Unix-Friendly Broadband Providers in the Bay Area

Inquiries as to Unix-friendly broadband providers in the Bay Area are a frequent enough occurrence on local mailing lists that they generally only receive a handful of responses. In August 2002, I began archiving these responses in order to provide a more substantive resource for such inquires.

Frequently, responses include a suggestion to visit DSL Reports/Broadband Reports which purports to be a comprehensive guide to broadband providers throughout the country. In my experience, however, this suggestion is best ignored: their interface is convoluted, the validity of users' contributions is suspect, and it is (perhaps intentionally) difficult to distinguish content from advertising. Finally, the reports often don't mention a provider's stance on Unix clients (thus defeating the entire purpose of one's visit). That being said, DSL Reports does have a decent FAQ section which has been able to answer all of my questions about broadband technology and availability.

If cost is your primary concern, you'll want to look at either AT&T Broadband (cable modem) or SBC Pacific Bell (aDSL). As the two 400 lbs. gorillas out here, they've got cheaper rates than anyone else (and, generally, there's some sort of "sign-up" bonus where you can get the first few months at a substantially reduced price). However, the savings of $10 or $20 per month will cost you in terms of reliability and service. Consider taking Aaron Porter's advice: "If you want ADSL do yourself a huge favor and pay the few extra bucks for RawBandwidth, Cruzio, Sonic, or one of the other locally owned and operated ISPs that delivers over SBC lines."

Note: The below list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of broadband providers in the Bay Area. Rather, the providers listed have been recommended as "Unix-friendly" on the local mailing lists that I frequent (most of the below is culled from BALUG and BUUG).

AT&T Broadband
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 13:52:02 -0700
From: Will Lowe 

They don't expressly support Linux, but their DHCP server seems to be
happy with pump on my linux box.  Been working fine for nearly two
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 10:31:29 -0700
From: Ravi Ramkissoon 

I have been using DirecTV DSL. Although they took a little while to
get things working (the gateway needed replacing the first time),
everything has been running great snice then (on Linux the whole
Idiom Internet Services
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 07:29:58 -0700
From: Jon McClintock  

idiom.com is pretty cool; they're a little more expensive, but they
give you as many static IPs as you want...
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 00:19:15 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mark Cohen  

Actually, I wouldn't recommend LMI.net. They have had nothing but
problems over the past 2 years and I fear that they won't be around
much longer.

When I was with them, my DSL line went down all of the time mostly due
their redback router. Their techsupport is 9-5 m-f which meant that
when the line went down on Friday evening, it was dead until late
Tuesday. The people that work there are less than average at standard
unix tech support.

I had an SDSL (covad) 768/768 line and was paying nearly $240.00 a
month and never got good support.
Date: Mon, 5 Aug 2002 19:27:57 -0700 (PDT)
From: f.johan.beisser 

i've been really happy with megapath over the last year. very
reliable, rare downtimes.
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 15:09:13 -0700
From: Aaron T Porter 

The DSL provider of choice amongst the local linux-elitists is
RawBandwidth. No free modem, but no service contract either. I got my
DSL modem used off Craigslist.org ($15).

SBC Pacific Bell DSL

Maintainer's Note: I've personally used PacBell's dynamic IP
service in the past and although they don't officially support Unix
clients, the unofficial position is "don't ask, don't tell."
Reliability is a crap-shoot: when I lived in Oakland, the connection
would drop a few times per day; when I lived in Berkeley, the
connection was quite reliable.


Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 23:28:41 -0700
From: Roger Chrisman 

I use Pacbell.net's DSL service (the $65/month static IP service) and
my email address through them bounces lots of mail. I have told them
several times but have gotten the run arround. It is kind of a drag to
have an email address that bounces lots of in-coming mail back to
sender. Hard to say how much of my in-coming mail bounces; could be 5
- 10 %. Often cannot connect to download my mail either. Grrr. Web
surfing and serving seem to be OK.

The glitchy email problem started several months ago, more or less
around the time I upgraded from their $45/month dynamic IP DSL service
to the $65/month static IP DSL service.


Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 03:52:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: Bill Moseley 

I've had pacbell DSL about as long as it's been offered and I bet I
haven't had more than five or ten minutes of downtime a year.  If


Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 07:25:41 -0700
From: Sam Hahn 

I installed PacBell DSL (Saratoga) also as soon as it was offered (about 3
years?). Back in the days when it came with a static IP at the regular $40 /
month. The installer was on time, knew how to modify the jack. I offered to
install the PCI card - so he just handed it to me. Everything was working
within 30-45 minutes after his arrival. I do have to say I've had about 1-2
days downtime per year (worse initially, better recently), so it's not
perfect, but it hasn't been as bad as I hear most people describe. I'm also
capped at 128K uplink.
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 15:46:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: bear@pagansexcult.org

I dunno what the current promotions are, but sonic.net is a good
provider.  The accounts have shell access via ssh, and they run linux
on all their boxen.  And not only do they "officially" support linux,
but their tech guys also seem happy to talk about it and knowledgeable
about it.

When I got DSL, they covered the cost of the "modem" and first month.
But the promotions seem to vary by month, and I don't know what they
are now.


Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 19:33:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Sean Van Couwenberghe 

I also am a long time user of sonic.net. While they may offer service
that is a little more expensive than some other providers, they have
excellent tech support (as bear mentioned), they offer 4 free static
IP adresses, and I have had zero problems with them (dial-up and dsl)
over several years.
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 14:36:02 -0700
From: Romel 

I've been with Speakeasy DSL (www.speakeasy.net) for the past 2 years
and have been extremely happy with them.  They cost may a little more
than other DSL providers, but their service is excellent (+99% uptime)
and they actually *encourage* servers with their SysAdmin packages.

Speakeasy also gives you shell access as part of their package,
although you have to request activation of the shell account.  As far
as I know they do support Linux.


Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 12:46:38 -0700
From: Chris Waters 

I've been with Speakeasy for over a year, and I've never had any sorts
of problems with them, mail delivery has been flawless, and the one
time I called their tech support, I actually got intelligence at the
other end of the line!!

Claude Rubinson <cmsclaud@arches.uga.edu>
Last modified: Thu Oct 3 23:48:20 PDT 2002