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Why S.F. Broadband Is Slower, Costlier Than Everywhere Else 

Wednesday, Jan 1 2014

San Franciscans lavishing millions of dollars on hovels or disgorging several thousand a month to rent glorified broom closets are painfully aware of the city's overarching mantra: Pay more, get less, and content yourself that you're living in San Francisco.

This worldview, in fact, is beamed directly into those overpriced residences — slowly and expensively.

A recent study by the New America Foundation revealed that San Franciscans pay far more for broadband Internet, phone, and television service than consumers across much of the nation and world, yet receive a slower and crappier product.

But content yourself: You're living in San Francisco. There are plenty of other costly things to do and places to go while Orange Is the New Black is transferred through the ether.

Per the study, a San Francisco Comcast subscriber can expect to throw down $99 a month for an Internet, phone, and TV package capable of downloading 25 megabits per second. Customers in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York City pay up to $30 a month less for equal or slightly slower service. And in Chattanooga, Tenn., folks pay 80 percent of what San Franciscans do for service that's four times faster.

City dwellers may not think all that highly of Chattanooga, a realm so far removed from San Francisco that in just three years of earning the median household income one can purchase the median household. San Franciscans shelling out $2,800 a month for a studio at Turk and Taylor can further acknowledge their Southern compatriots for long ago establishing a publicly owned municipal utility provider — one that last year cut the cost of a fast Internet connection by 80 percent while more than tripling the speed of the slowest broadband plan.

It's more difficult to stream House here than in Chattanooga, and it's more difficult to obtain one too.

Our increasingly surreal rental and property markets defy the law of supply and demand. Planning Department studies have indicated that even a massive spike in construction would barely affect median prices. Demand knows no bounds.

The broadband market, per the New America Foundation, is both less Malthusian and more predictable. Connections are faster and cheaper "where consumers can choose between at least three competitive service providers." And yet, this panacea only applies to around one in 10 Americans; the top 31 broadband markets are found overseas.

Sans a visit from the disruptive economy, Internet access remains yet another item for which San Franciscans will handily overpay. The rationale seems evident: It's just a matter of supply and demand, and yet another cost of contentment.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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