Blog Post

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.

10 Responses to “Qwest’s Quest: Making Believe DSL is Faster”

  1. Randy Daniels

    Hey, I know this post is a couple months old, but just wanted to respond to the two above people who said they were getting 6 kbps or so on downloads. My brother and I are both on Qwest and he had this same problem for a few months. When he finally called qwest they sent someone out to his house – not sure what he did, but now my bro gets more like 1.3 mbps on downloads (pretty close to the 1.5 we subscribed for). Again, not sure what they did to fix it, but they mentioned that this speed problem happens occasionally, may be worth giving them a call.

  2. Dean Sanback

    I have the basic Quest dsl and when im downloading a file ,be it music or videos..reguardless of what server its from..the max i get per sec is 6 k…its incredibly pathetic..and thats with no firewalls or routers in the way..i think its the biggest rip off ever getting just above dial up speeds for high speed price..if anybody knows why this is..pleas feel free to post back, and btw i do not live in the middle of nowhere OR in a super-densely populated area (federal way-tacoma Washington)

  3. kiwisoup

    I love my Qwest and would never switch to Comcast.

    Comcast is downright expensive, their customer service absolutely horrid. The speed is very inconsistent, not to mention there are too many bottle necks out there for the higher speed to make a big difference for everything. Comcast will throttle or block your p2p downloads, and they’ll hand your personal information over to companies that want to sue you for downloading mp3s, etc..


  4. I’ve got Qwest’s broadband service, and the downloads, and the uploads have been great so far, I may test tonight, but the general surgin, is pretty abominable. I could understand Youtube and Myspace being slow, but everything is slow, and
    my Net Monitor is maxing out at 12KB/s. Something is wrong here. Am I supposed to multiply this by 60. Is it per minute? It’s faster than dialup, but its real spotty.

  5. Bruce


    The interesting question is whether Qwest (or, more accurately, the marketing people at Qwest generating this spin) even understand how Qwest’s speed compares to the local cablecos.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised that they truly believe they have an advantage because no one who understand the network wants to tell them the truth.

    This is like the persistent telco claim that they deliver some form of dedicated bandwidth to customers because the link to the CO is dedicated. While that is true, it is meaningless since the network doesn’t do anything (IPTV, excepted) between the customer and the CO — instead, it simply multiplexes all these high-speed local connections onto oversubscribed, shared links.

    My guess is that whoever generated this PR campaign doesn’t understand that, and they probably also believes the theoretical DSL speed limit that can rarely be matched in practice.

    Still, let them go run their tests. Unless they rig them (or are very selective in where it applies), it might open their eyes to why people “perceive” cable as better.

  6. The availability of 8Meg and 16Meg download speeds in London isn’t pervasive across the UK – the distance from the exchange is still a killer for DSL – at 2.5m away from the exchange whether ADSL1 or ADSL2+ you’ll be lucky to get 4meg down and 250k upstream.

    What’s more over 50% of the population in the UK has loop lengths longer than 2.5m – so the divide has started, and that’ll be even worse in the US where loop lengths are much longer on average. The distance isn’t as the crow flies either – it depends where the copper is buried (we are less than mile from the exchange in the centre of Ipswich and the loop length to us is 2.5miles).

    ADSL2+ helps those who are close to the exchange but it’ll be up to 5 years before all the exchanges are upgraded with ADSL2+ – although the LLU’s will get there before BT do. FTTH is no where in the UK and even FTTN is going to be very patchy and a few years before any real impact is noticed.

    Cable isn’t the sole answer either as predictions for the need for bandwidth in 5 years is around 23Megs down and a whopping 14megs upstream! No service can do this on its own – what you need is a way of aggregating connection services to meet this need.

  7. Paul Kapustka

    Good question Matt, though I don’t think Qwest’s broadband challenge extends overseas. Wondering if WiMAX is making any inroads in Central America and other developing nations, since it seems like there would be less overhead (no copper or fiber to string, etc).

  8. Matt Hocker

    While that might be true in the US, in the UK and elsewhere there is 8M/768k bps DSL and 16M/768k bps DLS2. Both with no caps and no usage limits. In London, 8 megs is 20 GBP ($40) and 16 megs is 30 GBP ($60). Cable on the other hand is pathetic – the companies have spent more money just consolidating operations than on their network, and it shows.

    What will be interesting is how emerging economies like Central America will handle their broadband rollout. Right now, both cable and DSL are slow, spottily available and expensive. Will wireless and/or fiber come to the rescue?