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Brighthouse Cable Broadband vs. AT&T DSL: Which Should You Choose?

Updated on February 16, 2013

The Battle Has Begun.

Believe it or not, electricity, gas, telephone service and running water were all once optional. Now, they're all a staple in our daily lives. Telephone lines are being replaced with cell phones in many households, but most people opt to keep at least one landline, "just in case." That's probably a smart move.

About twenty years ago, a once large but now almost irrelevant company called America Online (AOL) caused a huge disruption in our everyday lives. We were fine watching our 100 channels of cable television, and even frequenting bookstores and movie theatres as our pastimes until AOL changed everything. All the sudden, there was this rhinoceros in our living rooms that would eventually fragment entertainment as we knew it. AOL created the consumer internet, and was largely responsible for how we conduct commerce, communications, marketing and our social lives today.

Now, whether you want to admit it, or not, we're addicted to the Internet. And companies are taking their positions as they prepare to battle to control the next monopolistic monthly utility bill you'll be paying for the foreseeable future -- your Internet access bill.

Who is Brighthouse Networks?

Bright House Networks is a cable television company, the seventh largest cable operator and the sixth largest traditional multiple system operator in the United States owned by Advance/Newhouse headquartered in Syracuse, New York. The company provides service to cities including Indianapolis, Central Florida (Orlando/Daytona Beach areas), Tampa Bay area, Lakeland, Birmingham-Hoover area, west suburban Detroit, and Bakersfield. Most of its business is concentrated in Central Florida, where Bright House is the dominant cable system in the Tampa and Orlando TV markets. Bright House is the successor to Teleprompter Cable TV, Group W Cable, Strategic Cable, Paragon Cable, Shaw Communications and the Tampa Bay / Orlando Time Warner Cable systems in Florida under a deal struck in 2003, where Advance/Newhouse took direct management and operational responsibility for portion of the partnership cable systems due to A/N's dissatisfaction with Time Warner Cable's strategic direction.

Advance Publications, Inc., the parent company of Advance/Newhouse, is a huge media conglomerate that owns scores of newspapers and magazines (think Glamor, Wired, Vogue, etc.). As of 2009, it was ranked as the 46th largest private company in the United States according to Forbes. In addition to holding publishing and communication assets, Advance serves as the holding company for the family's 31% stake in cable entertainment company Discovery Communications. So there's probably no chance you'll ever lose Shark Week on your Bright House Cable due to a revenue dispute.

The smart folks who run Bright House have been very well aware of the potential profitability of internet service pipes, and they're in it for the long haul.

Thank you for calling AT&T.

AT&T's roots stretch back to 1875, with founder Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone. During the 19th century, AT&T became the parent company of the Bell System, the American telephone monopoly. The Bell System provided what was by all accounts the best telephone service in the world. The system broke up into eight companies in 1984 by agreement between AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice. From 1984 until 1996 AT&T was an integrated telecommunications services and equipment company, becoming a mere skeleton of its former self. Through some clever financial finagling, AT&T has reacquired most of its pre-1984 parts and is now the 7th largest company in America.

Today, broadband and wireless services comprise a large part of AT&T's revenue stream. Someone has probably been knocking on your door carnival barking about some confusing U-verse craziness, their latest effort to convert you into their latest dependent for telephone, television, and the internet.

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

So you, as an average consumer in some parts of the country, is presented with a choice - AT&T or Bright House Networks. Which do you choose?

Well, they both do the same thing -- bring a high-speed broadband internet signal into your home or business. They supply the cable to your house and give you a device called a 'modem' (either a cable modem or a DSL modem, depending on which service you choose) that allows your computers to access the internet.

And they both cost about the same, if you're only choosing their internet service. The bundling thing has become a large part of their offerings. You can opt to have phone, cable television and broadband internet all as one big happy package. Unfortunately, this makes the individual pricing difficult to ascertain. But apples to apples, they're both very close in price.

The major differences we've found is in reliability. We're in Florida, the lightning capital of America. In the summer, it's not uncommon to have a daily thunderstorm. But what got me is the failure rate of one particular service even with blue, sunny skies. And since I run a computer repair business, we need our internet to do almost anything. When it's down, we're in trouble. Reliability is more important than price to us.

At least once a year, our AT&T DSL modem, the infamous 2210 DSL modem made by Motorola, would fail. No storms, surges, blackouts, brownouts, solar flares, UFO sightings, rhymes, or reasons seemed to facilitate this failure. Apparently, the poorly designed plastic casing on this unit caused excessive heat that eventually caused the unit to fail. And before we realized the 2210 was the issue, we would be down for a solid day trying to determine what the problem was, then another day as we waited for a replacement DSL modem.

The kicker was that AT&T would not pay for our replacement DSL modem after our first year - we were told we'd have to purchase a new one at $75. And to add insult to injury, we would have to configure and install it ourselves. Fortunately, we know what we're doing. But what about the older lady who has no clue what an IP address is? Sure, there's a CD with an installation wizard, but this is very cumbersome and confusing and inconvenient for a layperson.

Not to mention that since our telephone lines are above ground, there were frequent outages due to an automobile accident, lightning strike, or inadvertent line cutting by careless landscapers trimming trees. In 2010, we were down a total of 17 times. In all fairness, most of those outages lasted only a few minutes. But still, that's unacceptable for a behemoth like AT&T.

At home, I had Bright House cable for our broadband internet. From a period of 2008 through 2012, we were down twice. Two times in four years. And one of those times was because I had cut the cable with a lawn edger - whoops. No worries though, they had it fixed the next afternoon -- no charge. Plus, their equipment is much more reliable, probably because they retain ownership of their cable modems. If their equipment does fail, they'll provide a replacement usually the next day AND install it -- all for no charge. FREE. No mucking around with wizards or IP addresses; you get an on-site technician for FREE. All at the same price AT&T charges you to do it yourself.

I was so frustrated with AT&T's service and policies, I terminated my contract early and paid the early termination fee; the only time I've ever paid an early term fee. Sayonara, suckers.

I must disclose we do still have AT&T wireless for our cell phones, and that's been pretty darn reliable. But we own our own equipment, and they're the company to beat in Florida coverage-wise, so it's a different scenario.

AT&T Needs To Rethink Possible.

There's a huge market out there, Randall L. Stephenson, CEO of AT&T. Even though you're positioned once again to become a monopoly after losing a monopoly and then regaining monopoly potential (whew), market forces are very powerful and can create detrimental shareholder value. I detest any CEO who is also Chairman of the Board because it is a HUGE conflict of interest. I apologize for the digression. OK, I don't. Regardless, I think you've got the Boy Scout hutzpah to do the right thing and straighten out your broadband internet division.

Improve and ensure reliability. Increase speeds through rollouts of fiber technology without raising prices. And let's stand behind those $75 DSL modems (that I found on Amazon.com for $30) or replace them with something more reliable. Finally, help your older base stay committed by offering free DSL technicians for those who need them.

C'mon, Stephenson. Are you gonna let some girly magazine publisher whoop Alex Bell's butt? I hope not. We'll be watching.

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      Luiz 2 years ago

      Hey John. I had the Google Voice call widget up too and the only one that caleld me was you!So I guess it was worth having it in that case. Valentine is really a special guy and he is going to go far and get tons of traffic with those list posts he writes. Can't wait to see what you guys got planned.Thanks for the post and have a great day!