Musings on IT, data management, whitewater rafting, and backpacking

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Heard from our building manager that Comcast had pulled cable into our building. So I called Comcast to find out what they might offer for our existing needs, and for building our our new space.

I was surprised.

We don't have much need for Cable TV, but apparently we can get basic analog cable for a small additional charge if we get WAN, voice, or Internet.

We have an AT&T DS3 connecting us to our regional hub and on to the corporate network, and through that to multiple Internet POPs. We pay about $3,000 per month for 45 Mbps. We have two AT&T T-1 lines (1.5 Mbps) as backups. In six years, we've had only one extended outage on the DS3 outside of our control, and the same fiber cut took out our T-1s too. Sigh. At least we dumped our Cisco routers, and use much cheaper and simpler LAN extenders plus switches running Spanning Tree Protocol to cut over to the T-1s when the DS3 does fail by itself (e.g. we pull the wrong plug in a telecom room).

Talking to one part of Comcast, we can get 100 Mbps point-to-point Ethernet for $3,000 per month, and 1 Gbps for $4,000 per month. Wow.

Unfortunately, talking to other parts of Comcast, they claim we have no Comcast fiber in this county, which means nothing faster than what we have. I'm still working with Comcast rep #1 to see how far we can push this.

Yes, we could use a speed boost - we have several users moving multi-terabyte data sets around. That's when I start mentioning "a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway", and start wondering about van-mounted file servers with generators and long Ethernet cables.

For 240 phone lines, Comcast will charge us about 2/3 of AT&T, plus more features and unlimited domestic long distance. We don't need most of the features. The long distance isn't a major concern, our corporate contract costs about 2c per minute, and the bills don't come out of my budget. But the monthly service charges certainly do. Downside is we'll need 30 Comcast 1U VOIP boxes in our telecom room (8 lines per box). Each box has a battery for 16 hours of service.

I've mentioned this to friends, who promptly point me to multiple online horror stories about residential Comcast Digital Voice. Comcast makes big distinctions between their consumer and business class services, often with higher prices for business. I should get a few voice lines and see how it goes before jumping to 240 lines.

We have DSL Internet for visitors, to keep them off our corporate network. DSL can work for years with no problems.

But when something goes wrong, getting DSL fixed can be almost impossible. We're on DSL provider #2, with the same old issues. The line is owned by AT&T, wholesaled by an unidentified third party (though traceroutes give me a pretty good guess), and retailed by a local ISP.

On another DSL from the same ISP, we lost connectivity for several days, ripped apart our inside wiring on a wild goose chase, bought and swapped four DSL modems, and waited overtime for one AT&T truck roll. Three weeks later we had 2/3 of our old bandwidth. Last proposal from the ISP was to keep swapping DSL modems and scheduling AT&T truck rolls, with circular finger pointing from everyone involved. I said enough is enough!

So we will switch to Comcast Business Class High Speed Internet to replace both DSLs. Can't be much worse, and at least the finger pointing should be minimized when something goes wrong.

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