Comcast and Cox are two of the nation’s biggest cable internet providers and they both vie for the attention of millions of consumers. How do they stack up against each other? To answer that, we need to look at value, performance, bundling, and additional considerations.
Both Offer Strong Value
Examining prices in a few markets one thing is immediately clear: there has never been a great time to shop for high performance cable internet services. At the time of this writing the Phoenix, AZ market shows that Cox has offerings ranging from 3 Mbps download/384 kbps at the low end to 50 Mbps/4 Mbps at the high end. Comcast on the other hand offers a minimum of 20 Mbps download speeds to a whopping 105 Mbps at the high end, but is a little shy about advertising upload speeds. Keep in mind that Cox’s speeds are rated without any sort of speed boost technology, and may actually be faster than advertised while Comcast seems to have gone the other direction in advertising its best available speeds. Kudos to Cox for playing it safe, but it would have been nicer for both companies to make complete and total disclosure part of their advertising.
Checking a few neighboring markets where both companies compete for the same customers, a similar trend emerges: Cox seems to have offerings overlapping Comcast at the low- to mid-range mark while they compete exclusively for budget consumers while surrendering the high-end range to Comcast. The good news is that both companies use their respective positions on the market to leverage one another; Cox pushes its lower-tier offerings at prices Comcast cannot compete with, while Comcast’s top-tier packages drive down the price of mid-range offerings in the 20-50 Mbps range.
Insane Performance & Availability Issues
If you just read the last few words in the last paragraph you might have a smirk on your face. It’s true, the range of 20 to 50 Mbps would have been unheard of even a few years ago, but now it is just middle of the road when looking at the broader picture in the modern broadband landscape. That being said, determining which company is worth opting for will depend greatly upon your needs. A pair of cash-strapped students sharing a broadband bill will probably find the unbelievably low prices of Cox’s offerings more appealing while someone that simply has to have the latest in broadband performance really does not have much to choose from, especially if Cox’s fastest offering is not available in their neighborhood.
The subject of availability is a touchy one as well. It is very hard to accurately determine just how many consumers are available for higher tier plans, but anyone within the service area of either company is certainly eligible for the lowest-tier offerings at a minimum. This gives Comcast a significant advantage in developing suburbs and areas where the broadband infrastructure has not been fully developed. In short, where you live and what kind of performance you are looking may end up making this fight a no-contest event.
Bundle & Save
Internet speeds are not an island in and of themselves, at least not for most people. Be sure to consider the different bundle offers each company has on tap if digital cable and/or voice offerings are worth looking at. The bundles may completely alter the entire buying decision, but be sure to look at the long-term value and not just at the introductory prices. Introductory prices should not be ignored, but they should only be used as a tie-breaker if all other things are equal.
It is worth looking at the whole picture when determining which of these services to ultimately invest in. Comcast is well known for its bandwidth caps, and those may be worth factoring in depending on intended usage patterns. Different areas have different downtime expectations and levels of customer service. Customer service in general may be something worth investigating.
Declaring a Winner
Declaring a winner in this contest is hard to do. There is no doubt that Comcast has the faster offerings, but there is a price premium. Cox has more affordable offerings, but competes well with the low- and mid-range offered by Comcast. In that sense this could be a no-contest decision either way. It is only in the middle-ground where things get confusing if you are focused on the competition. If you step back for a moment you will realize that there is still a clear winner: you. That’s right, at the end of the day the competition between Cox and Comcast has resulted in ridiculously fast services at incredibly attractive price points.