For the longest time I, like many, have been beating the drum of faster-faster-and-faster-still broadband. When I had 2 Mbps, I wanted 4 Mbps. Once I got 4 Mbps, I wanted 8 Mbps. South Koreans and their speedy connections made me jealous. I was envious of […]

For the longest time I, like many, have been beating the drum of faster-faster-and-faster-still broadband. When I had 2 Mbps, I wanted 4 Mbps. Once I got 4 Mbps, I wanted 8 Mbps. South Koreans and their speedy connections made me jealous. I was envious of all the Free.fr customers in France. I was mad about 50 Mbps connections in Japan and Scandinavia. Why can’t we have those speeds in the U.S., I often complained.

downloadsucksThankfully, my wish was granted when Covad offered an ADSL2+ connection with a download speed of up to 15 Mbps. And ever since that connection came into my apartment, life has been good. The speeds have been fairly consistent, generally hovering around the 9 Mbps mark, while at times falling to around 7 Mbps or rising to as much as 12 Mbps. That made pulling down email, web pages, RSS feeds, tweets, videos, iTunes, Flickr, and Facebook incredibly easy.


The problem arose this past week when I decided to do two things: one, sync my music collection between two computers using DropBox, and two, back up my Macbook Air using using Mozy’s Pro online backup service. It’s been about four days since I set everything up, and the results are dismal. Only 1 percent of my hard drive is backed up and less than 15 percent of my music has been uploaded.

Why? Because I’m getting upload speeds that are abysmal. While a speed test shows an upstream bandwidth of around 860 Kbps — Covad promises up to 1 Mbps in upstream bandwidth — the actual data transfers are much slower, around 90 Kbps. And when I tried to do the backups in the office, the performance over AT&T’s Business DSL line was simply terrible. I looked around and it turns out most DSL service providers have terrible upload speeds — 768 Kbps or lower.

The cable guys are a little better, though not by much. On principle, I don’t use Comcast, especially since they instituted metered broadband. Of course I could move back to New York and sign up for either Verizon FiOS or Cablevision, but that isn’t exactly a realistic option.

The point is that inadequate bandwidth means the actual upstream speeds fall short of what the speed test claims — and that has left me unable to do practically anything. Forget sharing big files, and I can’t even make a decent Skype call. My T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve can’t use the UMA connection, and uploading photos to Flickr/Facebook is a pain. As more products come to market that need symmetrical high-speed Internet access, the paucity of bandwidth is going to become a bottleneck. The problem is that we get so enamored by download speeds, we forget that we need solid upstream capacity as well.

  1. With Mozy at least, there is some sort of upload cap. It took me 15-20 days for my entire hard drive to be backed up (and I had to prevent it from backing up my 8GB Parallel image because it changed too frequently)

    1. I’m not sure about that upload cap idea. I backed up 85 GB to Mozy in less than a week. Once I got my computer to stop going into standby in the middle of it, things went much quicker!

      1. 85 GB shouldn’t have taken anywhere near a week. I am pretty sure Moby has a cap. I am on FIOS but only can 1.2Mbs transfer over our 20Mbs line.

      2. I’m having the same problem with my computer going into standby when I’m trying to do a Mozy backup. What did you do to get it to stop? I’m tired of having to reset every few hours.

      3. @tririver, if you’re backing up a PC then switch to Cucku. This prevents sleep while backing up and then enables it again when the backup is complete (see our Earth Day blog post for more info).

      4. Robert,
        Thanks for the feedback. But I’m using an iMac and I my problem is that my connection gets broken off as I’m uploading. Responds to repowering the cable modem. Don’t know if it’s a problem with Comcast capping my upload, my cable modem is going bad or there’s something with my internet connection settings.

    2. When I first started with Mozy, I didn’t back-up my whole drive at once. I started with the most critical folders, and added a new one to the upload every day until it was all up. Then after almost all of it was up, I finally set it to back-up everything. Not a big issue :)

      1. Mozy Home has a cap of 1mb, mozy pro doesn’t have the cap. I get 1.1mb @home, and at work it uploads at 5mbs.

  2. Using Dropbox to backup one’s music library is a bit on the naive side. Clearly not what it was intended for.

  3. Yeah, I’d say a lot of this problem stems from the outdated idea of “who needs to upload anything? The internet is for downloading”. With all these new cloud based initiatives that one sided ness tends to go away.

    Assuming you had such a thing, how usable would an online Adobe Premier app be if it’s going to take you 4 days to upload your raw footage.

    It’s an issue you never see brought up when people discuss the future of Cloud computing.

  4. “The Cloud” is great for processing , creating storing data. Uploading existing data is something everyone loves to ignore. Spoils the party.

  5. Doesn’t A in ADSL stand for Asynchronous? The technology itself is doomed as it’s hit the wall with the downstream speed. If the telcos fail to upgrade they network (read: deploy FTTH and the likes), radio based connection will prevail, I guess.

    1. The A actually stands for Asymmetric

      1. @sbfaulkner: Do I detect a smirk on your avatar? :)

  6. Sounds like you need to look into QoS settings for your router and give certain things higher priority, like voip service.
    If your router doesn’t have it, get one.
    Also, maybe adjusting port settings or dedicating a port for transfers instead of using random ports might help with the speed.
    Also check your number of TCP/IP settings for number of download connections (default is 10, change it to 50). There are programs that help with this.
    If you’re going to push the technology to it’s limits, you have to do some tweaking.

    1. QoS isn’t going to do much good since nobody outside of your home network is going to respect your Diffserfv Code Points. QoS is most assuredly important inside corporate networks (where you have ther control to deliver QoS end-to-end) and if your internet router itself were the bottleneck then maybe – but at 800k upload speeds I am positive that the router’s internal queueing and processing isnt the issue. Changing ports isnt going to make any difference either unless for some reason somebody upstream is throttling or otherwise slow queueing your traffic over those specific ports, and the TCP/IP setting to which you refer only apply to the browser. Any other TCP/IP application isn’t bound by those restrictions (and incidentally for IE before version 8 the limit was 2 connections per RFC2616 which is ignored by IE8 and firefox to use 8 or 10 simultaneous downloads – which is plenty.) You do NOT want to increase theis number to 50 unless you are sure know what you are doing because it causes an unnecessarily heavy load on any webserver at which you point your browser.

  7. I’m at 30Kb/s download speed and thats the best unlimited broad speed in India. Who should I complain to? But yes, what I have now is much better than what I had 2 years back. I hope to move from a 256KB connection to 2MB connection in the next 1 year or so.

    1. @vamsi—both airtel and bsnl offer speeds of upto 8 mb if u live in a mero..im rrunning on a 2mb aitel unlimited plan

      check it out

  8. Om, you’ve got more than enough upstream bandwidth for a decent Skype call or even Slingboxing. However, I agree your online backup plans will suck. Even with my higher cable modem speeds it took days on Mozy to back up a portion of my stuff. Which is why I now back up locally again and will physically move some data out of the home for safe keeping.

  9. Josh, there are a lot of companies (some of them providing Internet access) for whom the outdated idea of “who needs to upload anything? The Internet is for downloading” is their dream of how the Internet should be. All the really interesting, disruptive things we can do online rely on being able to take part.

  10. And then Imagine that KPN in the Netherlands is rolling out P2P ethernet FTTH and is still only offering asymmetric subscribtions. 3/30, 5/50 and 6/60. the mindset has so settled in the minds of marketeers that thye can’t see the world any different anymore.

    1. The fast Dutch connections still suck at the upload rate. Just look at this DOCSIS3 speedtest: http://www.speedtest.net/result/410549904.png
      Simply unacceptable. The high download speed is completely nullified by the outrageous upload speed.

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