I've had cable internet since it first became available in my area (around 1998). I've never had much less than the stated speed. First it was 1Mbps (I think), then it increased to 3Mbps, then 6Mbps, now it's at 8Mbps. I just connected up a couple clients to Comcast Workplace (business-class cable internet), and it's so much better speed-wise. It's supposed to be "up to" 6 or 8Mbps down and 768K/1Mbps up, but both clients are getting much higher than that. I downloaded a 68MB file from one of my clients last night averaging 250KB/sec until it hit 18MB then it slowed to around 100KB/sec. So it started at around 2.5Mbps and ended at around 1Mbps (taking overhead, etc into account).
Verizon DSL, on the other hand... It is, in a word, shit. One of my clients had it in their building, then they moved literally across the street, and their speed dropped by more than half. After a couple months back-and-forth between phone calls to Verizon, one VZ tech finally admitted that the phone line was 13,000 feet from the CO (how, when the building across the street was 4,000?). That, plus constant disconnects and IP changes (often times the IP address would change as frequently as every 5-10 minutes), drove them to Comcast.
So that's my personal experience with speed. Mark's issue (re: Wow) isn't entirely clear to me. To my knowledge, AT&T (actually, any U.S. ISP) has never claimed 1.5MBps, they claim 1.5Mbps (bits, not bytes). So the "160k" you get, is that 160 kilobytes per second or 160 kilobits per second? 160 kilobits per second would be accurate for a 1.5Mbps line.