DSL vs Cable - Pros and Cons

Part 1 - DSL: PROs of DSLCONs of DSL

Part 2 - CABLE: PROs of CABLECONs of CABLE

Original Post:

I was wondering if y'all could give me pros and cons of DSL and cable access to the internet. I'm dying with waiting for my *slow* 56k connection and want to upgrade...

Particularly, I'm interested in:

  • speed of each
  • cost of each; incl. taxes, if applicable, monthly vs yearly, etc.
  • reliability of each; including specific company reliability
  • installation of each

DSL

http://www.drizzle.com/dsl [Seattle-based]
http://www.speakeasy.com [Seattle-based]
http://ww.lightrealm.com [Eastside-based]
http://www.covad.com
http://www.uswest.com
http://www.gte.com

PROs of DSL

  • DSL vs. cable really comes down to one thing: are you just looking for fast internet access, or do you want to run a server at home? To run a server at home (including your domain hosting), you'll want DSL.
  • You pay depending on your connection. Some services have guaranteed connection speeds (e.g., Covad) to ensure that you get what you pay for.
  • I'm planning on running a server here at home, so I went with DSL, which gets nearly the same bandwith for uploads and downloads. (Compare to cable, which has lots of bandwidth for downloads but not much for uploads, which is ideal for people who do a lot of web surfing, but much less than ideal for those of us who are running servers).
  • DSL especially work better for those that are very familiar with their current browser and configuration as well as serious users concerned about speed and security. (vs. For those mostly concerned with price, cable seems attractive as it is often slightly less expensive.)
  • Installation plus first month plus equipment is ~ $390. (I think this includes equipment that I needed to purchase -- cabling and a hub.)
  • You are always "on." No dialing up and hoping you don't get a busy signal, no waiting to dial in.
  • You don't have to deal with TCI.
  • Covad's service is impressive; everyone I talk to who has Covad is very happy. Both Drizzle and Speakeasy offer Covad. Covad offers unlimited downloads, unlimited IPs, and a lot of speed choices. They also have "guaranteed" speeds.
  • I live at the very edge of the zone where you can get DSL, but I haven't really noticed any slowdowns because of it.
  • Installation may be more of a do-it-yourself thing when via an ISP. (This can be a PRO or CON.) Some ISPs offer more troubleshooting and assistance than others during set up. (Note that I've heard opposite things about the same ISPs, so maybe it depends on how you ask, who you ask, or who you know at the ISP.) If you like playing "techie" this may be more of a pro, or if you have a good ISP that will come out and help you this is a pro.
  • If getting DSL through the phone company, they come out to install the equipment on your phone lines and software on your computer. There is the small chance that they come out and say that your wires aren't going to work and they need to upgrade them, which probably costs extra.
  • I had to play "techie" a bit to get it all set up (and many thanks to the several people who helped a LOT), but now *I know my network inside and out.*
  • I'm paying about $10 more than I was paying for the extra phone line plus dialup and it's much faster (and my lovely roommate and I can be online at the same time!).
  • For an outside opinion, check out the Seattle Times article from May that was done for people with your questions that points out the best of both options:
    • DSL is about 30-100 a month, depending on the speed of the line you choose. That is, unlike cable where everyone gets the same speed, DSL is priced by the speed you want.
    • COVAD: 144K-192K-384K-768K (Covad, $60 to $135; these rates generally include the ISP rate as well)
    • USWEST: 256K-512K-768K (USWest, $29.95 to $80; note these rates are pre-tax and only for USWest--not including what your ISP charges $20 to $50)

  • One respondent said, "You go up to about 1.5 M." But note that none of the services recommended offer this high of speed. She also said, "Some studies say you can get up to 60M, but this was in a lab and these speeds are [not] being offered anywhere. You can't even order 6M. 1.5 M is about the going max rate."

CONs of DSL

  • You pay depending on your connection. Some services do not guarantee connection speeds (e.g., US West), so you don't always get the extra speed you are paying for during peak connection times (especially as they get more subscribers).
  • USWorst isn't the best for DSL service, a lot of my friends have their service go down.
  • May need to "upgrade" wires (per phone company), which probably costs extra; also may end up on "waiting" list for installation.
  • DSL varies with provider, most are not unlimited downloads, different speed for cost. (See PRO re: Covad.)
  • Costs of install may vary with the provider (e.g., Covad, USWest, GTE), but costs ~$300 for installation. (Note that this respondent didn't specify if this actually included any hardware; another respondent said ~$390 for installation, first month's fee, and equipment.)
  • The real problem is not your connection, but the machine you're connected to. It doesn't matter how fast I can transfer data, if I'm connected to some slow server somewhere else, I can only get the data as quickly as it can access it and upload it. So, you are still gonna have wait times.
  • Installation may be more of a do-it-yourself thing. (This can be a PRO or CON.) Some ISPs offer more troubleshooting and assistance than others during set up. (Note that I've heard opposite things about the same ISPs, so maybe it depends on how you ask, who you ask, or who you know at the ISP.)
  • To get DSL, you must be within 18,000 feet (~2.5 mi?) of the nearest switching station, and your distance from this station affects your max speed.

Cable

http://www.tci.com
http://www.home.com
http://www.work.com

PROs of CABLE

  • DSL vs. cable really comes down to one thing: are you just looking for fast internet access, or do you want to run a server at home? For speed only, with no server at home, you may prefer cable. (Be sure to see CONs of cable re: domain hosting and bandwidth throttling, however.)
  • No second line to pay for.
  • One time installation fee of ~$150, but be sure to ask the cable company if they have any deals/specials.
  • The montly fee is ~$45 per month and includes TCI as your ISP. (Note that one person said this included one email account, another said three.)
  • You may have the ability to use a different company as your ISP as well, but you need to ask TCI for specifics or check out their Website.
  • They do the setup (modem box and software installation).
  • You get one IP address and can order up to 2 more at $4.95 each per month.
  • You are always "on." No dialing up and hoping you don't get a busy signal, no waiting to dial in.
  • No second phone line to pay for internet-only access.
  • The biggie-SPEED. This is actually difficult to measure, though it is faster than DSL dollar-for-dollar. The cable runs about 1M download, but I've heard people say they wouldn't get a cable modem because it could bog down in high traffic. However, the cable company *has the ability* to take a T.V. bandwidth and open it up to modem traffic during "peak times" to avoid this problem.
  • For the normal (home) user, cable is a better choice because of the cost and speed. That is, if cost is the main issue, cable may be best for you.
  • Everyone on cable modem gets the same speed and has unlimited downloads.
  • 24-hour tech support is available.
  • You get more bandwidth with cable, granted you only get it if the area isn't over used. (See CON regarding bandwidth.)

CONs of CABLE

  • You pay one price for connection, but your connection speeds are not guaranteed, so you may not get extra speed during peak connection times (especially as they get more subscribers).
  • TCI can "throttle" speeds, has been doing so and will most likely continue to do so. That is, if you are considering a cable modem check @Home/TCI very carefully as they are implementing upload bandwidth throttling (to ~128k) and denying it (changing the subject when asked directly about this). There has been quite the brouhaha in InfoWorld columns lately about @Home and their "buried" terms of service... One respondent provided the following example, "...when a friend of mine called to ask why his service had slowed down, and asked about the throttling he discovered that the customer service rep wanted to talk about the weather..."
  • You must schedule time to be home for them to do the installation (modem box and software installation).
  • @Home is available through TCI and is only available if they have it in your area.
  • Installation in the Seattle area is through TCI. Anyone that has cable through TCI is most likely feels this is one CON (negative). That is, they don't always follow-through on promises to subscribers in their scheduled timelines and when you call with questions regarding current service you often get the runaround.
  • Though the cable company *has the ability* to take a T.V. bandwidth and open it up to modem traffic during "peak times" to avoid this problem. None of the people who have this service and responded to the request for info has proof that the cable company has ever done this or intends to... instead, the majority pointed to the "throttling" (slowing down) that the cable company has done.
  • The real problem is not your connection, but the machine you're connected to. It doesn't matter how fast I can transfer data, if I'm connected to some slow server somewhere else, I can only get the data as quickly as it can access it and upload it. So, you are still gonna have wait times.
  • @Home *does not* hostdomains...! That is, if you have a domain (acme.com), they *will not* host it or supply the email addresses for it. You will need to pay higher rates through @Work or use another ISP (pay additional rates) for domain hosting (e.g., http://www.hostsave.com hosts domains for ~$6.95 per month plus email accounts for your domain).

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