Cheap internet service in Seattle: my latest step to optimize performance and frugality

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I recently moved from Japan to the US, precisely, to Seattle.

Internet service in Japan are dirt cheap for an insane service. My family used to pay $25 (tax included) per month for 1GB Fiber service. This type of price/bandwidth ratio is, it seems, impossible to find in the US. We’re in the country that invented the dang thing, and it’s an order of magnitude more expensive than in Japan.

Of course, the reason the internet is so cheap in Japan is because of the size of the country, which allowed for a super cost efficient grid to be put in place, allowing a real competition to happen.

In the US, a country 25 times larger than Japan for (only) twice the population, it seems ISP are in a monopolistic situation, which allows the prices to stay much higher than they should really be.

So, I found myself in a situation where 1GB/s was a possibility… for insane prices.

But it turns out, I realized I didn’t need all that bandwidth in the first place. I also found that ISPs in the US are prone to lie to you in order to upgrade you to a bigger bracket of bandwidth.

Let’s have a look at my actual needs in terms of bandwidth:

I play online games
I watch streaming videos (Amazon Prime, mostly)
I email, blog, twitter once in a while
And that’s pretty much it.

The ISP strategy is to lure you into believing that you will need a higher bandwidth to do the most simple things such as streaming videos. But what are the actual recommendations?

Netflix recommends 5Mb/s for HD streaming. Amazon Prime recommend 3.5Mbit/s for HD streaming. Comcast, on the other hand, recommend 50Mbps for HD streaming. Seeing something weird here? Yup, Internet providers try to sell you 10 times what you actually need for most use cases.

Of course, if you’re watching Netflix while your wife is watching Amazon Prime and your 2 kids are both playing online AND downloading stuff from the pirate bay, then yes, a 6Mb/s plan will not work for you. But clearly, living in Japan had set me up with extremely high expectations for our internet service, and it turns out I didn’t need that much.

Gaming in itself requires a very good ping, but not necessarily a huge amount of bandwidth. I have played Dota2 through a 4G connection without any problem. 4g caps at 12Mbps, and “promises” 5Mbps.

In the end, I decided to go with CenturyLink’s 12Mbps contract, at $29.95 a month. This is a “promotional” offer and will only last for 12 months, at which point the plan is supposed to go up to $55 a month… I do intend for this not to happen, so I’ll see how things work.

Centurylink C1000A, got it for $31 on Amazon. CenturyLink wanted to charge $10 a month for a rental…

Bottom line is, make sure you actually understand your needs in terms of Internet Service, as it is easy to completely go over the top for things you don’t need.

On that topic, it goes without saying, but I didn’t subscribe to any landline phone, or TV service, which are only here to inflate the price if you don’t need them.

Additionally, it’s worth giving a try to installing the modem, etc… yourself if you’re a bit tech savvy. This could spare you an easy $50 (Comcast’s rates go up to $180 if they trick you into believing you’re the “first customer in the area”), so it’s worth giving it a try. In my case, it took only 30 minutes from start to finish.

One last tip: the modem rental scheme from Internet providers is another way to squeeze extra dollars out of your pocket. It is much more cost effective to buy a used modem, either on Amazon or on eBay (links below). (On Amazon, go for the “used and new” section).

Century Link cheap modem on eBay
Comcast cheap modem on eBay
Comcast modems on Amazon
CenturyLink modems on Amazon
You’ll find that modems for which the ISPs charge $10 per month, can be found for $40 on average, sparing you an easy $100 every year. Plus you can then resell the modem later on, to get some of that cash back

So here I am, with my $29.95 a month (+$31 for the modem + a one time fee of $20 for installation), with an internet service that is largely enough for HD streaming, gaming, and the occasional multitasking.

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