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AT&T and Verizon Sticking It to Rural DSL Customers?

Writing for CNET, Marguerite Reardon notes that AT&T and Verizon are eliminating lower-priced Internet access tiers. That’s reasonable in areas with high-speed fiber-optic Internet service that provides downstream speeds between 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps for $60–$65 per month. However, it means that customers limited to DSL in rural areas are now paying the same $60–$65 per month for service that might top out at 10 Mbps. AT&T and Verizon both argue that they’re merely simplifying their pricing plans and that expanding fiber service to rural areas isn’t economically feasible. Regardless, the end result of the lower-priced Internet tiers disappearing is that rural customers are paying more for slower service.

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Comments About AT&T and Verizon Sticking It to Rural DSL Customers?

Notable Replies

  1. Very slow. When I’m at my wife’s rural nonprofit wildlife hospital, I find the cell phone connection faster than the DSL.

    They just got a new Dell. Their ATT internet is so slow that things were failing because Office 360 was hogging all the bandwidth trying to back up to the cloud. Once that was turned off, it finished rapidly.

  2. That’s a good thing. If raccoons got high-speed Internet access, we’d be in deep trouble. ;-)

  3. Laugh. That’s a great response.

  4. I had been paying $30/month for up to 3 Megabits from Verizon. When the local cable provider, Zito, offered up to 20 Megabits for $20, I jumped. Unfortunately, in the town next to me, Comcast is their provider, and they do not offer cheap access.

  5. My father-in-law is in a rural area. Cable isn’t an option. I don’t even know if DSL is an option. He uses satelite Internet and it is very slow. The only improvement in the past 2 years is the building of a new cell tower so I can now get LTE connection in his house, previously I could only make/receive voice calls from the second floor of his home.

    His sister, who lives within sight of his house, has cable but every cable operator ever there has been terrible. I don’t think a cable company has been able to keep the franchise for more than 3 years due to poor performance.

  6. My brother lives in a rural area. He has a high priced and very poor performing DSL. He is considering a new offering (new to him and me) called VIASAT. It is not cheap but is less than what he currently pays. VIASAT says they can deliver up to 100Mbs via satellite.

    I’m not up to speed on current technology in that arena but it almost sounds unbelievable.

    Anyway, I’m just wondering if anyone has experience with VIASAT or even know anything about it.


  7. I don’t know about this provider, but we have friends in a rural area that have no other option than satellite, and as others in this thread have mentioned, it’s also slow as molasses. Unless it’s a company that has received good ratings from reputable sources, and he won’t have to sign a contract that has penalties, I’d be wary.

  8. It’s certainly technically feasible, but you’ll have to locate a current user to confirm.

  9. We just spent a few days in a national forest. Cell service was nonexistent at the motel and wifi was like dial-up. There was one small satellite dish behind the hotel that we assumed served all the rooms for internet and TV (which only had a few channels).

    Dialup speeds are horrendous with todays content hungry web =:0

    I actually saw “Extended Network” on my iPhone for the first time ever. I didn’t think that existed anymore (Verizon)


  10. It sure does; I see it daily at the family summer house in NH, where we are in a US Cellular service area (so Verizon roams to US Cellular.) If I go about ten miles east or west and then we are in legitimate Verizon territory.

    Also, yes, here we have no choice but DSL at 19 up/1 down for the same price that I pay for cable internet at home with 60/6. Thankfully they can now bond two DSL lines into one, so we are better than we had until this time last year (8 mbps down/512 kbps up.)

  11. Topping out at 10 Mbps would be a dream. This rural customer is paying $90/month for about 2.5 Mbps. There is nothing better on the horizon. From what I’ve read, 5G requires more closely-spaced cell towers so that’s a non-starter in sparsely-populated wooded areas. I’m dreading the inevitable day when AT&T decides to shut down its DSL service here. Not having Internet today is almost as debilitating as not having power or telephone in the middle of last century. It makes me wistful for the time when the government looked out for its rural citizens by forcing companies to provide service to everyone in return for a monopoly.

  12. Several thoughts about what might fix this problem, mostly at the expense of existing Internet providers (for an added dose of schadenfraude).

    There are a number of companies working on creating ridiculously ubiquitous satellite networks using very cheap cubesats in large numbers, Google rumored to be among them. Under the old “every satellite is a billion dollars” model, speeds were slow and only one latitude ring or specific area (depending on the orbital model) was lit up. Under the new one, the entire planet could get coverage, and the sheer numbers of small satellites would allow for arbitrary amounts of bandwidth; possibly a large customer base would reduce individual cost. Satellites always have a speed-of-light latency problem, so not great for some uses, but it’ll be a much better option than what’s available or likely to be built.

    Option 2: 5G doesn’t have any better specs for tower distance than existing service, so it won’t magically light up places that can’t be reached now. But a tower upgrade (with suitable backhaul to the Internet installed) will provide high-enough speeds that you likely won’t care about landline service—provided you’re willing to meter your data because unlimited plans won’t be cheap. The spec calls for 26 gigabits and guaranteed bandwidth slicing so when your phone connects, it’s provided a network speed that can’t then be degraded. (No idea how this magic happens.)

    In the meantime, my tricks when traveling on very slow service or my phone tether, in ascending order of desperation: 1) Vallum or another 3rd-party app firewall to switch to a configuration that shuts down most background network activity; 2) turn off “automatically load images” in Safari to return to a 1995 web environment; 3) when really pressed, use a command line browser I installed with Homebrew.

  13. The governments didn’t require service in return for a monopoly - they required service to everyone in return for use of public land (and municipal disruption during construction/maintenance) for a fee. But they made this cost of doing business look like a tax on consumers on the bills, since the only repayment for public land use they would agree to was a percentage of payments received, Thus the “franchise fee” line on your bill.

    New providers were required by the FCC to be bound to the same conditions in a jurisdiction, and were usually unwilling to invest in wiring everyone since they couldn’t be sure of getting enough customers to justify the expense. Phone companies, though, operating under franchise agreements a hundred years old, could install where they wished (eg Verizon FIOS). They provided competition in profitable areas, since they didn’t have a complete coverage requirement.

  14. Thank You, my brother will appreciate that info.

  15. It’s not a rumor, Google has been involved in satellite technology development for years. After hurricane Maria, Google temporarily provided wireless internet service to Puerto Rico via satellite and balloons:

    They’ve been providing free wireless service in India, Thailand, and other countries, most recently in Nigeria:

    They also have Google Fiber in Austin, Atlanta and a few other US cities, but it’s not satellite.

    Elon Musk is very involved in satellite communications and recently launched an initiative with the Spanish government:

    IMHO, there’s no reason why rural broadband service should be so terrible.

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