Name: Kraig Henderson
Hello, my family and I have just moved to a new neighborhood and are shopping around for a new ISP. Dial-Up is not an option because it’s too slow. Qwest offers DSL in our area and there is Comcast offering cable. I have heard bad things about both cable and DSL broadband and so I was hoping that you could shed a little light on the subject.
The type of connection that I recommend that you get is… Secret option C: A fiber optic line. Sadly, this is almost certainly not an option for you unless you just happen to live in Utah and are in one of the cities involved in the UTOPIA Project. If you do happen to live within it’s reach, then stop reading this article, because I hate you.
But, if you’re like the rest of us then you have to choose between just a couple of different services which are most likely mediocre at best.
While I usually lean towards cable as my main broadband connection of choice, the service that you choose is really dependent upon the area in which you live. The first consideration is bandwidth. What speeds are each of the companies offering you? With cable, assuming you’re in a metropolitan area, you should be able to get at least 6 Mbps out of it. With DSL you can expect about the same. This does not mean that Qwest or Comcast will necessarily offer you lines that fast, but it should be possible.
Also keep in mind that the speed you’re paying for is not always what its real-world performance turns out being. Depending on the quality of the lines in your area, how far you are away from the nearest CO in the case of DSL, the quality of the lines within your house, as well as the sheer number of people connected to the same subnet, your actual speed could be much lower than what your bill says you should be getting.
Be sure to check out what each offer has in regards to upstream bandwidth. Upstream bandwidth is just as important as downstream. While you shouldn’t need as much bandwidth up as you do down, you will need a decent amount. If any of your family members start uploading a bunch of data (using Bittorrent, uploading photos to MySpace, etc) and consume all of your outgoing bandwidth then nothing coming in will work either. When downloading a file or webpage your computer has to send out requests for additional data once the first requests are completed. Assuming all of the upstream is taken then those requests can’t be sent, which means that you’re not going to be downloading jack.
Before you make a decision I would ask your close neighbors what type of connection they have and how the service has been. The quality of service between DSL and cable can vary wildly from area to area. I had Charter cable in my previous town and it was not nearly as reliable as Comcast has been in my new place. DSL can be the same way.
One thing to watch out for with DSL would be hidden costs associated with it. It’s nice that they may be offering you a screamingly fast connection for $30 a month, but more than likely there are a bunch of other fees that go along with it. You’ll likely have to pay for the phone line itself each month, and then there’s regular service charges, they’ll probably try to tack on a regular voice phone line along with that. (Nearly everybody that I know uses cellphones almost exclusively. Personally I’ve not had a hardwired phone line since 2003) Before you know it your $30 internet is actually costing you $60 per month.
I suppose the gist of the article is this: Choose whichever service will be the most reliable in your area. It is well worth giving up a couple of Mbps for a steady, reliable connection.
Regarding dial-up, I completely agree. It’s 2008 now, not 1050 BC. I don’t hammer things into stone tablets to relay information. If you’re on dial-up and have another service available to you then it’s time to upgrade. You’re past due.