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.