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.
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.