When Internet Speed Kills Reliability

What’s more important when it comes to an Internet connection — quality and reliability, or speed? This is a question I’m pondering as I sip a latte at Starbucks. I have come to the conclusion that while speed is sexy and sells, quality and reliability are more important. See if you agree.

Like countless others, I spend an hour or two every day working in Starbucks — just me, my latte and my laptop. I have been doing this for enough years that I have become one of the mayors of the neighborhood coffee klatch.

Year after year, I connected to the Internet using the free AT&T service that Starbucks provided. I never had any complaints. It was always on, and it was always fast enough to surf the Web, check email, watch video clips, and listen to music.

Then Starbucks decided to dump AT&T and instead go with Google for high-speed Internet. Things started out pretty well. The speed was faster, and that was impressive.

Slower Service vs. No Service

However there is a problem that has become a real pain in the neck. The Google service doesn’t work all the time. When it stops working, I’m stuck without a connection to the Internet.

I don’t have to tell you — losing your connection to the Internet can be very aggravating and even cost you business.

So speed is not everything. You would think so, listening to the commercials for Comcast and Google, but people prefer reliability to speed.

Comcast has a fast Internet connection as well. When it works, it’s great. However, I often lose the connection in my home. I have to restart the modems and hope for the best. The vast majority of time, when both Comcast and Google go down, they stay down for a while.

It seems once or twice every year I have to unplug the modem, get in the car, drive to a Comcast store and wait in line to swap it out for a new one. Figuring out the problem often takes days.

That’s the problem with speed vs. reliability.

Priority Check

I’ve had an AT&T DSL connection to the Internet for years, and while it may be boring, it’s always on. A faster connection doesn’t necessarily make things any better.

This illustrates how powerful advertising, marketing and public relations really are. We have been hearing for years that faster is better. We never hear about the problems when service goes down.

If you hear something enough times, you start to believe. Then reality comes back to slap you in the face.

Perhaps some day, every provider will offer speed and reliability. Until then, I prefer to stick with reliability.

Bottom line: When it comes to an Internet connection, the most important factors are connection, quality and reliability. After that comes speed.

Now, back to my latte.

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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