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Dear PoP – Fast(er) Internet Speeds for Real?

by Prince Of Petworth April 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm 27 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoP,

Comcast advertises 5 tiers of Internet speeds. These range from economy (1Mbps/sec at $25/mo) to Extreme (50Mbps/sec at $100/mo) with 3 options in between. Does anyone know if these varying service levels make a significant difference in download speed? Like many DC residents who work from home our service provider options are limited and we’d like to make an informed decision. We have been on the HS economy plan since moving here 7 years ago when that was the only choice. Years ago when I asked my Comcast rep for improvement he said that the equipment in CH would not allow much faster speeds regardless of what service tier I purchased. Was he wrong? Have things changed lately?”

Yeah, I’m also interested in this question. Last October we had a brief discussion about cable companies. Now that I’m uploading photos through PoP what speed do you think would be best? What speed to most people use for regular browsing?

  • TaylorStreetMan

    We have Comcast and they suck. The connection is super slow, often drops and doesn’t reach more than about 20 feet from the router.

    We’re waiting with bated breath for Fios to get to our zip. Any info on that?

    • NikolasM

      re: the 20 ft… How is this Comcast’s problem? Buy a better router.

      Fios has announced that they are no longer going to expand their service to new markets as it is extremely expensive ($2000+ per connection). Furthermore, people at my office who made the switch are coming back because the prices after the 6-12 mo promo are insane, well over $200/mo. Just a heads up. You could perhaps consider Sprint’s 4G offering when it comes to DC by the end of this year.

      • Karl

        Verizon announced that they will no longer expand FiOS to new markets– except for those where it’s already rolling out. It’s still coming to DC.

      • ah

        Not sure why they’d be surprised. The promos pretty clearly state that the discount is either 6 or 12 months, and that the price afterwards goes up $20 or $30 (or perhaps more for some plans).

      • NikolasM

        It went from like $90 to $230, that isn’t $20 to $30 more…

        • ah

          That is a true statement.

          The ads I have been getting offer a bunch of packages, all of which pretty clearly state that the $20-$30 discount ends after 6-12 months.

      • TaylorStreetMan

        Got the router from Comcast. Their product, either directly or endorsed. I shouldn’t have to buy a new one. The one they supply should deliver the service they promise or they should replace it, IMHO.

        I’ll take a look at Sprint. thanks.

      • Just J

        As a Verizon employee I just want to clarify a few things. 1st Verizon is definitely coming to DC, in fact we already have a few FiOS customers in the city. 2nd, The central office on Georgia avenue is being upgraded to service fiOS, this means most of petworth will be able to get the service within the next two years.

        3rd, The poster tried to imply that Verizon is cutting back on its FiOS service by saying its too expensive, which is not really true. Its more accurate to say that Verizon had a set plan in terms of how many customers, what areas, and how much it anted to spend on FiOS and chose not to expand that plan 6 years later. While the initial cost to connect a fiOS customer was well over $2k (and the overall average may be in that ballpark) its significantly less today and cheaper to build in densely populated areas like DC.

    • Clyde

      Why use Comcast router when you could have bought your own and it would have been faster also check where you sit the router it has a bearing on broadcast strengh

  • quincy9

    Wondering the same thing as the OP: Does paying for a higher/lower tier have any actual impact on the speed of service? Knowing Comcast, I wouldn’t be surprised if the services offer identical performance, other than the price and your ability to complain if the service falls below what they promise. I have the basic service and regularly achieve downloads approaching 20 Mbps here: http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/

    • ah

      I don’t know about comcast specifically, but with RCN using speedtests shows that quite clearly the speed is throttled at the promised amounts. Don’t always hit them, but when using speedtest I can see for sure that it caps me at 10Mbps down and 800Kbps up. It’s not random.

      So I’d try the higher speeds if you want it, and then if you don’t get it complain and ask for a refund.

      • super_b

        Yes, I can vouch for RCN internet service.

        Sidenote: I actually tried to get Comcast for a long time, but they had issues with one of the utility poles nearby and said that my residence would have to be “re-surveyed”. I waited for a month for the survey, called back and got the run-around. I got annoyed, called RCN, and I had cable the next day.

        About the internet service, I have the 10mb service and it is super solid – it’s rarely if ever down and speeds are accurately capped at 10mb, which is great for streaming movies (netflix), online gaming, etc. But PoP, if you are mostly *uploading* stuff, a better package won’t help you as much as you think. Up/Down speeds are rarely balanced with cable, so even though you might have a 20mb download link, you will probably only end up with a 1 or 2mb upload link.

  • Sam

    The plan you buy with Comcast will definitely make a difference. I signed up for the economy plan and get exactly 1 mbps every time I’ve run the speed test. I have neighbors that paid for a higher speed plan and routinely get > 10 mbps.

    • ah

      But they definitely will need to replace the cable modem. That one in the picture is way old and busted, and provides only 5mcfs

      • Eric in Ledroit

        lol! nice one.

  • West Kansas

    Aren’t Comcast the guys who just waged a huge and successful court battle to protect their right to “throttle” your peer-to-peer traffic?

    Kinda seems like it doesn’t matter whether you get the 1 mbps or 100 mbps if they’re just going to “throttle” any services they don’t like.

    • ah

      If the OP was happy with 1Mbps, you probably should say that they protected their right to “throttle” the other guy’s peer-to-peer traffic, thereby preserving the speeds you paid for.

  • Publius

    I’d also be curious as to anybody’s experience with Verizon DSL’s higher tiers. Comcast threw me off their service (good riddance) because they believed I had an old account that was overdue (I didn’t, but they screamed at me when I tried to tell them that), so I’m stuck with Verizon. I speedtest at 1.5mbps (slowwww).

  • jcm

    I have Comcast’s Performance tier (12/2) and I’m happy with it. At my office we have FIOS at a significantly higher speed (50/15), but in day to day use I don’t really notice the difference. I guess it’d be $10 a month to upgrade to the next Comcast tier (20/4), and to me it’s not worth it.

    Comcast has actually been pretty reliable for me. My only complaint is that whenever the current promo you’re on expires they jack the bill up for a month. Then, you call and they put you back onto a new promo. Verizon does the same thing, though, and the FIOS setup/install/billing experience for my office in Tysons’s has been an absolute nightmare.

  • I pay for the PERFORMACE level by itself (no tv or phone bundle) which advertises for $60 or so a month and promises speeds up to 12Mbps and I routinely speedtest at 20Mbps.

  • bosscrab

    I have experience with Verizon DSL’s tiers–they are legit:

    I had their 3 megabit plan for many years and got 3 megabit download speeds (~300 to 350K/sec).

    I recently upgraded to 7 megabit–and I now get 7 megabit download speeds (~700 to 800K/sec)

    Once the service was set up it was rock solid. It literally never goes down and never slows down. Good stuff and much better than my experience with cable.

    However, if you ever need to talk to customer service for billing or installation problems…may God help you.

  • Ronald Fricken Reagan

    I had Comcast for a year and while the cable TV service was beyond garbage, the internet service was surprisingly reliable and stable. I dropped them as soon as I moved to a building serviced by RCN, and they’re way better in almost every way. Unfortunately, they only serve certain neighborhoods.

  • bdh

    If you’re doing any streaming media (Hulu/Netflix/iTunes etc) and/or you’ve got roommates then you’re going to feel pain at 1mb/sec.

    Our main problem with comcast was that for an internet only account, they give you a huge run around. The prices are like double what is shown online. Maybe it works out if you want cable tv as well, but paying over $70 a month just for a 6mb/sec internet connection seemed insane.

    RCN had a 10mb/sec plan for $39, and they were fine with us being internet only.

    Captcha: Were Slowdown

  • Anonymous

    RCN is getting ready to roll out DOCSIS 3.0 service which means speeds of 60 Mbps down and 6 Mbps up, but it’s not going to be cheap.

  • Switched from dreadful Comcast to RCN about a year ago, for both cable and and high-tier internet service. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had trouble with either service. The existence of Comcast is the best argument for market competition I know of.

  • TechGromit

    Honestly I firmly beleive that the new Extreme 50 service Comcast is offer is a waste of money. Most people do not realize that web apges are capped at 1/mb a sec download speeds anyway, having a faster internet connection isn’t going to load you webpages any faster than the max anyway. I have the ecomony Comcast internet service and for 95% of what I use the internet for, it works just fine. I can watch streaming video online, play may computer games (Counterstrike, Call of Duty 4, WOW), surf the web and download bit torrent files. Now I will admit that I occassionally run across a website that the streaming video stops and starts cause I do not have enough bandwidth and my downloads are capped at around 116 m/b a sec, but for 95% of what i use it for, Ecomony works just fine. 99% of the population really only needs Ecomony service.

    A more expensive service will of course allow you to watch streaming video from several sources at once and download files faster, but I highly doubt your going to get the 50 M/b per second that comacast is advertising. It not only depends on your connection, but the connection of the servers your connecting too. And while they may be more than able to handle your download request at at the speeds you demand, you have to remember they are handling thousands of requests at the same tine, it’s highly unlikely your going to get the full attention of the server, the server bandwidth will be shared with hundreds of other users at the very least and your going to get your download at a lot slower then your exterme 50 service claims.


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