Broadband Roulette…

Everybody in our business knows the two most dominant forms of high-speed consumer Internet access: Cable and DSL. I’d say my customer base is split down the middle with half being on some flavor of DSL (mostly SBC Yahoo! DSL) and the other half on Cable Internet (Comcast or RCN). And, for the most part, they are satisfied with their respective ISP.

I have a few that are on the obsessive side – one client in particular had me do a proposal for a Dual WAN setup with a special router that could connect to two high speed providers. The notion was that you’d have the router attached to both DSL and Cable modems and when both were up, you had supercharged connectivity, and if one went down, the other just took over automatically. This has yet to become reality, but I still have the design specs available should they want to pull the trigger.

Then I’ve had a handful of customers that have done the old switcheroo – going from DSL to Cable or vise versa. In one or two cases, it was purely an economic decision… like a Comcast person switching from their $42.95/mo Internet to $19.99/mo DSL from SBC Yahoo!. Yes, Cable Internet tends to be faster (most of the time) than entry level DSL, but if you just use the Internet for web browsing and e-mail, why pay the extra $20+ a month?

Yet in other cases, it was because of bad karma, disputes/customer service/billing issues with the incumbent ISP, frequent outages or other performance problems. For example, I’ve had a couple SBC Yahoo! DSL users make the switch to Comcast after having suffered months or years of lackluster performance and availability with their DSL.

Just yesterday, I was remotely troubleshooting one of my customer’s PCs that had recently gone from AOL dialup to Comcast, and I couldn’t believe how slow their connection was. Seeking to quantify it (it’s hard to gauge when you are remote controlling over the Internet), I steered their browser to and ran a speed test (I realize the results might have been impacted by the remote session – but not that much). The results were utterly astounding. Their downstream speed was clocked at 152Kbps, yes that’s right… 152Kbps! Upstream was actually faster, at 350Kbps. I’ve benchmarked by Comcast well over 3Mbps, at some times, almost 4Mbps down, usually something like 400-500Kbps up. Clearly something was way out of kilter. I advised them to contact Comcast support immediately, log a ticket, quoting the results from the DSLReports speed test.

In roughly an hour – I’ll be heading over to yet another customer to help them go from SBC Yahoo! DSL to Comcast HSI. The user was on SBC DSL for over two years… and they’ve had a laundry list of problems. The last straw was when the lost their DSL synch and spent three hours wrestling with SBC support over the problem with no resolution in sight. I temporarily setup a dialup connection so they could connect until they got their Comcast connection up and I could reconfigure their router (which is what I’ll be going tonight).

I’m not passing judgment on either form of access – I’ve shown examples of people switching in both directions (for various reasons). But it always gets me wondering why there are always some people seem to be “broadband cursed” while others are in relative harmony with their connectivity. Could it be the “last mile” dilemma? Bad premise wiring? A combination? And I even have a “Bermuda” triangle – a geographic area that I have a number of customers located in where they have an abnormal number of high-speed issues (on both Cable and DSL).

I just thank my lucky stars (knuckles firmly knocking on wood) that I personally have had pretty good luck with my high-speed service.

[tags]cable,dsl,yahoo!,broadband,comcast,dual wan[/tags]