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Huh? No DSL in Palo Alto??

Posted by: Rob Hof on December 15, 2006

I’ve been a pretty happy DSL customer through Earthlink (which resells AT&T DSL service) for years now in my home in Palo Alto, Calif. Now I’m moving literally about two miles away—and everybody tells me I can’t get DSL anymore. AT&T offered me DSL when I called to move my service to the new address—then said I can’t get it. I couldn’t believe it, but then the former resident of my new house said it’s true—the closest central office is more than 20,000 feet away and therefore not DSL-capable. Unbelievable. In case you don’t know Palo Alto, it has to sport about the highest combination of income and desire to be wired of any city in the country. I, and no doubt hundreds or even thousands of other people, want to pay them up to $35 a month, and they can’t bother to install enough gear to accept my money?

This is all the more ironic, because the city of Palo Alto decided not to offer its own high-speed Internet service partly when SBC (now AT&T) think it’s unfair threatened to sue if Palo Alto went ahead with the service. Here’s what an SBC spokesman had to say in the 2005 article in Light Reading: “We don’t think cities should be competing with private enterprise and putting the taxpayers’ money at risk, particularly if you are just duplicating the services already being offered.”

And what duplication would that be? Oh yeah, I guess that would be Comcast. (Hey, don’t they offer phone service too?)

Reader Comments

Mike Masnick

December 15, 2006 3:11 AM

Yup. I've got a similar thing a few towns further north.

When I moved in a couple years ago I called SBC and they signed me up... but never showed up to do the install. I called and they said "oh, sorry, we can't offer you DSL" even though they had earlier. I spoke to someone else, who looked it up on two different computers. One said I was fine, the other said I was too far. She booked the install on the one that said it was ok.

Since then I've had DSL but it's slow and it goes out for days on end. I call SBC, they send someone out, and they tell me there's no way SBC should have ever provisioned the line, because it's way too far from the CO.

I'd switch to Comcast, but I had Comcast at my last house, and they shut me off for a month, and when I called, they said it was for "scheduled maintenance" but they couldn't tell me how long or what the schedule was. Plus, we don't want cable TV and they effectively require it.

Isn't it great living in such a high tech mecca?


December 15, 2006 10:02 AM

Welcome to the party, pal!

I had this problem in Silver Spring, MD, which is inside the Washington Beltway. Depending on who I talked to, I could or couldn't get it, and their online service-guesser changed its mind every day or so. I finally got the last available pair in our service cable. The guy across the street wanted 2 regular voice lines and they pulled another cable for him!

Ross Mayfield

December 15, 2006 10:02 AM

And when they gave the cable monopoly to Comcast, there was a serious degradation of service quality compared to Palo Alto Cable Co-op. Enough for me to switch to, um, DSL.

Funny thing is city sponsored fiber trials gave birth to Metropolitan Ethernet Networks, bringing greater connectivity to the rest of the world.

Meanwhile FTTH and wifi everywhere simply are not happening in Palo Alto.

Zoli Erdos

December 15, 2006 10:07 AM

C'mon, it's the same all over the Bay Area. I had the same problem in Los Altos a few years ago. Ended up having to buy IDSL - inferior but super-expensive for about 2 years:-(


December 16, 2006 2:25 AM

Sounds like it's time to move again.


December 17, 2006 8:01 PM

There are many parts of Sonora that don't have DSL, the worst part is that ATT can not disclose plans for rolling it out.


December 19, 2006 12:38 AM

Comcast is banned in San Bruno, CA. We have slow, slow San Bruno Cable. Yay! San Bruno is 10min So. of San Francisco.


December 23, 2006 10:29 AM

I just moved to PA this weekend and couldn't believe how hard it is to get decent internet connectivity. I did some searching and found this - apparently the City is trying to solve this issue : Palo Alto (CA) RFP for High-Speed Broadband
The City of Palo Alto is seeking proposals from qualified firms for the development, construction and operation of a citywide ultra-high speed bandwidth system. Such a network must provide minimum symmetrical bandwidth of 100 megabits per second per end-user connection, and make affordable and available to the customer in Palo Alto: high speed data transport and Internet access; and voice, data, and video services. Proposals due November 28, 2006.

source :


January 9, 2007 12:54 AM

Is San Bruno cable internet slow? I'm thinking of moving to SB and very concerned about having to deal w/SB cable. I'm a Comcast subscriber now and their broadband is quite fast, at least in my current area.

Business DSL

January 9, 2007 11:27 PM

I feel the pain. Slowly but surely DSL will be available everywhere.

Janet, Tom, & Mari

January 18, 2007 8:29 PM

We live in Silverlake, a community near downtown Los Angeles, and we can't get DSL. The AT&T representative said that we are beyond the 16,000 feet limit.

Is there anything we can do? We don't want to pay the $600 initial set-up fee and the $70 monthly for satellite.


February 26, 2007 6:21 PM

I live in San Bruno and have SB Cable. It's not that slow. Plus, they offer enhanced speeds if warranted.

Plus, I like the fact that my money goes to a smaller company than one of the mega giants like Comcast, RCN, and the like.


March 13, 2007 3:37 PM

I also live in San Bruno. SB cable is much faster than the comcast and AT&T cable i've had before in other cities. DSL means dealing with At&T again. usually terrible customer service.

San Bruno is going allow unlimited phone service for $30 a month without any huge price increase at the end ( unlike AT&T and Comcast ! )

Chris Gallion

March 21, 2007 10:00 PM

i got the Same thing here in Maryland, Back in 2004 i Asked how long to they Get the DSL line 2 miles down the road they told me it would be here by july 2005 , so it time came and Nope no DSL We keep Bugging them they as of this yr are now saying Nope no more New Dsl down here ??? we are So Mad love to know what we can do to get DSL and do to where the Dsl stop's and do to the Old line's here i cant even get 56K we on a Good day get 28.8 you know how hard it is to have a $3000.00 Computer and can't do jack with it ..

Heather Brasher

June 2, 2007 6:00 PM

Yep. Some computer age! Can't get dsl here in southwest Texas either. We moved to a house over a year ago and was told it should be in anytime after 6 months. Called today and the lady said our line was not set up for dsl and could not tell me anything. We have been in our house for 1.5 years now. Time-warner is switching to comcast and I have heard horror stories and thought it would be a good idea to switch from cable to dsl. Guess I had the decision made for me.


December 10, 2007 11:05 PM

I just moved to san bruno- the broadband is fast. I just clocked it at 11 mb down 789k up at 7:15 PM (peak time of day).

John Baum

June 18, 2008 11:37 PM

We've had an Earthlink/Covad connection in Palo Alto since the summer of 2004. I am ~2.2 miles along a reasonable route from my house to the CO. Portions of the route pass through 'older' parts of town where bridge taps were installed to include more phones on one installed copper line. The 'electronic distance' measures close to 19,000' or 3.6 miles. AT&T is meeting its obligations as regulated by the California Utilities Commission by providing voice service. They recently paid a lot of money to members of the California Legislature to get a lock-hold on providing 'movies on demand' and similar services on their existing infrastructure. Something does not compute.

By the way, our house is also less than 2 miles from 367 Addison, home of the fabled HP garage, where Bill and Dave got their start.

There must be better locations to set up a start up today!

If you want a nice utility for measuring distances on a Google map, try:

It is pretty intuitive. Just turn on “Recording” and double click each way point.

Paul Diamond

August 26, 2008 5:46 PM

I have had the same experiences in Palo Alto - moved here 2001 from Alameda CA (much less technically famous area) where I had great DSL service.

Initially told by then-Pac Bell (since SBC-AT&T) that I should be able to get DSL within 2 years.

Found out in 2003 Earthlink would provision me - that worked fine for 2 years, then service degraded and after many attempts by them to find the problem, they decided I lived too far from the switch. Funny, my house hadn't moved and I doubt the switch had.

Went to Comcast cable - $56, but my company paid for it and it was my only choice to support work from home.

In 2007 Earthlink said they could provision me, but they sent modem and then when I couldn't get online they said I was too far from the switch (again or still?)

Now waiting eagerly for the Palo Alto FTTP project to start rolling out - they say later this year, but somehow I worry it's like PacBell told me in the first place - 2 years, give or take.

Liza Loop

August 26, 2008 11:17 PM

Well, we can't get 1000 Mbps to your home in Palo Alto yet but you can get a small office cubicle with it on your desk. Check our . We've been listening to all these complaints -- had them ourselves. The big corporations aren't going to provide decent internet service to us at a reasonable price so we'll just have to do it for ourselves.

If you want 30 Mbps to your home, check with us to see if you have line of sight to one of our antennas. Alternatively, groups of neighbors can get together to share an AT&T fiber feed. AT&T costs more per month than Palo Alto but they install for free. Palo Alto is having difficulty figuring out a pricing structure to make individual FTTH viable. But we can do it for neighborhoods with enough subscribers.

So don't forget that this valley started the micocomputer industry with a series of little skunkworks. We can still do it.

Larry Lanoue

May 25, 2009 10:03 PM

I remember Cable Co-op. Good service and fairly reasonable pricing. Since Comcast took over the pricing has sky rocketed, service has been worse, and to get the channels you want you're forced to take 100s of channels you don't want. A little competition would put the market forces to work and customer service would no longer be optional?

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