Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunflower Broadband Gold Internet to receive upgrade

Mere days after we decided to go with U-Verse for our internet needs, we (as well as presumably every subscriber in Lawrence) got a letter from Sunflower Broadband detailing upgrades to their top-of-the-line Gold Internet package, starting November 1 (the news about the upgrade still isn't on Sunflower's web site as of this writing). This is the very package we recently subscribed to that we switched from to U-Verse. Does the new plan give us some serious "buyers remorse?"

Let's take a comparison:

Existing GoldUpgraded GoldU-Verse Max 18
Download21 mbit50 mbit18 mbit
Upload.75 mbit1 mbit1.5 mbit
Bandwidth cap50 GB120 GBunlimited

So, to summarize, for an extra $10 per month, Sunflower Gold customers will get over twice the download speed and bandwidth, and a very slight boost in upload speed. Not mentioned in the letter is the technology which make's Sunflower's upgrade possible, DOCSIS 3.0, which promises, as one of its features, better management ability of the data streams, which will hopefully end the evening congestion and slowdowns that have frustrated many cable modem customers. The faster download speed should be really nice for downloading huge files, such as operating systems and online movies and television. While many users won't see the theoretical maximum connecting to public sites on the internet, the fact that these speeds are starting to become available to home users is a great sign for the future. This is a solid upgrade and I congratulate Sunflower for bringing DOCSIS 3.0 technology to Lawrence.

While a good value for the extra $10, it isn't quite enough to win us back for now. I am disappointed to see the upload speed of the upgraded Gold plan is still an anemic 1 mbit, which is 50% less the our U-Verse connection and barely any better then the old Gold plan. Given how much upload speed matters for common tasks like uploading home photos and movies to online sharing sites, as well as file sharing and connecting to corporate VPNs, the almost unchanged upload speed isn't very impressive.

The increased bandwidth is very nice, and would make us worry less about unexpected overages, but it falls short of U-Verse's unlimited bandwidth, as well as continuing to be somewhat less then other cable providers such as Comcast which caps bandwidth at 250 gigabytes. Sunflower does offer a bandwidth-unlimited service called Palladium as an alternative, but variable download speeds and a still-slow upload don't make this an attractive option compared to U-Verse for now.

Sunflower's upgrades are good news for customers and makes the Internet choice closer then it was 24 hours ago. In the past, Sunflower has often "tweaked" their offerings, and if they bump the new Gold upload speeds up a megabit or so and continue to adjust their bandwidth limits higher, they have a good shot at winning our business back yet. For now though, we will still stick with U-Verse as long as its price and reliability continue unchanged.

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