Broadband (Cable, DSL, Satellite, Fiber Optics)/San Diego broadband alternatives

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Question
I own a home based internet retail business in eastern San Diego (zip code 92124). My internet provider for as long as I've lived here is Time Warner Cable. I would guess I've had better than 99% stability but in the last 30 days there's been 2 alarming full day outages.

Thanks to the FCC only TWC and AT&T can provide landline cable/phone service here -- no Verizon -- and I hear AT&T is worse than TWC. My cell provider used to be Verizon and I had spotty phone service at home, to say nothing of internet service. I switched to T-Mobile and while my bill is smaller my service at home is no better.

I've done some research and so far found no good alternative broadband service. I'd be willing to pay as much as $100/month for fast broadband with 99.9% or better uptime and unlimited or generous data. I don't care if it's T1 or satellite or DSL or ISDN or whatever. Is this even possible?

Theo

Answer
First question is - do you have servers at home that people on the Internet need to access regularly?

Second let's talk about connectivity speeds for a sec.  T1 is 1.5Mbt/sec.  DSL is maybe fast down but 768k maximum uplink speed.  ISDN is a max of 128kbps both directions.  Satellite is maybe faster but it's latency stinks.  All of these are slow.  That is why people run cable.  For some people who are just sucking content down from the Internet - watching Hulu or something - DSL might be OK.  But if your are running servers you need uplink speed and on a residential budget cable is the only option.

If you don't have servers and it's just an issue of you needing to get access then if you absolutely must have 100% uptime, (for example maybe you are answering phone calls and you have to be online while you are doing that) then you have to have both TWC and AT&T.  There are good inexpensive routers on the Internet (the Cisco RV320 is one) that will automatically fail over to the secondary ISP if the primary goes down (must be running PPPoE connections to the ISPs) Maybe you have expensive cable for the primary and cheap DSL for the secondary.

If you are going to balk at paying $100 a month -in-addition- to what you are already paying, then you don't need 100% uptime.  Instead you need a good data plan for your cell phone and a decent cell phone (Android version 4.4.4 or later) that will allow you to wirelessly tether to the phone in a pinch.  Google up the cell phone tower maps and pick a carrier that has a tower closest to you.  And maybe set a lawn chair up on the roof with your laptop when you have to tether for best signal. ;-)

If you have servers at home, then you need to first understand that there are no retail providers who have 99.9% uptime.  In fact even if you are spending thousands a month (like a real ISP does) none of your interconnects will guarantee this.  ISPs that do make this kind of guarantee (ISPs that sell to business end users, typically) will only pay out in credits - meaning you lose a day of service you get $100/30days of credit on the bill (pointless, basically)  That is why nobody bothers with uptime guarantees at the high end level.

Real ISPs are expected to be multihomed - meaning they run BGP and have multiple connections to different networks - if one connection dies their routers automatically route around it.  But even major ISPs have problems - over the past decade there's been at least 3 major outages that affected over 70% of the Internet that lasted for more than 6 hours.

If you have servers that provide services to customers, you have basically 2 choices:

1) Put your servers in a collocate that has multiple connections.
2) run them at home on a business line  (that is essentially provided over residential infrastructure) and take your chances.

I do #2 and it works fine for me.  I've had hours long outages but nothing longer.  And I have a UPS/generator/etc. at home.  I have found that customers generally fall into a bell curve.  There are those completely anal-retentive ones who go ballistic unless they get 100% uptime  (none of this 99.999% garbage) but they are such a small number that what works the best is to just ignore their complaints when the server burps for 15 minutes.  If they truly need 100% then they will go elsewhere to pursue their impossible quest and waste someone else's time.

There are those who appear checked out all of the time and I could be down a week and they won't notice.

But most are reasonable people and a day outage is not a big deal.  I don't know where you are with your customers so I can't advise along that vein but I would seriously consider just taking a watchful waiting approach right now with TWC and do nothing.  The reality is that a couple outages with TWC might actually be a good thing as it may be indicating that they are upgrading equipment.  After all, the POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) is highly, highly reliable with 99.9999% uptime - but it's also running on century old technology.  there is a cost to nine nines, and it's not always a good cost.

Lastly, the bell curve thing operates for ISPs as well.  Both AT&T and TWC know they will have minimal customer losses if their downtime is in that area of the bell curve where most customers accept it.  Getting into the top of that curve means they won't lost any customers but they spend more money than they need.  Getting into the bottom of that curve means they lose all their customers.  So they like to stay in the middle.  And the middle is not 99.9%   As a customer buying service in that market, you are essentially forced into accepting the uptime that the fat part of the customer bell curve accepts.

Sorry I can't give you a silver bullet.

Broadband (Cable, DSL, Satellite, Fiber Optics)

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Ted Mittelstaedt

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I will answer questions on the following kinds of High Speed Internet connectivity; ISDN, Frame Relay, dedicated T1, higher speeeds such as DS3/OC3, wireless such as 802.11 and DSL. No questions on dialup V90 or Cable access. I can also answer questions on many types of Cisco routers, and a number of other brands of business routers as well.

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I am the technical manager of Internet Partners Inc. an ISP.

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I've written a book titled "The FreeBSD Corporate Networker's Guide" published by Addison Wesley

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