Switching Internet Providers

personal tech choice

So... I finally switched IPs.

The Problem

A couple months ago, I nearly exceeded the download cap of my home internet plan. At first, I found it annoying that there was a cap at all, but I never thought that I would need more than 150 GB, so it was acceptable for a while. However, since I was doing more work from home (which included a lot of video chatting), and since I was experimenting more and more with network-intensive applications, I started to come close to the limit month after month. So I resolved to change that.

With my internet provider at the time, I was getting 25 Mbit/s down, 10 Mbit/s up, and a 150GB cap. There was an option to remove the cap, but it costs an extra $15 per month. Naturally, I did some shopping around for a better option. Strangely enough, I've never changed any utilities or service provider outside of moving, so this was a first for me.

The Alternative

I found a resale provider with a better plan. They offered 50 Mbit/s down (double the speed), 10 Mbit/s up, and no usage limit. Best of all, this was for around $15 less per month. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Also, because they are a resale provider, they're piggybacking their service off the same service I had before. There's a fiber switching station right across the street - I'm not sure exactly what it's called, but they have racks with tons of cables running through them. There's also a lot of annoying and loud construction going on there. Anyway, because it's so close, I'm confident the connection will always be fast.

A technician came over to hook up the new router and activate the service. The actual hard parts were done in a few minutes. I called my old provider to cancel their service. Turns out that pressing '3' to cancel your service transfers your call directly to the "loyalty department" or "retention department". They spent a few minutes trying to convince me not to switch. Annoying, but very much expected. Fortunately/unfortunately, I waited too long to cancel, and I did it while the technician was literally in my kitchen waiting for the new service to activate, so there wasn't much to say.

How it Works

The technician was very friendly. While we were waiting for a few things to activate, we sat down and chatted a bit. I asked him how it was that a different company could provide the exact same service (on the same wires, from the same original company) for so much less. He explained what I already thought, but did not know for sure. Providing internet involves taking on a lot of risk. You must build the infrastructure and maintain it, provide routers, and hire technicians to install routers and connect individual houses. After that, there's no guarantee that a customer will keep paying for service, or jump to another company three months later. What resale providers do is they take on that risk. They pay the original company a fixed rate for a fixed amount of time (say, a year (instead of a month)) - thus guaranteeing that income for them - and they offer the service to clients for a much cheaper price, accounting for their own profit margin. They cut some other corners, such as providing a much cheaper router, and having a (visibly) cheaper website.

The main provider is happy because they reduce their risk and get a guaranteed income for a period of time, the independent provider is happy because they get a piece of the action, the client is happy because they got the same service for cheaper, and voilà! The resale internet provider business model is born.


The next day, the internet was extremely slow. Despite a successful test with the technician, even simple web pages were taking a long time to load. I did a speed test (with speedtest.net) and got only 3 Mbit/s. I called the service support number, and it seems that the connection (programmed for 53 Mbit/s) was somehow was throttled at 3 Mbit/s. That was strange, since the technicians can't even set that speed as an option. The support specialist suggested that the connection may have been unstable, and throttled itself. After a few connection resets, the problem was resolved. It's now quite consistent at 45 Mbit/s down and 7.5 Mbit/s up, which are within their tolerances. The ping (also from the speedtest) is quite long (18-19 ms), but this may have something to do with the fact that it's a shared plan.

I've been with the new provider for about a month now. Aside from the slight quirks already mentioned, I've had no problems with it at all. I'm very happy that I've made the switch.

This has allowed me to ramp up my experiments in learning blockchain technologies. Articles on that to come!

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