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I have been a mostly satisfied Comcast Business Class customer for many years. But recently, AT&T GigaPower, the company’s superfast, fiber optics internet service came to our neighborhood in Alpharetta. I had the opportunity to try it out and compare it to Comcast Business Class.
To better understand the differences in service, I will also give you a high-level overview of the technologies used by Comcast, AT&T and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs). That’s important because the underlying technology often affects reliability and speed.
The need for speed and reliable service
I work from home and fast, and reliable internet service is crucial for my job. That’s why I switched from Comcast’s residential to the company’s business class service a few years ago.
With most residential service offerings, you share the internet connection with other customers who live in the same apartment complex or street. As a result, you may only get a fraction of the speed your connection supports. With Comcast’s Business Class service, I had a dedicated line that I didn’t have to share with anyone else. Plus, customer care is usually better when you are a business customer.
The Comcast service I had offered a maximum download speed of 100 megabits per second (Mbit/sec) and a maximum upload speed of 20 Mbit/sec.
Despite the relatively fast download and upload speeds Comcast offered, I needed more. The number of devices on my network is continuously growing, thanks to IoT (Internet of Things) devices, such as thermostats, room monitors, light switches, etc. Additionally, I store more and more data in the cloud, including backups, photos, documents, etc. That continuous transfer of data means that my internet connection is never idle. That’s especially critical with data uploads, such as backups, because a congested upstream can cripple your entire internet connection.
That’s why I got excited when I heard that both Comcast and AT&T are building out their fiber optic services in the Atlanta area. Google was the first to offer residential gigabit Internet in the Atlanta area, but they never made it to northern metro cities, such as Alpharetta.
Network technology used by ISPs
Most ISPs in the United States offer their residential internet services using coaxial (coax) cables or Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology. With both, you often get an internet connection that offers much faster download- than upload speeds. That’s called an asymmetric connection, and it is what I had with Comcast.
Comcast Business Class service
Comcast uses coax cables for most of their consumer-facing network infrastructure. That’s the same old technology that cable companies use for TV service. The problem with coax cables is that they are prone to electromagnetic interference (also called noise). The same is true with most other non-optical cables, and it can result in degraded service. Also, the longer the coax cable is, the weaker the signal is due to resistance. So-called splitters that split up the signal to feed your TV and internet modem can further reduce signal strength.