September 22, 2014 Jessica Sims

Comcast VS Time Warner Cable

Comcast is a top tier digital cable provider and one of the nation’s largest ISPs, but Time Warner is not exactly a niche ISP.  Time Warner has a substantial background in media, but also in distribution and networking that makes them a great contender for Comcast.  How do the two of these companies stack up against one another?  It all depends on where you put your priorities in the following categories: Internet performance, digital cable, digital telephone services, and other odds and ends.

Broadband Performance

When it comes to broadband performance, Comcast has a very clear and decisive edge.  With services starting at ‘up to’ 20 Mbps, Comcast’s lowest tier of broadband is twice as fast as Time Warner’s offerings.  The same holds true at the high end as well with Comcast offering a blistering-fast ‘Extreme’ 105 Mbps plan versus a comparatively sluggish seeming 50 Mbps offered by Time Warner.  Keep in mind that by no stretch of the imagination can 50 Mbps seem slow, and there really is little that can stress even that kind of connection but it is the words ‘up to’ that are a real challenge to navigate.

Just how much is really available to any given consumer at any given time?  That is very difficult to say, and both companies are somewhat coy about guaranteed figures.  This leaves us with nothing but theoretical figures to compare, but those theoretical figures are incredible.  So long as both companies are equally qualified to live up to their own ‘up to’ promises, then it would seem like Comcast has a two-fold edge making it the clear winner in broadband performance.  That being said, there are not that many uses for extreme broadband performance at that level that cannot be equally well accomplished by a service half as fast.

Digital Cable Showdown

Comcast has a long history in the cable industry, but Time Warner has actual experience in the media industry infused directly into its corporate DNA.  While the different Time Warner units may have drifted, there has been an indelible impression made and it shows in how the company allows users to look back over 72 hours for DVR without even setting up specific show channels and times.  Comcast has great DVR in a standard sense, but it just cannot compete with what Time Warner has on tap.

In terms of channels, both companies have a lot to offer and a lot to learn.  Comcast has a trio of digital cable packages starting at 80+ channels and topping out at 200+ channels, while Time Warner has offerings that vary by market but are generally rates at between 60 channels at the low end with 250 near the top.  Determining how many of those channels are duplicates with HD offerings and how many are truly useful is very difficult to do, but the bottom line is that both companies have a lot to offer in terms of line up.  Where both companies could stand to improve is their add-on bundles.  Cox perhaps has the best add-on bundles that are tightly focused and easily worth consideration, such as per-language international channels rather than just a block of international programming.

Given the advantage that Time Warner has with its DVR packing Start Over (start any show at the beginning), and an On Demand-style Look Back feature that lets you have the past 72 hours of programming ready for you when you are ready to watch puts Time Warner over the edge when it comes to digital cable.

Telephone Services Done Better

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a great way to take advantage of the bandwidth that digital cable has to offer, but the service was initially focused on taking the fight to telecom providers that had the audacity to start dabbling in digital cable.  Both Time Warner and Comcast have great service levels and crystal clear services, but there may be better offers for anyone looking for long distance and/or international calls.

The big question is: in a day when nearly everyone has a cell phone, does digital telephone service even make sense?  Or, is VoIP a digital dinosaur that is dead but does not really know it yet?  The jury is still out on this one, but each individual consumer is welcome to reach their own conclusion.

Everything Else

Time Warner offers some very unique additional services that may help sway some consumers to their side.  One of the best such services is the home security package, something that Comcast may be starting to research if industry reports are correct.  Either way, Time Warner has a clear edge by offering an app-driven home security solution and has a major advantage in total home integration that few providers can match.


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