DSL vs Cable: Not Just the Price, but the Value

In the last couple days there has been some discussion over a study which found that, in general, richer people get cable internet service (which costs more) and those with more modest incomes order DSL (which is a bit cheaper). I don’t dispute this study one bit, and in fact it mirrors my own observations and experiences in my life.

That said, I don’t think the situation is as simple as the study claims; it’s not just a case of rich people buying what’s more expensive, and the folks with lower incomes buying what’s cheap. It’s a cost-benefit situation, and the added cost of cable internet service doesn’t provide enough benefit for many people. Most home internet users still cite web-surfing and e-mail as the two primary internet applications, and performing those tasks at a speed of 512k, 1Mb, or 1.5Mb is plenty fast for practical purposes. Even for downloading music or videos the DSL provides a reasonable speed for a more affordable price. Sure, a cable connection might double or even quadruple the DSL speed, but does it really matter if one checks e-mail that fast? Is the ability to download a song in 30 seconds instead of a minute worth an additional $20 a month? Not for those who are serious about managing their finances.