Options Multiply for Small-Business Broadband

Competition between cable and telephone companies means faster internet at cheaper costs.

If you have been using the same business broadband provider for a long time, now may be a great time to cut your costs or boost your bandwidth by jumping ship. Today competition between cable and telephone companies for business broadband customers is red-hot. By 2006, more smaller businesses had DSL (35 percent) than cable (twenty five percent), but that balance is shifting as cable companies crank up the speed of their service and push business-oriented broadband/phone packages at compete very attractive prices.

According to Brian Washburn, network services research director for Current Analysis, business DSL plans used to become more attractive because they "bundled in a voice line, unlimited local/long-distance plans and wireless options, while cable was broadband Internet rather than much else." Now, however, "cable bundles [for small businesses] are needs to appear to be the long-established T1 integrated voice/data services from the telco side."

Forrester Research agrees. In a 2006 survey, it discovered that a lot more than 75 percent of smaller businesses buy or intend to buy bundled telecommunications services, citing better pricing, convenience, and service. Both Comcast and Time-Warner, for instance, offer "Business Class" packages, with Comcast advertising a $99 triple-play of broadband, TV, and unlimited local/long distance calling for smaller businesses.

Washburn says that cable also offers the advantage of having the capacity to offer additional phone lines for a little incremental cost. He sees a sweet spot for cable of 8 to 12 lines, which he calls "a weak spot for traditional telcos, where in fact the subscriber must either buy a couple of analog voice lines with DSL or resort compared to that costly T1 line." T1 lines typically cost $300 to $400 monthly for 1.5 megabits per second of constant, dedicated bandwidth, which is often used for Access to the internet and multiple phone lines.

Speeds increasing DSL has been catching up with cable in data transmission speed. Speakeasy.net, a respected business DSL provider, offers 8-mbps ADSL2 service for $150 monthly, including eight static IP addresses, domain e-mail, and around-the-clock support with a service-level guarantee (and therefore if Speakeasy doesn’t fix outages within a set short time of time, it’ll refund fees on a pro-rated basis). Such guarantees are crucial for many internet sites and before have already been available only with T1 lines. Speakeasy offers plans with speeds as high as 15 mbps downstream and 1 mbps upstream, along with 10-mbps symmetrical (downstream and upstream) service in a few markets

Meanwhile, alternatives such as for example Verizon FIOS and AT&T’s U-verse are making inroads with small company in the limited areas where they can be found, because of blazing speeds and low prices. Verizon’s 50-mbps download/20-mbps upload business plan, for instance, costs $200 monthly with two-year contract; the service’s 15-mbps download/2-mbps upload option costs less than $60 monthly, or $100 with a static Ip. Verizon promises 24/7 support for business FIOS, but no service-level guarantees.

Cable providers aren’t standing still, however. Soon, next-generation cable service will be available-initially at speeds of 20 to 50 mbps, but eventually rising to raised than 100 mbps. The updated cable offerings should compete directly with FIOS on speed and pricing. Comcast alone expects to bring DOCSIS 3.0 to 20 percent of its market area prior to the end of the entire year.

Location, Location, Location Your broadband choices depend on your own location. In Newton, Massachusetts, companies can pick from among Comcast and RCN cable, various DSL providers, and Verizon FIOS. In Berkeley, California, your options are limited by Comcast and DSL. The areas may have just one single broadband provider.

Though cable prices are easy to check-since most would-be subscribers have just a few options-DSL prices and service levels may differ widely. To research the business enterprise DSL offerings in your town, have a look at several handy comparison sites. Focus on BroadbandReports.com, which posts revealing user ISP ratings for installation, connection reliability, and tech support. Then head to sites such as for example BroadbandInfo, BuyerZone, and EverythingDSL for real-time price quotes tailored to your preferences.

Before you shop, determine how much speed you would like to purchase, both upstream and down (in the event that you host your own Internet site, you will want high upstream speeds), whether you will need static IP addresses (and if so, just how many), whether you will need domain e-mail hosting, and whether you want bundled voice service.

Once you have narrowed down your options, call the firms to quiz them on the facts, such as for example installation time, tech support team hours, and router policy (specifically, whether you need to use your own). Also decide whether you will need a service-level guarantee. If your options in your town don’t include service-level agreements, and if uptime is essential to your business, consider doubling through to inexpensive cable and DSL lines. The redundancy should cover almost all outages, at a less price when compared to a T1 line.

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