Should I buy Cable, DSL, or DirecTV for my new house?
July 13, 2004 5:46 AM   Subscribe

What is your experience with DSL vs Cable? What about Satelite DSL from Directv? Moving next week and trying to decide what to use for the house. Thanks in advance.
posted by Macboy to Technology (19 answers total)
Cable in New York City is cheaper and faster. Services is about the same.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:58 AM on July 13, 2004

In my experience with questions like this, you'll get a thousand conflicting responses about good and bad experiences... you might want to try, where you can get a detailed list of people's opinions by zip code and provider. Your new neighborhood might have a particularly assy installation-person, and they'll let you know ;)

(Also, I've had a cable modem from Comcast for several years and I can't really remember any outages or slowdowns with it at all. I think those tales of slowdowns due to "sharing" lines with cable modems are old wives' tales. I live on a block with a ridiculously high concentration of wireless APs, and since we don't have DSL here due to the distance from the phone co, they must all have cable modems. I get full bandwidth glory 24x7. So I recommend Comcast in the New Jersey area pretty highly.)
posted by bcwinters at 6:03 AM on July 13, 2004

bcwinters - excellent post, thanks for the input.
posted by Macboy at 6:07 AM on July 13, 2004

Satellite DSL is only one-way, AFAIK, so you have to have some other way to send email and post to MeFi. Not worth the trouble if you can avoid it.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:11 AM on July 13, 2004

Like bcwinters says, you'll get lots of conflicting responses, but here's mine for whatever it's worth. I live in an apartment building built in 1935, and I honestly don't know if they've updated the phone wiring in the building since then. I had DSL a few years back, and I seemed to get knocked offline anytime someone in the building picked up a phone. I got the phone company to send a few repairmen, but none of them ever managed to fix it. So I switched to cable, and now everything's fine--it's faster than my DSL ever was, and I've had no connection problems with it at all. Your mileage, of course, may (and will) vary.
posted by Acetylene at 6:23 AM on July 13, 2004

Most people who are happy with one will never try the other. The people who do switch tend to be biased against what they switched from. DSL and cable are both good enough to make most people happy.

OTOH, satellite has a lot of bad things like high latency and bandwidth limits and shouldn't even be considered if there are other options. It's main point is when you can't get the other two.
posted by smackfu at 6:34 AM on July 13, 2004

Be sure to check what sort of pricing deals your providers may offer (after using dslreports to verify a baseline of quality)

Cable internet would be cheap for me if I had cable TV (and not a dish), but we have a dish because Comcast is almost $40 more expensive than DirecTV with similar channel packages - so we bit the bullet and sold our soul to Verizon. So far it's been hiccup-free.

We get local phone with all the bells and whistles, unlimited long distance, two cellphones, and DSL for $160 a month. Plus if you sign up for the all-inclusive "Freedom" package, you get a special customer service 800#, where polite people bend over backwards to help you.

But be sure to check out DSL Reports - your answer lies there, pilgrim.
posted by jalexei at 6:41 AM on July 13, 2004

Having had both cable and DSL several different times now, I'd definitely recommend cable if it's available, and you'd already have it coming into the house for TV. At my last house, we couldn't get digital cable, so I went for DirecTV/DSL, and the DSL took more than 4 weeks to get set up, it was a bit slower than cable for incoming data, and it was way slower than cable for outgoing data. Every time I've had a cable modem, it worked right out of the box the minute I hooked it up.
posted by LairBob at 6:47 AM on July 13, 2004

The new DirecWay satellite internet is indeed a good option, but only if nothing else is available. Within the last year they finally started using the satellite for upstream transmissions as well as downstream; previously your phone line was still used for upstream transmissions.

Download speed is about as fast as DSL (500k/s) but upstream speed is only about 50k/s. This means that your digital photos will take forever to send to a friend, your online games will be laggy, and you can't really share music with others (although you could download it just fine).

Your first step might be just finding out what's available in your area, then checking Broadband Reports to see what people say about your specific providers.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:57 AM on July 13, 2004

Satellite will always be worse than landline connections, simply for the fact that you're waiting on the speed of light. Your data still has to go up to geosynchronous orbit and back with a round trip time of roughly a quarter second, which is eons to people like online gamers.

As far as cable vs. DSL, it's simply a matter of who's cheaper and/or who has the better customer service. They'll both get you your bits faster than a modem.
posted by zsazsa at 7:02 AM on July 13, 2004

Until recently, I had cable at home and DSL at work. Most of my friends have DSL. (I'm the only one that I know who had cable.)

Both are plenty fast, but there are times that the DSL connections seem to be no better than a 56k modem. The cable modem has always been faster for me.

Also, at least where I live, the DSL goes down once or twice a month. With the cable modem, that's once or twice a year.

Both are great, but if all things were equal, I'd choose cable.

(In our new house, all things aren't equal; I can get DSL for half the price of cable. That $250/year makes a difference to me, so I chose DSL.)
posted by jdroth at 7:11 AM on July 13, 2004

As others have said, cable is faster and cheaper. However, DSL is about the only choice if you need a static IP to run a server or if you have special VPN requirements.
posted by treebjen at 7:32 AM on July 13, 2004

Never tried cable. Been perfectly happy with my DSL for about five years now. Fast, no service outages, helpful helpdesk staff.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 AM on July 13, 2004

Comcast cable here. Uploads top out at around 30-40K/sec, but my download rates frequently approach the 4 Megabit range. Outages for me have been more frequent than I'd like in the four years I've had cable, but I'm told that's due to the signal strength coming in to my apartment, and that was increased recently.
posted by emelenjr at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2004

Treebjen, that's apparently a company by company thing; RoadRunner (TampaBay, at least) will not only let you run a server, they'll sell you a static address for it. I think they'll even do this on residential accounts these days, but I know that they do on *all* business accounts, even the cheap $80 ones.

These things are all changes; they *used* to be anal-retentive.

I have many clients with both types of connection; I say go cable if you can a) get it and b) afford it... but your local carrier will have much to do with whether this is the best answer.
posted by baylink at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2004

Vaguely related- does anyone know the a la carte pricing for RoadRunner here in NYC? I can't seem to find it outside of a package (which is what I have, but I don't want all the movie channels), but I think they're legally required to offer it separately. Anyone?
posted by mkultra at 9:56 AM on July 13, 2004

Oh, never mind, I found it- $44.95.
posted by mkultra at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2004

Unlike bcwinters, I have observed slower speeds during primetime with cable (Comcast). The performance hit has not been too annoying, however, since cable starts out much faster than DSL.

I just wish it was cheaper.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:41 AM on July 13, 2004

I've had good experiences with both Cable and DSL. I think the technologies are both fine--getting scuttlebutt on individual providers in your area will probably show you some bigger differences.
posted by gimonca at 11:29 AM on July 13, 2004

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