Comcast v. Verizon
June 25, 2007 9:21 PM   Subscribe

What internet service to use in Cambridge, Massachusetts?

Does anyone have experience with both high speed internet options in East Cambridge, Mass, that can tell me what the practical differences are between Verizon DSL and Comcast cable internet in the neighborhood? I know that technically Comcast is faster than Verizon (6 mpbs v. 3 mbps), but is there any real difference when it comes to every day usage? Does the fact that there seems to be a Verizon central office on Bent Street in East Cambridge (just a few blocks from my new place) mean that it may actually end up being faster than (or comparable to) Comcast which shares the bandwidth among all subscribers in an area?

Anecdotes about people's real experiences in this neighborhood would be most helpful to me!
posted by jk252b to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My wife just got Comcast cable in Boston, by MGH, and she actually gets 8mbps, which I was pretty pleased with (and is considerably higher than 3mbps, if that is what one actually gets). I realize the neighborhoods aren't the same, but it's not far.

I would also note that 1) Comcast charged $100 for "installation," which comprised only attaching wires to the wall and bringing me the modem, not actually getting us on the Internet and 2) their installer did not work on my Mac (for some reason, it forces you to install IE on your machine, a program that has not been actively supported for the Mac platform in, what, three years?). If you have a Mac and end up with Comcast, just call Comcast to provision your modem, and don't bother installing any of their junk.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:39 AM on June 26, 2007

Comcast in Central Square is at least not super-crappy. I'm not sure about the real max speed, because I share with roommates and so I try not to saturate the pipe. There have been maybe 4-5 incidents of downtime greater than an hour or two in the past 5 years, only one of them in about the last 2 years.

Contrary to Haddock's experience, we never had hardware trouble. Then again, the guy who used to be in charge of our home network set it up on his linux server, and took care of all the cable modem interface then (what do you even have to do, type in a username and password or something?), and since that time I've just plugged it into a wireless router with no need to call Comcast for help or install extra software on any routed machine.
posted by rkent at 4:35 AM on June 26, 2007

Verizon DSL in Harvard Square works quite well, and the service isn't too bad if they ever need to come out to the apartment. I've had it three years this month, and the only problem I've ever had with it was when a neighbor cut a wire (ugg...).
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:15 AM on June 26, 2007

I am in Cambridge around Inman. I switched from Comcast to Speakeasy because I wasn't happy with the comcast downtime.

Basically, the comcast would go down for 30 seconds to a minute or two at a time during peak hours. The bandwidth was great, except that for the online gaming I care about this was not acceptable. I cared more about consistancy than download speed in the end.

The DSL, which I think it through Covad, ended up not having the same problems, but it hasn't been so hot either. Installation (though free) required me to be home for long periods of time and I got stood up twice. The only thing was that Speakeasy seemed to care enough to try to fix stuff and their customer service is very good. Now that Best Buy bought them, who knows if it will stay as good or not.

So overall I am happier with DSL than cable, but I am 100% certain that if I bought the DSL directly through verizon it would be much worse than comcast.
posted by cotterpin at 5:22 AM on June 26, 2007

Okay, so I live closer to west Cambridge, but anyway, I have RCN cable--now that I'm out of the first year introductory period the fees are ridiculously high (need to do something about that) but the service has been pretty decent, with one or two major (1-2 day) downtimes in the year I've had them and otherwise no problems at all. If you care, RCN offers packages that go much higher (10 and 20 mbps) than Comcast does. I'm paying for 10 mbps and just went to Ookla right now, which shows 8.7 mbps download and .4 mbps upload.
posted by phoenixy at 5:35 AM on June 26, 2007

Careful when getting DSL through someone besides Verizon without having a Verizon landline. I wanted to transfer my Speakeasy DSL from my old apartment (with landline and no actual phone) to my new apartment (no landline whatsoever). Verizon managed to bollocks up their end of the installation twice, at which point I had been without Internet for two months. I switched to Comcast. I should note that if you get basic cable AND internet, it's cheaper than internet on its own, and if you pay for the first month of onDemand or whatever it is, installation is free.
posted by mkb at 6:40 AM on June 26, 2007

No to Comcast. Hours of sporadic downtime.
posted by amber_dale at 7:06 AM on June 26, 2007

No to Comcast. Hours of sporadic downtime.

Are you where your profile says you are? It probably varies a lot from place to place; we really almost never have downtime in Cambridge.
posted by rkent at 8:04 AM on June 26, 2007

I haven't had any downtime at all in nearly a year of using Comcast in Cambridge. Also, if you sign up through a site like, it works out to about $20/month for internet service (and you get a free modem to keep).
posted by rxrfrx at 9:27 AM on June 26, 2007

A recent PC Magazine survey showed blazing average speeds with Comcast in Massachusetts. It blew away FioS in MA.

That said, I do get sporadic, short periods of downtime during peak hours on Comcast. I'm a few towns north of Cambridge, though.
posted by roomwithaview at 9:42 AM on June 26, 2007

I've had all three of the mentioned services (Comcast, RCN, Verizon) in either Cambridge or just across the line in Somerville. Comcast(in Central Sq.) was the zippiest, but also spotty, especially in the evenings. RCN(in Davis, but fairly close to N. Cambridge) has been decent the vast majority of the time, but we had a couple of two-week periods last year where it was constantly going down, which was very annoying at the time. Verizon (in Porter Sq.) was rock solid uptime-wise... I don't remember ever having downtime at all, but was a bit slower than either cable provider. RCN has kinda crappy customer service. Not sure on Comcast or Verizon on that front.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2007

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