Correction to This Article
This article misidentified the company at which Kathryn Falk is a vice president. It is Cox Communications, which is investing in the broadband Internet technology called DOCSIS 3.0.

Nice View, but How's the WiFi?

By Gabe Goldberg
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Broadband, broadband, broadband" could be a new real estate mantra.

"Buyers ask what broadband services are available, who cable providers are and whether [Verizon's] FiOS is in place," said Tania Gonda, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Reston.

Because many people work from home, she said, reliable high-speed Internet is a necessity. "Builders need to make sure broadband service is available and [offer] more than one option," she said. "Consumers want to make their own choices."

Several technologies and diverse vendors provide broadband service: digital subscriber line (DSL) from Verizon and resellers, cable service, satellite connection, and FiOS (Fiber Optic Service) from Verizon.

Considering the pros and cons of each vendor, choosing depends on availability, reliability, speed, reviews, recommendations, personal preferences, and trade-offs between cost and features.

Location determines connection options. Even in the hot-wired D.C. region, there are non-intuitive variations in neighborhoods, such as upscale areas not being served by either or both DSL and cable, said Mark Leymaster, managing partner at Renaissance Software in Silver Spring.

Along with schools, Metro access, crime statistics and roads, check out Internet service provider (ISP) offerings before a move, using Internet searches and Consumer Reports.

Also ask prospective neighbors about services they use and their performance, and visit the comprehensive reference site for more insight from customers.

Karl Bode, the site's New York-based editor, hears concern with how connections perform during peak times, particularly on cable networks.

To avoid subjectivity -- one person's "really fast" may seem a crawl to another -- measures connection speed and compares it with averages for the same ISP locally and nationally and ISPs across a state and wider areas. While averages change, multiple tests at varying times will profile an individual connection, especially useful for evaluating cable and satellite service.

In some communities, residents may find choices restricted because the builder signed a contract with one provider, said Karl Signell, a Silver Spring resident active in computer user groups. This can lead to higher homeowners association fees or higher charges to use another ISP. And it can hinder upgrades to newer technologies.

However, if a building or neighborhood is pre-wired, service will be established faster.

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