We have decided to make the jump from cable to Direct TV, largely in order to get the sports programming my wife and I want.  We are about 15 miles north of the “home market” for her favorite NFL team, and nearly a thousand miles outside of the market for my favorite baseball team.

I’ll cover the Direct TV aspect at a later date (after we actually have the service).  However, we also switched over from cable internet to DSL (through Qwest).  Today, I’ll cover that.

Ordering

My wife spent 40 minutes on the phone with the phone company.  This was twice the time she spent on the phone with Direct TV.  Considering that we’re an existing phone customer and that she knew precisely what level of DSL we needed, this seemed like an excessive amount of time.

Installation

Since I’m an IT guy, we went with the self-installation.  The box came via UPS and contained the modem, install CD, DSL filters for the phone lines, and a couple of Ethernet cables.  For those who aren’t familiar with DSL, the filters (essentially, a little pass through device for the phone line) are placed on the phone lines that actual telephones are plugged into, to avoid interference with the DSL modem.  Interestingly, our wall mounted phone (which we never use) doesn’t have a wall mounted JACK, so we didn’t need the special wall mounted filter.

The install process wasn’t overly complex, but it was still more steps than necessary.  With the cable company (Mediacom) it had only been necessary to connect to hardware and go to their walled garden to provision the modem.  I also had to set at a Microsoft Live account just to be able to use the outbound (SMTP) mail server.  Again, this hadn’t been necessary with cable, as they authenticated through alternate means.  The mail servers weren’t listed on the instruction sheet, either – I needed to poke around online to determine what they should be.

So, while the installation wasn’t hard, it was slightly annoying, simply because I knew it could have been easier.

The service

The DSL modem actually had a built in wireless router (with 4 wired ports).  However, I decided against using this for a couple of reasons.  First, I really don’t think it’s necessary for the ISP to be able to know how many computers (and what type) are connected.  Second, you actually need to register computers on their web site when you add them to your network.  I didn’t delve into the reason for this (MAC filtering?). I fix other computers often enough that I don’t want to monkey around with adding and removing computers (the fix process often involves connecting to the internet to download several hundred megabytes of system updates).  So I connected my Linksys router to a wired port, and the other computers will continue to connect to that.  I turned off the wireless function on the DSL modem.

Now to the important part – speed.  We chose the 7 mbps plan (options were 1.5, 7, 12, 20).  This seemed roughly comparable to our current plan with cable.  7 mbps (mega bits per second) means that it will take slightly more than 1 second to download a 1 megabyte file (there are 8 bits to a byte).  We don’t put a lot of strain on our bandwidth by downloading huge files, so this will probably be sufficient.

I tested the cable speed on www.speedtest.net before switching to DSL.  The download speed was 7.35 mbps and upload speed was 0.72 mps.  As far as I know, the cable company never actually specified a specific speed – over the years, they gradually bumped the speed without rasing the price.

I tested the speed for the DSL and it came in at 6.1 mbps – about a 17% drop in speed.  (Why aren’t we getting exactly 7 mbps?  Because network overhead and other issue take away from the raw speed of a connection).  Upload speed was around 0.73 mbps.

We’ll watch the download speed a bit to make sure it’s OK and upgrade to 12 mbps if it is not OK.  I think we’ll be OK, as most problems of slowness we encounter seem to be related to overloaded web servers (Facebook, this would be you), and this is not something that can be fixed by having a fast connection.  I was pleased that the upload speed didn’t degrade, as I do upload large chunks of data on occasion.

What next

Once we have Direct TV installed, I’ll write an article about that process.  I’ll also document any billing and technical issues that might arise.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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