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Cable vs DSL

By farl in Technology
Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 10:43:35 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Which offers a better service? And of course this varies by area and local companies, but I am looking for some real world comparisons of the two systems.

As a long time cable user, I find that I am rather obviously biased towards recommending cable service over DSL. Even though I live about 400 feet from my local TELCO exchange, when I signed up for high speed service, the cable offer was better, and I have not been dissappointed since. I have logged speeds of 1.1 MB/s from mp3.com, so I have no cause to complain.

My question is what kind of real world results have you got from services out there? Anyone out there tried both and can give me an unbiased answer for their service experience? I live in San Diego, and both services are established and pretty fast. One of my coworkers is asking me these questions and I figured I would see what I could find out from other people's points of view.


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Cable vs DSL | 46 comments (38 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Just curious (1.88 / 9) (#2)
by el_guapo on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:08:22 PM EST

"logged speeds of 1.1 MB/s " MB/s or Mb/s???? 1.1 MegaBytes/s is like 11 Megabits/s, that is truly smokin'.
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
Re: Just curious (3.25 / 4) (#3)
by farl on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:14:14 PM EST

megaBYTES... The roughly 5MB file took about 6-7 seconds or so from click to finished download.

and yes that is truly smoking... that's why i love my cable. But i am also aware that that is NOT the norm, and that is why im posting this question.

[ Parent ]
Re: Just curious (2.50 / 4) (#4)
by farl on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:15:15 PM EST

Oh and forgot to put into the last comment, but 1.1 MB is 8.8 Mb by definition, not 11 Mb.

[ Parent ]
Re: Just curious (4.80 / 5) (#5)
by el_guapo on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:28:21 PM EST

re: 1.1 MBytes = 8.8 Mbits - this is true until you try and move the thing across a network - the Frame overhead, packet overhead etc. etc. etc. make the ratio more like 10:1 instead of 8:1 - Go look at a fibre channel controller. Those use standard Gigabit Ethernet Gbics rated at 1000Mbits/sec. That should equate to 1000/8=125Megabytes/sec - but you'll see they only rate it at 100Mbytes/sec due to the 10-1 you end up with after overhead. So, if you are actually measuring 1.1 megabytes per second, you are actually getting 11 megabits per second.....
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
[ Parent ]
Re: Just curious (3.33 / 3) (#7)
by farl on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:33:29 PM EST

OK OK...

I'll shut up now (assuming you are correct there). All I know is that the little progress bar on the netscape window said 1.1 MB/s, and im extrapolating from there at the (i thought) normal ratio of 8:1.

So does that mean that a 10mbp/s NIC card actually puts through more than that? and the 10mbp/s is just a standard average over time rating?

[ Parent ]
Re: Just curious (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by fluffy grue on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:41:07 PM EST

No, it's that a 10Mbps ethernet card doesn't give you real-world data thoroughput of 1.25MB/sec.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

To elaborate on what Fluffy Grue said (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by el_guapo on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 01:03:59 PM EST

your 10Mbit/s ethernet card moves "data" at just that - 10 million bits/second (it literally has a 10Mhz ocillator on it, and moves 1 bit every cycle). Here's the rub, "data" to that NIC includes frame headers and stuff, and packet headers and stuff, so what that means is this NIC can only move your data at around 1 MegaBYTE per second. When you see tranfer rates, you need to take into account where that rate is being measured. If it's at the network level, you need to take into account the overhead; but if you move a 10Megabit (1.25megabyte) file from one machine to another in 1 second, you moved it at 10Megabits per second (and you didn't do it over standard ethernet ;-) ). Clear as mud????
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
[ Parent ]
Re: Just curious (4.66 / 3) (#6)
by tsiar on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 12:32:49 PM EST

I've generally seen MB (Bytes) used to represent file transfer speed, while Mb, Kb (bits) are generally used to represent line speed. If you are comparing to advertised data rates of other devices like modems, you need to take into account frame overhead, etc.. In that case, I've found that multiplying the file transfer rate by 10 shortcut is pretty good. For example, on a 28.8kbps modem connection, you generally max out at 2.8kB per second or so when transferring files. Of course, this is how I've always associated the two units. So, multiplying by 10 could be fairly accurate if you are comparing file transfer speed to line speed.

[ Parent ]
Cable is a shared medium (2.30 / 10) (#12)
by uweber on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 01:58:09 PM EST

Well I can't talk of my experiences since in germany the cable network is still mostly held by the largest telco (though it is currently beeing sold) and they wanted to spread ADSL and ISDN services (so I use ADSL) but as i understand it the bandwith (which is probably not too great since the analog TV signals also have to go over it)has to be shared among all users while with DSL you get all the bandwidth, which in germany is 768kbit/s and since you get directly connected to the ATM backbone you really get this throughput on the other hand with cable I think you will be screwed if 3 or 4 people on your loop think they need to type in make world :-).

Re: Cable is a shared medium (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by dieman on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 02:16:17 PM EST

Oh yes, execpt each physical catv segment has over 45MBPS to serve those customers on that node, perhaps at most 500 people, usually more like 100-200.

Thats one hell of a deal, considering they usually only cap you at bursting at 2-3MBps.

Wow. You can deal with 768Kbit?
[ Parent ]
The internet is a shared medium (3.80 / 5) (#14)
by sleestack on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 02:17:35 PM EST

"Cable users share bandwidth", is the biggest piece of FUD out there. Seems like some DSL users think they have a direct T1 pipe to every site on the internet. The reality is that if you're using the internet you're sharing bandwidth. Providers buy bandwidth just like their customers do. They sell connectivity to their customers and all of their customers share that bandwidth. Doesn't matter if you're dialup, cable, DSL or anything else. It all comes down to your local situation, you might have a really good local DSL provider and you may have a really bad local cable provider, in which case get DSL. If you have a bad DSL provider and a good cable provider get cable. If they're both good, get the cheapest. If they're both shitty, good luck. Both technologies work. It's how they're implemented and the quality of the network you're connecting to that makes the difference. Can we talk about Coke vs Pepsi now?

[ Parent ]
Re: The internet is a shared medium (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by lovelace on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 01:12:11 AM EST

Well, it depends on what portion of the link you are referring to. Yes, once you leave your ISP all bandwidth is shared. The question here is what about the link from your site to your ISP. With DSL, the line goes directly to your ISP. With Cable, it is more like an ethernet network, the bandwidth to your ISP is shared with everyone in your neighborhood. The bandwidth that is shared, however, is potentially much higher than the DSL bandwidth and therefore the two services end up being most likely the same.

I just got a cable line buried to my house today (to be used only for Internet as I get my TV by digital satellite). I spent two years trying to get GTE (now Verizon) to give me a DSL line. When I called 3 months ago I was 18,000 feet from the CO (their limit is 16,200 feet). When I called last month, my distance from the CO had increased to 18,600 feet. :-( So, I decided to overcome my hatred of cable companies and order cable.

So, in my experience, DSL availability is spotty in some places (and may not depend on having new lines... a friend of mine couldn't get DSL because his neighborhood uses fiber instead of copper) but under most new cable setups Internet service is much easier to provide.

[ Parent ]
Re: The internet is a shared medium (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by FreshView on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 02:06:06 PM EST

Of coures the Internet is a shared medium, but as the other fellow put it, it depends on where you're doing your sharing, and it is much like Ethernet in precisely that way. I have friends with cable modems who complain about "primetime" service, while my DSL is 1.5 MB/s fairly constantly. The DSL provider can easily upgrade their line to the rest of the internet, but it is much harder for the cable service provider to upgrade all the cable lines in an area to ensure that the bandwidth stays fairly constant.

[ Parent ]
Yes it is (1.00 / 2) (#27)
by jreilly on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:10:02 PM EST

I have a cable modem, and its great, until primetime. When everyone in my neighborhood turns on their TVs, I might as well be on a 56k modem. Cable lines provide bandwidth to an area, not a house, and everyone in the area has to share. TVs take up a lot of bandwidth.

Oooh, shiny...
[ Parent ]

??? (4.66 / 3) (#30)
by adamsc on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 10:14:33 PM EST

Cable TV signals are broadcast constantly and operate on different frequencies than a cable modem. I think you'd find that bandwidth saturation happens from people using the Internet and rarely at the local level; usually saturation first affects your provider's Internet connections as they have more bandwidth on their network than its interconnect.

[ Parent ]
Myths... myths... myths... (none / 0) (#38)
by gawi on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 03:13:12 AM EST

Glad to see this one corrected (i.e. the TV bandwidth). It shows how much people have been fed up by all sorts of stories.

We should stop the comparison in favor of a list of myths concerning those two access technologies.

Pepsi tastes almost like Coke anyway.


-- Are you in denial?
[ Parent ]

Cable vs DSL (2.40 / 10) (#15)
by metalgeek on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 03:06:57 PM EST

Basically it's a question of service, and wheter you want a constant speed, or just wish to let it vary. Service is a big thing wth high speed lines, the quality of there tech support, how often they go down, billing issues.
I'd suggest talking to people in your area, newsgroups are alwaqys good.
DSL is a dedicated line between you and the telco, so your speed generally will never change. depending on where you live, and what your telco offers, you may only get 256k up/down or like here 1.5 mb down 640k up. Cable is a shared service in your local area. you'll see massive slowdown around 3-9pm (when school gets out) your speeds will be great around 3 in the morning.
I have also heard lots of complaints about there mail speed, as well as problems with things don't have good latency or uptime (dns, routers, etc) but my suggestion is to talk to peiople in your area, and ask what there experiance has been.

"K5 is a site where users have the motto 'Anyone Who Isn't Me Is An Idiot, And Anyone Who Disagrees With Me Is Gay'." skyknight
One minor detail you left out (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by adamsc on Sat Oct 14, 2000 at 10:01:54 PM EST

While cable is shared at the local level, it has at least an order of magnitude more bandwidth to share. None of this really matters, however, as it's rarely the local level that's constrained and DSL is just as shared as cable beyond the local connection to your building and thus subject to all of the games providers play with over-commited lines.

[ Parent ]
The end (4.15 / 13) (#17)
by /ASCII on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:43:48 PM EST

This, as some people have already stated, is a meaningless potential flamewar. The cable and DSL offerings are basically similar. They are both long copper cables, meant to transport analog signals. DSL has the advantage that you get the entire bandwith of the line to yourself, while cable has the advantage that the signal only has to travel a short distance to the backbone (usually it goes straight to the basement, from there it's an optical link or whatever). These factors should pretty much cancel each other out, and in the end other factors like shielding, the age of installation and (most importantly) the competence of the provider are much more important in determening the quality of the connection.

There is NO technical reason that one of the systems have to have hicher latency, higher bandwidth or bigger boobs. That all depends on the provider.

It should be noted that the potential bandwidth of both these systems lie above 10 Mb/s, under laboratory conditions they both have can put out a 100 Mb/s, so we haven't heard the last word yet.

I live in Sweden, and I use the DSL provided by Telia, my countrys former Telephone monopoly. Surprisingly enough, the service works great, I only pay for 0.5 Mb/s, but I always (ALWAYS) get 2.2 Mb/s, and I haven't had a technical problem yet. Only bad thing is the dynamic IP, but they don't use NAT, an by staying onlne constantly, I get to keep the same address anyway, so it's no biggie. Only problem for the swedes reading this, Telia says that the deliverytime for this service should be ~16 months in most of Sweden. 16 MONTHS! By that time we'll all have broadband to our cerebellum, the aliens will have landed and the Yetis will have revealed their true purpose!
"The time has come", the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings."

Re: The end (1.00 / 2) (#23)
by LiPalM on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 02:02:40 PM EST

Hmmm Cable's latency is way higher than DSL's latency.
If you plan to play, get DSL or you'll get fragged before even joining the game.

-- I'm root. Fear me !
[ Parent ]
Re: The end (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by /ASCII on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 01:42:05 AM EST

The cable pipe is most probably less then a hundred yards long, and the signal propagation speed is approximatly equal to the speed of light, thus the latency from the cable connection is less than neglectible. If your local cable provider has high latency, they simply have a lousy backbone.
You missed the ENTIRE POINT of my post: The difference between different services depends ENTIRELY on the providers technology OTHER than the endpoint connection.

"The time has come", the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings."
[ Parent ]
Exactly (none / 0) (#34)
by icebox on Mon Oct 16, 2000 at 08:39:48 AM EST

You've hit the nail on the head, with both posts.

I recently switched from DSL to cable, primarily because my DSL provider was not too reliable and the cable guys could get me connected sooner than any other DSL ISP. I'm quite happy with it, I great speed all of the time and it has not been down in the four months I've had it. They don't care if I IPMasq (neither did the DSL ISP). It requires no contract and no set up fees so when the inevitable happens, more people get on my loop, and I lose speed I can switch back to DSL whenever I want.

Choosing one over the other is more dependent on where a person lives than it is on technical merit. I choose cable because I get more bandwidth per dollar. It isn't guaranteed-in-writing bandwidth but it is always there. The only disadvantage is that I can't run a server, something I really don't want to do anyway.

[ Parent ]

RE: NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! (none / 0) (#45)
by LiPalM on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 06:57:52 PM EST

Hmmm..I would tend to agree with you and your arguments are all valid. There's one thing that bothers me though. I tried "8", yes EIGHT cable/DSL providers (California and brussels, Belgium). In all the cases, my latency was much better on DSL than cable. My frags were higher too (not that I play to much though).I could telnet at ease on DSL, but had horrible lags on cable, every single time ! Also, DSL companies were(dunno if they still are..) professional companies and their routers were much better optimized than the cable TV guys; this is their main business and they are all dedicated to it; cable guys try to make extra bucks in becoming ISP's even if they don't have the infrastructure. There are prolly exceptions but as far as I am concerned, I'll never go back to cable if i can get DSL; especially because I SSH a lot to my boxes at home from work.you get my point. ..That's all i can say....
-- I'm root. Fear me !
[ Parent ]
Check the service agreement (4.00 / 4) (#19)
by mrr on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 07:19:37 PM EST

Some DSL providers place no restrictions on the use of your bandwidth. However, every cable provider I've looked into says "no servers at your place." This is trivial for them to block. If you want to run your own web/mail/dns/flavor_of_the_week service DSL makes more sense.

My experience has been that Cable does give higher download rates for the buck. My DSL allows higher upload rates - which is good for the web server.

Re: Check the service agreement (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by farl on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 07:35:25 PM EST

Well i ran a server through my cable account. The deal is that on a RESIDENTIAL account you cannot have a server running. But pay a few more $$ (in my case was $25/month), they will upgrade you to a commercial account and you can run servers without violating their service agreement.

Of course not all ISP's are the same in this though.

[ Parent ]
Re: Check the service agreement (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by El Volio on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 10:44:46 AM EST

This has been exactly my experience, and the reason why I switched from cable modem to DSL (now I'm on a 384k/384k link with an 8 IP subnet (5 usable)). Previous to this, I had been a cable modem customer for about 2 years, and while it was great when I first got it in college, it became a little underpowered as my needs changed. The speed was nearly always fine, and I didn't have the service interruptions that have plagued others. The tech support wait times are every bit as bad as the legends say, and my DSL ISP has always been easy to reach. Getting the phone company to fix stuff or even take a look at it, that's a whole 'nother issue...

This is exactly why I've maintained that for the average home user, cable modem service is perfect. My mother has cable modem service, and it lets her do her web surfing/e-mail/whatever reasonably quickly. Her upstream capacity is fairly unimportant for the type of customer she is. "Above-average" users, like many of us, need a little bit more. Personally, even though I only typically see DLs at about 40KB/s, my upstream rate is right there as well. So I'm a happy customer.

The other nice thing about DSL is that you have a choice of ISPs, and thus more options as to your type of service. Having TOS that allows me to run a (non-commercial) server and getting a real subnet is another nice aspect of DSL. Again, doesn't affect 80-90% of the users, but it's really nice for those of us who like it.

[ Parent ]

Unless anyone else has other exp (none / 0) (#44)
by Wah on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 12:50:39 AM EST

this is the major dividing line between cable and dsl. The service. Cable==no servers. (*wonders how long it will be before Napster is classfied as one*)

I am curious if anyone has experienced cable slow-down though. When outsid people ask about the two, I usually mention this as a limitation, but has anywhere reached this point? Do you feel high traffic times?

Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]
Didnt we forget something? (2.00 / 2) (#28)
by Hk_Silver on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 03:18:45 PM EST

I think we are forgetting something here. Many cable modems have their upload speed capped at less than 20KB/sec where as DSL can achive speeds much higher.
That government is best which governs least.
Yep. (none / 0) (#41)
by Jay on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 10:03:02 PM EST

I'm capped at 16 kbytes/second here, using Charter@Home.

I tried to get it lifted and this what happened...

1. I called the head tech support place and I was transfered to an advanced tech person. I told him I would like my cap lifted and his response was, "What makes you think there is a cap." Needless to say, my intelligence (mainly my natural human common sense) was insulted. Gee, I don't know why I would think there is an upload cap. Maybe because there was a paper leaked a year ago talking about a 128kbyte/sec cap and I get a max of 16kb/sec. Come on, I'm not stupid. So he goes off and checks with somebody and he tells me they can't lift it. That's a lie. They can, they just won't.

2. E-mailed CS. First, I must say that their CS works very fast, which I was impressed by. However, they weren't much more helpful than tech support. They wrote back a long prewritten letter. It calls the upload cap "OnAdvantage Upstream Enhancement." I laughed out loud when I read that. It's like when Bill Clinton tried to redefine the word "is." They're trieing to redefine the word "enhancement."

3. I pay $50 a month for my access, and I have been paying so for about a year or more. New people have been able to sign up and pay $20 a month. It seems like paying $30 extra a month could seem like enough of an incentive to take off the cap.

In conclusion, don't get cable internet access from anybody using @home. Just get DSL so that you can run a server for yourself or your friends, and upload to your friends faster than 16kb/sec with the OnAdvantage Upstream Enhancement.

[ Parent ]
It all depends... (none / 0) (#31)
by Daverix on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 03:51:37 PM EST

In my area, there are two options, Cable modem from AT&T, or DSL from Ameritech, the phone company. While it is true that you can "choose" your ISP for DSL, most people around here just go with the phone company, which is owned by SBC.

Anyway, I recommend to all people around here to get a cable modem, for a few reasons. The cable system here is fiber-optic on the poles, and the latency due to peak usage is not that bad. For the price of $39.95/month I get uncapped downstream and upstream. ADSL here however is the same price from Ameritech, and it is 768 Kbps down/ 128 Kbps up. Also, the ADSL connection is via PPPoE, and many people I know who have it often cannot connect, and get server errors.

Basically, the debate between cable and DSL comes down to the providers, and what you want to do with it. I have my cable routed over my LAN via a UMAX U-Gate router, and it fits my needs fine. DSL on the other hand would not work in my case.

Availability (none / 0) (#32)
by Ranger Rick on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 11:04:13 PM EST

Where I'm at, it's the same way, or I thought it was. The choices in my area are roadrunner cable modem, or Bell South for DSL (who use pppoe and have had *lots* of problems).

I want(ed) to serve stuff off my connection, though, so cable modem was not an option. They have policies that are too restrictive, usually. I ended up going to DSLReports.com and found that there are actually tons of providers in my area (ironically, everyone *but* Bell South offers DSL service in my area, even though the actual physical loop part of my connection is provided by Bell South). I ended up with Speakeasy.net, who have an *awesome* policy. It basically states "We know you want high-speed access so you can do real things with the net. Do whatever you want within reason." And, other than a few growing pains, service has been very stable.


[ Parent ]
I'd agree (none / 0) (#33)
by shaggy on Sun Oct 15, 2000 at 11:49:25 PM EST

I've now had both DSL from two providers and recently got a cable modem. There are many things to consider when looking at this. The first thing I think of is the TOS for your provider. I had 768/768 DSL from speakeasy.net and it rocked. Their TOS rocked. I could run anything I wanted (web, ftp, dns, smtp, pop, imap etc) except ircds or porn sites. It's dedicated bandwidth, which is good, but it's a bit pricy ($80/mo). The cable modem I just got is from AT&T (mediaone). The TOS are a lot more restrictive, and they will only install on a windows or mac platform (depending upon your install tech). So far I am liking the cable service much better. I get better download speeds (160kB/s) and the price is nicer ($40/mo). If you want pure speed, go cable. If you want speed and a better TOS go DSL.

[ Parent ]
Cable is Sniffable, !DSL (none / 0) (#36)
by redelm on Mon Oct 16, 2000 at 11:28:25 PM EST

No experience on data rates. But quite frankly, I'd avoid cable if you're at all worried about security. The thing is essentially one great big collison domain ethernet, and your neighbours can easily snoop on you. Just drop their modems/ethercards into promiscuous mode, and sniff away.

Sure, `ssh`, `OpenSWAN` and even https give considerable protection. But http, ftp, SMTP and AFAIK, POP3 are unencrypted (tho' the mail may be). I worry more about nosy neighbours than TLAs. If you expect TLAs as adversaries, then DSL would probably require a warrent to tap, while cable might not.

Otherwise, the shared collision domain shouldn't cause too much trouble. If local collisions are too high, they can simply be subnetted. The real problem is upstream bandwidth, and here DSL and Cable face the same problem. If they oversell capacity, service will suffer.

how easily? (none / 0) (#37)
by gawi on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 03:01:51 AM EST

I also have a cable access and I don't think everybody can sniff the traffic so easily. You would need to do that on the RF side, not the ethernet side (at least with my current provider). So, it doesn't seem trivial after all. Tapping your neighbour's phone might be just as well complex/simple. I think this cable-is-sniffable argument is DSL propaganda.

See this link: http://www.robertgraham.com/pubs/sniffing-faq.html


-- Are you in denial?
[ Parent ]

I like my DSL connection. (none / 0) (#39)
by Denjiro on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 05:41:15 AM EST

I'm going through a local ISP that resells Verison(Formerly Bell Atlantic.) ADSL. I get 680kb up and 7.1mb down. This is consistant throughout the day. I rarely get close to the maximum download but I can regularly get multiple 100 - 200KB downloads going at once. It's a dynamic IP, but no PPPOE software. I've also got a Linksys Cable/DSL router to split it among my systems. Normally that package would be $189 a month, but I get it for $89(One of the few perks of being employed at the local ISP in question.).

One data point (none / 0) (#40)
by kjeldar on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 04:24:52 PM EST

"My question is what kind of real world results have you got from services out there? Anyone out there tried both and can give me an unbiased answer for their service experience?"

Sure. AT&T Cable Servies (aka @home) cable modem, $40/mo, upstream, downstream, and especially latency varied wildly. Peak hours were from 3:30pm to 11pm or so, with speeds and latency dramatically improving after 1am. I'd seen file transfers saturate the bandwidth of the 10Mb NIC attached to the cable modem once or twice at 4am or so, but having a pipe no fatter than ISDN (128Kbps) during peak hours, with the latency of a crappy 28.8Kbps modem (>350ms) connection, prompted me to switch.

SBC Global Telecom (Southwestern Bell) ADSL, $40/mo, upstream at a consistent 120Kbps, downstream at a constant 1.5Mbps, latency roughly <150ms as far away as 15 or so hops, usually <75ms within about 7 hops. All these are fairly constant WRT time of day. My loop to the CO is only about 300 feet. Happy as a clam, I am, even though PPPoE is a bitch, and the EnterNet software that SBC gives to subscribers is Windows-only, and a bit flaky. (I use Roaring Penguin's PPPoE connection util; highly recommended.)

Also, try http://www.dslreports.com if you haven't already. Decent resource. They have user reviews of any xDSL ISP you care to mention in a major metro area.

Posted with pride from Mozilla M18

I've got both (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by anonymous cowerd on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 10:14:33 PM EST

My daughter has RoadRunner cable, which would cost $50 a month if we didn't have Time-Warner cable TV service (aka "garbage feed") but with cable TV you pay $40 a month. Throughput at night, when connected to a server with a lot of bandwidth, is excellent (I got a Redhat ISO image once at 1AM from a Florida university server at over 225 KB per second! but sometimes during busy periods, like Saturday afternoon, it has dogged down to as low as 15 KB/sec from servers that I know have much higher capacity.) I can sometimes mount drives on other users's Win9x PCs on our subnet, which is rather amusing and probably illegal.

When you order RoadRunner here in Tampa, Florida, you get visits from two service guys. One guy, a nice, calm fellow with a toolbelt, attaches a splitter to your cable line and runs a wire along your roofline, down the wall, through a hole he drills in your masonry, to a socket he mounts on your wall by your computer desk. He also drops off a box containg a cable modem. That's the limit of his responsibilty. The other guy, a nervous wreck, shows up late as heck, apologizing for the delay. His job, for the average consumer, consists of the following: 1.) Install an ethernet card in the user's Win9x machine (NT, Linux, etc. users are out in the cold, I'm not sure about Mac users) 2.) Install TCP/IP. 3.) Install a RoadRunner login client that runs only in Windows (but I'm not sure they do this anymore, because we no longer have to use the login program, we're just connected 24/7) 4.) Do some mysterious programming over the phone with the local office, to get the cable service to work with the specific cable modem and finally, once the PC has connected successfully to the cable service, 5.) Download and install a browser (when we first got RoadRunner, they were installing MSIE3, even though IE4 had been out for a year, because as the installer said, "IE4 is way more trouble than it's worth," but now they install IE5 instead.) This is not a job I'd like to have; I wonder what percentage of the Win9x machines these guys work on take that one-way trip to bluescreen city arfter these first two steps, and what Joe or Jane Homeowner has to say after that tech guy has hosed their previously working computer?

The RoadRunner PC install guy won't leave until the client's PC is working correctly, or until the sun goes down; I've heard of these guys spending a day and a half before they could get a screwed up Win9x box to connect. The guy who came to my house, who was supposed to be there before noon, showed up at 4:45PM, after spending all day getting a PCMCIA ethernet card to work with some other customer's IBM ThinkPad. He was trying to explain to my entirely non-technical wife why he had to open up the PC case to install this here ethernet thingie in it when I walked in and told him that the box already had a working 3C509, TCP/IP, and a couple of browsers all installed and configured. Boy was he relieved, especially after his all-day ThinkPad ordeal!

The other high speed connection I've got at home is GTE DSL. They run an ADSL line into your house for as little as $35 a month - this is a "bronze," or 64/256 line - and the ISP service costs another $20 a month, for a total of $55 a month. Because of antitrust or something, they are required, unlike RoadRunner, to split the service like that and offer you non-GTE ISPs as well. If I got both parts from GTE, I'd get a DHCP-vended IP address, like I get with RoadRunner. But by using Verio-san (Verio got bought out recently by some big Japanese telephone company) as my ISP instead, I get a fixed IP address, so I can hang an FTP server, an HTTP server, etc. on my connection, which I really like. RoadRunner gives you a few megabytes for HTTP and I don't know if they offer FTP at all; in contrast my firewall/masquerade box (a P5-100 with 32MB RAM) has got a 30GB hard drive. This has really come in handy at my job a few times when a client has wanted to send us a few tens of megabytes of CAD drawing files. I telneted home, set them up an account, then called them on the telephone a couple of minutes later and told them to FTP the files to ftp://<my IP address>. My peak download speeds are somewhat less than the peak speed of RoadRunner, I think the fastest I can remember getting downloads is about 75KB per second (which is, if I'm not mistaken, higher than the 64/256 they guarantee, isn't that 256kbits, not Kbytes?), but I can always get that speed, even during busy parts of the day.

When the GTE guy showed up at my house, he came inside, popped off from the wall that little muffin box where my telephone plugs in, and installed a little 1" x 3" circuit board which splits the signal out to two outlets, one for the phone and one that goes to the DSL modem. (You can talk on the phone at the same time as using the DSL connection, by the way.) Then he plugged in the DSL modem, tested it by plugging it into his laptop, and that was it. Everything else was my responsibility. Because I'm moderately technical myself (although I guess most K5 readers know far more about networking and computers in general than I do) I was able to take it from there, but I think nine out of ten ordinary home users would find this installation hopelessly inadequate. Maybe, however, if you order GTE ISP service as well as the GTE DSL line, they'll do a more complete installation, better suited to a non-technical customer. (By the way, you internet experts, how can I make my domain name visible without me running my own DNS server? That seems like a lot of work to publish only my one domain name. Is there free or real cheap DNS service available out there to point toward my IP address?)

Verio offers me NNTP, SMTP and POP3 servers, as does RoadRunner. Verio's service, in my experience, is first-rate, and so is RoadRunner's. I even talked to a helpful tech at RoadRunner once on a Sunday night! Neither of the two services has ever been down for more than about three hours, and that only once after a particularly nasty thunderstorm which also cut power to my house for an hour or so.

Finally, RoadRunner's terms of service forbid putting a masquerading machine on a home connection so multiple computers can access the service simultaneously. I don't know how they'd know if you did it, but those are their rules. RoadRunner also forbids running a web server on your home account. GTE/Verio has no objection to any of these things. So my advice to ordinary folks is, go with RoadRunner, because of the thorough and average-user-friendly installation, but for technically astute users I recommend DSL, provided the user can afford the extra $5 or $15 a month, because of all the advantages of having a fixed IP address. Someday soon I'll run a wire over from my firewall/masq box to my daughter's PC and cancel RoadRunner, which will save me almost $500 a year, which will buy old Dad a lot of beer, you betcha!

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.

my experiences (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by leitec on Tue Oct 17, 2000 at 11:49:45 PM EST

While I myself have only a 56k connection (though I have just ordered DSL), I have used both services that are available in my area.

Because of our local phone network, it is impossible to get anything but 144k IDSL in this area. I have used a friend's connection, and it was fabulous. Though the downloads were only around 15kbytes/sec, latency was around 20ms (to gwyn.tux.org, about 8 hops away), and SSH sessions were mindblowingly fast. Network games were also great.

Another friend of mine has the local cable service, which is COX roadrunner. I've had mixed experiences with this. Though I can download as high as 125-150kbytes/sec (capped at 1.5mbps down, 192k up), I can't upload faster than the DSL, and latency is absolutely terrible. Even outside peak hours, latency can go as high as 350ms to gwyn.tux.org, about 9 hops away from the cable connection. Games and SSH also proved that the latency was less than desirable.

Personally, I do not have a choice between the two, only DSL is in my immediate area. But in any case, judging from these experiences, even if the cable co did finish up my neighborhood, I would still pick DSL. With DSL (most ISPs at least), I get low latency, freedom to run servers, a static IP (usually with control over the reverse), and a REAL isp to go with it. Cable companies aren't usually the best ISPs (hell, they can barely even provide me with decent TV service).

Security isn't a matter here, since the local cable company uses cable modems with built-in encryption, but I nevertheless feel safer with a DSL knowing its all mine than with a cable connection knowing that other people are using my line. I don't really have to worry about my machine's security either because I already am up 24/7 on my modem, but it's always nice to know that you can't be snooped.

Services also vary greatly. I administer a server on a AT&T Business Cable connection (used to be TCI, it was *much* faster then!) and while it normally gets 80-100k/sec downloads (*sigh* I miss TCI - 600kbytes/sec DL's!), having three 56k users downloading at once lags it, even though my downstream bandwidth is the same as my upstream. I'm very happy that in about a month my server will be on a nice DSL connection.

Anyway, I hope this has helped.
Claudio Leite

Cable vs DSL | 46 comments (38 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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