Here’s where the law of unintended consequences kicks in. When these upgrades come, probably in 5-10 years, they will also bring the end of cable/satellite television as we know it. Just as Internet radio provides thousands of streaming choices today, IPTV will provide thousands of video choices, 24 hours a day. The set-top box manufacturers see this coming, and are developing a new generation of boxes that will provide IPTV choices along side conventional channels. However, the networks, and the cable companies, are still figuring out what role they will play in the new order.
So, how much speed do you need? Well, if you’re a light-use surfer, consider DSL if you can get it, as it’s usually the cheapest option by far. You will surf just fine, and downloads and YouTube will work OK.
For the more serious user, either HFC cable or FiOS is capable of giving you a fine surfing experience. Either can provide music or software downloads at commendable speed and will do at least a reasonable job with quality video. If you notice a big difference between these in your neighborhood, it’s probably because the slower provider hasn’t properly tuned his network. For the same price, FiOS may be a safer bet, as the larger raw bandwidth can mitigate many network issues, and put you in a better position to take advantage of future network upgrades. But if you like the cable package better, and they are offering competitive download speeds (above 5Mb/s), give them a try, you won’t be giving up much.
For serious video watchers and downloaders, get all the speed you can, but keep your expectations realistic, as the Internet is still evolving to keep up.
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Jeff Winston has been writing about home electronics since 1998. An electrical engineer, Jeff has contributed to the development of products in the computer, consumer electronics, and wireless industries. He spends his spare time with his wife, kids, and many PCs, sometimes in that order.