September 4, 2002

DSL vs. Cable

So, I’ve got Earthlink DSL. It’s reasonably fast, it’s an average price, dealing with their phone support makes me want to die…

AT&T Broadband has been running a promotion which features free installation and a free modem as well as only costing $20/month for the first six months. Which is a pretty good deal.

Moreover, CNET’s bandwidth tester tells me that my bandwidth is 1127 Kbps but that AT&T Broadband can do 1500 Kbps. (How it can accurately calculate my bandwidth I have no idea.)

So: Any recommendations? Endorsements? Warnings? Opinions? Much thanks.

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Brian Poulsen

Walt - Those speed tests usually go as following. You load something which is lets say 1 megabite and the site then calculates how long time it took for you to download it. It’s a simple piece of math ;)

Rachelle Bowden

Hey, I’m having this dilemma.. whether to get Time Warner Cable Roadrunner or Verizon DSL. I can’t decide so I’m ignorning it and suffering the consequences of no access at home.

Nick Runco

those broadband test are never accurate. they are ideal scenarios, of what the system is capable of that is never able to be recreated. plus, the charts usually show a business version package with more bandwidth and hide the consumer grade numbers. check carefully. i will say that we have been using AT&T broadband for two years and it’s gone done only twice, both times in the middle of the night, both for less than an hour.

Justin Magers

First, I would check out this website: You can find out almost everything you ever wanted to know about DSL and cable internet access (including speed info, speed info of people in your ZIP code, etc.)

Second, Brian is right about the bandwidth meters. So, the bandwidth meters are testing the speed of the connection between your computer and some server. Note, this is not the same as the speed of the connection between your computer and your ISP. There might be a lot of network equipment between your ISP and the bandwidth meter server. Also, does that include TCP/IP overhead or is that factored out? If you check on DSLreports, there is a selection of servers for speed tests. Choose the one closest to you, geographically.

1.127 Mb/s is a pretty good rate for DSL. Check what you get on DSL reports. At my last place, my line was capped at 392 kb/s. Consider yourself lucky.

I’ve also heard that cable modems are great until everyone in your area has one — then the speed decreases when network activity increases. I think this is less of a problem with DSL.

For what it’s worth, I have DSLExtreme and my connection is about 1.2 to 1.3 Mb/s (downstream). I pay $45/month. The customer support is by far the best I have ever seen. (BTW, I found them through DSL reports).

Laura Dickinson

Hi, we have Pacific Bell DSL. I’m not sure if we received the free stuff offered. I reccommend keeping good notes and asking for something in writing. The charges sure added up to alot. We pay $50 a month now. The system has been down twice when I wanted to be using it for about 6 hours one time and 2 hours the other time. As you installed ours Walt I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t present much problem. But you did seem to know more about it than they did. It is quite nice to be able to use the phone now while one is online. Thanks for getting this set up for me Walt.

Walt Dickinson

Thanks to everyone for sharing your insights. Justin’s DSL service looks pretty good. I still think AT&T’s cable modem service might be the best value but it’s impossible to gauge how good the bandwidth would actually be. Oy.

Justin Magers

You could order both (DSL and cable) and then keep the best one. I’m sure they have some sort of 30 day return rule.

Sean Peisert

Walt, the people I know with DSL have endless frustrations. The people I know with cable simply use it and forget about it. I don’t know if it’s some faulty implementation with PPPoE or what, but I’ve talked to at least three people (2 SoCal, 1 NorCal) who have to power-cycle their DSL modem and router (NetGear or LinkSys) once a week. Go cable, plug in a snow AirPort and forget about it. :)