing my internet order last week, I called Sonic tech support to ask some questions about my configuration. Someone answered immediately, and I was shocked by how knowledgeable he was. Similarly, when there were some glitches in provisioning my new line, I was amazed at how Sonic handled it. The issue was escalated to one of their top tech guys, Jason, and he kept calling SBC ASI (Sonic subcontracts their lines) to request changes on their end and then me to keep me informed.
I don’t know how they do it, but Sonic is able to provide much better technical assistance and higher-quality internet service over SBC’s lines all at a lower price. I ordered Pro dsl, and for $19.95 I’m getting 1.5mbps-3.0mbps download and 384kbps-512kbps upload. This evening, according to the Broadband Reports line speed test, my actual speeds are 2083 / 422 (or 260.4 KB/sec down and 52.7 KB/sec up). That is double was I was getting from SBC at half the price – and it is likely to get better as the line is tuned. My advice: if you are considering an ISP change, talk to Sonic.
p.s. tonight, after another hour on the phone I got that month’s refund from SBC internet. hell hath no fury...