Rich Warren: High-speed Internet providers continue clash

As I walk the streets of my neighborhood, I notice more satellite dishes sprouting on rooftops. Obviously, the cable company charges too much.

This might not be true much longer. DirecTV will increase charges by almost 5 percent starting next month, and Dish Network will tack on up to an additional $15 a month starting today. If you just signed up for a promotional deal, or if you're in your first year with Dish, your rates won't increase until your year or promotional period expires.

This punch in the wallet does not come solely from avarice. After all the heated negotiations last year, satellite companies will pay program providers 5 percent to 10 percent more for programming this year.

Mediacom provides cable service for most East Central Illinoisans living outside Champaign-Urbana. We recently received this release from Mediacom: "Netflix has starting ranking ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Mediacom came out as the sixth rated ISP nationally. The results are at: http://blog.netflix.com/2012/12/november-isp-rankings-for-usa.html/"

"Mediacom beat out Time Warner, Bright House, Cox, Suddenlink and all of the DSL providers (telephone company Internet service). Mediacom generally does not compete with companies that provide Internet service via cable modem. We do compete, vigorously, with telephone companies like Frontier and CenturyLink (formerly Qwest, et al). In multiple comparatives by independent entities, including the FCC, Mediacom's Internet service always performs better, supporting our goal to deliver always faster Internet."

As to the credibility of the data, a Netflix VP said the following, "Our 30 million members view over 1 billion hours of Netflix per month, so we have very reliable data for consumers to compare ISPs in terms of real world performance."

I suspect this Mediacom release arrived because Frontier, the telephone company for most readers outside of C-U and other larger cities, finally began offering truly high-speed DSL service. Strangely, Frontier's rates and Mediacom's rates are nearly identical for the level of service provided. Whatever happened to competition?

C-U residents still come out ahead because Netflix ranked Comcast No. 3 nationally. AT&T U-verse ranked as No. 11.

Google Fiber came out on top, blowing past all other providers by a wide margin. Sadly, fewer than a million people nationally have access to Google Fiber, and that's not likely to increase in the near future. Verizon FIOS was second, but Verizon stopped deploying new FIOS service a couple of years ago. C-U's Big Broadband might come close to these if the build-out includes fiber-optic connections to the house.

Why does the speed of your cable connection matter? Within the next few years, the Internet will deliver nearly all home entertainment. Speed is not critical for audio, but it is essential for high-definition video as well as the newest video games. The cable companies own you either way because they either deliver programming via conventional cable to your TV or via the Internet to your computer or TV.

The one thing that the cable companies don't promise is the ability to reach a well-trained, natively English-speaking tech support person when you have a problem. Frontier's advertising now boasts: "U.S.-based technical support."

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Another recently received press release reveals a truly innovative product: the Parasound Halo CD 1 CD player co-designed by Parasound and Holm Acoustics in Denmark.

This player uses a computer CD-ROM drive to feed data to a large memory cache that then moves the data to what basically is a computer for analysis. This allows reading the CD more accurately and correcting any flaws in the data. All of the audio circuitry uses premium components.

The sleek, attractive player looks like a normal CD player. Of course, perfection comes at a price. The Halo CD 1 costs $4,500. I've asked them to loan me one for review, but something tells me I'll just have to look at the photo.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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SaintClarence27 wrote on January 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

If Comcast and Mediacom are rated so highly, that says something terrible about the state of ISP service on the whole.