I, Jere­my Wilk­er, have been a very sat­is­fied DSL cus­tomer since it came out and I signed up as the ~200th cus­tomer (or so I was told) here in the Twin Cities. But recent­ly I’ve been itch­ing for more speed, both in down­load­ing and upload­ing. Work­ing with large pho­to­graph­ic images and video files, as well as stream­ing video con­tent from Hulu, Joost or net­work TV, was get­ting to be painful. Sad­ly, Qwest informed me that 1.5 Mbps DSL was the best I could hope for in my area. So I went look­ing around for more speed. The best I could find was 3 Mbps wire­less to down­town but it cost some­thing like $350/month. Cable wasn’t an option due to the hor­ri­bly slow upload speeds and I would have ordered Verizon’s FIOS in a sec­ond — if it was avail­able any­where in the state (it isn’t, and no plans for it, either).
When the press release came out about Com­cast launch­ing their DOCSIS 3, 50 Mbps cable inter­net ser­vice to the first test mar­ket (us! here in Min­neso­ta!), I was imme­di­ate­ly intrigued and did some quick research. 50/5 speeds for $149 or business-class for $199. I did not think this was too bad for a busi­ness expense and decid­ed to look into it fur­ther at a lat­er date. The very next morn­ing, Com­cast called me at 9:00am and said, “You told us at one time that you might switch to cable if we had faster speeds. Well, now we do. Do you want it?” What? Some­body in cus­tomer ser­vice or sales actu­al­ly made a note? and fol­lowed up on it? I was impressed. After mulling it over for a cou­ple of days I decid­ed to get the hookup and test it out — with no long-term con­tract, why not?


The install process was a bit spot­ty, only because they sched­uled me for 11am — 1pm and nobody showed up or called until a lit­tle after 2pm. Not cool. But the install went decent­ly after that. I got a brand new line run from the pole into the office and the modem trained up pret­ty quick­ly. Ini­tial speed tests were spot-on as to adver­tised rates. Wow. The main draw­back is that, to this day, I still do not have any man­u­als or sup­port mate­ri­als for the modem/service (can this thing be modified/configured?)! Although, to be fair, even search­ing the web for sup­port doc­u­ments on the modem turns up lit­tle more than a PDF show­ing how to plug it in to the wall and the com­put­er.
[Lat­er] It has been a month now since switch­ing over to the new ser­vice and I’ve sched­uled the shut off date for the DSL line, which freaks me out a lit­tle. My fear is that band­width throt­tling or over­age charges will be imple­ment­ed on the line and crip­ple the ser­vice to lit­tle bet­ter than what I had, but I’m game to keep try­ing this exper­i­ment.
How fast is 50-Mbps inter­net? Speedy enough that many sites I vis­it seem­ing­ly can­not send me data fast enough! In my book, that rocks! That’s how it should work. For exam­ple, with 1.5-Mbps DSL I almost always had down­load rates of around 160k/second. With 50-Mbps cable I am see­ing down­load rates of 500–600k/second on most sites with the fastest wit­nessed (so far) rates com­ing via a down­load of sys­tem updates from the Apple web­site at 2.3 MEGABYTES per sec­ond. Yowza. That is some sweet juicy band­width! And I’ve still got head­room.
Comcast Speedtest Results
What about upload­ing? I’ve test­ed uploads to three dif­fer­ent web­hosts, one in Cal­i­for­nia, one in New Jer­sey and one in Penn­syl­va­nia. Omit­ting the rel­a­tive­ly poor per­for­mance of the West Coast host, the upload speeds of the oth­er two web­hosts was almost the full 5-Mbps, so I’m pleased. With the need to upload large image or video files, the 5-Mbps is a relax­ing envi­ron­ment and I’m not sit­ting watch­ing the progress bar and ago­niz­ing.
Wouldn’t you know, about two weeks after switch­ing over to “wide­band” inter­net, Qwest announces they are hook­ing up fiber-to-the-home in this mar­ket as well and will be offer­ing 20-Mbps inter­net. I start­ed to freak out when I saw the announce­ment. Then I saw the upload speed — a super lame throt­tled upload of 1-Mbps. What?! Who made that crack-headed deci­sion? That can be had with their 1.5-Mbps DSL con­nec­tion already. Move along, folks. Noth­ing to see there.
In sum­ma­ry, emails with attach­ments aren’t even noticed they are so quick. MP3 or pod­cast down­loads are darn near instan­ta­neous. Large 500+ Megabyte down­loads only take a few min­utes. iTunes movie rentals take less than 10 min­utes. Videos stream in HD with no lag. What’s not to like? Well, except the price could, of course, be low­er. I’d sug­gest $99 as a sweet spot for this blaz­ing fast home con­nec­tion.
[MUCH Lat­er] [Wow. This post has been in draft mode for ages now! Yikes.] To update the sto­ry: Com­cast boost­ed the upload speeds a while back and the ser­vice is now 50 down and 10 up 15 up — quite a nice perk, espe­cial­ly when work­ing with large photo/video assets and send­ing them to clients, FTP sites, and the like. I’ve not expe­ri­enced any major glitch­es or out­ages or notable slow-downs using the wide­band inter­net and I cer­tain­ly do not miss the world of DSL and Qwest email servers and such. Every­thing has been work­ing great.
Would I still rec­om­mend it? Of course. If you have the busi­ness need or can write off the expense of the line, the speed is the best you can get at an afford­able price. Again, you’ll prob­a­bly have head­room since I haven’t seen any site/host get close to sat­u­rat­ing the line.