back to article America abandoning DSL in favour of faster cable

ADSL connections to US homes are on the slide as companies and consumers turn to cable and fibre for faster connectivity. End of 2011 results show Verizon lost almost half a million DSL customers during last year, while AT&T managed to lose more than six hundred thousand in the last quarter alone - but those customers aren't …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Christian Berger

    The main problems of cable are...

    1. It's a shared medium. Depending on how cheap your ISP is, you might be sharing a limited bandwidth of a few Gigabits per second with many thousand other customers. Upgrading the network would mean that you have to split it, which is hard and expensive. It involves digging up roads. With DSL you simply rent a bit more fiber to the DSLAM and install a few more modules.

    2. It's usually a monopoly. You cannot have multiple companies sharing the same cable, so you will end up having only one company available in your building.

    3. The business-model of Television clashes with the business-model of working Internet. Why should you pay for cable TV when you can often get the same channels for free and legally via the Internet? Why should cable companies give you working internet, and not limit the rates to sites like Youtube?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There's cable, and there's cable.

      I have experience with cable systems that was... not so good. As in, you'd get better performance with a dialup modem. Some of the companies using com21 have become legendary in their infamy; they started out too heavily oversubscribed and never upgraded even in the face of many more subscribers than planned for and a veritable flood of complaints, including actual mobs gathering at their corporate HQ. This is not to say modern cable isn't any good. It's pretty spiffy, even if shared, as long as there is enough bandwidth to go around. DSL is, barring poor lines and there's quite a lot of those around too, fine for the last mile, but if you undersize the DSLAM you still have Serious Problems--I've seen that too. So I think both can be made to work just fine, and both can give a poor experience too.

      The devil is in the details. Like, oh, how telcos usually suck at this IP networking thing. If the local net is a jumble, or if the kit is overworked because there's too many downloading kids on the block, you're hosed no matter the technology.

      The technology to make multi-vendor-play work exists so there is no need for a monopoly; just split the owning of the infrastructure from delivering the content. Local authorities could choose to enforce such a model. Likewise data carrying vs. tv signal carrying: Don't need to throttle youtube, just charge for the bandwidth. Of course, most people want that unmetered, so you bank on them wanting a fat pipe but only really using that a couple hours a day, and price accordingly. Or employ any of a myriad other tricks in traffic engineering.

      1. Mike Flugennock


        "Don't need to throttle youtube, just charge for the bandwidth. Of course, most people want that unmetered, so you bank on them wanting a fat pipe but only really using that a couple hours a day, and price accordingly..."

        My DSL is $65/month, flat; most of my usage is email and your standard-issue Web browsing. I don't spend a lot of time on YouTube because aside from the occasional news footage/citizen journalism-type stuff, I don't spend a whole lot of time there, unless I get an itch for some serious cheap laffs and stream an old MST3K episode. If that's the case, I have a Firefox extension that'll let me suck it down as an MPEG4 to save and view locally.

    2. Charles 9

      In Rebuttal...

      1. Cable companies recognized this. That's why the major players like Comcast, Cox, TWC, and so on got busy upgrading their backhauls so that the splits weren't so contentious. They pushed through upgraded DOCSIS standards that allows for QoS provisioning and tiered service. That way, they could offer baseline service for those on the cheap while allowing those who needed premium bandwidth the ability to do so--for a price.

      And as mentioned in the article, the phone companies knew copper could only go so far. So they too plunked down and put in new infrastructure: fiber-to-the-home setups like U-Verse and FiOS (Verizon's version). And it's paid off. With the bandwidth fiber offers, they can compete with the cable companies on practically-even footing. Which is what we're seeing. People either jump to competing brands or step up to the new stuff. It's a real race out there, and as any capitalist will tell you, that's a Good Thing. Keeps the competition honest.

      2. While it is usually a monopoly as far as the connection within the premises is concerned, the choice beyond that is still up to you. Most setups have a single access point through which the cable or so on runs and is then branched out as needed. A setup like that isn't very difficult to switch out should you change providers.

      3. The web isn't going to do you much good if all you have to work with is a TV. Now, it may sound strange, but old, non-connected TVs still exist (hell, TUBE TVs are still out there). As long as they continue to exist, regular old television will still have a function. In addition, companies can answer the web video challenge right now with channels still not available online yet (most broadcasters and many other channels limit their web access, and HD content online can get iffy, particularly with sportscasts which carry their own terms and 1080p content which hogs bandwidth), on-demand content, video recording, and assorted value-added services. Plus most of these companies also offer telephone service (they either started as phone companies or expanded into them about 15 years ago), all of which they can tie in pretty neatly. They're playing this game very cagey, not just because of the government wanting to make sure service is still available to people but also because any disadvantage is likely to be exploited by the competition to steal subscribers.

      1. Daniel 4

        Old Equipment (slightly off topic)

        "Now, it may sound strange, but old, non-connected TVs still exist (hell, TUBE TVs are still out there)."

        The numbers are shrinking every year, but I would not be surprised if tube television sets don't still make a significant fraction of the sets out there and in light use. I still see them all over the place, tucked into corners here and there where someone wanted a television and dug up something from the 90's - if not the 80's.


        1. Mike Flugennock

          CRT TVs...?

          The wife and I still have a large flat-view CRT set in the bedroom, hooked up to the satellite box. The set's not that old and the picture's great, so we didn't see any need to get rid of it.

          Until last summer, we had an old 14" portable CRT set in the kitchen hooked up to an OTA DTV converter box; that set finally died late in the summer, and we got a 14" flatscreen DTV for about $120ish. (At last, a truly portable TV set; I can snatch that sucker up with one hand and tuck it under my arm)

          Upstairs in my studio, the "TV set" is an old ixMicro "TurboTV" PCI card -- basically a cable-ready analog TV set on a card -- installed in an old G3 Mac with our other DTV converter box hooked up to it... so, I guess that also counts as a "tube" TV. (Hell, I even still have a 3-head VHS up there in perfect working order... 'cause you never know)

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Tube TVs

          We have three television sets in the house, and two are CRTs. There's no reason to replace them with anything else.

          On the other hand, we have four general-purpose computers in daily use (and only two people live here), plus a pair of smartphones, maybe a dozen spare general-purpose machines that see occasional use, three WiFi APs (plus CAT-5E to the stationary machines), etc.

          And, apropos the article, until recently we had both CATV and DSL Internet access, the latter mostly used as backup when the former went down or was performing particularly badly. (I canceled the DSL a couple of months ago when AT&T wanted me to pay for a new modem; not worth it, particularly given the quality of the equipment and the lousy service.) Since I have 3G as backup Internet access for the computers, the DSL was really redundant.

    3. Tim of the Win

      It's fibre to the cabinet, the same as BT Infinity. The only difference is the connection between the cabinet and your house. Theoretically it's shared but the bandwidth available is very large and only shared between a relatively small number of properties, it's not like the old days when everyone in a city would be on the same loop. In practice the congestion does not occur at this point but is more likely at the head end.

  2. James 100


    "only ADSL could offer an uncontended connection which was seen as essential in making internet access pay."

    The trouble there is ADSL can only give 20-odd Mbps, maximum - with cable, you can be sharing hundreds of megabits with your street - and your ADSL connection is still sharing the backhaul with all the other ADSL customers anyway. More than that, Net traffic can be very bursty: with the 120 Mbps connections Virgin is rolling out now, downloading that 1,200 Mbyte Windows service pack/Linux ISO/Lovefilm film from a high-power server "hogs" one third of the c 360 Mbps shared capacity - for just over one minute, then for the hour I'm installing/watching it all the bandwidth is free for others.

    Even with an infinitely fast connection, there's a limit to how much you'd really download: doubling the speed just means you max the connection out for half as long. Seriously, on my 50 Mbps cable connection I downloaded OS X Lion from Apple, Windows 8 Developer Preview and Creative Suite from Adobe yesterday, as well as a pile of Ubuntu updates and a few Gb of other things (my laptop file system ate itself, so I had to reinstall everything): would I have downloaded much more on a faster link, or just waited a shorter time for that 20 Gb list?

    I think once you get beyond a few Mbps, without download caps you'll download pretty much what you want when you want: it just arrives a bit faster on a faster connection. Doubling the bandwidth and doubling the contention ratio gives a better service to everyone - and at the backbone level, bandwidth usage won't increase by much anyway.

    Now, if only Microsoft hadn't switched from Akamai to Level3 ... cheaper, maybe, but a tenth of the speed!

    1. Daniel B.

      My experience...

      With cable, I used to get screwed over because anyone could clog up the local segment. I would get dialup speeds just because my neighbor would be downloading stuff. Also, over here cable co's have always used NAT, so you get IPs and a crapload of problems with some sites. Finally, any P2P traffic is either banned or throttled, large downloads are usually throttled as well. Gamers have complained about latency, so that's also b0rked on Cable.

      With ADSL, I might not get the big speed offerings Cable users get, but at least if they tell me I'll get 6Mbps, I'll probably get at least 5.5 Mbps!

  3. kain preacher

    in the US

    Digging up the street is not a big deal in the US. Both come cast an ATT have with the done digging up the streets . The phone company doing more often than cable . To expand DSL services they had to dig up the road here too. Adding remote COs so people could get DSL .Watching those free channels over the net will burn through you data cap.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Digging up the street

      "Digging up the street is not a big deal in the US."

      That depends entirely on where in the US you live, down to the street in question (and often what segment of that street is being dug). I realize this is a difficult concept for some people, but the US is a big, diverse place.

      Our telecomms wiring is all still drops from poles because digging up our street would be hugely disruptive.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My sister-in-law switched from AT&T DSL to AT&T UVerse last week - but she had to take the UVerse TV package and dump Dish to make it worthwhile. But the connection is a lot faster, and working from home is now a much better experience.

    On the other hand, her mother, who lives out in the sticks in rural New York state has a great DSL connection - not as fast as fiber, but completely responsive for everything she needs to do, and quite when she needs me to remote in to help her with something.

    1. Hugh McIntyre

      Last time I looked at this, AT&T would give you UVerse internet without TV if you really wanted and asked, but you need to pay for the install in that case. They don't volunteer this info though because they are *really* trying to sell the TV service.

      Personally I stayed with faster DSL instead because it's cheaper and fast enough for me right now, and I was not willing to give up DirecTV. It is probably true that the cost works out badly if you have UVerse internet on it's own, plus separate satellite for TV - certainly it did for me.

  5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    I would kill to replace my cable/FiOS options with DSL

    Although my neighbor pays $20 per month to Verizon for DSL, and it's "fast enough" for my purposes, I have to shell out $60 to Comcast. Verizon won't install new $20 DSL to my house. All new Verizon installs in my area have to be $60 FiOS. Satellite internet access is also $60. The bottom line is that all of the Internet providers in the Stares are effectively colluding to set the price of Internet Access in a given geographical area.

  6. Christian Berger

    Fiber is not Fiber, BTW

    There are some companies rolling out shared fiber in the form of passive optical split networks. Those will be useless in the future as they essentially cannot be upgraded. In a nutshell if you are lucky you already have wavelength multiplexing equipment installed, so you can run different generations of equipment on different wavelengths, if not, you'll need to upgrade the whole ring (many hundred buildings) in one go. Good luck with that.

    The way to go is point to point fiber. If you have a pair of fibers going from your building to a central place, you have a future proof solution. Unfortunately telephone companies are afraid they might have to rent those out to competitors, so they install the dead-end of passive splitter networks.

    BTW, cable networks typically already run at (close to) maximum capacity. Whenever they want more multiplexes for Internet, they either have to close down one used for television or they need to turn down the power of all those transmitters. After all there is a maximum total power amplifiers can take. Should you see the cross of the sync signal of another channel on analogue television, chances are that one amplifier down the line is already overdriven. Then again, pay-tv is far more profitable than decreasing the overbooking.

    1. Scott 1
      Black Helicopters

      "Unfortunately telephone companies are afraid they might have to rent those out to competitors, so they install the dead-end of passive splitter networks."

      From what I understand, this fear drives a lot of what they do. Yet another reason the government regulation B.S. needs to go away now.

  7. Christian Berger

    Ohh one example

    You can see where a passive optical network ends up when going to east Berlin. There are many such rings in operation. This effectively means that the people there cannot get anything beyond 2 channel ISDN. After all, back in the early 1990s when that was installed, that was _fast_.

    1. Dave Moffatt

      Please google 'GPON' - Gigabit Passive Optical Network.

    2. Danny 14

      dual ISDN

      aaah yes. The good old days of bonded ISDN on "red hot ant".

      I remember playing TFC with 50 ping being king of the hill with 16kps downloads.

  8. Graham Wilson

    DSL/ADSL's time is limited, a fact dictated by sound engineering, not politics.

    The large brigade of naysayers in Australia vehemently opposed to the installation of the fibre-based National Broadband Network (NBN) should read this report.

    DSL/ADSL was always an interim solution, and as useful as wireless is, it too is only part of the solution. Wireless must be supported by a high speed fibre network to conserve radio spectrum. Radio spectrum is already under considerable pressure, especially so in built-up areas. Thus, if good spectrum management practices are observed then there will be considerable pressure to concentrate the bulk of the traffic on fibre all the way to the end user.

    As wireless data rates increase and as the available bandwidth comes under pressure from the increasing number of users, then wireless cells will both have to increase in number and come closer together; this alone means the wireless network will have to be supported by a high speed fibre network. Essentially, the fibre network will have to permeate the wireless service area and not just butt up to the edge of it (except in remote outlying areas with low population densities).

    The more people who have fibre connected directly to their homes and offices etc., the better and more efficient the wireless network will be.

    DSL/ADSL ultimately fails because even if users were to continue to accept its much lower data rates than fibre, the cabling--the old POTS copper wires--have huge losses at radio frequencies which means it's essentially impossible to provide a uniform data rate across a given service area. The large and variable granularity of these DSL/ADSL data rates would be ultimately unsatisfactory from a supplier's perspective, as savvy users would start demanding connection fees that were in proportion to the line connection speeds. DSL/ADSL was fine for the establishment of interim second-generation data services but it is wholly unsuitable for permanent high speed tertiary-generation ones.

    If people worried less about the politics and more about actual engineering realities then there would be almost no argument that DSL/ADSL services need to be phased out in favour of fibre as soon as as is practicable.

    1. scibot

      Hear, hear.

      Most of the new technologies coming through (Fiber etc) Require massive changes to ISP infrastructure, and can't simply be done by flicking a switch. Hold tight, its going to get quicker... Eventually.

  9. Thomas Allen

    Rural America not totally abandoned

    Article mentions, "Meanwhile their rural counterparts remain locked in a lottery of ageing copper which no-one is ever planning to upgrade - and which would probably be left to rot if it weren't for universal-service obligations."

    The aging copper is worthless for rural internet connectivity, and anyone in business on the internet in rural America has a satellite connection, for example from Hughes. I've seen it in action, it's not as fast as cable, about equal to wireless (like Sprint or Clearwire) and vastly superior to telephone dial-up. Rural satellite service is costly, and also fragile, going down in storms, snow, etc., but it is a business necessity.

    1. admiraljkb

      Rural America *nearly* totally abandoned

      <<"Rural satellite service is costly, and also fragile, going down in storms, snow, etc., but it is a business necessity.">>

      Yep, if I was stuck out there, that would be nearly the only option. BTW - I had at one time looked into a satellite connection when I was looking at a house *just* outside civilisation. Holy !@#$! that was expensive for really crappy speeds. I stayed well within the city lines for further house searches.

      At one time there were several wireless (WiFI) operators which would have made it work, but the number of those still in business seems to have gone down recently. A buddy of mine had that a few years ago. Reasonably decent DSL speeds as I recall (decent for the time).

    2. Andrew Norton

      I'm in rural Ga.

      I've got DSl.The FCC's broadband map says Comcast has a 50Mbit service, AT+T CLAIM a 15Mbit service, Verizon claims a 3Mbit 3g service.

      In reality, There is no Comcast service, AT ALL. Not even TV. There's no cables actually laid in the area. I've got the very BEST AT&T package for DSl. 6/0.5. 3G speeds are also not as advertised either, 1.2/0.9...

      Of course, I keep getting hughsnet mailers and I've had to file complaints about deceptive advertising. When you sent adverts saying 'this is the fastest internet you can get in <my address>, it's generally an idea to make sure. Instead $109/month for 2Mbit down, with 300kbit up, is not even close to the fastest, and more than twice what I'm paying.

      My wife had to use hughsnet at a previous job (literally right over the road from Fort Benning, you think there would be some infrastructure) and it was horribly unusable. Latency was terrible.

    3. Tomn8tr

      Isolated in rural America

      I tried the overpriced and perputually slow satellite broadband and found it clunky and at about dialup speed. No cable TV even on the poles here, and the telco only offers dialup. Verizon recently installed a 3G tower nearby, now we use a combo of MiFi and USB data cards for Internet. We are rural and even have an Amish school across from us, so this is probably as good as it will ever get.

    4. BigUglyDean

      The tiny town I live in has had DSL available for just shy of one year now. We survived for 6½ years with satellite (first Hughes, then WildBlue) up here in the Sierras. Yeah, it was faster than dial-up... But nowhere nearly as fast as DSL or even wireless. Oh, and forget about NetFlix downloads over dish: both satellite services limit your bandwidth so if you exceed XX gigs of downloaded data a month, they throttle you down to an utterly useless speed. Satellite broadband is a joke.

      1. Danny 14


        6/0.5 isnt bad and neither is 1mb 3g. I live in a CITY and get worse than that (bloody aluminium cables. Damn you BT!)

        Infinity is 2 years away. so 2020 then.

  10. SirDigalot

    we had DSL for a while

    when they had old dry pairs it was sdsl from telocity in chicago, 1.5/1.5 it was really quite good, then they went belly up and changed to another company they were ok too it was stil sdsl, then we moved, we got ATT DSL (Definitly Sh***y Lines) and it was aweful, after arguing with 'abraham lincoln' who lived in kentucky (Delhi) for an hour as to why i could not see my ethernet connect dsl modem in device manager, they realised they had given me the wrong package, (i got a call back from teir 2 or 3 or something an actual real honest to goodness english person in chicago to ge tthat sorted) then the fun started, we never got full rate, we were "on the limit" of distance, then it used to drop the line all the time... we gave up in the end, that linked with the crappy satellite TV that was always going out when it rained ( or a plane flew over) we went to cable, it cost alot more, lots and lots more lots and lots and many more! but at least we got a stable connection enough to satiate all 7 people using it ( 2 teenagers especially) we were in a pretty built up neighbourhood and everyone had comcast too, always got top speed never had an issue no matter what the time of day..

    now we are in florida, oh dear, well it is stable, enough, cheap about ½ the cost of comcast... so can;t really complain... never wantto go back to dsl ever... however if verizon would expand to where we are i would drop cable in a new york second (which apparently is a very short amount of time)

    when i left blighty i had NTL cable i think it was 512kb or something or something i was dead chuffed coz it saved me a few hundred quid a month in dial up charges!

    1. Kevin 6

      I miss telocity they rocked. I turned their old SDSL modem into atom based PC :D

      Back on subject their SDSL package rocked then they got sold to some place then sold to direct tv which then closed it down, and went megapath who was 2X more expensive for inferior service($99 a month 1.5DL 300k up, but hell AT&T at the time didn't offer service in my area). After megapath pissed me off the final time with their half assed service 3-4 years ago I went AT&T and and for $30 a month get 6 meg download, 200 up for $40 a month (been going up slowly from $33...). I will say I can't complain at all about downtime, seeing only time I couldn't connect was when a surge blew my DSL router out..

      I think AT&T is increasing the DSL prices, and has the low data cap(royally has pissed me off) to force people to swap to u-verse, and that is pretty nutty priced unless you get their TV package too.

      1. Jim in Hayward

        I live in the East Bay near Oakland, at the tail end of the DSL line. I got the 2nd tier package (best I can get for my location) with 1.5 Mbps Down, 384 Kbps up. I pay 15 per month for the first year and 33 per month there after. No contract. Can end anytime I want. I think this is a pretty good price from AT&T. Wish I could get a faster speed but my home location limits the speed I can get. Price is currently 15% of the cost for service from Comcast and 30% of the cost at the end of 1 year. Can't beat that! Everyone else on the block uses Comcast and some of my neighbors speedtests show only 2-2.5 Mbps down. I'll live with my AT&T DSL to save that kind of money!

  11. usbac Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    We just made the switch two weeks ago. We are in a very rural area, and our DSL has always been bad. After numerous complaints and service visits, we just lived with it. We had to reboot our DSL bridge two to three times a day, and got 1.5 MB down, and 385K up when it worked. All for a price of $35 per month. But, I did have a static IP.

    On Charter cable internet, I now get 30+Mbs down, and 3Mbs up all for $25 per month. Actual speed tests show 31-32Mbs. Plus, I haven't had to reboot anything since it was installed. I had to set up dynamic DNS, but the speed and reliability was worth it.

    I used to badmouth cable, but it's working great for me.

  12. MacRat

    Connection Speeds

    Funny how people are nitpicking what the technology is capable of, yet ignoring the real world speeds are typically for the home:

    AT&T = 1-2Mbs down / 0.5Mbs up

    Comcast = 20-22Mbs down / 3-4Mbs up

    There's no comparison.

    1. admiraljkb


      I ran this test with other network traffic still going on around the house, so pardon the slowness (hehe):

      ATT Uverse - 22.86Mbs down / 2.87Mbs up

      On one point we can all agree - DSL sucks if you do a lot of streaming (or a lot of anything online really). *BUT* for the light internet user, even 768Kbs is just fine (and all my father can get in podunk Kansas). Personally I'd grab the 50Mbs plan if I could get it though.

    2. Eddy Ito


      I don't know where you are but those are pipe dreams < 20 miles outside of LA. Here are some real world speeds measured at real world times.

      Verizon DSL = 4-6 Mbs down / 0.3 Mbs up

      Time Warner Cable = 0.4-1.0 Mbs down / 0.2 Mbs up

      Either way the QoS is horrible and the voip phone is almost always choppy on the other end. I only keep it because of the mobile app that allows for cheap international calls.

      Sure TWC goes up dramatically at 3 am and might be reasonable at 10 am but for anyone working a normal first shift that likes to sleep when it's dark, forget it. I wish I could get the same service in this sprawling metropolis of millions as my mother who lives in a tiny town of 3,000 over a hundred miles from Boston. Oh well, only two and a half years to go.

    3. Jim in Hayward

      Not on my street. Cable is only twice as fast as AT&T and almost 4 times the cost! Unless you are up at 2AM using the internet. Then you get 20-25 Mbps. Sorry, if I am up that late I am too drunk to use the internet!

  13. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Factor in the cost.

    Locally in Baton Rouge we have two choices DSL via AT&T or cable via Cox. My business has the choice of using DSL for $141 per month or Cable at $361 per month - while cable appears to be slightly faster if you just look at the numbers, in practice the effective transmission rate via cable is lower than DSL - cable latency can often be well over 100ms! Plus every now and then I have to come into the office and power down and restart the cable modem.

    The result - we're in the process of dropping Cox to move to AT&T.

  14. henrydddd

    Devil's question

    Why all of this need for speed if people are not downloading copyrighted content such as movies (blue ray?). Streaming of movies work great with both cable and DSL. Just a question

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What was your broadband speed 5 or 10 years ago? Were you able to do the things you do now on that speed?

      I hope that answers your question.

    2. sgtrock

      Angel's answer

      You ever try sharing bandwidth in a household with more than one other person? I've got my wife and three daughters to compete with, all with big video appetites. More than once I've seen my connection to a gameserver bog down to the point of being completely useless. It's gotten to the point that we have to schedule who gets to do what and when or our DSL line is too swamped to use.

      BTW, why the automatic assumption that all downloading is illegal? Just a question.


    3. Andrew Norton

      As usual, those trying to show how 'good' they are fail at copyright...

      you're downloading copyrighted content ALL the time, no matter what connection speed you're on.

      You read this story, that's copyrighted content. You read the comments, they're copyrighted too. everything is copyrighted on the net, that's how copyright works.....

      If you're going to try and make a point, try to at least make sure you understand the point first. Don't regurgitate Orlowski, because while he might be one of the editors here, his actual knowledge of copyright, and copyright law is pretty shoddy.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge


        You're right - I'll arrest my self immediately!

    4. Mike Flugennock

      I feel the need... the need for a lame movie reference...

      But, seriously, folks...

      I work out of my home -- a graphic design studio -- and the nature of my work requires my being able to shove lots of data around very quickly; you'd be amazed at just how huge InDesign, Illustrator and print-res Photoshop files can get. This week I finished up a video-editing project and posted the finished mpeg4's to the client's YouTube account; the segments were quite short -- maybe two, three minutes apiece -- but there were nine of them that had to go up, and ma-aan, did that DSL pipe come in handy then.

      I don't download a huge amount of music or movies, and what I do download is all obscure/out-of-print/public domain stuff; pretty much my entire movie collection -- except for the stuff I taped off of cable some years ago -- I got via I don't spend a lot of time on YouTube, and don't watch any of the regular networks' Web video feeds (MSNBC, C-SPAN, etc.); the only "TV" I watch regularly on the 'Net is the NASA media feed, and only then when there's a major event going on, like an EVA, a launch, a landing. I used to watch Al Jazeera on the 'Net, but I get them on the OTA DTV now.

      In spite of all that, the wife is turning out to be the really big bandwidth user at our house, because she has a Netflix account now -- and maa-aaan, does she ever use it. She's also really gotten into hitting Comedy Central every morning and watching the previous night's Daily Show. Still, the only time I really notice is when I'm trying to upload client project files, or watch a Soyuz launch; I notice the NASA feed stopping to re-buffer every two minutes, or the upload data rate dropping to a crawl, and I know the wife's watching a movie.

  15. csmac3144

    30 Mb/s bi-directional fiber here in Nova Scotia. Expensive though at around $75 per month. Still, I very rarely see anything online that hits those limits up or down. Just the ftp'ing files across the street and that sort of tomfoolery.

  16. FrankAlphaXII
    Thumb Up

    Been on Cable since 2000

    In four different markets (Central Florida, Southern Texas, Central South Carolina and Southern Nevada) with four different companies, and Its always been superior to ADSL in my experience. Though the first connection I had here in Central Florida was nearly completely uncontested because Time Warner (at the time our cable provider before Advance-Newhouse spun Brighthouse Networks off from Time Warner Cable in 2004) had just introduced it and I was the first person in my network segment to get it. It was kind of overkill, speeds were incredibly fast, but it worked for my 16 year old self as Quake 3 Arena, Starlancer and Ultima Online never ever lagged on it.

    Its still pretty good since I left the Army and moved back to Florida, though keep in mind we have two providers here, Comcast and Brighthouse, but I know literally nothing about their services as I wont pay Comcast any of my money because I was laid off when NBC Universal was acquired by Comcast and they brought in their own people to replace my entire department, at a higher pay rate than what we were drawing. Might be an immature reason, but it was a good job and one I actually miss.

    Even though if csmac3144 is right, I ought to move to Halifax.

  17. Arc_Light

    We're #26! USA! USA!

    The sad thing is just how pathetically bass-ackwards we are in the US when it comes to high speed internet. All of these technical arguments pale in comparison to the real issue, which is the near-total lack of competition! At BEST, you have either the local phone monopoly or the local cable monopoly to choose from. When I was younger, I lived and worked in France. There, thanks to the presence of an actual free market when it came to ISPs, I had a dozen different providers to choose from. Here's the comparison, then and now (both in major metropolitan areas):

    USA, 2012: Verizon DSL, ~$35/month, 3 MBps / 0.5 MBps

    France, 2005: FreeDSL, 20 euros/month, 6 MBps / 1 MBps

    In other words, in France I got twice the speed, for less money, SEVEN YEARS AGO. This has NOTHING to do with technology, people.

    When I lived in France I saw ads for 20-40 MBps connections on a regular basis, without any requirement to come in and rip up your lines installing the connection or to obligate you to never downgrade (hello, FIOS). In the US, we could only dream of such things until recently.

    For those who have not read this already, here's the real story of all of the service charges and tax breaks US telcos were given access to in exchange for failure to deliver the high-speed network they are now creating piecemeal through FIOS installation fees and the like:

    Here we are, folks - France, a country many "real Merikans" consider to be the epitome of socialism, has been beating our pants off for the last DECADE as far as creating a free market for broadband internet access is concerned - them and pretty much every other country in the industrialized world.

    I'll say it again: Pathetic.


    1. Charles 9

      Geography plays a role in that.

      Remember, the contiguous (lower 48) United States is roughly the size of the WHOLE of Europe (to compare, France is a little smaller than the state of Texas), and when it comes to landlines, size matters. Put simply, running high-speed trunk likes from New York to Los Angeles (or, even longer, Miami to Seattle) isn't gonna be cheap, especially with hostile terrain like mountains and/or deserts in the way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        France Telecom's monopoly

        BTW, you should really re-visit your notion of a free market.... The reality is that France Telecom owns ALL the land line infrastructure in France. Other providers like Free just piggyback on that infrastructure - it's not a true 'free market', it's pretty much the same thing we have in the US (aka open access).

        The difference is that the courts broke up ATT's monopoly in the early 1980s whereas France Telcom was, until very recently, just a branch of the government. And when it became independent, it inherited a very, very expensive land line infrastructure build by taxpayer dollars.

        1. Arc_Light

          Re: France Telecom's monopoly

          AC said:

          "BTW, you should really re-visit your notion of a free market.... The reality is that France Telecom owns ALL the land line infrastructure in France. Other providers like Free just piggyback on that infrastructure - it's not a true 'free market', it's pretty much the same thing we have in the US (aka open access).

          The difference is that the courts broke up ATT's monopoly in the early 1980s whereas France Telcom was, until very recently, just a branch of the government. And when it became independent, it inherited a very, very expensive land line infrastructure build by taxpayer dollars."

          No, the difference is that seven years ago, the majority of the French population had higher speeds and more ISPs to choose from than we do in the US *right now*.

          To put it another way, the French accomplished in a little over five years (following the privatization of France Telecom in 1998) what the US has been unable to accomplish in nearly twenty (following the break-up of AT&T in 1983). Indeed, BRAVO.

          I revisited my notion of a free market, just as you suggested, and it turns out you're wrong - having a dozen ISPs competing for my business isn't "pretty much the same" as having one or two - having experienced both, it's not even close.

          Very expensive taxpayer funded infrastructure? At least the French taxpayers got their money's worth! Anyone who'd bothered to click on the link in my original message would know that Americans gave out $200 billion for fiber-optic infrastructure that was never actually built. We're still paying for it to this day when we get fiber optic broadband installed.

          When the article I linked was written (2006), the US was 16th as far as broadband internet was concerned. It's now 26th. It's not just France that's beating us here, it's the rest of the industrialized world. Failing to appreciate this fact will not make it go away.


    2. Chris_Maresca

      France SUCKS

      My mom lives in rural Burgundy. One day, her dialup internet just stopped working. No notification, no email, nothing, the number just went dead. Her only choice was a per-minute dialup, so I suggested that she look at DSL from Orange or Free. Install was promised in 3 weeks.

      After six months of fighting with them, it was still not installed and they wouldn't refund anything. In fact, getting them on the phone was nearly impossible as even at 3am, you would get 'all agents are busy, please call back later'.

      It was possibly the WORST internet setup/customer service experience I have ever seen (and I've lived in seven different countries). Not only did they promise stuff that they never delivered and refused to refund anything, but no one gave a sh*t. Just passing the buck to someone else, there was no sense of ANY responsibility. She finally had to threaten to sue them to get her deposit and 3 months of payments (with no service) refunded.

      Finally, last Sept, she signed up for satellite service, which was very expensive to setup (around 800 euros), but actually works as advertised. After asking around, it turns out that a number of small businesses and homeowners who switched to satellite were also harassed by France Telecom employees (e.g. phone calls swearing at them, mobile and land lines arbitrarily shut off, etc...). After that experience, ANY US internet service is 100x better than anything you can get in France....

      It's not just that it doesn't deliver, but it's mostly that the people working at the various telco's couldn't give a sh*t less if it works or not, they're just paid to answer the phones and stand in shops. That attitude is all over and the abysmal service is pretty much par for the course (and then they get pissed when you switch to a competitor). Not only that, but her neighbors who manage to actually get service are paying 50 euros/month for 20mbs actually get only 384kps....

      Yeah, it might be monopoly cheap in Paris, but God help you if you are not in a major metro or have ANY problems, then you are deeply F'd.

      1. Matthew Malthouse

        Not the greatest suckage

        Last year I tried getting a fibre connection from Verizon on Broadway, New York. I'm tellin' ya, those Verizon guys could even give the French lessons on how not to serve the customer! (When, that is, they aren't out on strike.)

        Eventually got a microwave link from Rainbow and then a bunch of fibres from TimeWarner. But at least in a business heavy area like downtown NY there are alternatives. If you're in a local monopoly area and you friendly local monopolize is bad....

      2. Arc_Light

        Re: France SUCKS

        Hi Chris,

        I will grant you that telecom and ISP customer service in France can be exceptionally poor - I had some extremely unpleasant experiences with France Telecom as well - those people suck, and you're right, they really don't care - certainly a hold-over from being a government-run monopoly for so long. Having said that, my experience with Free's customer service the one time I had issues with my DSL (for the record, BTW, I was quite a ways from Paris) was very good, in spite of my poor language skills at the time. I challenge you to get a friendly, helpful Verizon or Comcast support tech on the phone in the US who is ready and willing to speak French if English fails...

        Second point, and here I think you answered your own argument, is that your mom lives in a rural area. In France, as in the US, about three quarters of the population is urban; for the other quarter in rural areas, internet access blows in either country. Your mom's very bad experience aside, the US isn't any better in this regard - in fact, bringing me back to the internet rankings, on average it's substantially worse, and falling further and further behind every year. France may suck in various ways, then, but not compared to the US as far as internet access is concerned.

        Bottom line, then, while I'm sorry to hear about your mom's very bad experience, the fact remains that in France seven years ago the majority of the population had higher speeds and more ISPs available to them than people in the US do TODAY. That level of choice ALSO means that if the customer service sucks, the average Jacques has a much better chance of finding an alternative ISP to his liking than the average Joe. That's strong incentive to improve customer service, I would add. This is as compared to the situation in the US, where if your local monopolists / duopolists are terrible (which is a reality more often than it should be, even in urban areas), your only choice is to move.


  18. Lance 3

    Not a TW customer then

    "Time Warner's cable operation picked up 130,000 customers over the same period, showing that anything is better than twisted-pairs of copper these days."

    Then you have never had Time Warner Internet service. Two cups on some string provides better service at times. Oh, the same can be said for Comcast as well.

    1. unitron

      Oh, come on...

      TWC's internet service isn't any worse than their cable service.

      But then again, how could it be?

    2. Gritzwally Philbin

      There's Lots Worse Than Comcast..

      Huh.. I've been at the same apartment for twenty years, and jumped on cable internet in 1999 on a freebie promotional install from MediaOne.. the service was RoadRunner at that time.. which was all of 384k download and crash-a-rama - though that was the LANCity modems which were absolute crap. Then it was sold to AT&T broadband internet.. which crashed ALL the time, and that was due to AT&T being idiots. When Comcast snapped up ATTBI they invested heavily in the 'e-coast' and new cable everywhere, I ended up one telephone pole downstream from a node - WOOSH! - took me three years to get them to come out and set my connection straight, the upstream signal was literally shouting down my modem and I'd often lose sync.

      They missed *completely* the fact that we'd been without teevee service for YEARS, and though we were paying for their unlisted 'basic metered', which was 6 bucks a month, (and netted us the 15 dollar multi-service discount, keeping the cable cheaper than it would be otherwise) we didn't actually have a telly in the house and therefore no signal splitters. Once we got that squared away (the cable guy going, "It's okay, you don't need to hide it, I don't care if you have a TV.." and me saying "No honestly, we don't have one.." Weird.) everything has been hunky-dory.

      I've not had a single problem with Comcast, they keep trying to get me to take TV, though the last time they called, I managed to get a LOWER speed service, I'm now at the 6.2Mbit package they don't like to let anyone know about. It was that or jump on the FairPoint DSL, that is 3Mb down, for 1/3 the cost, also that the phone company building is four blocks away means that the copper outside my window is *unsplit* from the source. You just got to know how to approach Comcast. Be hardnosed. When you've options and don't subscribe to the TV or phone from them, they're pushovers.

      Deb. (aka 'Gritz')

  19. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Will never go ComCast, again... ever...

    I might have been tempted to trade my 10Mb ADSL and go to ComCast, except the last time I had ComCast service they were complete twats. Once my DSLAM is upgraded to support 25Mb I'll probably do that, instead.

    On the personal side, only during two of numerous calls to ComCast was I not treated like a complete idiot. Every morning, without fail, cable Internet would go out around 1:30am., usually while I was in the middle of working on something or was running backups. Just about every weekend I would be without service for eight to 12 hours at a stretch. Power goes out, cable goes out (no battery-backed field amps.) I have an SMC router which falls over to dial-up if the WAN goes down, but because the modem itself would give a 192.168.100.x DHCP lease of 10 seconds when the cable was down, the router wouldn't switch over. (I know, it should use a better metric for determining a WAN outage, but none-the-less.) I called about each of these things and was completely mistreated, although one manager did tell me that where she lived didn't have battery-backed field amps, either, if that made me feel any better. (It didn't.)

    When I moved and could get DSL I called ComCast to cancel my Internet service. The girl with whom I spoke didn't even bother to ask why I was dropping a service -- mind you, she wouldn't have heard my answer through all the gum smacking she was doing.

    On the professional side, I have to deal with business outages frequently for customers. I have two sites where connectivity, but apparently not signal, drops several times a day for varying periods of time. I have other sites where outages occur for entire days on end. In one case support had a secretary completely dismantle the office network. Need a PTR record set for your static? That might take a few calls to get it done correctly, if at all. Now, to be fair, business support is more often than not extremely helpful and the site techs are quick to respond.

    While CenturyLink nee Embarq nee (too lazy to do the accent thing) Sprint won't do nice things like set a PTR record for your static, I have had nearly zero downtime on its DSL over the course of several years for several sites. Worst problem I had with CTL was a PITA saleswoman who tried to move a customer from a DSL reseller and then blamed it on me.

    Cable may be better technology, but the support and service I've experienced over-all is shit-tier. I'm quite happy downloading at 1MB/s when I don't have to worry about whether the service will be down or up when I need it and not having to dread calling some support drone.

    Paris, tends to go down frequently for varying periods of time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My experience over many years of using both cable and DSL has always been that DSL is rock solid whereas cable gives Paris a run for her money, regularly going up and down.

      Plus there's one other big advantage - cable is static IP whereas I can pull a new address in seconds via DSL so at home I'll always use DSL over cable.

      1. david wilson

        >>"Plus there's one other big advantage - cable is static IP whereas I can pull a new address in seconds via DSL so at home I'll always use DSL over cable."

        I'm not sure that's necessarily a huge advantage, unless it's simply for privacy for legal activities (like not being easily tracked across websites, etc)

        If you were doing something less legal (or something legal which 'they' might think was subversive) which you wanted to keep private, do you know how good the record keeping was at your ISP, in case someone was enquiring at a later date about who had which IP at some particular time?

        If they kept any record, it might well be good enough to use against you, and if someone investigating some frowned-on activity had a long list of different 'offending' IPs/times which had multiple matches to your history of IPs/times, it could be hard to argue that all the matches were just coincidences.

        If whatever you were doing was more than very occasional, IP changes might be little protection.

        If someone was being particularly paranoid, I guess they might wonder if repeatedly getting new IP addresses could even stand out as being potentially suspicious.

    2. Scott 1

      "Cable may be better technology, but the support and service I've experienced over-all is shit-tier. I'm quite happy downloading at 1MB/s when I don't have to worry about whether the service will be down or up when I need it and not having to dread calling some support drone.

      Paris, tends to go down frequently for varying periods of time."

      My experience, both personally and professionally, has been overwhelmingly the opposite (although Comcast, specifically, was a PITA). I used to support guest internet service at over 2,000 hotels, and by far the biggest troublemaker hotels were on DSL service. We finally had to tell the desk clerks at several of the hotels to just reboot the DSL modem every few hours. I've also done tech support for a couple of engineering firms and various friends from church. The cable internet customers (primarily Cox) rarely, if ever, had trouble, whereas the DSL customers (primarily Qwest -- now Century Link) were going down seemingly more times per hour than Paris has over her lifetime.

      This was my own personal experience, too. Twice, Qwest DSL was my only choice and I was miserable both times. Their ADSL service (the first time) was always going up and down, and I was lucky if it stayed up for more than an hour at a time. The second time was with their VDSL service, which was rock solid stable (the remote CO was 30 yds away with Cat 5e cabling between the demarc and the wall jacks). However, the service would go down every night for an hour on Qwest's end (the only ISP I could use with the service), it was at an inconvenient time, and they did this *on purpose*. Their phone support was okay, but sometimes clueless. The majority of the time, they would just tell me the problem was interference from flourescent lights (that were on the other side of the apartment from where the phone wiring was).

      I've been on two cable internet services now, Cox and Brighthouse. Brighthouse was problematic at first, but that turned out to be a faulty coax cable between the house and the junction box. This problem aside, both have always been relatively very stable. The few times I had to call for support they were okay (not always great, but good enough at the very least), and their field service techs have been good each time.

  20. Mike Flugennock

    I like my DSL just fine, thanks

    My DSL provider's been solid and dependable for going on seven years now; the only significant outages -- iirc, less than a handful in that whole time -- have been because of extreme weather or other technical issues not connected to malfeasance... and btw, it's not Verizon. Besides, I've heard all sorts of lukewarm-to-bad reviews of cable internet in my area (Washington DC) -- not to mention the fact that we have a grand total of two, count 'em, two, choices for cable internet in our area, one of which is Concast... uh, sorry, Comcast (enough said).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rotting Copper

    Got that right.

    It is not just universal service though, the telcos chronically sell DSL for practically nothing to compete-- even when there isn't anyone to compete with. What they end up doing is selling the DSL so cheap, they can't build out the network without taking a loss. You can see where that death spiral leads just by looking at the numbers of customers leaving landlines (never mind abandoning DSL).

    As for the whiny greed soaked punters getting their knickers in a knot about the cost of cable or DSL, well guys, stop buying it then! Oh, wait, you mean a fat pipe is critical to your sniveling well being and that of your rug spawned rats? You can afford 100 to 150 each month for a shiny smartphone fondleslab cell but 15 for broadband (or 60) breaks the bank? You should try living in America, where 30% are stuck on grogan dumping satellite...

  22. Steven Jones

    FTTC copper pair hybrid solutions still use DSL.

    It is technically incorrect to describe FTTC hybrid solutions which utilise copper pairs for the last few hundred metres as "abandoning DSL". Generally the copper part uses some form of VDSL which has the potential for 100Mbps or so. El Reg ought to know that DSL is a family of technologies (albeit based on some common principles), and ADSL is just one of them.

    1. kain preacher

      ATT calls it FTTC DSL or optical DSL.

  23. paullaz

    In preparation for U-Verse

    Last year when I moved onto my rural hilltop in the Santa Cruz mountains AT&T delivered 1.5Mbps/384kbps via DSL. I won't deal with Comcast. As is my practice, I call every year to see if anything has changed since they won't contact you. I was nicely surprised to hear that "in preparation for U-verse" a fiber connected "tan box" is now somewhere up on the mountain close enough to deliver 12Mbps/3Mbps. Not super zippy, but my expectations living a mile up a one lane road weren't that high and I'm happy... for now. It gets installed next week

  24. Bruce Ordway

    Cable vs DSL

    In 2000, I was one of the first to sign up for DSL in my city.

    It was easy to run my own servers.

    Unlimited really meant unlimited too.

    I switched to cable briefly and regretted it.

    No servers (before signing up I had been told they allowed).

    It wasn't nearly as fast as advertised.

    Then one day I came home and I was disconnected from the internet.

    I discovered unlimited didn't really mean unlimited.

    I'll never give another dollar to a cable company if there is any alternative.

    I quickly switched back to DSL.

    I couldn't get the exact same contract by then.

    The company has grown up enough that it is starting to resemble the Cable company.

    At least unlimited really is unlimited.

    I can use all the bandwidth I pay for.

  25. Anonymous Noel Coward

    UK abandoning DSL in favour of faster pigeonband.

    1. Crisp

      @Anonymous Noel Coward

      Which part of the UK are you in? 50Mb down/5Mb up line here and nary a pigeon in sight.

      1. Anonymous Noel Coward

        4000 Kbps down; 1000 Kbps up...

        I live in Shrewsbury.

        I was recently informed that they don't want to rip up the cobblestones here to install FiOS because it would "cost too much."

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When DSL was released here, it was an actual twisted copper wire, like telephone land lines, limited to 2mbps, and dad hired it to get rid of dial-up.

    Enter cable companies some 5 years later, offering up to 10Mbit, the price drops all around, and I hire it. Now, cable companies can go up to 100mbit, but you share the bandwidth with the neighborhood. The ping is good, but the band doesn't get to the 10mbit I hired. Not to mention the cable shares HD television.

    Local DSL providers now switched to optic (non copper, I can say at least) and upgraded my dad to 30mbps, with the thing actually getting to 31mbps and actual 0ms lag. Nil lag. Zip.

    The grass is always greener...

    The irony is, dad is running DSL with fiber, and my coax cable core is copper. Exactly the opposite of this news.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DSL, Cable, and Fiber

    I had a friend who had cable in her apartment complex for over a decade - she could download over cable, but she had to dial-up to the cable company via her telephone line in order to conduct her upload content! No cable supplied UPS for the internet or phone.

    I have assisted multiple families with their cable set-up in the U.S. I have spoken to many college students who have cable. The complaints are all the same - on off-hours, it is fast, but when people are home, it is sloooowwww. Once they see other options working, they will often change to a non-cable service, to get better consistency with their service. No cable supplied UPS for the internet or phone.

    I know another family who has Verizon FiOS, but when there is a power outage, the (VoIP) phone would only work for about 15 minutes. Fast internet access, video, phone - but performance during power outage at the fiber access point was sub-par.I supplied them with a massive UPS in the house for the FiOS TV/Telco/WiFi access point, the house could survive the outage, but the neighborhood could not - Verizon can't size a UPS to save their lives in a neighborhood fiber access point..

    I know another family who has $19.95 DSL from the telco. For poor families, this is still an option, but it is unadvertized. It is not super fast, but it is usable for most purposes, including watching television over the internet from overseas. No UPS provided by the telco, but the POTS line still works during power outages. I provided a UPS for their computer and DSL - works great during outages.

    I know another family who bought a house in a "future proof" community, with real fiber to the curb - every house had an RJ45. It started with T1 download speed for internet to every house, and never progressed beyond that. Those forward-thinking communities got stuck. Copper is a lot more flexible, it seems. Those families can not even get DSL or an copper-hybrid (FiOS or UVerse) alternatives - Cable is their only escape.

    When I first bought DSL, the telco would not run it to my house, but I was able to get it through a third-party provider. It was fast enough and cheap. The analog POTS line was clear. During power outages, everything worked, great. I could never get the speed boosted beyond T1 download speeds. I provided my own UPS and had terrific reliability - even during long power outages. I kept it as long as I could, until the "need for speed" eclipsed usability. Overall, this was my favorite option.

    I later moved to major telco DSL, because they offered higher speed than the third-party DSL that I was using. Honestly, my third party DSL was more reliable (rock-solid), but the additional speed was worth the migration to the new (slightly unreliable during rainstorms) service. I needed to add 2 VoIP lines, to my existing POTS line. I had my own (large) UPS and I could use my internet for over 6 hours during a long unexpected power outage.

    I recently made the switch to ATT UVerse, which is pretty reasonable. I needed higher upload speed, to add a 3rd (non ATT) VoIP line. I use the phone and (fastest available) internet (without the video.) The telco phone appears to be a VoIP type connection, built into the same box which offers video. The telco telephone is reasonable and they included a UPS for the telephone/internet/wifi-gateway - we had some power short outages, but I don't know what the phone or internet performance will be like with >15 minute outages.

    Overall, DSL/POTS in the U.S. is cheap and stable - my favorite. Former fiber offerings were premium but inflexible. Cable in apartment complexes is horrible (using POTS line for cable upload and losing your voice line during internet surfing over cable!) Cable in communities is fast, but slow during peak times. Newer fiber offerings, using copper to the home, seem to be a best-of-breed between Cable and traditional DSL... except Verizon couldn't keep a network up beyond 15 minutes, in my experience.

  28. Amonymous Ocward

    It is becoming apparent

    from all these comments, that there's a great big gap in the market in America for a decent ISP.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like