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ISPs Offer Faster Speeds, Why Don't We Get Them? 688

Posted by Cliff
from the where-did-the-extra-bits-go dept.
Ron Williams asks: "I'm infuriated every time I see that companies are raising their speeds when they can't maintain their current speeds. Here's my biggest issue: my grandmother signed up for the 3Mbps DSL plan through Verizon, however a speed test said she was only getting 750Kbps. Why pay for the extra bandwidth when she's not getting it? She downgraded to the 768K plan expecting to still have 750K. Wrong, instead her speed dropped to 300K. So, how about instead of companies constantly claiming to increase their speeds, they get their actual speeds correct. Comcast has done the same thing, I had their 6Mbps plan at one point, I got 2.5Mbps usually and sometimes 3Mbps, so they're all doing the same thing. In closing, with all these speed increases, why is my Internet not getting faster?" What practices and tools do you use to test your bandwidth speed and how have you approached your ISP when the performance repeatedly fell short of your expectations?
One thing to note is that you'll never get the top speed advertised for any connection due to transmission overhead; even so, you should be able to get close (within about 10-20%). Also, ISPs oversell their bandwidth, so if you run your speed tests when other customers are using their connection, you will notice the performance hit.
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ISPs Offer Faster Speeds, Why Don't We Get Them?

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  • by rodgster (671476) * <rodgsterNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:14PM (#15450926) Journal
    Last time I checked, you get no SLA (Service Level Agreement) with consumer DSL or cable Internet accounts. To the best of my knowledge you get no SLA with commercial DSL or cable accounts either (at least I don't and don't know of anyone who does). You have to buck up and pay for T or Frame or OC lines before you get an SLA.

    Yes they oversell their capacity. Some places it isn't too bad (my connection), sometimes it becomes as slow as dial-up. I'd vote with my dollars appropriately.
    • SLA? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jordan Catalano (915885) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:23PM (#15450979) Homepage
      SLA? Bullshit. If I buy a car called "Toyota 85MPH Blue Car" it had damned well better not be goverened to 55MPH. "But when you bought the car, the dealer never signed an agreement guaranteeing speed." Bull-shit.
      • Re:SLA? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:46PM (#15451139)
        SLA? Bullshit. If I buy a car called "Toyota 85MPH Blue Car" it had damned well better not be goverened to 55MPH. "But when you bought the car, the dealer never signed an agreement guaranteeing speed." Bull-shit.
        I don't think anyone is claiming that the ISP is intentionally capping the speed at half the advertised rate (they'd be committing fraud if this was happening) -- instead, they are just overselling their capacity.

        It's more like buying a Ferrari with a top speed of 196mph, and then finding that you can rarely go faster than 60 because other drivers are always in your way.

        • Re:SLA? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by kahanamoku (470295) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:33AM (#15451364)
          Actually, thats is EXACTLY what the post is claiming...

          She downgraded to the 768K plan expecting to still have 750K. Wrong, instead her speed dropped to 300K.

          Using your example, the user has thus now bought a car that only does 60MPH and now magically the traffic has slowed to 30MPH
        • Re:SLA? (Score:5, Funny)

          by LegendLength (231553) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <htgneldnegel>> on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:06AM (#15452039)
          Humans: 0, Car analogies: 68294
      • Re:SLA? (Score:3, Insightful)

        Buying a product is not the same as buying a service. The question is whether the ISP is capable of giving the customer their full bandwidth, not just at the particular time when grandma wants it.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:23PM (#15450982)
      I'd vote with my dollars appropriately.

      Easy to do if you're in a broadband-competitive area (I am, and I have Comcast, and if things aren't working to my satisfaction I call them up and say the magic word "Speakeasy".) I know people that only have one option for broadband, and things can get a mite more difficult (I'm not picking on Comcast alone, seems like most broadband providers are only as co-operative as they have to be in a particular service area.)
      • by grahamsz (150076) on Friday June 02, 2006 @01:34AM (#15451598) Homepage Journal
        I ditched comcast for a local fixed wireless ISP (Mesa Networks) who seem to be holding customers despite having both DSL and Cable in the area.

        I'm paying for a 3Mb/1Mb connection, yet according to the speedtest on speakeasy's site i'm actually getting 4022kbps/1044kbps.

        If I use more distant speed test locations then it seems to be closer to what i'm paying for, however it looks like they must have raised the cap on the local end so that I can get transfers at the speed i'm paying for. On top of that, my connection bursts to 9/3 which makes small transfers really snappy :)

      • by keraneuology (760918) on Friday June 02, 2006 @06:40AM (#15452440) Journal
        After the promotional period Comcast said they were doubling my rate to just under $65/month. I spoke with three different 800-operators and sent an email to corporate asking them to reconsider and they refused. A couple of them told me outright that if I really wanted to switch to DSL ($17.99/month vs $6x.00/month) I should go for it, but that they do not consider price reductions under any circumstances.

        Bye bye, Comcast.

    • by Flexagon (740643) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:35PM (#15451059)

      ... you get no SLA...

      My cable connection (Comcast) is the same, and specifically includes a disclaimer that no guarantee is made that I will actually receive the rated throughput.

      In practice, it blazes in the off-hours, sludges out during prime time. And the most noticable effect when it's bad is latency, not throughput.

      • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Friday June 02, 2006 @01:25AM (#15451576)

        My cable connection (Comcast) is the same, and specifically includes a disclaimer that no guarantee is made that I will actually receive the rated throughput.

        Doesn't matter. If they never give you the speed you pay for, it's fraud. Otherwise, why wouldn't they sell you 12M internet?

        • Doesn't matter. If they never give you the speed you pay for, it's fraud. Otherwise, why wouldn't they sell you 12M internet?

          Because that would be fraud. However with the absolutely perfect set of circumstances with their current setup you would get what you thought you were paying for. Like every other time in life, the perfect circumstances never happen and they can pass that off as not their fault.

          Is if fraud when hard drive companies sell you a "250GB" HDD? It's the same thing here, you pick the des
          • Is if fraud when hard drive companies sell you a "250GB" HDD?

            Well, no, actually. A 250MB hard drive is exactly that: 250,000,000,000 bytes. That's the same definition of 1GB (ie 1,000,000,000 bytes) that ALL hard drive manufacturers use, and have been for quite a while. Most will actually state x,000,000,000 bytes. So its fair, and you're are getting what you pay for. It's the same thing here, you pick the description that makes you look the best.

            Only if that description is acturate; Otherwise its frau

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:49PM (#15451162)
      To the best of my knowledge you get no SLA with commercial DSL or cable accounts either (at least I don't and don't know of anyone who does). You have to buck up and pay for T or Frame or OC lines before you get an SLA.

      That's because the FCC mandates SLAs on T/Frame/OC lines.

    • No matter how much bandwidth gets installed, it is virtually impossible for all people to get guaranteed throughput. It's a bit like the highway system... you get to drive at 55mph (more if the cops aren't there :-)) but sometimes you get gridlock.

      In my case, I consistently get speed measurements **faster** than my plan provides, but I'm with a new and small ISP and I expect things to get worse as more people sign up.

    • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:43AM (#15451405) Homepage Journal
      It is perfectly true that the "unwashed masses" do not get a "Service Level Agreement" (SLA). However, they DO get a rating for their connection, and (provided the network is neutral) SHOULD be guaranteed "best effort" for packet delivery. What is being described in the article does not sound like "best effort", and the inability to reach the claimed "rated speed" (presumably even at off-peak times) suggests that the actual rating for the line is much lower than that advertised.


      Now, there are certain exceptions. In general, you can't drive a dense network at much beyond 1/3 the rated speed - thin-wire ethernet was bad for that - so you can expect similar sorts of problems on a shared line such as cable. The entire design of cable - a single line with taps off it - is exactly what thick-wire and thin-wire ethernet were like.


      However, the article mentions DSL. DSL is not a shared line, it is essentially a dedicated line. The service only becomes shared at the teleco's CO (as that's where the DSL modems are, on the other side). At that point, everyone gets plugged into one or more routers. Now, when you change the speed of the modem, they simply program the DSL modem on their end to take a slower connection. They do not (at least, if they are network neutral) mess with the routers to change the priority of your network traffic.


      Interestingly, when I worked for a company that got SDSL installed (no service agreement), the engineer ramped up the listed speed beyond what we'd paid for, but the actual speed we ended up with was what we'd bought . This doesn't conflict with what I've just said - we were on the edge of the service area and the speed we were supposed to get simply didn't operate. At all. Apparently, if the copper is poor, not all frequencies are guaranteed to work, and it's not an upper limit - lower speeds can be affected too.


      Anyway, to the poster of the original story, I'd strongly suggest getting an INDEPENDENT person that you can trust to check the phone wiring from the DSL modem as far out as practical. At the very least, check the wiring in the house. It is possible that poor wiring, a rusty connector or a loose connection somewhere is killing the speed. If that is the case, then fixing the problem would be very cheap and easy, and would save a LOT of money - you'd have more bandwidth without shelling out the extra cash.


      If the wiring is good, then the fault lies with the ISP, and I'd suggest calling a consumer advocacy group for advice on what to do - if, indeed, you can do anything. If only a handful of people care enough to actually do anything, you probably can't - although there are usually multiple DSL providers in an area, and some are better than others.


      If a LOT of people are VERY frustrated AND willing to spend hard cash to get this fixed once and for all, you might want to investigate the pros and cons of setting up a DSL cooperative. The teleco can't deny you equal access to the CO (that's law), but industrial-strength network equipment (DSL modems, high-end routers, T3 or T4 line) - that isn't cheap. And, yes, you probably would need to go to a T3 or T4 in order to make the whole thing fast enough to pay for itself. This is NOT a recommended option, without some serious funding behind it. However, if the funding is there, it is the one path you can take that (a) guarantees you the results you want, (b) guarantees the ISP has consequences it WILL notice, and (c) guarantees you the undivided attention of every disenchanted geek and abusive ISP on the planet - at least, for a week or two.

      • by Detritus (11846) on Friday June 02, 2006 @02:15AM (#15451720) Homepage
        Now, there are certain exceptions. In general, you can't drive a dense network at much beyond 1/3 the rated speed - thin-wire ethernet was bad for that - so you can expect similar sorts of problems on a shared line such as cable. The entire design of cable - a single line with taps off it - is exactly what thick-wire and thin-wire ethernet were like.

        Broadband data networks over CATV are very different than shared-media Ethernet. Ethernet uses baseband signalling, everyone shares a common channel (CSMA). With cable, there can be multiple independent downlink channels. There is a single uplink channel that uses TDM to support multiple users. Each cable modem is assigned a shared 6 MHz downlink channel and a time slot on the uplink channel. There is no contention for access to the media.

    • Well I don't know what it's like over in the states but over here (uk) there's a little something the providers don't make a large fuss about and that's the contention ratio
      and in some cases it's really bad (something like 40:1 on a standard home dsl) so if you have a 2 meg adsl so if you only get connection speeds of 100kbs there isn't much the provider will do about it (yes I have seen this happen with a certain large provider over here who would not do anything because it was indeed in range)

      So have a lo
  • my dsl, my test... (Score:4, Informative)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:14PM (#15450928) Journal

    Yeah I wonder about that, I'm supposed to have DSL (Verizon), always suspected it to be a bit slow: here are my test results: download: 783kbs, upload: 138kbs. I don't have my contract here, but that seems slow. I'm moving from this house, or I'd check further into it. (I just checked, I'm paying for the high speed connections, my test results are about 1/3 what "up to" speeds should be...)

    My download speeds feel sluggish, the upload speeds are a little painful. My biggest objection to the upload speed results is they are just barely better than ISDN. WTF?

    (BTW, go here [visualware.com] if you want to see what your speeds are... It's a test site to see if your connection speed supports VOIP. Mine BARELY could.)

    • ~128 to 256 KB is the typical CAP for "home" DSL or cable. I have a 768 KB symmetrical (static IP, commercial TOS) connection and it usually tests (throughput) right about there, sometimes the latency is an issue though (that's a problem for VOIP).
    • (BTW, go here [visualware.com] if you want to see what your speeds are... It's a test site to see if your connection speed supports VOIP. Mine BARELY could.)

      I have a feeling that that's not the test that ISP's use to measure their systems. I tried it three times in a row and got fairly different results each time. The one thing that was consistent was that it told me that my connection has too much "jitter" to use VOIP. And yet, I replaced my POTS line with Vonage a year ago and haven't noticed any problem.
    • by jdreed1024 (443938) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:32PM (#15451043)
      (BTW, go here if you want to see what your speeds are... It's a test site to see if your connection speed supports VOIP. Mine BARELY could.)

      I have 3Mbit down/384k up service (and was getting 3Mbit down and 360k up on their test, and it still told me I couldn't use VoIP with good QoS, yet I use VoIP all the time on my network and get quality equal to or better than my cell phone. It's not clear to me that their test is all that useful - or their metrics are screwed up. If they consider 33 ms ping times bad, I'd like to know where they can find a better residential connection.

      Really though, this whole story is a non-issue. I have yet to see an ad for any residential serviice that doesn't say "speed not guaranteed". The speeds they quote you are always "up to this number", not "you always get this number". For cable it's a shared medium between other users on your head end, so unless you're the only user, you're not going to be able to max out the line. 802.11b is supposed to be 11 Mbit per second, but I rarely get that, because it's divided among the other users of the access point. It doesn't mean Avaya and Enterasys are scamming consumers because their access points don't always give 11Mbit/sec. DSL is very sensitive to your distance from the CO and quality of the wiring, so of course it's not guaranteed. Even a LAN is not guaranteed. For short and medium transfers, I rarely get 100 Mbits out of my local network. These "connection testers" are mostly useless - a better test is to download large amounts of data (BitTorrent, for example) and look at the average throughput.

      • by David Horn (772985)
        Have ntl cable in the UK, looks like they have a different business model from the American companies as although the connection is supposed to be a fairly sluggish 10mbits, I just did a speedtest and got 12.5. :)
  • a class-action lawsuit in the making, if you ask me.
  • by Quick Sick Nick (822060) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:16PM (#15450939)
    Jesus Christ! Call Whine 11 or something!

    ...Anyway, I have 8 MB Comcast and I am very pleased. I just used http://www.testmy.net/tools/test/d_load.php [testmy.net] to measure my connection speed and here is the result:

    :::.. Download Stats ..::: Connection is:: 8212 Kbps about 8.21 Mbps (tested with 5983 kB) Download Speed is:: 1002 kB/s Tested From:: http://testmy.net/ [testmy.net] (Server 1) Test Time:: 2006/06/01 - 8:12pm Bottom Line:: 143X faster than 56K 1MB Download in 1.02 sec Tested from a 5983 kB file and took 5.969 seconds to complete Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.0.3) Gecko/20060426 Firefox/1.5.0.3 Diagnosis: Awesome! 20% + : 62.71 % faster than the average for host (comcast.net) Validation Link:: http://testmy.net/stats/id-YLBMP5VFC [testmy.net]

    My download speed really is that fast if I am downloading from a good webserver. And even when I'm not, the bandwidth gets used in bittorrent :)

    Sorry you are having problems....
    • Well, I tried to connect to testmy.net, but it appears to be slashdotted.
    • by Lenolium (110977) <rawb@noSpAm.kill-9.net> on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:39AM (#15451389) Homepage
      Thank the bandwidth gods for UTOPIA, a community fiber-optic system. 15Mbit symmetric. I've had LAN's slower than this, and I get a 2ms ping time to XMission's border router. Logged on to counter-strike, and found a few games being hosted at my isp with under 10ms pings. It's amazing what can happen when you get the damn telcos out of the way. :::.. Download Stats ..:::
      Connection is:: 14320 Kbps about 14.32 Mbps (tested with 12160 kB)
      Download Speed is:: 1748 kB/s
      Tested From:: http://testmy.net/ [testmy.net] (Server 2)
      Test Time:: 2006/06/01 - 11:34pm
      Bottom Line:: 250X faster than 56K 1MB Download in 0.59 sec
      Tested from a 12160 kB file and took 6.956 seconds to complete
      Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv:1.8.0.3) Gecko/20060326 Firefox/1.5.0.3 (Debian-1.5.dfsg+1.5.0.3-1)
      Diagnosis: Awesome! 20% + : 85.68 % faster than the average for host (xmission.com)
      Validation Link:: http://testmy.net/stats/id-QIOGKAJMB [testmy.net]
  • Its the same reason why online casino owners pay the blackmailers. Its the same reason you end up paying $1.39 for a 20oz. pop when it says 2 for a $1. Its the same reason web hosting companies say they offer 1 terabyte of disk space per customer for $5/month.

    Why?

    Because nobody ever challenges them. And the company gets away with it.
    • Actually, it's because the vast majority of their customers never use the promised resources and don't notice the fact that the ISP is technically fibbing. Unfortunately, since the advent of Gnutella and Bit Torrent millions of people are noticing that they aren't receiving the service levels they were expecting. Browsing, email and instant messaging don't give you any real feedback about line conditions ... but just run a few torrents and it becomes painfully obvious when the performance isn't there. The f
  • I haven't noticed that issue since getting fiber through Verizon. I can see a consistent 30Mbps when I download very large files.
    No real point to that. Just braggin' :-)
  • speakeasy for both (Score:2, Informative)

    by Polymorph2000 (166850)
    http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ [speakeasy.net]

    Use this to test your connection speed, and make speakeasy your ISP if you want to get the bandwidth that you pay for. It may cost you a bit more, but their technical support, speed, and service policies are more than worth it.
    • I doubt that they offer service in Elmwood, Wisconsin. I also see no reason to believe that they are going to provide a fair test of a competitor's service.

      Besides, they require Flash.
  • no guarantees (Score:2, Informative)

    by blew_fantom (809889)
    most of the time, companies like verizon will NOT guarantee advertised bandwidth. your real speed depends on how full the central office (c.o.) is, how saturated the dslam is, your distance to the c.o., and line quality. its a real racket. they can charge you full price but depending on those factors and more, you probably won't get the *advertised* speeds.
  • Speeds advertised are often optimal speeds for people living across the street from their local connection point.

    As distance increases DSL speeds drop. For Cable when usage is up, speed drops.

    for me, I pay for 2.5 Mbit connection and I get around 2.1 Mbit. I'm not on top of the hub, but I'm pretty close.

    if you're getting speeds that low, its likely because you live a great distance or away or you may be having other line problems.

  • Guess I'm lucky (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kaufmanmoore (930593)
    I've lived in 4 different places in 2 cities and have been able to consistantly recieve 80-90% of the advertised speed through cable. There's a reason why the ads on TV have speeds will vary written in fine print.
  • Municipal Broadband (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mysqlrocks (783488) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:19PM (#15450955) Homepage Journal
    Do what the city I live in did and start your (the citizens) own ISP [burlingtontelecom.net]. I get the speed I pay for on a fiber optic connection. Plus they offer TV and telephone service. Better service, cheaper rates, and it's owned by the people that use it.
    • > Better service, cheaper rates, and it's owned by the people that use it.

      It's a cooperative?
      • by mysqlrocks (783488) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:10AM (#15451267) Homepage Journal
        It's a cooperative?

        No, it's municipal broadband as my subject line said. That means that the city runs it. We, the people, collectively own the assets of the city since we are the voters and the taxpayers and this is a democracy. Since they only provide service within the city, then everyone that is able to receive service owns the network. We "own" it in the same we that we own the parks and other public spaces.

        If I don't like the way the network is run I can vote to change it. Now, you may argue that I can "vote with my dollar" if I am customer of MegaCorp Broadband. The problem with that logic is that not everyone has an equal vote. In a democracy, everyone gets one vote no matter how much money you have. We, the citizens, decided we were tired of getting screwed by MegaCorp Broaband (Adelphia or Verizon as the case may be here and now) and that we would have provide our own service. Now, I can get my Broadband, my electricity (yes, the electric company is run by the city here too), and my water from the city and I can feel confident that I, as a citizen, can have a say in how these services are run regardless of how much money I may have.
        • I agree that not everybody has the same dollar voting rights, but that's not that bad in practice. More dollars *overall* for a company only indicates which demand is more pressing, so it will try to satisfy the higher demand first.

          Agreed, for the Megacorp your consumer dollars might not be of much value, but for a smaller consumer-only ISP they're real, valuable dollars.

          The conclusion is the same: if there's need, build your own ISP, but that's because there's still much room for improvement even at curre
  • > One thing to note is that you'll never get the top speed advertised for
    > any connection due to transmission overhead; even so, you should be able
    > to get close (within about 10-20%).

    When I had 256k service from CenturyTel I got exactly 256k throughput. Now that I have 1.5M I get from 900k to 1.2M. Since I'm about 15,000 feet from the CO on a fifty year old buried cable, I'm not too unhappy.
  • I usually use Bandwidth place [bandwidthplace.com] which has a nice GUI and useful reports. Also goes without saying that you can find many bandwidth test sites by Googling "bandwidth" [google.com].
  • Cox (Score:2, Informative)

    I have Cox Cable, 5mbps down, 2mbps. I regularly download at 680 k/s (5.3mbps) and upload at 280 k/s (2.1mbps).

    I have never had a problem with their service.
  • Bit Versus Byte (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wizarth (785742) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:25PM (#15450989) Homepage
    Something I've heard from my friends a lot is that they don't realise companies sell their connection speeds in BITS per second.

    Myself, I have 512Kb/s down, and as a rule of thumb I divide by 10 to get it in bytes. I get at best 54KB/s downloads, which works out by this rule.

    I know, a byte is 8 bits, but as a rule of thumb, dividing by 10 seems to include overhead.

    I know my 512Kb/s ADSL connection doesn't rate against these 3Mb/s cable connections, but, this is my experience, learn from it what you will.
    • That's probably fair - the data's coming in ATM cells - they're 53 bytes long with a 5-byte header so you're gonna lose 10% right there
    • Re:Bit Versus Byte (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Justin205 (662116)
      Same here. 5 Mbps down, 512 Kbps up (Cable), and I get around 600 kb/s down (on a fast server), and 60 kb/s up, which is almost exactly what I 'should' have.

      Looking at the submitter's ratios, it doesn't look like they did the conversions wrong, though. 3 Mbps is around 400 kb/s max, not 750 kb/s max. So they actually do have a problem, but it's always good to remember these conversions when discussing ISPs.
    • Re:Bit Versus Byte (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hyfe (641811)
      I know, a byte is 8 bits, but as a rule of thumb, dividing by 10 seems to include overhead.

      Overhead in converting from bits to bytes? :)

      Application-level measurement of bandwidth is of course actual data free of padding (since the padding is done by a lower networklayer, it's completely transparent).

  • "What practices and tools do you use to test your bandwidth speed and"

    Download it here http://dast.nlanr.net/Projects/Iperf/ [nlanr.net] From the website: "Iperf is a tool to measure maximum TCP bandwidth, allowing the tuning of various parameters and UDP characteristics. Iperf reports bandwidth, delay jitter, datagram loss. "
  • by dmoen (88623) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:27PM (#15451006) Homepage
    At my old house, I was on a 1.5 Mb/s DSL plan, but I never got more than 1.0 Mb/s, and just before I moved, it had degraded to 600 Kb/s. I was using the standard 'put a filter on every phone jack' method, the only method that the ISP would tell me about. I tried the 3 Mb/s plan, but the speed was actually worse, so they bumped me back down to 1.5 Mb/s.

    I just moved to a new house. This time, I decided to do things right, and had a DSL splitter [homephonewiring.com] installed at the point where the phone line enters the house. [My splitter looks just like the one in the picture.] The previous owner had had unacceptably low DSL speed, but with the splitter installed, I'm within about 8% of the theoretical maximum on the 3 Mb/s plan. The phone line between the NID mounted on the outside wall of my house and the phone exchange is likely not perfect, which may account for the 8% degradation.

    Note that the rated maximum speed (3 Mb/s in my case) accounts for not just the actual payload data being transmitted, but all of the protocol overhead as well: TCP headers, IP headers, etc (there are multiple protocol layers, each with overhead). Your typical internet speed test is not able to directly account for all of the protocol overhead, so your data will be transmitted slower than the rated line speed.

    Doug Moen

    • by ivan256 (17499) * on Friday June 02, 2006 @01:19AM (#15451555)
      I hate to tell you this, but a splitter is just a filter. Your service improvement is due to putting a single filter in front of all your inside wiring rather than putting filters on every single jack, but it's still just a filter. You get raw phone connection to the data terminals on the splitter, and a filtered connection on the phone terminals.

      There's no reason to pay $57 for what your DSL provider gave you for free plus a fancy plastic enclosure. Just cut the RJ-11 jack off one of the filters they give you and wire up your own 'splitter' in a $2 junction box.
    • My strategy (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bradleyland (798918)
      When doing DSL installs for customers, my strategy is always to place the DSL modem closest to the point where the telco wiring terminates on the side of the house. I then use ethernet, powerline, or wireless to get the signal to the computers. Also, I've noticed that some DSL modems are much, much more sensitive to line conditions than others. For example, in Florida, Bellsouth offers a base Westel 6xxx series modem, a Versalink 4-port ethernet with WiFi DSL modem/router, and a Netopia 4-port ethernet with
  • I suck up. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by patryn20 (812091) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:28PM (#15451015)
    To be blunt, where I am there is only one choice for internet service. The single provider may change, depending on what municipality, but in the end you only have one choice in your apartment. So, when I have an issue I suck up. I act stupid and helpless and ultra sickly sweet. I thank them profusely every step of the way.

    It may not be as satisfying as being intelligent or righteously indignant on the phone, but it gets great results. I consistently get a tech out same day (from ATT (SBC), no less). I have problems where my circuit speed will drop drastically (from 3Mbps to 145Kbps) on a regular basis, and now that I have started being saccharine sweet, it is generally fixed almost immediately.

    Simply point out that it is running incredibly slow (say something about images and pages taking FOREVER to load, don't sound techie) and that you logged in following THEIR instructions (thank you guys for giving me those previously, oh thank you thank you) and checked the speed and saw that it was slower than normal (from what you guys told me before), and that you would greatly appreciate it if they could fix it (since I am so helpless and LOVE you guys), and please help me, and oh lord thank you so much for giving me your time.

    Other than that, make sure your router isn't causing you problems. Swap it out with a borrowed one or something. I had a bad one that was destroying my throughput. Check cables, wall sockets, everything. Make sure you can eliminate everything on your end before you call them.

    However, if they ask you to test things again, gleefully (pretend) to do it. It makes them happy and gets you better service later. After all, it is not really that hard to sit there reading the newspaper and drinking coffee and simply saying "Nope, still doesn't work."
    • Excellent comment. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigtallmofo (695287)
      So, when I have an issue I suck up.

      Unfortunately what you outline is the only effective tactic in dealing with someone that makes $10 per hour, is reading from a script, doesn't really care about their job and knows that they will not get in trouble no matter how nonsensical they are as long as they are reasonably following written procedures. Be nice, and you might land on the nice side of the procedures. Be angry or uncooperative... You'll be following the worst parts of procedures to the letter.
    • by illumin8 (148082)
      I consistently get a tech out same day (from ATT (SBC), no less).

      "Sure Mr. Customer, we'll be right out to fix your wiretap... er... I mean DSL service... Thank you for calling AT&T!"
    • Let me tell you a story about my ISP. So at one point I manage to mangle my password by using the change password form on their web site. Actually, I'd swear that it was the crap web site that mangled it, and thereafter neither the old one nor the new one worked. With or without capslock, etc. But ok, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was my fault.

      So I call their tech support, am as nice as it gets (it's not that guy's fault anyway), follow the instructions so he can be sure that i
    • What works for me is to show them immediately that I know a fair bit about networking. That is, I'll be logged in to my Linux router, and I'll say things like "I'm not getting a DHCP response." They'll say "Reboot the computer" and I'll say "How about I just restart the interface?"

      The service has been rock solid. My ISP simply delivers, except when they don't. Thus, when I have no Internet, I raise hell. No, I won't plug in another computer, I just tested this network card, plugged in a crossover to my
  • Does the tool you use to measure speed only count the data payload size, or does it count the size of all packet headers involved (including the lowest protocols used over the cable line)? eg. over ethernet cables [wareonearth.com] (just a dumb cable), you can lose 8% speed just due to packet headers...
  • by jafo (11982) * on Thursday June 01, 2006 @11:29PM (#15451017) Homepage
    One "trick" they use is that in our area (Colorado, QWest), the DSL speed rates they quote are all the ATM frame rates. ATM has around 20% overhead, so this means that a 1.5mbps line will give you more around 1.25mbps throughput.

    I don't recall that I've ever gotten anything less than that on DSL across the line. I've run routers handling the "megacentral", the ISP end of the DSL connection, and have had more than a bit of opportunity to test DSL connection performance.

    As far as cable, we have Comcast in this area, and are paying for the higher service level. I do notice that when the school year starts, we tend to have performance issues for a month or two. This has happened on several occasions. So, instead of 6 to 8mbps (they recently upgraded to 8mbps, before that it was 6), we get more like 3 to 4. Annoying, but not a huge issue.

    I have noticed that on the Comcast sales literature, they say "N mbps *" where the * links to something saying "No guarantees".

    However, most of the time I'm able to get 8mbps, when the remote end can handle it. I have servers hosted at a location where I know I have plenty of bandwidth. I just downloaded the Ubuntu Dapper ISO over cable:

    730740736 bytes transferred in 710 seconds (1005.4K/s)

    So, that's right at 8mbps. This is not unusual.

    It's important to realize that there are several places where there could be performance issues though. The line, the directly connected ISP bandwidth, the server you're downloading from, and everything in between.

    Winging at your ISP for problems which are outside their control isn't going to be helping anyone. If you are downloading Dapper right now via FTP from the main site, the server is almost certainly not going to be able to handle 8mbps.

    Another thing I'd wonder is whether maybe your grandmother might have a virus or two, or perhaps there's some file-sharing going on? All these lines have a fraction of the upstream bandwidth that they do down. If you are pushing out much data, it interferes with incoming data. If you do any performance testing, make SURE that you don't have anything else using it, either outgoing or incoming.

    Hope this helps.

    Sean
  • My beef with cable is that they frequently have too many users sharing one connection. My cable provider advertises 6000/2000 kbps (down/up). I usually get these speeds at, say, four in the morning. At five in the evening the speeds drop to about 300/100 kbps (down/up). If you call and complain, you're told that it's your computer (because you're running UNIX). Give me a break.

    If I could just afford that full T1...
  • I get time warner and all I get is 33k upload and around three hundred something download. That is just pathetic for $45 dollars a month. BUt I dont dare complain, because then they will wonder why I need all that bandwidth!
  • by fohat (168135)
    My experience in this 65 year old apartment building is that the copper wire here won't support DSL above 4 megabits. I recently switched to cable internet (Comcast, Maryland) and saw a huge increase in available bandwidth. They originally promised a higher upload speed (I apparently purchased 6/384 and thought I was getting 6/768) and when I called to inquire I was offered 8/768 for 10$ more a month.

    I'm able to pretty much get full speed out of my connection, but most of the times when I do speed tests o
  • by binaryspiral (784263) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:01AM (#15451216)
    Your computer
    connects to
    Your 6MB Cable
    connects to
    Cable Company
    connects to
    A slow or oversold internet connection

    Here is a basic "How to" for calling your ISP... it sucks, and its a tad humiliating for most alpha-geeks... but sometimes we have to play by their rules to get our pr0n and warze faster.

    1. Connect one PC to your cable/dsl modem (nothing else...)
    2. Reboot your PC and your modem
    3. Retest your speeds using a major speed test site
    4. Call your ISP and explain your issue
    5. Listen and follow their instructions (even if its a painful script... do it)
    6. Respond with kindness and friendly responses (remember, they hold the key to escalating your issue or closing it without resolution)

    Hopefully your ISP will recognize their is an issue and resolve it. Otherwise - tell them to go pound sand and move on to the next.
  • by davmoo (63521) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:14AM (#15451286)
    Why are you so sure the problem is your ISP? Do you know for a fact that the speed test is accurate? Are you doing the speed tests during a time of peak internet usage? Are other sites that you are connecting to serving fast enough to fill your pipe at full speed? If you are connecting to a site that can only serve 1 mbps, I don't care how fast your speed is promised to be, you'll never get anything from that site faster than 1 mbps.

    And be careful when making claims "no ISP delivers the speed they promise". My ISP is Comcast on a cable modem. They claim they are giving me 6 mbps. And 99 percent of the time when I'm doing big video or Linux iso downloads or such like that and can see a good test of my actual speed, I'm getting the speed they say they're selling me...6 mbps.
  • by Megane (129182) on Friday June 02, 2006 @01:26AM (#15451579) Homepage
    I've got SBC DSL, on the 3M-6M down / 384K-604K up plan with five fixed IPs, and I get the full 6M down and somewhere between 512K and 604K up. FWIW, I do have my house wired the "right" way, with a cat5 from the demarc to a splitter (just a cheap 2-jack line splitter), with the modem in one and the rest of the house plugged into the other. Also, because of the fixed IP, I'm running bridged Ethernet instead of that PPPoE crap, which probably helps a little bit.

    But that's not what I'm concerned about. They finished installing the Project Lightspeed box just up the street a few months ago, and I'm close enough that if they really do use VDSL2+, I can get 50-100 Mbits bidirectional. But guess what? They're only offering 6M down / 1.5M up for the near future. The rest of it is reserved for their stupid cable-over-IP service, and I really don't want pay TV, no matter which company or technology it's coming from. I'm quite happy with free over-the-air ATSC, especially PBS.

    However, I am aware that the DSL I get is technically a business class DSL (it's the same price as the equivalent business class service), so maybe in a few months when they start hooking it up, they might have a business class option that's a bit faster.

  • by Allnighterking (74212) on Friday June 02, 2006 @01:33AM (#15451595) Homepage
    1. It says "Speeds Up to" Somewhere somehow someone gets the speed advertised, under ideal conditions.

    2. Why doesn't the internet get faster:

    a. I can't download faster than you can upload. So the Asynchronous lack of speed means nothing moves faster than the slowest side.

    b. The more people with high bandwidth connect to the net the slower the sites they go to becomes, including popular bandwidth testing sites!

    c. Bandwidth capping, many sites cap their speed so as to not overwhelm the customers they had in 2000 (meaning the same companies who code only for IE 5.0)

    d. Poor router configuration. Not by your ISP but by the "backbone" providers in between. I've actually worked at an ISP where customers dropped peering agreements because bandwidth was better if we didn't peer with them.(bad routers at our peering provider)

    e. Poor site design. I spent a whole day trying to explain to a company why a 1mb webpage was slower than a 30k page from their competitor.

    f. You get used to speed. Much like how you used to buy this really great sounding stereo, only to realize 6 months later that it sounds like crap.

    g. Poor quality bandwidth testing. Just because you only get 750kbps between you and the testor doesn't mean that's all the bandwidth you have, it means that's all the bandwidth you can get. Switches, Nics, Routers etc all affect what happens.

  • by Cederic (9623) on Friday June 02, 2006 @02:59AM (#15451850) Journal

    I have a 10Mbps cable connection. Sure, most 'net servers aren't able to give out files that fast. But the ones that are..

    3-4 weeks ago I downloaded a 142MB file. Firefox reported it as coming down at one megabyte/sec. I'm not sure whether it lied, but the file was downloaded in under 2 minutes.

    Surprised the hell out of me. Made me happy.

    Cable company is NTL. Their technical support is absolutely atrocious. Luckily their connection is very stable, so I rarely have to call them. And the download speed is very nice indeed.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Friday June 02, 2006 @03:01AM (#15451859)
    Something I've noticed from a quick scan of the comments is that people are talking about how you'll never achieve your rated line speed in practice because of the overheads associated with TCP/IP, etc.

    Here in the UK, what companies sell as (eg) a 512Kbps connection is actually (from memory) a 572Kbps connection, with the extra few Kbps to account for that overhead. At least, that's how it was at least until recently; I can't tell any more as I upgraded to my ISP's 8Mbps service, but my phone line (as expected) can't handle that rate. (Still, the ~3.6Mbps I get is fine for now, and the upgrade was only £1/month more)

    It always makes me laugh when I see companies advertising 16Mbps or even 24Mbps services; I can't believe that more than a handful of people actually have the line quality needed and are close enough to their exchange to achieve those speeds. Now if only BT would start improving the lines...
  • Yeah, it is DSL... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thebdj (768618) on Friday June 02, 2006 @07:33AM (#15452583) Journal
    this is absurd. Of course your speeds with DSL might suck depending on your location, and the way they determine what speed you get, of course a speed decrease will lower your actual bandwidth. You'll note the speed decrease is actually a bit less with the lower speed, but they are actuall still comparable and probably somewhat attributable to other networking factors.

    Before complaining about your DSL line being slow, I think you really should read up on how DSL (and most likely ADSL to be specific) works. You are hardly ever going to get max bandwidth out of a service line though I honestly cannot complain about the speeds I am getting with Cable. So, remember, before starting a bitch-fest...know what the hell you are talking about...
  • Roadrunner Lite (Score:3, Informative)

    by techstar25 (556988) <techstar25NO@SPAMcfl.rr.com> on Friday June 02, 2006 @07:59AM (#15452696) Homepage Journal
    I found that using Brighthouse Networks Roadrunner service, I was promised "Up to 7Mbps" for $44.95/mo. and that's what I've used for a long time. Recently they started to offer Roadrunner Lite, which was advertised as 512Kbps down and 256(or 128?)Kbps up. I ran some speed tests and found that typically I was only getting 512Kbps down already even though I was promised "Up to 7Mbps". Guess what. I switched to Roadrunner Lite at $14.95/mo. Now, of course I'm getting 50Kpbs down. Yes FIFTY Kbps. What gives?!?!
  • by nuintari (47926) on Friday June 02, 2006 @01:01PM (#15455349) Homepage
    This rives me fucking crazy. I work for an ISP, we have plenty of bandwidth, our service is nice and peppy(I have it at home, and our main office uses it for bandwidth as well). Yet, we get customers constantly calling, "why am I only getting so much speed from this ?" I got news for you, they don't fucking work.

    1) When you access a speed test, it is not very likely that the webserver running said speed test is directly on the other side of your link to your ISP. It far more likely that you accessed a test running on a web server on a different network than your ISP's. SO, you are not testing the speed of your line, you are testing the speed of the slowest/most congested link between you, and the speed test site. Or, to put it a better way, you are testing your connection speed to a speedtest. If a speedtest's feed to the internet is only a T1 line, got news for ya, it will never show anyone's speed as anything faster than 1.5 mbit, even if they have 3 mbit dsl.

    2) Speedtest enthusiasts (and yes, some people click them like mad, it must be fun, I dunno), seem to believe that just because they have a 7 mbit download, that every web server on the planet is willing to send 7 mbit at you, just because you can potenially see it. Got news for you, that web server is busy servicing god knows what else, and if you get 1.5 mbit, consider yourself lucky. a 7mbit connection is not about having 7mbit to any _one_ site, because it is just not going to happen. It is about having 7mbit capacity TOTAL.

    You want a decently (and not good mind you) acceptable speed test, go to freebsd.org, select four different ftp mirrors, and download four different isos at once. A better method is simple, "let the merits of the service speak for themselves." If you can do many things at once, without any noticable speed hit, you have a nice fast connection, with a lot of capacity, be happy. If you can slug it out with little to no effort, you're hitting your upper limit, whip out a calculator, and do some actual math, because a speedtest will not tell you your connection speed.

    The question is ignorant, moronic, and doesn't belong here.
  • by Lagged2Death (31596) on Friday June 02, 2006 @05:07PM (#15457925)
    In part, this is just the natural result when highly technical products and services are sold to a relatively ignorant public in a competitive system.

    When the users aren't clued-in enough to appreciate real differences between service/product A and service/product B, claimed differences become more important, from an economic point of view.

    If provider A claims N Mbps, provider B better counter with similar speeds or lower prices. If the users, by and large, wouldn't actually know a Mbps if it hit them on the head, then the easiest and most profitable way to compete is claim to provide N+1 Mbps. After all, for most light web browsing / chat-room / e-mail users, 1Mbps and 10Mbps connections provide similar experiences. What the service really is capable of is less important than the way the users feel about it.

    The same circumstances drove claimed CD-ROM drive speeds into meaningless exaggeration in the late 90s. The same circumstances drove Intel to chase gigahertz rather than real-world performance in the Pentium IV line. The same circumstances cause Wi-Fi equipment vendors to make wild claims of 100+ Mbps speeds, when users will be lucky to see a tenth of that.

    The phenomenon applies to other fields as well. Digital cameras make a big deal about megapixels, because that's easy to measure and compare, even though image quality is about more than megapixels, even though other, non-image-quality issues may be of far more importance. Plenty of owners of status-symbol watches have no idea what "jewel" means in that context, but are confident that more is better. Few owners of cars with badges like "DOHC" or "VTEC" can give a coherent explanation of what those badges mean, but the badged cars sell for a premium anyway.

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