Qwest’s Quest: Making Believe DSL is Faster

After spending hard time covering last year’s net neutrality battles, it’s easy to get used to hearing telephone companies saying up is really down, and black is really white. That’s why we’re not going to even nibble at the pitch Qwest’s PR representatives sent our way Monday, an invitation to hear more about Qwest’s “broadband challenge,” a campaign “attacking the belief that cable broadband is faster than DSL,” says the email.


Without even mentioning (OK, or ridiculing it more than once) the weak, home-baked “statistics” we’re sure the campaign is chock-full of, we offer just one word: Speedtest. That, and your checkbook, is all you need to determine which service is faster, or a better value, where the pipe connects to your ‘puter. Truly, you do not need a “broadband challenge” or more cooked demos or more empty promises of future improvements. All you need is proof: how many bits can your service deliver (down AND upstream) to where you live, now, at what price.

And as far as the “perception” that cable is faster than DSL… maybe that’s because, in most instances, cable providers do offer faster connections, at least until Qwest and others roll out more of those mini-DSLAMs or fiber nodes to get over the physics problem that limits DSL by distance. Case in point is the GigaOM mid-Peninsula outpost, which happens to be geographically smack between the two closest COs — meaning that top DSL speed is roughly 350Kbps, if the wind is blowing out.

Our cable connection, meanwhile, seems to have ingested some of the local spilled BALCO juice — even though our contract calls for 6 Mbps down, on some recent nights the meter has ticked up to 12 Mbps or more, for no apparent reason.

According to some Comcast sales guy (who honored us with a dinner-time front-door visit), the cable giant had “just installed some optical fiber” in the neighborhood and say, wasn’t it time for us to add that digital phone service to the bill?

Um, thanks, no, and could you please add us to the do-not-stop-by-my-house list? Just goes to show that even when the speeds get faster, the sales pitches don’t improve in a linear fashion. In that sense, DSL and cable are unfortunately neck and neck.