Comparing high-speed Internet in San Francisco: AT&T U-Verse vs. Comcast Extreme vs. Speakeasy DSL

Today we have AT&T U-Verse and Speakeasy DSL, next week we’ll also have Comcast Extreme 50. These appear to be the only choices here (except commercial dedicated circuits). We’ll be disconnecting two of them shortly, but it’s a great opportunity to compare service from the three providers and I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.

With our offices in our live/work loft we rely on high speed internet to do our work and live our lives. Slow service or poor connections means reduced productivity. The demands of digital media also weigh in–having disconnected our cable last year, just about anything we watch now is via download or streaming such as Hulu and Netflix, with a bit of digital broadcast on the side.

Long a SpeakEasy DSL customer, last year we upgraded to their highest level of service: 6mbps down and 786kbps up. SpeakEasy has rock solid Internet great phone and email service. They are worth paying extra for. But we can’t get anything faster through them. And when troubleshooting problems with my AT&T Microcell, AT&T complained that we couldn’t configure things the way AT&T would prefer. Even though it wasn’t reasonable, I hated the finger pointing non-sense that always comes with mixed vendors.

So when we got an AT&T U-Verse flyer saying we could get high speed fiber direct to our loft, I jumped at the chance and gave them a call. As is usual with my calls to AT&T, they were long and full of transfers to other departments, call backs, and mistakes and misinformation. I was eventually told that I couldn’t get the speeds promised in the mailing (which clearly stated that it was what was available to my address–the one printed at the top of the letter!). But I was promised that what I would get would not be DSL and would be fiber on U-verse. Even though the speed was limited now, it could be raised later. This sounded fishy, so I repeated my question in different ways and kept being reassured that fiber was being pulled and a new jack installed, that I was not going to have any copper in the loop.

Well, you can guess how that went….

I ended up with a new AT&T DSL connection. Copper. No fiber.

How does their DSL compare to SpeakEasy? Well, they both have the same speed for upload and downloads–both rated and what I measure with DSLReports. But AT&T’s service seems glitchy. I find myself often having to load a web page twice (with an error the first time), something I never noticed with SpeakEasy. On the other hand, AT&T is charging about 1/3 as much as SpeakEasy. Apparently, in quality and service, you still get what you pay for.

Hopefully I can now cancel the AT&T DSL and get a refund of their installation charges since they did not provide what they promised. I’ll give an update after I make that call.

So I finally decided to go back to Comcast and order Internet only service. It seems like even in the center of high-tech San Francisco, they are the only home option for better than DSL speedd. For $114 a month, their Extreme 50 will provide downloads up to 50Mbps and uploads to 10mbps. That’ll be almost 10x faster than what I have now, at a price only slightly more expensive than SpeakEasy, but 4x more than AT&T charges for 10x slower DSL. It was pretty easy to order from Comcast online in the middle of the night, though I wasn’t thrilled with their online chat system required to complete the process.

I’ll write an update next week about how my install goes and how the Internet compares.

4 thoughts on “Comparing high-speed Internet in San Francisco: AT&T U-Verse vs. Comcast Extreme vs. Speakeasy DSL

    • Thanks Iain, I’ve used them elsewhere but not here. provides DSL, do they have anything faster? DSL maximum speeds are limited by the technology, and the copper that brings in the last mile is always provided (in SF) by AT&T anyway. Who are you using?

      • now has an ADSL2 service, which they call “Fusion Broadband”. I just ordered it for a new office, and it’s supposedly 20 Mb/s for $50, or 40 Mb/s for $100. And they’ve just started throwing in a free POTS line (not VOIP, a real land line) for free. We’re not in the new office for another week or two, but friends like Sonic, so I have hope.

      • Wow, William, it’s great to hear that there is a real alternative. In fact, that sounds so good that I’m likely to cancel the Comcast order… I’d much rather pay $50/mo. for 20Mbps with POTS included since that’s 2.5 times my current bandwidth for the same price. I guess that’s what they were alluding to when they said they expected my U-Verse to be upgradable sometime in the future. A shame AT&T doesn’t offer it here yet (and that their service people are so bumbling).

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