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This section will provide details about alternative providers where you can take your business.  At the moment, it is a reprint of an article posted on StoptheCap! providing information for residents in Rochester.  It will be reformatted soon to reflect alternatives for all of the affected cities.

Time Warner Internet Rationing Board

Time Warner Internet Rationing Board

[Update 4/7 – Time Warner spokesman claims Earthlink will also be capped.]

I am pleased to provide customers affected by the unwarranted Internet ration plan being introduced by Time Warner alternatives to consider if they wish to take their business elsewhere. This list will be updated periodically to contain new information as other options become available. Some have plusses and minuses to consider, so plan carefully.

You can pose questions and propose updates by selecting the Comments link just beneath the headline of any of our articles and add your two cents. Two gigabytes might be better; I had to ask.

It is very important that before you make any change to your Internet service, you prepare in advance. Your e-mail address, which may be associated with your current Road Runner account, will be lost when you leave. Consider obtaining your own domain name which you can use for e-mail accounts no matter where you go, or one of the free online e-mail providers. I favor Gmail from Google personally. You will need to inform your regular contacts of your address change and where they can reach you before you cancel service. Remember to update any mailing lists, automatic contacts (such as those used for acknowledging bill payments or to warn you about the status of your accounts), and any friends, family, or business contacts you might have.

Some ancillary services will also be lost, such as those provided by Time Warner’s portal, AOL, and if you rely on it, their CA antivirus software (when that software does eventually expire months later). There are plenty of alternatives for these out there, some free.

Even if you’re not ready to leave, why not take up the time of Time Warner with your thoughts and views on their usage cap rationing plan and that you are presently preparing to cancel service because of it? Tell them several times, by phone, e-mail, letter, and even Twitter! These have all been collected from across the web and were publicly available.

Incomplete Contact List (Will be updated periodically)

Twitter: JeffTWC (director of digital communications), AlexTWC (VP of Public Relations)

Telephone: TW Rochester Customer Service (585) 756-5000

E-Mail: [email protected] (to protest the cap, supposedly this is the primary collection point they have established)

Mail: (Rochester) President, Time-Warner Cable, 71 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620

Alternative Internet Service Providers (Rochester, NY)

EarthlinkEarthlink – Earthlink is the current Achilles Heel of Time Warner’s usage cap plan. Earthlink, using the exact same cable modem network used by Road Runner, is available as an alternative provider. It works precisely like Road Runner, except speeds are suggested to be slightly lower and at a slightly higher price. Unofficially, and I am awaiting confirmation from their Corporate Communications department, Earthlink is not affected by the Road Runner usage cap. Their current promotion offers six months of broadband access at 7mbps down/384kbps up for $29.95, $41.95 each month thereafter. I have heard reports the actual speed is higher than 7Mbps, but have no direct experience with this. There are no contract commitments and no cancellation penalty. You are billed on your Time Warner bill.

Pros: You’d probably never realize your broadband connection had changed. Same cable modem and billing arrangement, just a different provider. No caps. Proven provider.

Cons: Slightly higher price for slower speed, their extra high speed tier (supposedly 10mbps but might be higher) is costly at around $73 a month, unsure about upload speeds, no official guarantee yet a cap won’t be implemented down the road. You cannot “hedge your bet” with Earthlink should they impose their own cap.

[Update 4/7: Although Earthlink corporate officials have been silent on the question, Alex Dudley (Time Warner) claims that Earthlink will also be capped give us pause, and pending direct confirmation from Earthlink, I have struck the line about no caps from the article. Earthlink customer service representatives are still claiming no usage caps will be imposed as of this morning, but they are only reading from a script they were previously trained with. Earthlink’s corporate communications office, if they ever return our calls, will be a more definitive source on this question.]

FrontierFrontier 1-800-921-8101 (7AM-7PM Monday-Friday EDT) – Shocking, isn’t it? Longtime StoptheCap! readers will find it ironic that Frontier DSL might actually be the best way to “hedge your bet” against usage caps in Rochester! As part of our battle with them last summer, we kept discovering various inconsistencies and questions about the ill-thought-out 5GB per month usage cap. They postponed implementation of it indefinitely after we helped raise a stink and customers began fleeing for other providers, especially when we educated people on how to cancel their contract without an early termination fee. Frontier later guaranteed that those with Price Protection Agreements would be exempt from any price changes or usage caps for the duration of their contracts! Therefore, since we are guessing Frontier will probably make the wrong choice and not exploit this golden marketing opportunity to finally begin poaching customers from Road Runner upset with the idea of a usage cap, they’ll probably implement some cap of their own sooner or later. Why break a record of always making the wrong choice? But before they do, you have an open window to sign-up cap-free.

Because I am a generous person and I’m still hoping against hope Frontier will blizzard Rochester with mailers offering customers an alternative of being pecked in the head by Road Runner, I am going to recommend Frontier DSL as the best choice currently available for customers who are likely to come close to 20GB or more usage per month who are terrified about caps. There are several reasons for this:

1) As of 3:00pm this afternoon, I have re-verified with Frontier Customer Service that customers under Price Protection Plans do -not- face the prospect of any change to their pricing or usage. No caps.

2) It may encourage them to realize the marketing potential of being a serious contender in the local market if they see a sudden spike in customer defections to them. Time Warner obviously bet against this prospect when they chose Rochester as a “test city” for capping, convinced Frontier was itching to bring back their own proposed 5GB cap from last summer. It would be delicious to prove Time Warner wrong, and if it’s the last thing I do, I am going to help this company be a more serious and valuable contender in this market.

3) Their service is slower for most folks than the competition, depending on where you are located, but with the proper bundle, it’s also cheaper than cable modem service.

But there are some risks and rewards to consider. First, to enjoy protection from capping, you will need to agree to a contract term with a steep early termination fee comparable to exiting a cell phone contract. That contract is what protects you from Frontier implementing any cap, assuming you sign up before they announce anything. Second, this option is by far the best for those fearing that Earthlink, and any other competitors I might find, will also have caps and you simply cannot think of having Internet service in Rochester with a cap for at least the next 2-3 years. If Road Runner abandons their plan, modifies it to something akin to Comcast, or if another competitor shows up, you are on the hook with Frontier unless you pay to cancel your contract. Finally, there is always the risk that Frontier will try a flip-flop and attempt to impose a usage cap on their Price Protection Agreement contract holders anyway, which will lead us into another battle which would likely result in the cancellation of your contract with no early termination fee, but also no other options for uncapped service.

Your time to decide may be limited should Frontier decide to jump on the cap bandwagon before you sign up. I have no information about this either way. It’s simply a risk you need to consider. Earthlink may be the best option for anyone worried about a contract, but could live with the possibility they might cap as well.

It’s a hard choice to make either way, I realize, and it’s a shame we’re in this position.

If you want to go with Frontier and want to help kick back a contribution to StoptheCap!, drop me a note using our Contact form (link at the top of the page) and I’ll email back referral information. Apparently if you earn a whopping five referrals, they’ll credit our bill $25-50 (the rep wasn’t sure). It’s not required, but it’s there if you feel like returning a favor.

Here are the plans I am recommending:

Frontier Digital Phone w/High Speed $69.99 a month before the usual outrageous taxes and fees (this is one I signed up for today)

Provides unlimited long distance calling, a huge calling feature package, their highest speed tier of DSL, and now free wi-fi access to Frontier Citywide hotspots. Start with the two year Price Protection Agreement. You can call and ask them to up it to three years anytime should the situation on the ground locally deteriorate with abusive caps as far as the eye can see. This includes a traditional wired phone line (not VOIP) and they mail you the modem and self-install kit. It’s $35 to have them install it. [Update 4/5: A friend from another forum reminded me about the potential ‘modem rental fee’ which may or may not be bundled with this price. I need to recheck this on Monday.]

Frontier High Speed alone $44.99 a month without Price Protection, should be $34.99 a month with two-year agreement before outrageous taxes and fees

This is the option for a person who doesn’t want the phone line from Frontier. I didn’t inquire as to whether this included the free wi-fi access. The Price Protection Agreement protects you from caps.

Now they are claiming both of these options are for up to 10Mbps down/1Mbps up, but the key words are “up to.” DSL is variable in performance depending on how far away you live from your local telephone company “central office switch.” The further away, and the lower the quality of the wiring on the pole, the lower your maximum speeds will be. In metro Rochester, most people report an average of around 7Mbps down/512-640Kbps up. (“Down” refers to download speed, “up” refers to upload speed) Perhaps Frontier customers can enlighten us. The rep will also pitch Frontier Peace of Mind, which I call Frontier Piece of Your Wallet. For $12.99 a month, they include online backup, tech support, the indoor phone wiring “maintenance plan” and something about doing your taxes, but I honestly stopped listening to the pitch after I heard the price. If you choose this option, you get a “free” Dell netbook computer (after $45 shipping and taxes). Not worth it if you ask me. Buy your own netbook. You can also expect them to pitch DISH Network which you may or may not be interested in. I wasn’t so I didn’t ask.

It takes 5-7 days to mail your self install kit, or about 10 days to arrange for installation by a technician. You can honestly do it yourself. You’ll get a modem and several filters you’ll plug into your telephone jacks around the house wherever a wired phone line is attached.

LocalNetLocalNet (1-888-488-7265 Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm EDT) – LocalNet is a real mystery to me. I learned about the service, ironically, from Time Warner’s own website. It is similar to Earthlink, hopping on Time Warner’s cable modem technology to deliver service to customers. Billing is also likely done through your Time Warner bill. The one service they seem to promote that most others have dispensed with is newsgroup access. LocalNet’s site claims to offer 5Mbps down, 384Kbps up. It reminds me Road Runner a few years ago speed-wise. The monthly fee is $43.95, which makes them more expensive than Earthlink. There are no usage caps at this time. They appear to be headquartered here in western New York, but there is no mailing address on the website.

ClearwireClearwire – Clearwire is a relatively recent entry into the Rochester broadband marketplace. It’s a wireless internet service provider that uses higher powered antennas much like cell phone tower sites to deliver wireless Internet connectivity to its customers. The company is currently hampered by much slower speeds than the wired competitors can offer, a two year service commitment for the lowest price, and variable coverage due to terrain and distance to the nearest Clearwire antenna site. But, the company has no usage caps whatsoever and has no plans to introduce them. Clearwire is also embarking on a technology upgrade, starting with tests in Portland, Oregon which should dramatically increase the speed of their service, typically to the 6Mbps range, but sometimes up to 15Mbps if one is very close to a tower site. There is no word on when this enhanced service might be available in this area.

Clearwire has several plans, some designed for laptops and portable access, others intended more for residential use at home. Here is a general breakdown of their most popular plans for Rochester, all with two year minimum contract commitments and equipment provided free of charge:

PC Card Premium – Up to 1.5Mbps download – $49.99/month (laptop use)

Clear Premium – Up to 1.5Mbps download – $19.99/month first three months, $36.99/month thereafter (residential use)

Clear Premium Plus – Up to 2Mbps download – $24.99/month first three months, $44.99/month thereafter (residential use)

Clear Premium Plus + PC Card – Includes one PC Card Premium plan for portable use, one Clear Premium plan for residential use – $69.99/month first 24 months

Make sure you review their coverage maps before considering Clearwire. The service is generally available in the city of Rochester, and the communities of Hilton, Webster, Greece, Brighton, Irondequoit, Brockport, parts of Pittsford, Fairport, and Perinton, and in Ontario county, Canandaigua and Geneva. There are service gaps in the suburbs, however.

Others: At this time, AOL has discontinued its broadband offering so that is off the table. They only sell dial-up now. Some have explored third party DSL services, but have not found any serving Rochester yet. However, there are some serving Ontario county residents and I will explore that and update this article with my findings. I admittedly do not understand much about “naked DSL” type service so please feel free to share your insights, if any. Verizon FIOS is not, and likely never will be an option in the Rochester metro area because they do not serve as our telephone company across most of the 585 area code. Frontier Communications is an independent telephone company serving our area. Unless Frontier signed a contractual agreement with Verizon to co-market the service, it’s extremely unlikely Verizon would overbuild telephone service into this market because of the expense. Verizon could always make an offer to buyout Frontier locally, however.

Cellular data plans almost always impose a soft or hard usage cap, usually 5GB per month. I will get into further detail about these providers later. I will also explore Business Account options for very heavy data users. Historically, you don’t even want to know what Time Warner is asking because you can’t afford it. But a Frontier Business DSL account in a capped residential marketplace may be the last shot at relief.

Update History

Sunday, April 5 – Added LocalNet to list of providers, made minor corrections to Frontier’s service plan description.

Tuesday, April 7 – Learned Earthlink is likely to also be capped; still no official confirmation from Earthlink itself.

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