Jesse Berst: Why DSL will win the fast-access fight

In Vegas, you can bet on anything.

Boxing matches, whether the world is going to end come January 1, and even whether Tech Director Jon DeKeles will take that third trip through the complimentary buffet line.

But there was one bet no bookie would take -- who will win the fast-access fight between cable modems and Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL). Until recently, the competing high-speed Internet connections were so closely matched only a fool would have bet on the outcome. But new developments are changing the odds. I'm your bookie, and I'm giving you the inside tip.

Bet on DSL.

In round one, pundits believed cable modems had a lock on the match. Cable was faster and cheaper and the telephone companies were in a state of confusion. But the telcos regrouped, cleaned up their act, set standards and dropped prices. DSL is in fighting form and poised to fight back.


The two major contenders in the broadband boxing match are cable modems and DSL. Cable modems transfer data using the same cable that's hooked into your TV. DSL uses existing copper phone wires.

Cable modem sales have so far outpaced DSL sales in the US but that is changing rapidly. New advances in technology and availability are pushing DSL ahead. Research company Dataquest predicts DSL sales will top 1 million units this year and will shoot up to 9.8 million by 2003, compared to the projected 5.3 million cable modem sales that year.

By its very nature, DSL has a few advantages over cable modems.

  • DSL is available through many different carriers, creating competition and lowering prices. Cable Internet access is only available through your cable operator.

  • DSL is a point-to-point line, unlike cable, which is shared in a given neighborhood or geographic area, resulting in slower access during peak hours

  • DSL uses the most extensive communications network available -- the more than 800 million twisted copper wire pairs that deliver plain old telephone service
But DSL is not without its drawbacks:

  • DSL is slower than cable modems when they aren't hindered by heavy traffic

  • DSL is limited by its proximity to a central phone switching station, the further out, the lower the performance. And if you're too far from a central switch -- and millions of Americans are -- you can't get it at all.

    Part 2

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