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Cable Alternatives
August 2, 2005 12:15 PM   Subscribe

DSL vs Cable Internet... what are the differences in term of performance, reliability, price, etc? Can anyone given an evaluation of the pros/cons. Bonus if you can comment on the advantages/disadvantages of satellite TV over digital cable or vice versa.

I've been a digital cable subscriber for the past two years, I'm generally happy with the content and service, but I'm unhappy with the high price... nearly $140 a month for full digital cable and internet through Comcast. So are there equivalent, cheaper alternatives?

If it makes a difference I use Tivo.
posted by mhaw to Technology (16 answers total)
 
I suggest checking out resources such as DSL/Broadband Reports. You'll get lots of anecdotal information that may even be specific to your geographic location.
posted by anathema at 12:34 PM on August 2, 2005


We have RCN (formerly Starpower) with a cable/phone/internet bundle. Right now their main purpose in life seems to be to compete with Comcast. If it is available to you in your area, it is cheaper.

The main advantage I have found over Verizon DSL is that I never have to deal with Verizon. I would (and do) pay good money never to have to deal with a Verizon Customer "Service" Representative again. It is quite refreshing to know that I am free of their binds.

Here's example of Verizon "service." When I got my DSL line installed, my old house had old analog only wiring, so, naturally I made arrangements for a replacement through Verizon. I took off work for the day to wait for the repairman. When the repairman arrived he did some work pulling wires, drilling through walls, cutting through dry wall, the usual. When he was done he quickly jumped in his truck and left. I turned on my computer to begin setting it up and, ta da, nothing. The repair man had installed, yes, you guessed it, analog only cable to replace the old lines.

I quickly called Verizon who routed me to a very nice DSL rep in Canada, who in turn returned me to local service, who in turn sent me back to Canada, and so forth for literally, drumroll, 5 hours. At 4:30 PM on a business day, I was routed to the same nice rep in Canada that I had first spoken with, she routed me to a Verizon exec who told me that she'd get to the bottom of it all and get back to me. She did, at 5:30 PM, of course the local service office closes at 5:00 PM and therefore I would not be able to receive replacement service until another day, which I would have to spend off of work waiting for the repairman, oh, and the reason I got analog line was that the entire DC region has two DSL repair personnel, two.

The exec. forwarded me directly to the night emergency service manager for the DC area, a very nice man who told me there was nothing he could do except make arrangements for a future date. After explaining my problem for him to write up for the work order, he told me that he had been an IT manager in a previous life. Like an action film bomb diffusion scene, this guy walked me through rewiring my phone box so that one of my home lines would now receive digital only signals. I used that only signal to network my house. Verizon had the gaul to charge me a couple hundred dollars for this "service" visit.

I do not patronize Verizon in any form any longer, this was actually the last of a series of run-ins.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:44 PM on August 2, 2005


Pollomacho is at root correct. It is probably more important for the vast majority of users to choose a good provider independant of service than to choose DSL over Cable or vice versa. I have DSL through a local provider and enjoy the ability to drive over and wring their necks in person.

Not that I've done that, or anything.
posted by selfnoise at 12:58 PM on August 2, 2005


I do not patronize Verizon in any form any longer, this was actually the last of a series of run-ins.

I figured I'd be the last person to defend Verizon, but if you bundle stuff with them, you get a super-secret customer service phone number with pleasant and helpful staff.

I've been very happy with our Verizon DSL. Price (on broadband alone) is comparable to cable, and while cable is generally faster, it means you need, well, cable. As basic digital cable here is nearly $80, I figure paying half that for DirectTV mitigates any speed issues I may have with my internet connection.

We drank the Kool-aide and went all Verizon: DSL, local calling, unlimited long distance, and two cellphones for about $160 a month. That's about $60 less than we were paying for everything separately, so we're pretty happy. And I'd second dslreports.com, because you can read about experiences in your area, and that's probably more valuable than anything we could say.
posted by jalexei at 1:01 PM on August 2, 2005


VerizonAnecdotefilter: I had Earthlink DSL several years ago, when broadband first went mainstream at prices less than $80 a month. It was a bit of a hassle to set up, as Verizon had to "prepare" the line, then Earthlink had to install the line, then suddenly my phone number was being routed to someone else's house...but we got it all sorted.

I had Earthlink DSL for about 5 months. It was great.

Then suddenly, it stopped working. We made numerous calls to Earthlink. They said, "Our systems show that your line is no longer prepared for DSL, so our service won't work." We made calls to Verizon. They shrugged us off. "Not prepared for DSL? We don't know what you're talking about. But you can get Verizon DSL for $49.99 a month." Yeah, thanks buddy.

To this day, I'm convinced that Verizon f*cked my DSL line just to try to steal me from Earthlink. So because I don't like being a pawn in the tug of war between the companies that own and control the lines (Verizon) and the DSL companies trying to use the lines (Earthlink), I just went ahead and signed up with Comcast. Yes, I traded one monopoly for another, but it works just as well for our needs, and costs about the same.
posted by junkbox at 1:12 PM on August 2, 2005


Have you considered your proximity to the CO? DSL is distance sensitive, making the decision for DSL vs Cable simple for a lot of people.
posted by curlyelk at 1:25 PM on August 2, 2005


I recently switched from Comcast internet to Verizon's Fios, which is 5 times faster and $15 a month cheaper. We've been happy with it so far, but we've only had it for a couple of months.

We switched from Comcast cable to DirecTV years ago. It's definitely cheaper than Comcast, and I've been really pleased with their customer support. And now DirecTivo's are free after rebate, so you wouldn't have to factor in the cost of buying your own equipment vs. leasing. But the DirecTV does occasionally lose signal due to storms.

If you have HDTV, then there are some other factors to consider. DirecTV doesn't have local channels in HD yet, but will in the 12 biggest markets by the end of the year. They don't have a huge selection of HD channels yet. And HD DirecTivo's are still a big chunk of change, though we just got one online for $549 with a $100 rebate, then called DTV and got a $250 credit on our DTV bill, and a $60 credit toward the hd package, so the final cost is something like $140.
posted by amarynth at 1:25 PM on August 2, 2005


All I know is that as a gamer, DSL usually has better latency than cable, if that matters to you. As far a type of companies, telco = pesudo monopolies and cableco = in bed with RIAA/MPAA, so I don't trust either too much. Sucks.
posted by Hackworth at 2:10 PM on August 2, 2005


Bonus if you can comment on the advantages/disadvantages of satellite TV over digital cable or vice versa.

Fox owns a majority share in DirecTV. Granted, Comcast is becoming a monolith in its own regard, but I refuse to give DirecTV any money because their profits help Fox.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 2:29 PM on August 2, 2005


I recently tossed the Comcast cable TV in favor of Dish Network satellite, and am glad so far. Saving a bunch of money. I still have Comcast cable Internet, and they didn't raise the rate because I kept their phone service.

My main impetus for getting the dish was Comcast raising their rates (they said they were ending a 'promotion' that they'd been running for years; I say it's a rate increase.) That was the last straw, though, after an installation travesty similar to Pollomacho's.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:50 PM on August 2, 2005


My sister has DirecTV, and it seems a couple channels (MTV and HGTV) work only intermittently. They don't even show up on the channel guide, except for an hour or two a day.
My dad got fed up with DirecTV and went for cable. It is expensive, but he likes it. He "leases" an HD-DVR from them that works great.
Are you a football fan? DirecTV has NFL ticket.
posted by clh at 5:27 PM on August 2, 2005


From a technical perspective, cable is slightly less secure than DSL because it operates sort of like an Ethernet hub at the street/neighborhood level. So you get these horrible anecdotes about people being able to see into their neighbors' computers and so forth. I go with independent DSL (Earthlink nee Mindspring). Plus cable TV is evil, but that's another thread.
posted by intermod at 6:23 PM on August 2, 2005


I've got the full cable package from our local provider (Charter) with DVR on 2 sets in the house, and an on-demand box in the basement on a 3rd set. With 3MB Cable, our monthly bill comes to 120.00. I had DSL back when we lived in an SBC neighborhood, and I talked to no less than 5 individuals one day complaining about ping times. The first 4 didn't know what a "ping" was.

Because I work from home, I need the speed offered me by the Cable network. I use a simple Linksys hardware-based firewall, so I'm not concerned about any issues with the Cable network.

I guess if the price isn't too different from service to service, I prefer cable. It's way too easy to work with, and at least at the rate of advancements in our local network (we're getting server-based DVR in about 6 months -- i.e. a library of TV programs for replay at any time. We're also apparently getting another bump in speed for the Cable modems in the next year as well) -- it beast DSL all to hell.
posted by thanotopsis at 6:36 PM on August 2, 2005


> what are the differences in term of performance, reliability, price, etc?

Cable speeds are pretty uniform. If it says 1.5 down, you're getting 1.5mbps down. DSL speeds go down the further you are from the CO (the big building the phone company monster lives in). So you'll want to check out DSLreports and do a search with your zip code.

In Chicago, Comcast costs twice as much as DSL. Pricing per market is different. In some places cable is very competitive.

A lot of people agree that cable tends to go out more than DSL. Could be true.

>advantages/disadvantages of satellite TV over digital cable or vice versa

When it rains really hard, you will lose signal with a dish. A dish is all digital so take a good look at the picture quality before buying one. For instance, direcTV really does look like ass on a big TV, unless you're sitting pretty far away. Analog cable looks a bit nicer. Usually, "digital cable" means a handful of digital channels and the rest being analog. This may not be a bad thing, just misleading.

Personally, I recommend DSL to anyone who asks as long as they arent far from the CO. I went with one of them "directivos" which is a fairly nice toy. It integrates nicely with the DirecTV service, but the picture quality is "VCD quality" at best.
posted by skallas at 7:18 PM on August 2, 2005


I think that DSL services are being priced competitively because many people view cable internet as being inherently better. I had Comcast and RCN cable service, and just switched to SBC Yahoo DSL for a much better price. Although SBC did have a serious problem with the registration of new users the exact day I got hooked up, they made up for it by sending me a reward certificate, which I just redeemed for $50 in Fandango movie tickets. So, basically they just refunded me two months' worth of service. It was almost worth it.
posted by MrZero at 9:29 PM on August 2, 2005


I have many friends, family, and (especially) clients in Tampa Bay with Verizon DSL and BrightHouse/RoadRunner cable.

Cable. Hands down.

It's *much* faster (bandwidth, not just latency), and in this market, the service is head and shoulders better, especially for business customers, where I usually get a level 2.5 technician on the first call.

Yes, it's more money.

So?
posted by baylink at 4:21 PM on August 4, 2005


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