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Q: Cable Internet or DSL? ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Cable Internet or DSL?
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: pauljoycedirect-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 20 May 2006 19:36 PDT
Expires: 19 Jun 2006 19:36 PDT
Question ID: 730839
I am attempting a technical comparison of residential DSL and Cable Internet
services. What are the pros and cons of both types of service? Is one
consistently faster than the other? Is there any commonly held belief
that one service is superior to the other?
Subject: Re: Cable Internet or DSL?
Answered By: adiloren-ga on 20 May 2006 21:42 PDT
Thank you for the question. Below I have compared Cable internet and
DSL based on a number of standards, including speed, customer
satisfaction, security, ease of use, and value.

Please request clarification if necessary. Good luck!


Cable offers more "raw speed"

"Cable modem Internet services on average promise higher levels of
bandwidth than DSL Internet services, and this bandwidth roughly
translates to raw speed. However, while cable Internet will
theoretically run faster than DSL, several technical and business
reasons can reduce or even eliminate this advantage."

"Compared to the performance of cable Internet service, DSL speed has
historically been slower. However, the speed of DSL Internet is
increasing as the technology improves and service providers upgrade
their network infrastructure. The exact DSL speed you will enjoy
varies depending on several factors."

Cable has higher bandwith potential than standard DSL 

"Cable technology supports approximately 30 Mbps of bandwidth, whereas
most forms of DSL cannot reach 10 Mbps.

One type of DSL technology, VDSL, can match cable's performance, also
supporting 30 Mbps. However, Internet service providers generally do
not offer VDSL, but rather the cheaper and slower ADSL or SDSL

"The topic of "which is better and faster" has been a highly debated
topic, and still there doesn't appear to be a clear winner.  DSL
offers users a choice of speeds ranging from 144 Kbps to 1.5Mbps.
Cable modem download speeds are typically up to 2 times faster than
1.5Mbps DSL, but the reason there is no clear speed winner is because
cable technology is based on shared bandwidth, with many factors
influencing a users download speed."

In practice the speed benefits of Cable are often negligible

"Cable modem services can slow down significantly if many people in
your neighborhood access the Internet simultaenously.
*	Both cable modem and DSL performance vary from one minute to the
next depending on the pattern of use and traffic congestion on the
*	DSL and cable Internet providers often implement so-called "speed
caps" that limit the bandwidth of their services.
*	Some home networks cannot match the speed of the Internet
connection, lowering your performance"

Speed Caps may limit the speed advantage of cable

"Service providers may have several motivations for imposing speed
caps including the following:

1. Providers concerned about the capacity limits of their network may
implement a cap so that they can accomodate more customers.
2. Providers may believe that the vast majority of customers do not
actually need any more bandwidth than that allowed under the cap.
3. Providers may want to create a fair-and-equal distribution of
bandwidth of customers. Without a cap, for example, some DSL
subscribers would enjoy much higher bandwidth levels than others in
the same neighborhood.
4. Providers may be want to charge higher or lower rates for greater
or lesser bandwidth levels."

Your neighbors' internet activity may limit the speed of a cable connection

"Did you know your cable speed will vary depending on the usage
pattern of your neighbors? Cable modem services share bandwidth among
subscribers in a locality. The same cable line connects to many
households. If many of your neighbors access the Internet
simulataneously, it is a distinct possibility that cable speeds for
you (and them) will decrease significantly during those times.
The causes of cable modem speed problems are similar to those of DSL
or other high-speed Internet services"

** Edge: Cable


Consumer Feedback and Quality of Service:

DSL generally had higher customer satisfaction  than cable internet
according to recent surveys

"Each year, J.D. Power and Associates surveys thousands of U.S.
residential customers of both DSL and cable modem Internet services.
The survey assesses seven key factors that contribute to overall
satisfaction with a high-speed Internet service:

*	billing 
*	provider's business image 
*	cost of service 
*	customer service / technical support 
*	email services 
*	offerings and promotions 
*	performance and reliability 
The 2004 survey includes results comparing DSL and cable modem. What's
the bottom line? In each of the seven categories listed above, survey
respondendents gave DSL the edge over cable. "

DSL is "distance sensitive" creating quality problems for some customers

" DSL technology also is distance sensitive. Essentially, the longer
one's telephone line runs from their house to the phone company, the
less performance they can achieve with DSL compared to neighbors who
might live closer to the public exchange. This creates a marketing
problem for DSL providers, who must convince customers that the
variation in performance isn't a serious or "unfair" limitation."

** Edge: DSL


Network Security:

"Conventional wisdom holds that DSL service inherently offers better
security than cable modem service."

No matter their origins, the claims of superior security for DSL all
relate more to a perceived weakness in cable modem security than to
any unique advantage DSL might hold."

Vulnerabilities of Cable

"Cable modem service uses a shared cable line to provide service to an
entire neighborhood. Essentially, all cable customers in the region
belong to the same local area network (LAN). Without any security
measures in place, anybody in the neighborhood might technically be
able to click on their Windows Network Neighborhood icon and actually
see the computer names and addresses of their neighbors on the
service. If a customer enables file sharing on any drives, neighbors
could even download copies of their data!

Although some cable customers encountered this problem in the past,
many providers avoid this problem today by bundling security features
in the cable modem hardware. In particular, basic network firewall
capabilities will prevent files from being viewed or downloaded. Most
cable modems today also implement the Data Over Cable Service
Interface Specification (DOCSIS). DOCSIS includes support for cable
network security features including authentication and packet
filtering [3]."

Security measures bolster Cable's security

"Because Cable is shared connection, you are actually on a LAN with
all subscribers in your areas. This would really create security
issues only if no security measures are in place, but cable service
providers generally provide cable modems with security features in the
hardware. Overall the security of these broadband connections are
closely matched, with DSL boasting a bit better security ? and it is
always advisable to consider purchasing additional hardware or
software to protect your system, as your service provider may only
provide the basics with the installation & set-up of your account."

DSL is Dedicated

"DSL uses dedicated rather than shared cabling, and DSL customers in a
given neighborhood do not appear as nodes on a LAN. From this, many
have concluded DSL service provides better security."

Generally, both are fairly secure

"Both DSL and cable provide reasonably safe Internet access as long as
one follows reasonable security precautions. Considering the numerous
security holes found in operating systems and applications in the
past, these precautions should be followed regardless of the form of
Net access one uses."

** Edge: DSL


Ease of Use:

Cable packages make it a convenient option

"With cable modem, customers find it very convenient that the same
company they use for cable TV service provides them Internet access
(usually on a single monthly bill). Unless a person signs up for DSL
with their local telephone company, DSL customers do not enjoy this
same convenience."

Installation for cable is easier

<<At Northwestern University, Kellogg Information Systems actually
recommends cable over DSL, but not because they believe cable offers
better security:

"If ease of installation is important to you, KIS suggests a cable
modem over DSL. The slightly more secure environment offered by DSL is
not enough to justify the added cost and installation hassle.">>

Centralization of Cable service can increase efficiency

"First is the issue of reach. With its "shared neighborhood" style of
connection, cable companies reach hundreds of people in a local
neighborhood with a single pre-qualified line. DSL customers, on the
other hand, each require their own line, and the provider incurs extra
expense in managing each of these individually.

True, most households already have telephone lines, but these require
some form of testing or "qualification" as some lines (especially
older ones) might not be of sufficient quality to support data

**Edge: Cable



"With either option you generally will pay a one-time set-up fee. For
cable you could expect this fee to be anywhere from $50 to $100, while
the cost for DSL installation is a bit more and could run up to $150
for set-up. Once the installation is completed, you will usually pay
for your Internet subscription on a monthly basis. Cable, again, is
usually a bit cheaper with monthly fees averaging $40 to $50. You can
expect to pay about $5 to $10 more a month for DSL service."

Bundles can make DSL a better value
"Take Verizon Communications. The nation's largest phone company
currently offers DSL with a download speed of up to 1.5mbps for as low
as $29.95 a month for a one-year commitment and an extra voice line.
People who buy a $54.95 unlimited local and long distance voice plan
get up to 3mbps DSL for the same price and a discount on satellite
service from DirecTV for about $37.
Verizon said it will soon introduce "naked DSL," which lets people buy
only broadband without forcing them to buy a voice line.
SBC, the nation's second-largest phone company, has aggressively
priced its 1.5mbps DSL as low as $26.95, with a basic local phone line
costing $10.69 a month. The company is pushing to sell bigger
packages, called "Total Connections," that include local and long
distance voice calls, a Cingular Wireless plan and DSL, for between
$78 and $90 depending on the state of residence. Add satellite TV from
the Dish Network, and the bill costs between $108 and $120."

Cable hasn't reduced their prices much to compete

"Remarkably, few cable systems are budging on their broadband Internet
rates despite price competition from DSL. Most cable systems offer up
to 3mbps download speeds for $40 to $45 a month, and about $55 for
broadband without video. That amounts to more than $60 a month for
barebones cable and broadband and more than $100 for digital."

"In my area cable is 4000/384 and DSL is 1500/128. Cable is $45 and
DSL is $15. Seems to work out just about right.

Generally cable is more expensive but faster. If you do nothing other
than casual surfing, you'll be fine with DSL. If you want the lowest
latency for gaming, like to download a lot, etc you'll want cable."

Edge: Varies by location


General Consensus:

Cable is generally faster, and easier to install, but DSL is more
secure and has more consistent  service quality.

I'll let you be the judge of the consensus by checking out these
discussions in some popular tech forums:

CNET Forum

Notebook Review Forum

Google Search Strategy:

"dsl or cable"
"cable or dsl"
Subject: Re: Cable Internet or DSL?
From: probonopublico-ga on 21 May 2006 01:08 PDT
I have both (call me extravagant) but, if I had to choose one, I would opt for DSL.

I haven't noticed any performance differences but then I don't
download movies, music or many huge files.

However, there are far more competitors in the DSL field so I could
easily switch suppliers if I wished.

By contrast, there's only one cable company in my area.

It's great to have the choice.

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