Home Computer Network: The Straight Dope?

I apologize to the moderator in advance: this topic may be covered elsewhere, but I haven’t found it by searching.

I have Comcast cable, and recently switched from Premium digital access to basic cable. The reason? TV sucks, including most of the premium channels. I seem to be living without it so far.

I can’t live without broadband access, though :rolleyes:

My highly unscientific perception is that my broadband response times and download times have lengthened significantly since I switched.

Is this possible? Does some part of digital cable make transmission rates faster than for basic?

On a related note, are the published/advertised rates for cable faster than the published/advertised rates for DSL? In other words, does cable set out to promise faster network rates?

If I switched from cable to DSL, would I notice a major difference in speed?

There are two issues here: bandwidth and latency.

Bandwidth is the data rate. Go to one of the speed test sites and test your speed there.

Latency is amount of time it takes a data packet to travel from source to destination. Get yourself PingPlotter and try it on a few of your usual sites.

I’m not familiar with any of the speed test sites. Fact is, I never used to worry about this. My broadband always seemed to be more than adequate.

Comcast sez:

So it sounds like even if they dropped you down to the lower bitrate due to your change of video service, you should still be getting at least 4Mbps.

Many times, the problem is with Windows itself although it is fairly easy to this. Download the System Mechanic trial and use the internet tune-up wizard. It is free and the results are permanent even if you never buy the product. There are similar tools but I have used that one and it works. I have recommended it to people here and they reported back that internet speeds were up to 10x what they once were. There are some Windows registry keys that can severely limit certain types of broadband perfformance and tools like this simply adjust them to the right broadband settings instead of the dialup defaults that Windows tends to use.

There is also the issue of shared bandwidth. There are probably more users with standard service on your line than those with premium service and you are sharing bandwidth with all of them. Also, depending on your service, if you move a lot of traffic they may decide to limit your bandwidth (a dirty little secret they tend to not mention). I have dedicated bandwidth DSL for just this reason. When I told Comcast how much traffic I move a month, they actually hung up on me! :stuck_out_tongue:

Cable does make a lot of noise about how they’re faster than DSL, but they leave out three really important facts:

They’re comparing themselves to one of the slowest DSL rates - usually 768k
Their service is shared bandwidth with your neighborhood
They limit your traffic

My DSL service? Advertised as 6 megabit, so it’s faster than cable. (My line delivers about 5.8) Not shared and not capped. It’s truly all-you-can-eat.

Good to know all this. Anyone have recco’s for DSL in the Sunnyvale, CA area that they’ve had good results with?

BTW, using a speed tester I get about 171 kbps in a real-world test. Latency varies, but to www.straightdope.com I get roughly 80ms.

I tried System Mechanic, but it doesn’t seem to have had any great effect, yet.

Go here and punch in the zip code for Sunnyvale. The results should give you that zip and the surrounding ones.

I’m with sonic.net, and have been very happy with them for a few years, now. AFAIK, they serve all of California.

You have to do a restart in case you didn’t. The registry changes don’t take effect until then. If that didn’t work, you really have a slow connection.