When it comes to installing your Internet service, you have one of two options — doing it yourself or hiring a professional. While some may prefer to let professionals handle the heavy lifting, others naturally enjoy DIY projects and may want to tackle the project themselves. Self-installing your XFINITY® Internet service is simple and straightforward, but you should make sure you are comfortable with all aspects of the process before getting started.

The Pros and Cons of Self-Installation

Self-installing your own Internet can prevent a lot of hassle, but it isn’t without its challenges. Here are a few of the biggest pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not you want to attempt it on your own. Pros
  • Timely: A self-installation is flexible and fits to your own schedule. You can set the whole system up whenever you want, and you don’t have to go through with the hassle of setting up an appointment with a professional service. Once you’ve set the system up, you’re ready to go.
  • Cost effective: Self-installation is free, and you won’t be charged the one-time fee that comes with a professional installation.
  • Customizable: The equipment can be set up to your own specific preferences. You can place your equipment wherever you’d like.
  • Challenging to troubleshoot: The service may require troubleshooting outside the scope of the basic installation guide. Depending on how complex the issue is, you may need to hire a technician.
  • Technically specific: While the process is quite simple, it may be intimidating to those who are less technically inclined, as there are a couple different cables to hook up. The self-installation guide for the modem may not give details on how to set up a more advanced wireless network.
  • Involved: Self-Installation requires a manual activation, which can take time. It requires access to the Internet or a phone line.

How to Install Your Own Internet Service

If you’ve decided to go the self-installation route, you may be wondering how to get started. The process is easier than it seems — you won’t need any special tools, and you can install the entire system without leaving your living room. Here is an outline of the whole procedure.
  1. Order your XFINITY services.
Go online to select the Internet service that meets your needs. When ordering your XFINITY service online, you can opt to have a self-installation kit sent directly to your home.
  1. Receive your equipment.
Wait to receive your kit by mail. If you’re especially eager to get things moving, you can call your nearest service center to see if they have kits in stock.
  1. Install your equipment.
Your kit will come packaged with an installation guide, which outlines how the different components should be wired together. It should also come with either a modem or Wireless Gateway — depending on the kit you chose — as well as all necessary cables and accessories. The self-installation process itself is quite simple:
  • Connect your modem or Wireless Gateway to the cable wall outlet with a coaxial cable. The wall outlet should connect to the device’s “Cable/RF in” socket. If you are also using a cable TV set top box, you may need to use the coax cable splitter.
  • Connect your modem or Wireless Gateway to your network devices.
    • For a modem setup, use the included Ethernet cable to connect your modem to your computer. The cable should run from your modem’s Ethernet port.
    • For a Wireless Gateway setup that will include a Voice connection, run a telephone cable from the Tel 1 connection to your home phone.
  • Connect your modem or Wireless Gateway to a wall outlet using the power cord. If your device has a power button, switch it on.
  • Wait for the online connection light on the front side of your device to stop flashing and remain steadily lit. This can take up to 10 minutes.
Your cable modem or Wireless Gateway should now be up and running. Before you can connect to the Internet, however, you’ll need to activate your service.
  1. Activate your equipment.
Self-installed equipment needs to be activated manually in order to be fully functional. There are two simple ways to activate your setup:
  • Online — Online installation requires a computer with Internet access.
    • Visit xfinity.com/activate. Note that some customers may be automatically redirected to that activation page upon opening a new browser after connecting your connection device.
    • That activation page will ask you to verify your identity with your account and phone numbers.
    • Once you have accessed your account, the site will walk you through the rest of the activation process.
  • By Phone — Activate your modem by calling XFINITY’s automated phone system at 1-855-OK-BEGIN (1-855-652-3446). Make sure you have all necessary account and device information with you — including your account phone number, the last four digits of your device’s serial number, and the equipment location — before you call the line. Once you’re connected to the system, it will walk you through the activation process.
After activation, your Internet service should be up and running. You can now connect to the Internet. If your XFINITY modem is Wi-Fi capable, you can also configure your home Wi-Fi system.
  1. Configure your home Wi-Fi (if applicable).
At this point, if you are using an XFINITY modem, your computer should be connected to the Internet. However, if you’re setting up a Wireless Gateway, you’ll need to configure the equipment create a wireless network for your Wi-Fi enabled devices. You can find a Quick-Start guide in your self-installation kit that will be tailored to your specific Wireless Gateway. The guide will walk you through setting up your home network by using the network name and password on the side of the device. Note: If any of these steps fall outside of your abilities, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for assistance. Self-installation can save you a great deal of hassle and money. If you’re looking to get connected, buy an XFINITY Internet self-installation kit and you’ll have your network up and running in no time.   *Instructions are accurate as of publication and are subject to change with changes in equipment. Are You Overpaying for Internet? Deciding how much to pay for Internet service can be tricky. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) charge varied amounts for similar Internet packages, making it difficult to know how to choose the right one. Many people assume that doing a simple price comparison will help them pick the best Internet plan, but there’s a lot more to it than simply comparing costs. What to Consider When Picking an ISP The most important thing to consider when choosing an Internet Service Provider is the speed-to-price ratio. There is no standardized cost for any given speed of Internet, so pricing can vary greatly. As important as speed is, however, it’s far from the only factor to consider. Before you make a decision, evaluate other aspects of each ISP. Do they have high customer service ratings? Is the company known for frequent outages? Are there any data limits or overage charges you should be prepared for? These are all important — and often underestimated — facets of Internet service. The last important item to consider before picking an ISP is your service needs. Are you a heavy Internet user who streams videos and music? If so, you may need a faster connection. Conversely, if you only use the Internet to check email and Facebook, you may be able to get by with less bandwidth and a lower monthly rate. Terms to Know Understanding some basics of Internet service packages will help make your decision easier. If nothing else, you should understand the terms used for different connection types, and you should be familiar with speed tier measurements. The four main Internet connections are satellite, DSL, cable, and fiber. Each type connects users to the Internet in a different way.
  1. Satellite Internet, as the name suggests, sends Internet data via satellites. To subscribe to this type of Internet, users must have a satellite receiver.
  1. DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, is a type of connection that transmits data through telephone lines. Subscribers will have an individual connection point at their location.
  1. Cable Internet is transmitted through coaxial cables, like premium television channels. This option may not be available in rural locations. Cable users are typically linked to a main cable line that services a larger area.
  1. Fiber-optic Internet carries data as beams of light through fiber-optic cables. This option allows for incredibly high speeds, but fiber networks aren’t as widely available as cable or DSL.
As for speed, the most common figure you’ll encounter is bandwidth. Bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and it shows how much data can be moved in a second. Comparing Internet Service Providers After you’ve mastered the basics of service terminology, it’s time to do a side-by-side comparison to see how the various ISPs stack up. Under 10 Mbps An Internet connection under 10 Mbps will work for checking email, accessing social media, and running simple Internet searches. If you plan on streaming lots of videos or music, this probably isn’t the right connection for you.

Fiber: The AT&T U-verse network offers the best deal in this tier. The U-verse ELITE package offers 6 Mbps for $20 per month. AT&T is also one of the bigger companies on this list, with a long history of customer service and reliability. Frontier offers up to 6 Mbps for $34 per month with a 2-year contract, and that cost includes a wireless router. This is a great no-hassle plan, but that convenience comes with a higher price tag.

Cable: Time Warner Cable, Cox, and Mediacom all offer cable services at speeds under 10 Mbps. Time Warner comes in first, offering speeds up to 6 Mbps for $29 per month, while Cox offers speeds up to 5 Mbps for $34 per month. Mediacom also falls short — while pricing is not listed online until purchase, they are the only cable provider that enforces a data cap, allowing users only 150 GB of data per month.

DSL: Windstream is a solid DSL option, matching Time Warner Cable’s advertised speeds up to 6 Mbps for $29 per month.

Satellite: Satellite subscribers should look to HughesNet for their services. The company offers up to 5 Mbps for $39 per month with a 55 GB cap.

10–30 Mbps This mid-range Internet service is great for moderate users. It’s perfect for surfing Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and streaming music. While service may slow down during large data transfers, these are not bad plans for the average consumer.

Fiber: In the fiber pool, AT&T U-verse again offers one of the best deals for the money in this service range. Its U-verse MAX TURBO service boasts up to 24 Mbps at $25 per month.

Cable: For cable subscribers, the XFINITY Performance 25 package offers up to 25 Mbps for $39 per month. XFINITY has also recently redoubled its efforts to give users a good support experience, meaning customer service will likely be excellent. Time Warner Cable offers its Extreme plan of up to 30 Mbps for $44 per month and its Turbo plan at up to 20 Mbps for $44 per month. Both of these plans are on the high end of the pricing spectrum for this bracket.

DSL: Windstream’s Enhanced Speed plan offers up to 25 Mbps for $39 per month, making it a strong and affordable DSL plan.

Satellite: If you’re looking to bundle with TV services, DISH might still be a good choice.

30–100 Mbps This high-speed tier allows users to transfer large amounts of data and stream media with ease. This is great for avid media streamers or those who work from home. Almost every major high-speed Internet company offers a package in the 30–100 Mbps arena.

Fiber: AT&T offers a stellar fiber option. Its U-verse Internet 75 package is $35 per month for up to 75 Mbps. While still a solid deal, AT&T’s U-verse Internet plan would be a better option where available.

Cable: Charter Spectrum offers a cable plan comparable to AT&T’s options, providing up to 60 Mbps for $39 per month. Rounding out this strong group of midrange options, XFINITY charges $44 per month for up to 75 Mbps on its Performance plan. Cox’s Preferred plan runs subscribers $54 per month for up to 50 Mbps, a slightly inflated rate compared to top offers. Time Warner Cable also misses the mark in this speed bracket — its Ultimate plan is $64 per month for 50 Mbps.

DSL: CenturyLink is the DSL leader in this range, currently offering packages with one- and two-year contracts. its one-year package is $29 per month for up to 40 Mbps, which is a great deal considering that most companies charge $25 for half as much speed.

100 Mbps and Up Anything above 100 Mbps is at the top end of Internet service. These plans are for users who absolutely can’t wait for their computer to catch up with their streaming needs. Plans like this also make large data transfers significantly easier.

Fiber: In the FiOS family, you can get up to 100 Mbps for $54 per month, up to 300 Mbps for $164 per month, or up to 500 Mbps for $264 per month.  These high-speed plans are not for the faint of wallet, but will definitely provide the fastest Internet connections possible. Vivint offers up to 100 Mbps for $59 a month. This plan isn’t the fastest or cheapest, but the revolutionary technology makes it more easily accessible in some areas.

Cable: The XFINITY Blast! plan is one of the best cable deals in this speed bracket. You’ll be paying $49 per month to have up to 150 Mbps at your fingertips. Cox also offers moderately priced plans with tons of speed — its Premier plan offers up to 100 Mbps for $64, while its Ultimate plan is $84 per month for up to 150 Mbps. That’s not as cheap as the XFINITY Blast! plan, but it’s still reasonably priced for the amount of speed offered.

Cable plans step up considerably in price from there, but the amount of speed offered also doubles or triples in most cases. The XFINITY Extreme 250 plan runs $149 per month for up to 250 Mbps of Internet speed. Its XI Gigabit Pro plan offers up to 2,000 Mbps, but comes with a hefty price tag of $299 per month.

Next Steps There’s a lot to consider when purchasing an Internet plan. Research your options before taking the leap. Take time to see what consumers in your area are saying about any given ISP. It’s also important to remember that most speeds listed for a plan are considered average maximum speeds — not guaranteed speeds. Don’t forget to ask if the plan has a speed cap or if it comes with any usage restrictions. These factors can greatly affect how your plan functions. If you feel like you’re getting a raw deal on your Internet service, there are plenty of other plans out there. Check out providers in your area to see if you can find a plan that’s right for you. *Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. According to a Consumer Reports survey, one in three readers chose to bundle their basic home TV, phone, and Internet services from one provider. Of those who chose to bundle, 27 percent said they would certainly bundle again with the same company and 55 percent said they were likely to do so. Why should I bundle Internet and Cable services? Internet and cable companies are fighting to get you as a loyal customer. In order to win your business, many companies offer bundled services at a reduced rate. Couple the cost savings with the simplicity of one monthly bill and it’s easy to see why so many are choosing to bundle with cable TV and Internet packages.
  • Savings: The biggest plus for choosing to bundle is the cost savings. When you bundle two or more services together from the same company, you can save a significant amount of money. A May 2013 Consumer Report estimates that customers can save 40 to 60 percent simply by bundling. When you choose to get your services from one company, your cable and Internet are coming from one wire, making it cheaper for the company to offer the service. The amount you save depends on where you live and how many competitors are in the area.
  • Convenience: With a bundled service, you’ll only have one easy-to-manage bill each month. Plus, when it comes time for services calls, you can make one phone call instead of several. It’s all about creating a relationship with a single company.
  • Features: Companies are vying for your business and willing to roll out the best incentives and features to get you as a customer. Most bundles get you extras like faster download speeds, premium programming, HD service, or even On Demand.
What comes with Cable and Internet packages? Major Cable TV providers will offer flexible packages that meet your needs. You can choose from standard cable TV packages and a basic Internet service or you may wish to add premium TV channels and faster download speeds, all based on what you need. When looking at your TV options, think about your current viewing habits. Are you getting channels you never use? Are there channels you would like, but aren’t included in your current subscription? With a bundle, you may be able to choose from multiple tier options, giving you more choices. For example, you can choose if you want to add premium networks, such as HBO, to your cable TV. For high speed Internet, pricing is usually determined by download speed.
  • Light Users: You typically have one or two people in your household using the Internet to surf online, check email, or play simple games. Speeds up to 3 Mbps will likely work for you.
  • Medium Users: If you typically have three or more users online at the same time, you’ll want more speed. Anywhere from 6 to 12 Mpbs should be best.
  • Heavy Users: If you use a lot of data and have multiple people on multiple devices online at the same time, you’ll probably need at least 15 Mbps of service.
How should I shop for a bundle? Shopping for a cable TV and Internet package may seem straightforward, but when you start comparing multiservice packages, you’ll realize no two packages are alike. Two bundles that both include TV and Internet might offer different channels, download speeds, or price. You’ll want to get the specifics before you commit to a bundling option. When you call a representative, be sure to ask about:
  • Installation fees. Is there an additional fee for installation and activation? Some companies charge as much as $100 for a setup fee.
  • Promotional prices. Is the price you’ve been quoted a promotional price? If so, how long will the introductory period last? After a set number of months, usually 3 to 6 months, promotional rates end and higher prices could appear.
  • Contracts. Are you locked into a contract for a specific amount of time? If so, how long? Is there a penalty if you terminate early?
As with any contract or service, be sure to get your offer in writing. If you feel like you’ve been overpaying for either of these services, it’s time to consider bundling. As you research TV, phone, and Internet services in your area, it’s worth the effort to look into packages that will save you both time and money. [zipfinder]
Photo: James Cridland Find Edwin on Google+ Online gaming is one of the most demanding activities that your Internet connection can experience. On a par with streaming video, gameplay is impacted by every possible step from you to the server. That’s not a big problem if you’re playing turn-based and / or low resolution games, but most of today’s games are fast-paced and graphics-intensive — and a troubled connection can spell doom for you and your teammates.  

The Main Focus

The two most important ISP issues are bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth is the well-known “speed” rating that your ISP tempts you with. Try to get used to NOT thinking of bandwidth as speed, but as capacity (after all, we don’t call it “fastband”, we call it broadband). Bandwidth measures how much data can be sent “down the pipe” at once. The difference between a fiber ISP and cable / DSL is the difference between a fireman’s hose and a cocktail straw. All things being equal, higher bandwidth is better. Cable networks can be subject to congestion when too many people are online at once. DSL is actually ADSL, and the A stands for “asynchronous”, meaning that your upload bandwidth is MUCH smaller than your download (and remember, gaming is a two-way street). Both types rely on copper wire, which is subject to electromagnetic disturbance, corrosion, and other kinds of signal degradation to which fiber is immune. And in all cases, there will be conditions that are almost completely out of your control, such as the number of junctions, nodes, and “hops” along the way. Bandwidth is very important to gaming, especially where high-res graphics are concerned, but it’s not the whole story by a long shot. It’s very possible to get improved performance by switching from a higher-bandwidth ISP to a “cleaner” and more direct lower-bandwidth connection.  

Latency’s Gaming Impact

Gamers depend just as much — maybe more — on latency. Unlike bandwidth, latency really is speed. It’s a measure of the delay that you experience between hitting a button and getting a response. More technically speaking (at least relatively), it’s the time that it takes for the signal to travel from your home to the server. It’s measured in milliseconds, but don’t be fooled — it doesn’t really take too many milliseconds before you start to “feel” a certain sluggishness in response. When it’s enough to affect gameplay for you and your teammates, it’s called “lag.” Typically, the weakest link in the lag chain slows down the experience for everyone around them — and you know what happens to the weakest link. Goodbye. This latency is why satellite ISPs are virtually useless for gaming despite offering more than enough bandwidth. Each trip from you to the server has to travel an average of 70,000km (44,000 miles) from you to the satellite in orbit, back down to the ISP’s receiver, and from there to the game host server — and then back to you along the same route. And that’s not even counting the typically inefficient coaxial cable from your PC to the dish. Satellite ISP generally off at least 500 milliseconds of latency, which is at least half a second between pressing a button and getting the intended response. And at least another half a second before you hear the dismayed cries of your teammates.  

It May Not Be Your ISP’s Fault

Before you point your finger at the ISP, examine your non-Internet connections. Traveling through your controls and into your PC, your gaming encounters bandwidth barriers and processing bottlenecks from the motherboard, CPU, GPU, storage drives, memory sticks, and the connections to your USB and Ethernet ports. Plus, the path to your modem and router, especially with a wireless network, can add unnecessary obstacles in getting the most from your Internet connection. And that’s not even considering the countless software and operating system variables. Bottom line: before you begin to blame your ISP for poor gaming performance, make sure that your hardware and software is up to snuff. A thorough guide is beyond the scope of this article, but one extremely helpful resource that I’ve found is Tweak Guides.com, which has many helpful guides to game-specific as well as system-wide optimizations.  

Satellite Versus Dial-Up

You’re actually better off with dial-up than you are with satellite. A good dial-up connection can offer an average of 150ms latency, which is frankly still horrible for gaming but can work under certain circumstances. There’s still a healthy contingent of online players who prefer games such as Ultima Online and the original EverQuest, not to mention less graphically-intensive games from the earlier days of MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons, what we old-timers used to call MMORPGSs). Newer casual games or turn-based games (such as Atlantica Online or the quirky Kingdom of Loathing) have no significant latency requirement, so dial-up or even satellite may be sufficient. But for serious gameplay, you’ll be looking at broadband: cable, DSL, and fiber. Cable and DSL are, as usual, broadly comparable, both offering ideal-world latencies in the 10-20 millisecond range. For once, fiber doesn’t provide a clear benefit; latency in fiber is comparable to DSL and cable. “But doesn’t it travel at the speed of light?” you ask. Well, yes… but it also travels with a little less “concentration” or “focus” than electrical.signals over copper wire, due to the nature of light refraction within the fiber “wire.” Not to mention that a fiber signal usually has to jump to good old copper wire for that “last mile” to your PC.  

Ask The Audience

My advice is to listen to the reviews and anecdotal experiences of others who have tried broadband solutions in your local area, which is why (shameless self-promotion to follow) a site like ours is so valuable. I hate to take the easy way out, but there really is no substitute for personally trying the different ISPs in your area to see which one provides the best gaming experience. Between DSL, cable, and fiber, you’re certain to find the best combination of high bandwidth and low latency that will eliminate the lag, keeping you (and your teammates) playing at peak performance levels. With Netflix positioned to pass HBO in subscribers this year, is this the beginning of the end for cable? Cable television is a staple in the American household. According to Nielsen, 90 percent of American households pay for TV. Seems like a good sign for cable companies, right? That would be the case if that number wasn’t expected to drop 4.7 percent by the end of 2013. This is up from the previous year, where only 3.74 percent of people decided to stop paying for TV subscriptions. What is causing people to drop their cable companies? Streaming.

A Serious Threat

Music streaming and downloading changed the music industry forever. Just count how many CD’s you’ve purchased in the last year. Did anyone think it would be such a threat to the industry? Fast forward a few years later, and we may be headed the same way with the cable industry. When streaming services, such as Netflix, began popping up, I don’t think many saw it as a threat to cable TV. Many used streaming as a service to supplement their TV subscriptions. But times are slowly changing. Netflix is believed to now have 30 million paying United States customers. The significance? HBO, Time-Warner Cable’s popular premium network, has an estimated 28.7 million subscribers. Netflix basically has the same subscription numbers as a premium television network, except with a much larger content library. Netflix gives subscribers the ability to watch what they want, when they want, something cable TV often struggles to do. Most importantly, Netflix doesn’t require a cable subscription. Along with Netflix, Hulu has seen their subscriber numbers grow. Earlier this year, the company announced that their subscriber numbers had doubled from the previous year, standing at four million paid subscribers. Hulu offers over 70,000 full episodes of TV shows that are shown across various TV channels. This is not even including services such as Amazon.com and iTunes offer. Both allow consumers to purchase television episodes, entire seasons, and movies, individually at any time. With so many sources for TV shows and movies, the case for canceling cable service seems to be getting stronger. So strong that a 2011 survey, conducted by Deloitte, discovered that 9 percent of respondents had recently canceled their service. Another 11 percent were considering canceling their service. Why? Respondent said that they knew they could find their favorite shows online. That’s potentially a 20% customer loss for TV providers. Scary.

Cable’s Silver Lining

While Netflix, Hulu, and the rest offer an incredible amount of content, they still don’t offer everything. These services still cannot cater to sports fans. Channels like ESPN, NBC Sports, and regional sports channels are not available, legally at least, through streaming services. For many, this is where going all in on streaming becomes a problem. I know personally, I wouldn’t want to miss out on NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL games. Netflix has also been looking to integrate themselves with cable companies. The company would like consumers to be able to access the service through a cable provider’s set-top box. So while streaming services are being looked at as the cable killer, Netflix is looking to coexist with its fellow media providers.

Can You Cut the Cord?

Seemingly, if you don’t watch sports, you can find whatever you want to watch via streaming. With so many popular television shows available, at less than $20 a month if you subscribe to Netflix and Hulu, it’s hard to justify paying $70 a month for channels you don’t need. Cable isn’t doing itself any favors, with prices continuing to increase. According to CNN, the popular “triple play” bundles of various service providers has been increasing at a rate of over 6 percent every year. If the price difference continues to be this significant, how long can people justify keeping cable? Photo by SITS Girls
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