By May 24, 2011

Increased Charter Satisfaction By Lowering Expectations

It has been five months since I started using Charter’s Ultra 60 high speed Internet access service. My overall experience has been unsatisfactory.

I had many problems with the Charter-supplied cable modem/router, the connection to Charter dropped more in five months than the three and a half years I was a Verizon FiOS customer. Even when the connection was up my upload and download speeds would vary greatly based on the number of people in my neighborhood using the line. My speeds with FiOS were always consistent. The Charter DNS servers that translate word-based Web names like google.com to 74.125.225.51 were down frequently over the last two months. Just yesterday lookups were slow and my connection to the DNS servers would time out. What good is a high speed line if you can’t connect to anyone? To add insult to injury, I was paying $99 a month for the Charter Ultra 60 service. I frequently never got the promised 60Mbps download speeds. I felt like I was paying for more than I got.

So I downgraded my service to the Charter Max, and now I’m happier. Although I guess “less dissatisfied” is a better phrase.

Charter Max is $69.99, $30 a month cheaper than the Ultra 60 plan. The supposed speeds for Max are 25Mbps download, 3Mbps upload. I was surprised to see that I am getting much faster download speeds than I am paying for — sometimes up to 45Mbps.

If you buy the Ultra 60, you’ve hit the cap of what Charter is willing to give a residential customer. I never got faster than my advertised speed, although I frequently got slower speeds. I guess there is some “wiggle room” with the Max plan. Maybe my modem takes advantage of extra capacity in my node. It’s early in the morning here, and I imagine most residents are getting ready for work or getting their kids ready for school.

The only possible drawback is that the Max has a supposed data cap of 250GB, whereas the Ultra 60 has a cap of 500GB. That’s a huge difference, and I hope that we don’t bump into that. We watch streaming videos on Amazon Prime or daily StarCraft 2 commentaries by Day[9] on a regular basis. I used 2GB of data on my mobile phone alone last month listening to Pandora.com and Amazon’s Cloud MP3 player, who knows how much we stream while at home. I also back up our photos to an online service, and then there’s all that ho-hum “work stuff.”

We’ll see if we hit Charter’s data cap. They currently don’t provide a way to see your monthly data usage, yet another knock against the company and their poor service. It’s a small comfort that we’re getting almost twice the download speeds we’re paying for, even if the service is sporadic in both performance and availability.

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