Blog Post

Broadband Confession: I Have Pipe Envy


Twice in the last week, I’ve received images of  broadband speed tests from my colleagues that show how fast their networks are, especially on the upload side. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy when I checked out Kevin’s symmetrical 20 Mbps FiOS (s vz) connection and the 50/10 Mbps speeds offered by Jordan Golson’s Comcast (S cmcsa) service. In despair, I checked out my own speeds and noticed that instead of the 7 Mbps down that I pay for, I’m getting a range of between 12 Mbps and 13 Mbps down from my service provider, Time Warner Cable (s twc). I’m guessing my improved upload download speeds are related to getting some kind of boost for the first few seconds of the download.

However, my upload speeds are still miserable, at less than 512 kbps, and that’s what has me feeling like an outsider looking in when it comes to technology. Sure, I can talk the talk about broadband as a platform for innovation, and hype cloud computing, online backup and uploading video files. But whenever I attempt it, I have to shamefully set up my uploads for the nighttime hours while I creep off to bed knowing that, otherwise, sending the standard definition video clip of my daughter’s first haircut would cause my Internet connection and daytime productivity to crumble. Om feels my pain.

Downloading files is better, but I still get hiccups in the image while watching or Hulu, and my husband and I sometimes run into congestion while we both try to download videos or other large files. And I know I’m not alone. Even as the technophiles around me brag about their symmetrical fiber connections and ultra-band service from Comcast or Cablevision, millions of people are still languishing on DSL, satellite or even dial-up.

For example, my husband groans whenever I send him a video clip to his office, because he can’t watch it. His office building, located in the high-tech corridor of Austin, Texas, is out of range for DSL, and the cable company won’t provide access. He’s hoping to get a group of folks in the building to spring for a $500 to $600 a month shared 6 Mbps service from TW Telecom (s twtc), but that’s a high price for a group of entrepreneurs to pay. So as FiOS fever spreads, and DOCSIS 3.0 boosts downloads speeds to many, here’s hoping that we don’t strand a good portion of the population with no access or dismal upload speeds.

23 Responses to “Broadband Confession: I Have Pipe Envy”

  1. Stacey, FYI small cable SPs are upgrading their infrastructure — Midcontinent cable is offering DOCSIS 3.0-based broadband service, delivering broadband speeds of 50 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream. The deployment enabled them to potentially deliver speeds of 160 Mbps/120 Mbps

  2. Our WIFI routers at home can be a bottleneck as well. Try to hook up your computer to a real wire and compare your ISP speed versus going over WIFI. You should be surprised what a difference that makes. Also, multiple computers on the same WIFI network can also slow down the throughput. Consumer grade WIFI routers while cheap are not very good with dealing with congestions.

    For my own set up, I hook up my desktop to an Ethernet cable and leave WIFI to my laptops. Big downloads or uploads go through my desktop.

  3. PHeonix25

    Just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone when it comes to the developed world.

    *However*, I’ve just recently upgraded to an ADSL 2+ plan (50Gb = $50/month) here in Sydney Australia, and I’m currently loving our infrastructure compared to other countries.

    Here’s a sample taken not 15 minutes ago…
    Pity it’s currently in the middle of our peak-hour — I can normally manage 18 or 19 outside of the evening peak with a theoretical max of 21.

    I did like your write up though and good luck with getting your office partners to share the cost!

  4. hortron

    I am not going to get in the way of cheering for more bandwidth. But 13.4 Mbps downstream is huge for residential applications. Certainly if you’re getting that (even if you were getting your promised 7 Mbps) you shouldn’t be getting Hulu hiccups. It’s the network side that’s probably limiting you, not the access side.

    If people want faster downloads, my suspicion is that it’s not their last mile that’s saturated – they need to point the finger elsewhere first.

    Look, I just bought a TV show from the itunes store last night: 525 MB. Granted itunes doesn’t report throughput, but with my 15 Mpbs service it shouldn’t have taken the 30 minutes it did.

    • Stacey Higginbotham

      You may be right, although if the 13 Mbps down are a function of some power boost, then the speeds would only last for a few seconds into my streaming. But the source of the hiccups could be from issues on my computer or even my Wi-Fi network.

  5. Hi Stacey,
    A solution to your dilemna is available now, both for you and your husband, check out Sharedband. The solution combines lines to give faster speeds (both upload and download) – 2 x DSL = twice the speed. Sharedband is available thoughout the US and the UK.

  6. hey, you and om should move to a place with webpass. =)

    just did a speedtest that was giving me nearly 50mb/s down and nearly 40 mb/s up.

    all for less than 50 bucks a month. =P

    gotta love webpass!

    • Stacey Higginbotham

      I know my connection is great compared to many, but I worry that as download speeds increase, we’ll get complacent about upload speeds. AND we’ll forget about those who are stuck with nothing. My husband has to use his EVDO modem in his office, which is slower and much more expensive.