San Diego in California is served by eleven residential internet service providers (ISPs). The internet providers that give internet access to private homes also serve businesses. Of those eleven internet providers, three dominate the market. These are AT&T, EarthLink, and Cox Cable. All three of these providers have national significance – EarthLink is estimated to be the largest ISP in the USA. The fourth place is occupied by Charter Spectrum.
AT&T and EarthLink work with two internet connection types: DSL and fiber internet. Charter Spectrum and Cox Cable are cable TV providers that also sell internet access through their cable networks.
DSL is the most widely available form of internet in San Diego, but its appeal is declining. DSL is delivered over telephone wires. Investment in the telephone network was repaid decades ago, making the cost of using the system marginal. Thus, DSL offers the cheapest form of internet service available. As the market for DSL shrank, AT&T and EarthLink invested in fiber optic networks. Fiber optic is an expensive medium, but it provides the fastest internet delivery system in the world.
AT&T markets its DSL internet service as AT&T IPBB and its fiber internet is operated by AT&T Fiber. EarthLink distinguishes between its DSL and fiber internet systems, by calling its DSL plans EarthLink internet and its fiber plans HyperLink.
Charter Spectrum internet services and those of Cox Cable run over hybrid fiber-coaxial networks (HFC). These systems use fiber optic cable for the backbone of the network. These are the trunk lines that carry the combined traffic of all customers between local exchanges and the internet access point at the service provider’s HQ. Each customer is linked to the local exchange with coaxial cable, which is a lot cheaper than fiber optic. This means that the majority of the internet connection is carried over fiber optics, running along coaxial cable for just a short distance. Thus, cable internet providers operate networks that are almost as good as those that support fiber internet.
Cable TV providers gain exclusive territories from the local authorities. This enables them to raise sufficient capital to invest in their expensive infrastructure. Without a geographical monopoly and a guaranteed return on investment, it would be difficult for any telecommunications business to justify the high costs of these networks. The result of this industry convention, however, is that the customer rarely gets the opportunity to choose between cable TV providers. That lack of choice extends to the internet services offered by cable TV services.
So, when a potential customer starts shopping for an internet service, that hunt has to start off by discovering which ISPs are equipped to offer internet connections to a particular address. Fiber cable providers also tend to operate on a local monopoly. Again, this is an incentive provided by local authorities that want to encourage telecommunications to lay fiber optic cable in a neighborhood. Without that encouragement, it is doubtful that any fiber optic cabler would have been laid in the United States.
The DSL market is much more competitive as any company can start up an internet access point without having to invest in transmission media. Local telephone companies are more than happy to offer carriage to DSL providers at a reasonable fee.
Although San Diego is well served with telephone, cable TV, and fiber optic networks, surrounding rural areas are not so lucky. So, there are a number of fixed wireless internet providers operating within the San Diego area. The fixed wireless delivery method runs over cable as a backbone, but then reaches each individual customer’s property through a wireless link from the local exchange. This system is suitable for properties that are not close to a cabled network and are not connected to the wired telephone system. Operators in this field include Webpass, Sail internet, and Rise Broadband. AT&T also has a fixed wireless division.
Properties that are too remote even for fixed wireless internet have only one option to get internet access. That is satellite internet. There are only two national providers of satellite internet in the USA. These are HughesNet and Viasat Exede.
AT&T is the largest internet provider in San Diego and it is also one of the fastest internet providers. The company operates three internet connection types: DSL, fiber internet, and fixed wireless internet. Of these, the AT&T DSL service has the widest coverage extending to 97% of the San Diego area. AT&T Fiber’s network touches 17% of the area and the fixed wireless internet system of AT&T is active in just 1% of the city.
The maximum speed available from AT&T IPBB is 100 Mbps, but speeds vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. The IPBB service is usually charged at $50 per month no matter what speed is available. AT&T Fiber can deliver speeds of 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps) but only in part of San Diego.
Cox Cable offers the best internet speeds in the cable internet category. Although Charter Spectrum internet is offered at speeds of up to 1000 Mbps in other parts of the country, the company only delivers 100Mbps internet in San Diego. The Cox Cable internet plans available in San Diego offer 5, 150, 300, and 100, Mbps. There are also 10, 30, and 100Mbps plans that are only available as part of a bundle.
The coverage area of Cox Cable in San Diego is larger than that of Charter Spectrum and Cox Cable’s internet service is a little cheaper than Charter Spectrum internet. Neither cable internet provider imposes data caps. Charter Spectrum runs a special deal for low-income families on government assistance, which is called Spectrum Internet Assist. This plan provides 30 Mbps for just $17.99.
One advantage that a Charter Spectrum internet subscription has over the Cox Cable internet service is the Spectrum wi-fi hotspot network. The company operates wi-fi hotspots all over the United States, including locations around San Diego. Subscribers to the Charter Spectrum internet service are allowed to use these wi-fi hotspots for free.
Keep quiet about your home-based business activities when you sign up for an internet plan. ISPs charge more to businesses for the same level of service that residential customers get.
Cox Cable has the cheapest internet plans and the Cox Voice telephone service can be added on to any of them with download speeds of 30 Mbps and higher for $10 per month. AT&T Fiber offers a telephone service add-on for its internet plans with that extra costing $10 per month for the Gigabit plan and $20 per month when added to any other plan. AT&T IPBB only allows the telephone option as part of an internet and TV bundle.
Cox Cable offers the cheapest internet and TV bundle with its Contour Stream Player. This is just a wireless set-top box that channels streaming video from the internet onto the TV. Users of this system would then need to subscribe to systems such as YouTube TV or Netflix in order to get entertainment. Cox also offers cable TV packages of 140, 170, or 250 channels, which are also very cheap. At the other end of the price spectrum is AT&T Fiber.
AT&T owns DirecTV and it offers a bundle of an internet service and a DirecTV subscription in other parts of the country, but not in San Diego. However, AT&T runs a streaming TV service over its internet system, which is called U-verse. There are a number of U-verse packages available with an AT&T Fiber subscription. These include either 180 channels or 360 channels. AT&T IPBB users can opt for TV bundles of 180, 370, or 485 channels. With both AT&T divisions, the rental of each set-top box gets added to the bundle price per month. This can end up very expensive.
Charter Spectrum also offers an internet and TV bundle with options for 125, 175, or 250 channels. The Charter Spectrum bundle prices sit between those of Cox Cable and AT&T.
Installing new cables inside a building to a single apartment can be disruptive, particularly in older buildings that do not have embedded service shafts for telecommunications. To resolve this problem, many apartment complex building managers organize deals with an ISP, creating an authorized internet provider for the building. In some cases, the internet service is included in the rent. In other cases, the internet is charged for as an extra service.
If you don’t get the internet included with your rent and you want to look for your own provider, check your rental contract first – you might not be allowed to connect to any system other than the preferred supplier of the building management company.
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