Every day, you get a solicitation for high speed internet service from AT&T with U-Verse, Comcast with Xfinity, and sometimes Clear, until they go completely bankrupt which shouldn't be long from now. Before your eyes get as large as saucers and you grab your spouse and dance around spastically about how much money you will save when you switch from "that damn utility", keep in mind the following. First and foremost, you will be switching to another utility and as you might have guessed, utilities don't really care that much about you. The special pricing they offer is usually very limited in scope and once the special deal is over, you'll probably not be saving any money over your existing service, and in fact probably spending quite a bit more.
Here's a breakdown of the services, as I see it.
Comcast - Comcast usually gets installed by a white panel van or pickup truck with a Comcast magnet on the side. Their job is to install you as quickly as possible and then drive off before it stops working. I know, I had Comcast for a year. The internet speed is excellent but there is degradation when everyone in your neighborhood is using bandwidth at the same time. The phone service is good should you want to bundle, and the cable service is good as well. When Comcast installs, they register a code on the modem called a MAC address which is how they know you are who you say you are. If your modem dies, you need to get a new modem from them, where hopefully they will pre-provision the new MAC address for your service. If you decide to buy your own modem (only if you're not bundling the phone service), you will need to call 404-COMCAST and play tech support roulette and hope you get someone who understands what a MAC address is.
U-Verse - Now that I have met 4 of the 18 people that come out to install/fix in the past 3 weeks, I feel like an expert. U-Verse is a service that AT&T offers to get people to not only switch from Comcast and others, but if you're eligible, to also cannibalize their own Bellsouth DSL clients. U-Verse is much quicker than DSL, but comparable right now to Cable, until Comcast starts their supposed 100 Mbps speed. U-Verse involves installing a NID (network interface device) outside your house and then using that to connect to an All In One Gateway device inside your house. That gateway has a 802.11g router built in that can send signals to computers and U-Verse TV boxes via ethernet-over-electrical, coaxial and ethernet cabling. The phone service is fine. I don't really review the phone service because quite honestly, if my phone went away tomorrow (and the associated $35/month) I probably wouldn't miss it. The TV is fine as well, lots of channels, the ability to record in one room and watch in the others is cool. The inside guys are nice, smart guys but they are worked to death right now. They will give you their cell phone numbers because they want a "very satisfied" on their evaluations and they mean it.
The question people ask is "Adam, what do you have?" so here's the procession:
1st: When I moved to the hamlet of Dunwoody, the house had BellSouth Entertainment. When I realized that AT&T had no idea what that was, I made a decision. I ordered Directv for TV, AT&T for Phone and Internet. Because I live in a tree filled neighborhood, I could hit the standard definition satellite but if I wanted the high definition, I would have to ask my neighbor to so kindly lop 20 feet of of her favorite tree. Another reason I was looking to switch was DSL tops at 6 Mbps (1.5 and 3 are the other popular speeds). So here we go:
2nd: I had Comcast for TV, Phone and Internet. It worked well, got the high definition signals my Costco Vizio TVs craved (and then realized that I really don't care if ESPN is high def, since I don't watch sports. HGTV or Food Network in hi-def is not that necessary. My internet speed jumped to 15 Mbps, but I was less than enthused with the service. The first installer left my outside install a jumble of wires, like someone took a bowl of wet spaghetti and flung it at the box. I had 2 TVs that seldom worked because of the poor wiring and no one at Comcast really seemed to care until I twittered a picture of the wiring and "Executive Customer Support" couldn't wait to call / email me. My wife finally said "We need to switch.."
3rd: I went to U-Verse for TV, Phone and Internet. AT&T came out, sent 1 guy and 12 hours later (with 2 supervisory visits), besides me going bonkers with how long it took, it worked, albeight with a few small gnats. It lasted a year until a month ago when the service got goofy. It took 4 repair visits and 2 box trucks (which by the way don't talk with you, they just 'fix' on the outside of your house) and it's stable. The latest point of failure was a coaxial coupler that was installed by comcast that had gone bad.
An important consideration. DO NOT EVER USE THE EMAIL ADDRESS THAT YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER GIVES YOU when you are trying to figure out what cool email address you are going to use. Why? Makes switching all that harder. Ask your grandfather or anyone else who uses an AOL email address. Honestly, it's not so hard to just tell people "my new email address is..." when they send to one you're trying to get rid of.