The AT&T Double Dip -- Finally a Broadband Solution for Cape Cod?

In a matter of months, AT&T has managed to play both the hero and the villain in the saga that is broadband connectivity on Cape Cod. In the process, they've alienated many of their existing customers and possibly sounded the death knell to small ISPs who banked on providing rural customers with lease line connectivity. Nevertheless, AT&T Broadband may be the answer to the broadband dilemma for businesses on Cape Cod.

Several months back, AT&T representatives were hounding us with deals on T1 lease lines. T1 lease lines are the original "broadband" line, used primarily by ISPs, larger businesses, and those folks for whom DSL is unavailable (a.k.a. just about everyone). Many businesses jumped on those deals. Many ISPs, discouraged after turning down customers who were ineligible for DSL, started reselling AT&T's T1 lease lines.

Though more expensive than DSL, T1 lease lines provided a solution for businesses on Cape Cod. AT&T's prices were very competitive. As a result, droves of customers signed up for AT&T T1 lease lines. Then, after signing multi-year contracts with AT&T, those same customers found out that AT&T itself was about to release the T1 killer.

Last month, AT&T opened up its broadband cable services to businesses. This means that for $99 a month, far less than the cost of a T1 lease line, businesses throughout Cape Cod can have broadband Internet access. The following is a comparison of the costs associated with AT&T Broadband for businesses as compared to T1 lease lines:

AT&T Broadband Fractional T1 Line (estimated)
Speed (download/upload) 512/256 Kb 512/512 Kb

Both services are offered at several speeds. Though 512Kb is the slowest of speeds offered, it is still about 10 times faster than a 56K dial-up connection. Cable has a slower upload speed than download, but for most businesses, this is perfectly acceptable.
Setup Fee $200 $1,000

Many providers are waiving the setup fee for T1 lines at the moment. However, if you move to a new location during the contract period, chances are you will incur the full brunt of the setup fee.
Equipment Included $2,000+

Though AT&T Broadband includes a cable modem rental with their service, you will need a Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) Router to network multiple computers. These can be purchased for between $100 and $150. The T1 equipment is a ball park price. Some providers may offer equipment leases, used equipment for less, or special sign-up deals.
Monthly $99 $650

There is nothing hidden in these numbers. T1 lines simply cost a lot more than cable broadband connections.
Contract Month to Month 1 to 3 years

If a new, better, cheaper, technology comes along tomorrow, you can drop your AT&T cable broadband connection within a month. With a T1 line, you have to stick it out until the end of your contract.

From this moment forth, there is no reason for most businesses on Cape Cod to choose T1 lease lines. In fact, most business would be better served with AT&T Broadband than a DSL line. AT&T Broadband generally has a better track record than DSL and is cheaper than most business class DSL services. If getting DSL installed was a nightmare, you'll find that AT&T Broadband is a relatively painless experience.

For those of us in the broadband wasteland that is Orleans and Brewster, AT&T Broadband is still unavailable. However, there is good news on the horizon. In case you haven't noticed the trucks on the streets, AT&T Broadband has announced that they are going to speed up deployment of AT&T Broadband services in our area.

So, absolutely, under no circumstances are you to sign any contracts for expensive connections as AT&T Broadband is less than a year out. Specifically, the Orleans contract states that the infrastructure upgrade necessary to support broadband be completed by June 30, 2003. Ironically, the Orleans Cable Committee, who fought for this very same service, were told no way, no how a mere 7 months ago.

This all comes as good news to DirecTV Broadband customers in particular. They've just been notified that DirecTV is getting out of the broadband business altogether. DirecTV, who purchased DSL provider Telocity just two years ago, had quite a few customers from around Cape because they offered DSL at a competitive price and with more features for businesses than Verizon and company.

Despite all of this, there will be those who are not so happy to hear the news. Those businesses who've invested in T1 lease lines from AT&T or their local resellers are going to be more than a little upset. Bound by contract, they will be paying five to ten times as much for their connectivity than businesses that waited, proving once again that though the early bird may get the worm, the early worm gets eaten.

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