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The Indefinite Article.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Cable vs DSL

I've really enjoyed my cable modem thus far. It has been a reliable and fast connection with no tech glitches.

I picked it because there is no contract (my apartment is month to month too), no "activation fee" and somewhat cheaper.

In theory, a cable modem could provide slower service than DSL. The line to a cable modem connects to a larger trunk before it goes back to the cable office. Thus, if all of your neighbors are heavy internet users, then you could see a slowdown. In reality, there is a lot of bandwidth and the cable companies cap their download and upload rates so that there is enough for everyone.

The technical advantage of DSL is that the line in your home goes straight to the telephone company office (a big building with lots of connections and computers sometimes called a "switch"). Nothing between you and the phone company depends on anyone else. However, the electrical requirements of DSL mean that if you are too far from a "switch," then you can't have DSL. In reality, the speed you get with DSL can be lower if you are on the outer limits, distance-wise.

I think the largest advantage of cable over DSL is business model. For phone companies, the connection and data you send are their primary product. They really need to make money from you on the deal. For cable companies, the connection is a commodity component that complements their entertainment distribution model (cable TV). Their bread comes from elsewhere, so they don't seem to be excessively trying to monetize the engagement.

Additionally, while both phone and cable are generally regulated like public utilities, to me cable companies seem more entrepreneurial in spirit and more interested in providing a service. Phone companies seem to me as if they are still coasting along with a monopoly driven bureaucracy in mind.


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