First of all, there’s nothing inherently bad about DSL and Cable Internet services. Millions of people are quite happy with the performance of their services, especially for the price they pay. Therein lies the dilemma. Companies salivate at the low cost of these broadband options but are disappointed when the telecom-grade performance isn’t there. The more you think that broadband-is-broadband, the more likely you are to think that it’s all a vast conspiracy to deny you the performance that the technology is capable of.
The truth is that bandwidth is a scarce resource. Like electricity, water, gasoline and other commodities, pricing is set by the cost of acquisition and the forces of supply and demand. Where does broadband come from? The Internet isn’t one big pipe somewhere. It’s a collection of thousands upon thousands of networks. These days, most of those networks have fiber optic cores. If you’ve ever watched a utility crew slowly trenching conduit and big rolls of fiber cable underground, you can understand why there is considerable investment in metropolitan and national fiber networks.
We get lots of inquiries from residential users and home office businesses who think that business broadband services like T1, DS3 or Ethernet over Copper are going to be priced incrementally higher than the consumer broadband they have now. It always comes as a shock for them to see the quotes at 10x or more what they expect to pay. There is no gouging involved. Business telecom services are priced lower today than they’ve been in recent memory and an order of magnitude below what they were when most Internet access service was through dial-up modems. You just aren’t going to get dedicated access connections with consumer grade pricing.
What’s the difference if the Internet is the Internet at its core? There’s no difference between the price that businesses pay for a high performance Internet connection and what your Internet Service Provider (ISP) pays. It’s exactly the same line service. The problem is that nobody but businesses who generate revenue through their Internet connection can afford the cost of this service.
So, here’s what happens. The ISP buys their bandwidth at wholesale rates at the going price for 1 Gbps, 10 Gbps or more. Then they divvy up that bandwidth among hundreds or thousands of their customers. Each customer pays a small amount, say $20 to $60 a month, for their slice of the bandwidth pie. All together, the revenue collected from all those subscribers more than pays for the cost of the ISP’s Internet connection.
That’s right. As a consumer you don’t have an assigned direct pipe to the Internet. What you are doing is sharing a pool of bandwidth provided by your ISP. How fast your service runs depends on how many of your neighbors are in the pool at the same time. If every teenager in the neighborhood is streaming vampire flicks in high def, your line will slow to a crawl. In the wee hours of the night, you may be zipping along at high speed. There will be a maximum you can’t exceed even if nobody else is on. The ISP limits your speed to the service tier you are paying for. But... there’s no lower limit. You could be getting dial-up speeds if everyone absolutely, positively has to be online at once. The reason most customers remain satisfied is that only some customers are actually sitting at their computers at any given time. Anyone not home or doing something offline is effectively donating their share of bandwidth to their neighbors.
Businesses struggle with this kind of service. They all tend to work the same business hours, so every business is a heavy user for 8 hours or so a day and very little after hours. You can’t have your activities come to a halt because the company across the street is hogging all the bandwidth. This is why businesses who don’t like the performance of shared bandwidth services go with dedicated bandwidth. Dedicated bandwidth means that you are assigned a certain guaranteed line speed that doesn’t vary. If you buy 10 Mbps, you’ve got 10 Mbps all day every day whether you use it or not. It doesn’t go into any pool at night. It just sits there waiting for someone to come to work and download files.
You pay higher rates for dedicated line services but you gain important benefits. First, that bandwidth is always available. Second, it is the same bandwidth in both the upload and download directions. Consumer services and business services based on the consumer model have much higher download than upload speeds. That matches the way most personal users access the Internet. However, if you are running a server or upload large files a lot of the time, you’ll run out of bandwidth more often than not.
The third difference involves Service Level Agreements or SLAs. These are guarantees by the ISP as to how quickly they’ll hop to it and repair an outage and what parameters like bandwidth, latency and jitter you can depend on. Don’t know about these? They’re unheard of in consumer circles. Unless you have an SLA, you are dependent on the good intentions of your ISP. They all mean well, but as their ads say, “you get up to so many Mbps of bandwidth.” That means you can’t get more but you can surely get less.
What dedicated Internet services are available for business? These include T1 lines at 1.5 Mbps, bonded T1 from 3 to 12 Mbps, Ethernet over Copper (EoC) from 2 to 45 Mbps, DS3 at 45 Mbps and fiber optic services up to 10 Gbps. The higher your bandwidth, the lower your cost per Mbps but the higher your payments each month. In case you are thinking that you might pony up for one of these in your home office, forget it. It’s rare that any telecom providers will install dedicated services to a residence. You need your own business address.
Do you have such a business address and a burning desire for more dependable and higher performing Internet access? If so, then check prices and availability for dedicated business Internet solutions in your area.