The Pros and Cons of Dedicated Internet Access


Nothing is worse than unreliable Internet access in a work environment. At this point, it’s clear to most that a bad Internet connection can significantly hurt productivity, which costs businesses time and money. This is why many offices with 10 or more employees opt for Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), rather than “best-effort” service, which does not provide any guarantee that data is delivered or quality of service.

Although DIA can have different names (dedicated fiber, dedicated ethernet, ethernet over fiber), flavors (dedicated fixed wireless, or copper), a steeper price tag, and some installation complexity — most companies will opt for a dedicated connection at offices or data centers with mission-critical operations.

Let’s explore the benefits of a DIA circuit, as well as some considerations and potential drawbacks, to help determine if dedicated Internet is right for your business.

What Is Dedicated Internet Access Anyway?

Dedicated Internet Access comes with several features that justify a significant price delta versus a best-effort connection.

For one, you get guaranteed bandwidth. If you purchase a 100 Mbps DIA circuit, you will receive 100 Mbps of bandwidth 100 percent of the time. The service provider will actually spell this out in the contract. This is wildly different from what you’ll experience with a home or business cable connection, where speeds will vary wildly based on utilization and capacity. DIA providers actually engineer their network to allow for more robust service delivery architecture, redundancy, and higher availability.

Also, you’ll get symmetric bandwidth with DIA, meaning your upload speed will match your download speed and also come with a guarantee on bandwidth. This is especially important for today’s major Internet use cases — SaaS and video conferencing.

You’ll also generally see higher connection quality with DIA, meaning vast improvements in latency, jitter, and packet loss versus a best-effort connection.

Further, your DIA circuit will be backed by a service-level agreement (SLA) that ensures a provider meets uptime, bandwidth, and other requirements at least 99 percent of the time — or your money back.

Finally, you’ll get much better customer support and maintenance coverage from your provider with DIA — mainly because you’re paying them more money. That said, the baseline telecom maintenance experience isn’t a very high bar to beat.

Potential Downsides of DIA

Ok, DIA sounds awesome. Right? Well, there are a few potential drawbacks.

The first and most apparent is price. DIA is much more expensive than regular broadband. A regular business Internet connection may cost $100 to $200 per month. DIA can run approximately $1,000 per month for 100 Mbps. However, if you’re supporting a sizable group of employees in an office or you’re running apps out of a data center, a few hundred bucks more for Internet access is likely worth the cost. The following chart shows some data on average DIA pricing.

Chart: Average cost for business Internet

Contract terms with DIA are always longer. Averages are 2 to 4 years with hefty penalties for early termination. There are providers out there who do shorter terms or month-to-month, but they’re hard to find.

Installation is lengthier and more complicated with DIA. While a cable provider can install standard business Internet in a few days if a building is on-net, DIA can take 30 days to install (best case) and 60 to 90 days in more difficult situations. DIA necessitates truck rolls, network provisioning, and equipment installation. So good project management is key to a successful installation.

When Is DIA a Good Fit?

After reading all of this, you might be asking yourself if DIA is right for you. To answer this question, you’ll need to think about both ROI and the potential liability of a bad connection.

On the ROI piece, if you’re working in an office or warehouse environment, a great connection can increase or maximize the potential productivity of workers while a poor-quality connection can absolutely stall productivity and cause frustration.

While DIA can, in some cases, be 10x the cost of best-effort connectivity, you’re really only underwriting a few hundred more dollars per month for your Internet bill. If you’re spending hundreds of thousands on payroll and operational costs and thousands or tens of thousands on a lease, is Internet access worth skimping on? If the Internet is at all important to your business operations, and you do anything that utilizes high bandwidth, DIA should be on your radar as a good option.

In addition, the liability of a bad connection can be high in certain circumstances. Best-efforts and cable connections are not backed by SLAs and can be prone to downtime and/or periods of heavily degraded connection quality. If you’re in a hospital, factory, or even a call center environment using VoIP, just a couple of outages or poor latency events can cost you lots of money and cause panic. If the Internet is mission-critical to your business and downtime can cost you, dedicated Internet is a must.

How Do I Choose a Provider?

At this point, you might be asking yourself how to choose a provider. Unfortunately, there isn’t an all-encompassing answer to this, and things will differ significantly by geography. Most of the same providers that are big in residential broadband (Comcast, Spectrum, AT&T, Verizon, etc.) are also DIA providers. But there are also enterprise-only ISPs that specialize in high-bandwidth business services like Zayo, Crown Castle, and others that can certainly be considered when looking into potential DIA providers.

To determine who is best for your business in a given location, you’ll need to find out who is “on-net” or “near-net” at your address and request pricing from the providers for whatever your bandwidth needs may be. Once you get costs, don’t forget to make a decision across factors beyond just price: install interval, SLA, transport (fiber vs. copper), speed, and provider quality.

There are several Web services that can help determine which providers might be on-net or near-net at an address able to serve DIA that can help you request pricing in a more streamlined fashion. Or you can call providers on your own if control over the process is what you seek. However, be forewarned that dealing with telecoms isn’t fun.

Dennis Thankachan

Dennis Thankachan is the founder and CEO of Lightyear, a Web platform that helps businesses comparison shop for network services.

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