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Frontier’s Everyday High Prices for Slow DSL Just Don’t Make Any Sense

Phillip "Frontier DSL is Too Slow and Expensive" Dampier

Frontier Communications occasionally sends me mailers promoting their latest offer for DSL and/or satellite service.  The price on the front of the letter looks good — usually around $20 a month — despite the fact the best Frontier can deliver my area less than one mile from the Rochester, N.Y. city line is 3.1Mbps.  But Frontier’s fine print is infamous for bill padding extra fees, charges, and service commitments that makes the out-the-door price literally higher than Time Warner Cable’s Road Runner service, which actually delivers substantially faster speed at a lower price.

I’m not alone.

Customers in several Frontier service areas are openly wondering why they should do business with the phone company when they are charging more for less service.

In Ohio, Frontier Communications competes in some areas with Buckeye Cablevision.  Frontier sells DSL Internet in northwest Ohio for $29.99 a month.  For that, customers like Inquiry receive 6.2Mbps even though they bought 7.1Mbps service.

“Their [Internet prices] are significantly higher when comparing the other providers in northwest Ohio,” Inquiry writes. “Buckeye Cablevison has 10Mbps service for $24.95/month. And they actually give the customer 10.8Mbps.”

In areas where Frontier often finds itself the only game in town, that price is downright cheap.

Frontier's "High Speed" Fantasies

Nialis in Aliso Viejo, Calif. doesn’t know what Inquiry is complaining about.  He pays $30 a month for 1.5Mbps DSL service from Frontier.

Eric McDaniel from McDavid, Fla. found small relief when he complained about the 2.2Mbps DSL service he was paying $39.99 a month to receive.

“I now pay $29.99, and that is only because I threatened to cancel my service,” McDaniel says. “Now they give me a $10 recurring credit.”

“What are you going to do when they’re the only show in town?”

Even Charter Communications, one of America’s lowest rated cable companies, has prices and service that beats Frontier hands-down.

In some Charter areas like Wausau, Wisc., Frontier DSL comes with a two year service commitment, a $14.99 monthly Wireless Router Fee, and comparatively slow service:

Frontier Communications Pricing - Wisconsin

Customers can pay $29.99 a month (before fees) for “up to 3Mbps” DSL service from Frontier or spend $29.99 and get 12Mbps from Charter:

Charter Communications Pricing - Wisconsin

So how does Frontier Communications keep offering service at uncompetitive prices?  They have much greater success in the rural markets they favor, where cable competition rarely exists.  Plus, many consumers may not understand the impact of the speed differences they receive from different providers, tending to blame “the Internet” for slowdowns more than the provider delivering the service.  Some customers may also be attracted to valuable customer promotions that include free netbooks or television sets, and forget about the fine print service commitments that come with the deal.

As dwink9909 from Clintonville, Wisc. shared on the Frontier Broadband Reports forum: “Frontier Communications Inc. is free to charge the maximum the market will bear primarily because they are the only provider in most of the areas they serve. That’s certainly true here in Wisconsin. Six miles south of me you can get dial-up service from two dozen ISPs and broadband via wireless, cable or DSL, but here there is only a single provider for telephone and broadband. We are among the “under-served” millions who are just glad to have high speed Internet at any cost.”

Frontier is only too happy to oblige.

New Product Lets Broadband Providers Notify Customers When They ‘Use Too Much’ Internet

Are you using too much Internet service?  If your service provider thinks you are, it can alert you by barging in on your web-browsing sessions with forced notification messages warning you are about to be the latest victim of Internet Overcharging.

PerfTech, a maker of browser messaging systems has teamed up with Active Broadband Networks to deliver providers a way to notify up to two million subscribers about their broadband usage from just a single rack-based system.

“Feedback from ISPs who have deployed usage-based Internet tiers has confirmed that two factors are key to success: accurate usage measurement and quick, proactive notifications,” PerfTech vice president of sales Jane Christ said in a statement.

Most browser message injection systems are used to warn customers when they are approaching monthly usage limits or excessive use charges.  Some can even redirect web users to a single ISP-administered website to alert them their service has been suspended or request payment for additional usage with a credit card.

So far, only smaller U.S. providers are using PerfTech’s system, including WideOpenWest, BendBroadband in Oregon, and Buckeye Cable in Ohio.

  • WideOpenWest doesn’t appear to limit usage except for newsgroups.  According to their FAQ, users may download up to 5GB per month of newsgroup content;
  • Bend Broadband has a 100GB monthly limit on all but its highest speed Internet plan, which carries a 150GB monthly limit.  The overlimit fee is $1.50 per gigabyte.
  • Buckeye Cable favors “network management” techniques, which can slow down customers deemed to be using too much, at its discretion.  But the company does have a 3GB strict usage cap on newsgroup access.  Exceeding it is very costly.  The overlimit fee is a whopping $45 per gigabyte.

Phone & Cable Companies: Install Fiber-to-the-Home Using Your Existing Cable – Buckeye Cable Upgrades Without Rewiring

Phillip Dampier November 16, 2009 Buckeye, Competition, Video 4 Comments

buckeyeAre you a cable or telephone company scared of the costs associated with tearing out existing underground or overhead copper-based wiring to upgrade to fiber optics?

Why bother going through all of that effort when you can just yank the old copper wire out and push state-of-the-art fiber cable in.

Buckeye CableSystem, a Toledo, Ohio cable operator intends to do just that, using a process invented by an Austrian company, Kabel-X.

Buckeye will inject a Kabel-X supplied fluid between the outer jacket and the inner core of the cable.  This allows the cable company to pull the copper center conductor and the insulating material right out of the center of the cable, leaving plenty of space to insert new fiber optic cables, without having to tear up streets, get permission from local zoning authorities to string new cable, or go through the expense of completely replacing it.

Better known in Europe, where the process has been used throughout the continent, Kabel-X is now making inroads in North America with small scale projects with companies like Buckeye.  Kabel-X has been particularly attractive in eastern Europe, where the process is more affordable than complete cable replacement.  With more limited budgets, re-using existing cable already in place provides an attractive alternative.

Buckeye CableSystem in Toledo

Buckeye CableSystem in Toledo

The company claims it can replace up to 1000 feet of existing coaxial cable with fiber in as little as three hours.

Buckeye intends to experiment with the technology in a Toledo subdivision to see how well it works.

The one major downside to using Kabel-X is that service is typically interrupted while the cable work is being done.  Should something go wrong, customers could be left entirely without service, a prospect that mandates small scale experiments to train cable engineering crews to work speedily and efficiently, and prove the technology can work well in a variety of conditions.

“We see the Kabel-X technology as an innovative tool that will allow us to cost effectively deploy a fiber-to-the-home architecture in areas currently served by a traditional hybrid fiber coax network,” Buckeye Cablevision chief technology officer Joe Jensen said.

Buckeye’s efforts to upgrade to true fiber-to-the-home service may come as a response to AT&T’s U-verse service, which began competing for Toledo customers about a year ago.  Buckeye has 150,000 subscribers in the Toledo area, and remains the largest pay television operator, but U-verse is positioned to steal away some of those customers over time.

Buckeye’s cable broadband service, bex-Buckeye Express, offers customers up to 20Mbps service, if you opt to subscribe to other Buckeye services.

bex

The company’s Acceptable Use Policy indicates they do not impose limits on usage at this time, but curiously do admit to throttling the speed of peer-to-peer traffic and dynamically reducing speeds for customers who are considered “high bandwidth users” during peak demand periods.  Both of these seemed to get Comcast into hot water with the Federal Communications Commission.

BUCKEYE EXPRESS™ HIGH SPEED INTERNET SERVICE ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY

Buckeye uses reasonable network management techniques to improve overall network performance and reserves the right to employ additional techniques as necessary or desirable. Some applications, including certain peer-to-peer applications, can consume inordinately high amounts of bandwidth on the network and degrade network performance. Buckeye’s current network management techniques include:

Speed Caps – limiting the speeds that a modem can transmit or receive data. Buckeye may lower the transmission rate or reception rate of high bandwidth users during times of high network demand. This may slow the transmission or reception rate for affected modems.

Connection Limits – limiting the number of simultaneous connections for any modem during an online session. With a typical user having a dozen or so simultaneous connections for routine use, this limit provides a means of identifying and hopefully thwarting malicious attempts to harm the network or other users. This limit is currently set well above the number of connections used by typical user in a session.

Application-based Rate Limiting– limiting transmission speed of certain high bandwidth applications. Some applications, typically peer-to-peer applications, can consume large amounts of bandwidth, often without the knowledge of the user/customer. By limiting the portion of the network capacity available for these applications during periods of high traffic, Buckeye is able to improve the overall performance of the network for all users. Transmission of traffic subject to this technique may be slower during periods of high network usage.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Kabel-X Demo.flv

Watch the Kabel-X process at work in this company-produced demonstration video. (7 minutes)

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