Pros: fast, reliable, priced reasonably well, can get great deals
Cons: customer service sucks, installation costs
Cable VS DSL Debate
Tired of that modem? You want Internet on demand instead of waiting to dial up to your current Internet service provider? Looks like you're ready for broadband. Let me lay out the differences between Cable and DSL before I go on.
Cable Internet services are provided by your local cable company with some exceptions (phone companies like AT&T are getting into it now). The signal comes in through your cable line and plugs into a device known as a Cable modem. It helps guide the signal from the Internet into your computer. The Internet information travels to and from your computer at the same speed. For instance you should be able to download and upload (send & receive) files at the same speed. If you just look at Internet web pages, you're main concern is probably just downloading speed. However if you, or anyone in your family likes to play online games cable is your best bet because you?re sending and receiving information usually with the same proportions. One drawback to cable is that the more users who are on it in your neighborhood, the slower it becomes.
DSL is a better technology than Cable, however it has some major drawbacks too. DSL instead of coming into your home through the cable line, it comes in through your phone line. Don't worry; despite the fact that it comes in through the phone line, you can still use the Internet on your computer while talking on the telephone. DSL uses a different range of frequencies on the phone line which allow Internet data and phone conversations to pass through unimmpeded. DSL, like cable, plugs into a device similar to a cable modem and then into your computer. DSL gets a faster download rate, but a slower upload rate than cable. If you just look at web pages, or check your email, or even download files, you won't notice at all. If you play online games, it will appear slower than cable. One major upside to DSL over cable is that no matter how many people in your neighborhood are using the Internet, it won't slow down your connection. Now, right now, you may think that this is clearly the choice for you, but the major drawback with DSL is that providers put "caps" on your connection speeds. For the same price of cable, you're connection speed can be much worse. But if you're willing to pay $125/month for service, then you'll have a really fast connection. However, those rates are used for businesses that can't afford a professional T1 connection.
What's the Deal with Charter Pipeline?
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's discuss what Charter offers. Charter provides cable Internet service. Initial things you need to consider are:
* Computer issues
* Buy vs. Rent your Cable Modem
If you already have cable lines installed in your house, especially going into the same room as your computer you won't have to really worry about installation, however they might have changed their policy, so check with them first. If you have to have the lines installed, you might be charged anywhere between $150 and $300. There is a way to get around installation costs (and get your service for only $1 for the first month) but I'll put that information at the very end. Anyway, this might be a little intimidating for some people.
Another consideration is this; do you have cable TV service? If so, is it with Charter? If you have cable TV, but not with Charter, I'd suggest switching your cable service to Charter. If you don't have cable TV at all and don't want it, then getting Charter pipeline is not worth it. Let me explain my reasoning for both points. If you don't subscribe to Charter cable TV then your monthly cable internet service will be about $70/month, however if you sign up for cable TV, then the cable internet service will only be $30/month. Never under any circumstances go with the $70/month service because it just isn't worth it. For $70/month you can get a faster DSL connection.
There are computer issues as well. When I had cable installed a year ago they didn't support Macintosh computers. They may now, but check with them first. Don't worry about not having a network card in your computer, they install that free of charge if you don't have one. It's only a 10baseT Ethernet card, but you don't need anything faster.
Finally, if you have multiple computers, don't have them setup Internet for all of them. They'll charge you extra for installing Internet service for each computer. This is what I did with both my computers. I got a Linksys router (don't get a hub) and networked the two computers. I sent the signal from the cable modem into the router and spliced it between the two. If you?re familiar with networking two PCs, doing this should be a breeze. If you aren't then you'll either have to get a friend or family member to set it up for you, survive with only one computer having cable internet access or fork over the extra money to hook up the other one.
You'll also have to decide whether to buy or rent the cable modem. Renting it tacks on $10/month to your bill. Buying it outright from Charter costs $200, however Charter was having a special deal the month I signed up and was able to get mine for $120. Charter gives good deals, but more on that later. If you plan on sticking with this for a long time, that is about 2 years or more, I'd buy it. If you're unsure, or thinking of moving outside Charter's reach, rent it. You don't have to decide right away either. Charter has a program where you can rent it for up to 9 months with an option to buy. If you decide to buy it, all the money you put into renting it will go towards the cost of the modem. One thing to keep in mind that burned me once is if you are moving, but you still remain within Charter's service area, keep your account number and just transfer it. I had to start a new account when I moved and I wasn't able to bring along my cable modem and I wasted about $70 in renting costs. It's a good thing I didn't buy it because I was going to if I could transfer it.
You also get 25 megabytes of web space, and two email accounts with your Charter Pipeline Internet account. I had a web space account in college and I found out then that it comes in really handy. The email accounts you can either setup Microsoft Outlook, Eudora or any other email program, or you can access it over the web. The web interface isn't very good. I haven't figured out the mailboxes and there's no record of sent mail. They do leave you with a good quick reference card for this stuff. I found it really convenient.
How Does it Perform? Am I satisfied?
I like my Charter Pipeline Internet service? Will everyone be, probably not, but let me go into what I like about it. I live in Charlton, Massachusetts which is used to be a farming town, now it's turning more suburban, but it's still has a rural feel to it. There aren't too many people who have Charter Pipeline Internet service in my neighborhood because I get really fast speeds. The service is almost always up. Only once was there an outage and that was a major one effecting all the adjacent towns. I have no problems with this service and would never dream of giving it up unless I had to. I get 62 kbytes/second speed. Where as with my 56k modem, I used to get 5 kbytes/second that is the max I've ever seen with a modem. It's fast and I'm impressed.
If I lived in a bigger town like Worcester (especially near Worcester Polytech's large off campus population), or in a more affluent town like Shrewsbury, I might hesitate to get this service. More people per area would be using this service and it would slow down during the evenings when everyone is home from work. I doubt that I would be this happy with the performance.
What about Charter as a Company?
Coming from a former Charter Communications stockholder, this company isn't the greatest. It's management isn't smart, and the company lacks in many areas. Charter has good technology and maintains it well, however how they market it isn't good. The major example which sticks out in my mind is when I lived in Worcester in an off campus apartment while going to college at Worcester Polytech. I kept on waiting for Cable modem service to come to the area. It took them 3 years to get it (my entire off campus duration) and by then they had lost their market share to DSL. If they had upgraded the lines just a few years earlier, then every off campus techie (like me) at the college, I would have bought into it. Charter would have been rich.
Another example is their poor customer service track record. The industry standard for waiting on hold on the phone is 30 seconds. They average 5-7 minutes. They admit it, but say that they aren't going to do anything about it. Based on my experience, this is true. I spend forever on hold with them. It's really that bad.
In all fairness, I've seen other cable companies much worse. Adelphia got caught in a Enron-like scandal. There's another cable company I learned about from a co-worker in New Hampshire that's being sued by the town of Hudson because the company is violating their contract of keeping a reliable line and keeping it scalable (that is, have it working if more people join). Charter keeps a good reliable cable line. They offer good deals. I was able to get free installation and my cable modem for 40% off. They also have a program where you can upgrade to Charter Digital Cable and get your Cable modem service all for $80/month. For me, that's like getting digital cable for only $5 more a month.
Technical support is good. My only issue came when I couldn't log into my FTP account for my web space. They setup the primary account as my wife's and mine as the secondary one. That was easily fixed though.
As I said before, I like my Charter Pipeline Internet service. However I also outlined why I might now like it if I lived elsewhere. But still there are some of the same issues with DSL. I've heard of bad service with them, the phone companies and large DSL companies are just as bad as Cable companies. The pricing is good just make sure you try and take advantage of their special deals.
Finally, if you can't get free installation, there is a way in which you can get free installation and your first month's service for only $1 (saves you $29 plus whatever it costs for installation). The way you do it is through friend referrals. If you know someone who has Charter Pipeline Internet, have them go to this site:
And have them fill out a form that will automatically send you an email. In this form they need to include your first name, last name, zip code and telephone number. So, if you don't want them knowing this information, find someone else. If they are reliable, they'll be happy because they'll get a $25 credit on their next bill.