View Full Version : Cable vs. DSL

2010-08-24, 12:49
So I recently found myself with a new job which provides me some pretty good discounts on a lot of things. One of those things is on Comcast cable "teleworker" cable service. For $52 a month I get 16 Mb/s down and 3 Mb/s up, at least that's how its been told to me. However, a coworker of mine recently ordered the service and was told my his Comcast rep that he'll be getting 22 down and 6 up. His own testing confirms what Comcast told him.

I'm currently paying $45 a month for DSL that gets me 4.5-5 Mb/s down and 500 kb/s up, at most. I'm paying for 6 down 1.5 up. It's useable, it streams Netflix in HD, and basically does what I ask it to do. The best part is that it's reliable. I've been in my current place for nearly 3 years and have had a total of about 7 days of outages over that time period.

Here's my problem: Comcast. I've never heard of anyone having a good experience with them. I hear stories of large amounts of downtime, horrible customer service, and completely unreliable service providers and techs. Is the prospect of having internet that is that much faster really worth the possible hassle from Comcast? Anyone have any experiences that can help push me in one direction or the other?

If it makes any difference, I don't have cable TV and will not be getting cable TV. I get more than enough content via Netflix and the internet. Also, the teleworker service does not have any limits on data transmission or any blocking of torrents or anything like that, at least that's how it looks based on Comcast's descriptions on their website.

Thanks for any help and advice!

2010-08-24, 13:00
I have heard of Comcast customers complaining about downtime. Hard to know how bad the problem really is; I've never had cable so I don't have personal experience. My DSL is like yours - kind of slow but rock-solid reliable. It has never gone down once in the probably six years I've had it, at three different residences. I had billing problems earlier this year but throughout all the confusion my internet connection was totally stable.

Given that cable would cost me $15 or so extra per month (I also don't have cable TV), I haven't seriously considered it. The DSL is fast enough to get the job done. I'd even consider moving down a tier on the DSL if it would save me more than a tiny amount of money (not worth it for an $8 savings though).

2010-08-24, 13:42
I've had Comcast a couple times (including now). I never have true downtime. The things that go down all the time are their DNS servers. Just use something more reliable, like Open DNS, and I think you might be very happy with Comcast.

2010-08-24, 14:01
Open DNS? I don't even know what that means. A little googling reveals nothing that I understand :/

2010-08-24, 14:08
DNS is basically the phonebook for the internet. You type in "forums.applenova.com" and the DNS server returns the IP address for the site so you get to where you're trying to go. Changing your DNS server settings in your router or on your computer is basically just using a different phone book. Think yellow pages vs. someotherphonebook.

Open DNS is a reliable server so you don't get down time because your computer isn't being provided the IP address it needs to get to the site you're trying to get to. Does that help?

2010-08-24, 14:12
I personally went with DSL because I am worried that given my dependency on videophone (think video streaming but both ways), the quality would be dependent on whether my neighbors is surfing porn or not. Last time I looked, DSL had better upstream than cable did but what I really wanted was good latency, which nobody can really answer. :\

2010-08-24, 14:50
Thanks, Tori. That does help. If I'm understanding it correctly it's like forgoing the yellow pages that came to my house (Comcast) and using some other service to look up the phone number? Comcast doesn't have an issue with this and it won't cost me any more money?

I went to opendns.com and found out a little more info, I'm just still not sure I have this totally down. I just don't want to get stuck with a fast connection that is always down.

2010-08-24, 14:57
That is correct. Google also offers their own DNS servers for public use. and IIRC.

I'm in exactly the same boat. Well, not exactly. I am paying $56 for 3.0Md/1Mu DSL and am getting about 1.2Md/0.4u. And it goes out several times a day. They're 'looking into it'. :P

Clear is an option where we are, but Seattle is kind of a rainy area, and it was pointed out to me that I only tested a friends' unit on a dry day, and that we're near the edge of coverage. Rainy days may have different performance.

Cable is possibly a better deal, but our area loses power semi-regularly. We have a generator hookup at our place, so that's not a problem, but the cable company data centers don't. DSL is run over phone, which is required to have generators for emergency purposes. ie, if our power goes out and we're on DSL, we could still have internets, which doesn't suck.

Of course, look at what I'm paying, and what I'm getting. :P

2010-08-24, 14:58
Yes, you can use any DNS server with any connection. Not only is Comcast okay with it, they have zero incentive to care. So no, they don't charge you for that. To them, packets are packets. It doesn't matter to them whose DNS service you use.

2010-08-24, 15:23
Now, blocking ports that Exchange uses so they can upsell you to a business package? *That* they have incentive to do.

2010-08-24, 15:29
I don't use exchange, so I'm not sure if I care about that. I'm not being up sold a business package, that's just the only option they have for discounts via the company I work for.

2010-08-24, 15:49
I like everything about my Comcast connection other than the cost. Maybe once or twice a year there's an hour long outage as a result of a piece of equipment at the headend malfunctioning or maintenance.

Comcast's online chat applet reps have been pretty good to me. In addition their field techs have also been very professional, but they are all locally contracted so the ones in your area might be considerably worse. I also feel that Comcast in particular is doing a whole lot more to upgrade its infrastructure than AT&T, the main option for DSL/U-Verse here.

2010-08-24, 16:46
For me, and for the majority of my clients, Comcast has proven to be faster, more reliable, and closer to rated speed than DSL.

It's also less complicated because with cable there is no PPPoE login and associated username/password info that must be re-input if you have to reset your modem.

Up until a few years ago I told clients that DSL was better, but since then I have been recommending cable as the best choice. And if you do the math, the $/MB comparison makes it a no-brainer.

2010-08-25, 00:58
I have had Att DSL (formerly SBC and Pacific Bell) for ten years now. I have NEVER had a down time. I pay $30 / month for 4 MBd / 500ku. I am very happy.

I suppose I could switch to a cable modem but the cable company is crappy. I think they are Time Warner (previously a bunch of other bozos). I went to DirecTV to get away from them and am very happy with that as well.

One thing I do NOT like, and I may be in the minority here, is the idea of "bundling" your TV, Phone, internet all to one company especially if you have some kind of contract. It seems like selling your soul. If you end up hating one of the services, you are pretty much either stuck or are out some sort of equipment cost. Equipment that won't work with a competitor usually.


2010-08-25, 01:55
Dunno about the equipment costs with cable because you never ever buy the STB for cable TV, you do have the option of buying your own cable mode, but that is a standard piece of equipment that you can transfer to any other cable ISP. Cable VOIP, also standardized into a combo cable modem + VOIP EMTA that is usually rented.

2010-08-25, 10:09
The nice thing for me is that I suppose I can always switch back to the DSL if I run in to problems with the cable service. There's no contract, so I don't have to worry about being locked in to something. Also, I don't need VOIP, TV, or any other services that Comcast offers, I simply need the internet connection. FFL, you're absolutely correct, the $ to speed comparison really makes this an easy decision.

I think that everyone's experience will be different no matter where they are. Maybe I just have to dive in and see what happens. I'm in a financial position where I can order the Comcast and keep both connections active for a month or two while I decide. I guess that's not even necessary though since I can always just order the DSL again.

The other thing is, I don't really need 16 or 22 down, but having it would be nice. Simply being able to surf the net and watch HD Netflix at the same time would be great. Right now if I want to stream Netflix in HD my connection is essentially useless for anything else.

2010-08-25, 12:52
Christ, I can't stream Netflix at *any* resolution without it stuttering, pausing, losing connection with the server... :P

2010-08-25, 13:07
Christ, I can't stream Netflix at *any* resolution without it stuttering, pausing, losing connection with the server... :P

Considering that I'm on AT & T DSL and I don't have this problem with Hulu or videophone (which is arguably more demanding due to traffic going in both directions), I would want to find out if it's actually poor latency you are facing and not necessarily a lack of bandwidth. From what I understand, for any kind of "live" communication such as streaming, latency matters much more than bandwidth.

2010-08-26, 00:25
Considering that I'm on AT & T DSL and I don't have this problem with Hulu or videophone (which is arguably more demanding due to traffic going in both directions), I would want to find out if it's actually poor latency you are facing and not necessarily a lack of bandwidth. From what I understand, for any kind of "live" communication such as streaming, latency matters much more than bandwidth.

Same here with my ATT/DSL. Maybe those cable companies are doing something to slow down netflix eh?

2010-08-27, 19:04
That's interesting. I didn't realize that actual bandwidth had such little effect on streaming and its quality. I think I'm going to try the Comcast for a month and see what kind of results I get, I can handle paying for cable and DSL together for a month. At the end of the month, if Comcast hasn't sucked too badly, I'll keep them. Any more suggestions, experiences, or advice would be greatly appreciated!