Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
The Internet

Dial-Up As De Facto Standard 252

Oswald writes: "Over at ZDNet, John Dvorak reveals his thoughts on broadband. He makes some good points on his way to concluding that broadband may be a very long time supplanting low-bandwidth connections." DSL service to my house took too many months and five technical visits, and resulted in mangled service and work orders, haphazard billing,and an intermittent connection. Now the initial carrier has gone out of business, and I didn't feel like paying more for the replacement. Dvorak has a point, but for the 10 year picture, I'm optimistic for broad(er) band.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dial-Up As De Facto Standard

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    He meant 300 *KBYTES*/s
  • BREAKING NEWS, THIS JUST IN.... We have received unconfirmed reports that John C Dvorak does not actually make valid points, nor does he have to. It seems that Mr Dvorak's continued employment is based on the number of readers he can attract. William Randolph Hearst is famous for having pioneered this insightful method of journalism, also known as 'yellow journalism'.

    We have unconfirmed claims that Ziff-Davis doesn't care that Mr. Dvorak spews illogical tripe all over their editorial pages, as popular sites, such as slashdot.org, link to the inflammatory pages, helping them to gather more readers, and more money.

    Our undercover source claims that Dvorak may be full of shit, regarding his claim that it will be multiple decades until broadband is widely deployed in first world nations.

    "Don't trolls get tired?"

  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:55AM (#177793) Homepage
    The Myth Of The Telephone
    Will The Telephone Ever Become The Standard?

    by John C. Dvorak
    December 31, 1877

    My nomination for "most foolish company" this year is the obvious choice, Bell Telephone. What a foolish notion, this concept that the public is interested in real-time audio transmission. Why would anybody pay for such a capability when they already have the ability to send perfectly functional text-only messages for a much more reasonable fee, via the postal service, or the telegraph.

    While some of us 'early adopters' might think it's reasonable to expect people to have a telephone in their house by the 21st century, the fact of the matter is that it's an unneccessary luxury. For half a decade we've had the telegraph, the British have had postal service since the late 17th century and it has worked just fine.

    This 'telephone' is an unneccessary expense for casual communicators, and will never affect the lives of most people for centuries to come. Real-time audio transmission? who needs it!

    "Don't trolls get tired?"

  • Cable has disadvantages compared with DSL but where I live DSL is not available. The phone comapny is not savvy in such matters either. Installations in areas where it is available have been problematic for many people. By contrast, Road Runner ain't bad. It's alot faster than dialup. It's affordable, always on and it's been very reliable. The install was easy. Having had this experience, there's no going back to dial-up and unless my needs change drastically, I won't bother with DSL.

  • My boss pays for my boardband connection as part of our work from home plan. (In MN we have enough snow days that it breaks even every year compared to a paid day off for everyone). He has been complaining that my ISDN line is twice what everyone else is paying for broadband. They are also getting much faster speeds. I've considered satalite. My boss would love to save that much money. Problem is I forward a lot of X connections when I work from home. Latency is an issue.

    Of course my point is like most Americans other then dial up, my only reasonably priced alternative is satalite. Many parts of the world are just as bad (come to think of it, many don't have phone lines so satalite is the only option)

  • Ever read his older columns. "I was having trouble getting the snorfleflurger connected to my dell trivfal. The next day, a large fedex box arrived, containing Michael Dell and three technicians. By 3 P.M., all was well, However, by 4 P.M., things were tense again. Whenever I launched Micrsoft Rbasic, the Dell crashed. I backed it up again onto the worm, which is when Bill Gates arrived . . ."

    ANd even *he* can't get DSL. What chance do you mere mortals have?



  • by bobalu ( 1921 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @08:57AM (#177802)
    When I bought my house 2 years ago Verizon (then Bell Atlantic) was promising DSL availability in the area, but not for me. Their website indicated people a half mile away were eligible, but I wasn't. I mentioned to a Verizon tech that I already had ISDN, and he said he does the same process to qualify a DSL line as they do for ISDN, so I should be OK.

    A few months ago I finally got ahold of a real person there, who gave me the top 5 reasons it may not be available to me, to which I said "Fine, let's find out what it really is. "

    1) If it's distance then I know this isn't an option, I'll do something else.
    2) If it's the build-out in your CO, I know it may be coming.
    3) But if it's just an arbitrary # entered into your database then maybe I can get it!

    She said ok, we'll have to do a manual loopback test, it may take 6 weeks, etc. I said fine, I've been waiting 2 years, what's another 6 weeks?

    Guess what? It was #3. Two weeks later I had a DSL modem and was good to go. My neighbors (both programmers) are now trying to get it and keep getting the same run-around. The line GOES PAST THEIR HOUSES to mine.

    Moral of the story is, DON'T BELIEVE THEM. KEEP PRESSING and force them to do the manual test. They have got to be one of the worst companies I've ever done business with. They just dropped a number range into their website, and if your # isn't in it the operator will tell you it's not available. I realized what it was when I found that if I plugged in other phone #'s the "not available" message came up on a 100 boundary, i.e. xxx-1199 was OK, but xxx-1200 wasn't. The fools just don't update the #*$*# database!

  • If you saturate the link (which is possible), your downstream speeds can all of a sudden drop to the same speeds as the listed upstream speed or worse. DSL links don't work quite that way.
  • by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:35AM (#177810) Homepage
    If broadband were available everywhere and people were _still_ choosing dialup, I might agree with Dvorak. But the fact is, right now many people are forced to use dialup. It would be interesting to look at the statistics in markets with healthy broadband options.

    Once cable modems are more ubiquitous, I think things will change. I don't have hope for DSL... even if you assert that DSLs aren't shared (though the upstream is) it's just way, way too limited. I checked last week now that we have a phone line... no DSL. (We could get ISDN, if we want to pay high prices to have a massive cut in bandwidth.) If you can get it, the odds are likely that it will take a long time and you'll have a couple problems along the way. The immediate mass-market future looks like cable modems, where you hop over to the local electronics store, buy a DOCSIS modem, plug it in, and sign up over a website. That's the present here on Long Island, and it's much closer to the ease of dialup setup than DSL. (Not that dialup is easy, but at least you don't need to schedule an install appt!)
  • Yes...BUT....I think your cost-debunking argument assumes that if I stay with dialup, I'm gonna pay for a second phone line. How likely is that, really? Most people I know who are sticking with dialup don't bother with a second phone line. More to the point: As nice as it sounds, I don't need continuous high-speed connectivity. At least, not yet. I'm a Joe Sixpack user, not a Linux kernel hackin' geek. About the only real benefit I'd get from broadband would be in the "cheap thrills" department: Listening to music online. For everything else I want, I can dial up, do my thing in about four minutes, and clear out so my wife can go back to talking to my sister-in-law. I wonder if the ISPs aren't making much of a profit because dialup is commoditized so thoroughly. If it is, it's no surprise it's a de facto standard: At this point, so few home users have a real, practical need for fast continuous connections that it's hard to figure out how to market broadband to them. I know I've repeatedly toyed with the idea when RoadRunner has sent me their stuff and repeatedly concluded that apart from the GCF (geek coolness factor) there's no reason to lay out the extra $$. Hell, if the free services were more reliable, I'd go back to using one of them.
  • Our AT&T exploiter's service is soo poor, even my Digital TV pixelizes from 15:00 to 19:30 every night. I've got friends on cable modem that don't even try to get on until after 20:00 in the evening. My DSL is steady all the time.
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:31AM (#177818) Homepage
    It's not the speed of broadband that is its greatest asset, it's the always-on quality. The ability to leave a large file transfer overnight without the need to get up and disconnect, no tying up of a phone line, be notified of mail as soon as it arrives, being available over ICQ whenever you want. For my part, the speed is just a nice bonus.

  • Fifteen percent of Canada is on broadband (cable or DSL). That's twice the percentage of America.

    Around my neck of the woods, $45/mo *tax in* gets you ADSL. $35 if you have your own modem.

    Every ADSL customer also has dialup access. Makes it easier to go roaming.

  • Check this out:

    World Wide Packets [worldwidepackets.com]

    This is the future

  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:41AM (#177826) Homepage Journal

    In three separate locations I have gotten and been online with cable (@Home) in no time whatsoever with zero hassle. While there may be a delay in getting a technician to do the install, anyone technically adept can pick up the hardware and do it themselves presuming the cable wiring in their house isn't ancient. Regarding the oft criticized reliability of high speed, 98% of the time the problem (which is incredibly rare) is up the network several nodes...hence it isn't the high speed connection whatsoever but the infrastructure of the high speed provider. This sort of problem affects anyone using the net be it through dial-up, cable, DSL, or DS3.

    I remember way back when with dial-up modems it was common for people to have problems because of line noise, crosstalk, etc. It was standard to always state to the tech service that it wasn't for a modem though as the phone company would refuse service then (you had to say that the interference disrupted voice conversations to get them out to fix it). The point being that dial-up went through years of trouble as well while the system was upgraded and cleaned up.


  • Umm... Ford can and does sell you are car/truck with the limitations on mileage and useage... it's called a lease, exactly the same thing you have with your broadband connection. you are leasing...

    So in fact they are following industry standards in pricing and use. It's the un-educated consumer that get's stuck with something that they didn't know was there.

    If you want unlimited bandwisth use, BUY your bandwidth.. I.E. a T-1 line, just like they do. Otherwise dont be suprized when they pop up another limitation around the corner with the guise of "the terms are subject to change without notice" clause....

  • I remember a rant he had published on how online services wouldn't become popular. Hell you guys complain about the cost of broadband? try paying $3.95 an hour for compuserve access plus paying for access fees to most of the desired areas. Or paying your long-distance bills for access to the better BBS's (1200bps was a screaming modem at that time too!)

    the cost of bandwidth, and connectivity has dropped to the point that broadband access is chump-change, Dvorak is still as clue-less as he was back in the 80's, and the amount of change we are going to see in the next 5 years is going to spin everyone's heads (except dvorak, he will always be the same.... pretty much clueless and a person to ignore.)

  • I think John's pretty much hit the concept on the head of dial-up. People here are often the ones in the .0001% of people with decent broadband connections so you can apt-get and feel like a l33t hax0r d00d. Slashdot is far from being represenative of anything but slashdot. AOL has roughly 20% of the online eyes in America and most of those eyes are looking at the internet through John's 34Kbps goggles. The other top dogs in the ISP space are also serving users with slow fucking connections. People have been pointing out that the broadband user base is growing and dial-up ISPs have gone out of business or been bought out. Well ISPs get bought out real quick because large ISPs can afford it and want the hardware and user base. Broadband is increasing because availability is increasing. People have been waiting months of years for broadband access and are finally getting it. We are NOT in the boardband era and John's correct in saying 34Kbps ought to be considered a standard connection rate.
  • .. with both the article and the initial poster. I ordered DSL and was told that it was available in my area and that my number could support it, but then I was told that the phone company did not have enough switches to turn on the connection or whatever. Boy am I confused about that one. The company is offering a adsl modem where you just put filters on your phones and connect your nic to this modem and viola you are ready to connect. So I am not sure what the issue is. Don't the filters and modems do all the work? What does the phone company need to do here? If the phone company needs to modify its network significantly then DSL could take a long time to grow to where it is useful to home users.

    Sure most of us have dsl at work, but some jobs monitor the networks closely, besides some stuff you want to just look at or download from home.

    Personally until you can buy DSL equipment in a store like you can buy a regular modem and install it like you would a regualr modem and can connect to ANY ISP, dsl will be for a small select group to have. (FYI: DSL is not available everywhere. In Case You Didn't Know).

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • Which is why DSL wont work. Someone needs to take the technology of a regular mode and make it faster. 56k to 128 then to 256k. Then maybe high speed will take off. But until normal computer modems can do the speed of dsl we wont see it grow like people want it to.

    MS.net will fail if they tell home users you have to access all your office apps over the web. 56k MS office cause you can't get dsl.....yuch..

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • Laugh all you want, but Western Union had the primo opportunity, historically, and made EXACTLY the same arguments you make and missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
  • Everyone talks a big game when it comes to standards, but how many of us understand what real standards are? With computers, we think of Microsoft and Windows right away.

    It sounds like Dvorak doesn't know what a standard is, which make it hard to keep reading. If MS Windows is a standard, then why is there only one implementation of it? Oh, he had WINE and Odin in mind... (yeah, right).

  • oops....bytes....not bits ;-)
    *sing* I'm a karma whore and I'm okay....
    I work all night and I post all day
  • by Kris Warkentin ( 15136 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @08:10AM (#177841) Homepage
    You'd be hard pressed to find a town in Canada where you can't get cable and/or DSL. Here in Ottawa I have Rogers Cable and, aside from one or two hiccups over the past year, I've had pretty much uninterrupted service 24/7. Plenty fast too - I sometimes get 300kbps downloads. My Linux gateway is up to 210 days uptime now too...;-)

    All that being said, I don't think it would take that long in the States if the regulators got serious. I only pay $40/month for mine (and that's in Canadian pesos too). I mean, when you can get cable and DSL in Kenora (small town between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg) for crying out loud, I can't see why you Yanks can't get your act together.

    *sing* I'm a karma whore and I'm okay....
    I work all night and I post all day
  • Another nice trick if you have an external modem is to splice a speaker into the cable's RXD line (optionally with a switch so you can turn the speaker off)

    This way, i can start a download and then go sit on the couch and watch TV or read or whatever without having to check up on things every five minutes. Whenever my modem is sending data to the computer, the speaker is clattering.

    It's also nice because you can tell how much bandwidth you're using -- see, with Gnutella, if i have too many things downloading at once, i only get like 4%-5% of any of them before the download breaks for one reason or another. But if i only have one or two downloads going at once, i might not be using my full bandwidth. So with this trick, while i'm sitting on the couch i can keep an eye (ear?) on things and tune the number of concurrent downloads accordingly.


  • But then you always hear the annoying carrier tone, and it's much harder to tell whether or not any data is being transferred -- at least subconsciously, which is my goal here.


  • The punchline: I live approximately 500 feet too far from the nearest DSL-equipped central office, and the plant in my neighborhood is so old and crappy that Qwest has no plans to do anything but patch it up forever. It's funny, because I get acceptable analog modem connections (48 Kbps most of the time). One would imagine DSL would be no problem here at some point. Yet, a pretty big wheel at Qwest said, "never." DSL may become widespread, but it will never be ubiquitous, even if I am the only exception (which I seriously doubt).

    Interesting. I was thinking recently about how or whether broadband internet access would start to shape the way we build cities. Historically, the form of a city has reflected the dominant transportation mode available at the time the area was being built up, which takes you from the narrow foot/donkey paths of yore up to the 30 foot wide cul-de-sacs of today. (And, similarly, from the 20,000+ people per square mile densities of old US cities to the 1500 people per square mile density of the Kansas City metro area.) And until recently, there was no universally compelling reason to expect any different pattern.

    But, interestingly, sprawl has a serious cost in terms of providing services like high-speed internet access. Whatever you might think of telecommuting (I think it will be a failure), it's definitely the case that more time spent on line means less time spent on the road. More important in the short run is the fact that most sprawly suburbs of the past several decades will either require a drastic rewiring (= $$$) to get things like DSL ramped up. So it's just possible that we might all decide we have to give up on or scale back the one-house-per-acre kind of development that makes this all so painful. Indeed, it looks to be more and more the case that DSL is a very poor match for sprawling development; being 4 miles from the CO suddenly has a huge penalty attached to it. This would be interesting, and perhaps a positive sign if you like old-style cities, except for another nagging problem: Many inner city neighborhoods are not much better off in terms of DSL-based broadband, because the cost of upgrading some of the oldest telephone systems doesn't make sense, either, especially as the growing importance of cellular networks make the existing copper wire infrastructure less relevant for telephony. I would have thought that cable modems would pick up the slack there, but I know that in the city where I live, (Columbia, Missouri) the cable company isn't very interested in upgrading the system to provide service to the (poorer) urban core, and are fighting the satellite TV companies as hard as they can.

    So, what to do? Build a whole new generation of "internet-optimized" neighborhoods while pitching the urbs and the exurbs alike? I'm not really sure. One would think that wireless technologies could really help a lot here, but then you should note that they would tend to (strongly) favor compact development. Indeed, as I have accidentally found out over the past year, your 802.11b network can be fairly easily shared with your neighbors. :-) A generation or two down this road might be very interesting indeed.

  • Must be nice that you, and everyone you know, lives in areas where broadband is available. In the Real World, they aren't. Unless you are lucky, or live in a rich suburb, you don't get broadband.

    Now, this is an area where I would really like to see some hard numbers provided by a neutral third party. We all know that DSL might not be available even where it is listed as "available"; similarly, cable modem access that is "coming soon" could take weeks or years to arrive. My best guess is that actual availability is not as bad as you suggest. From some recent FCC data, [fcc.gov] I would guess at an availability rate of between 50% and 70%, although costs might still differ strongly from place to place.

    Many small towns have neither cable modem or DSL, as there is no incentive for the companies to upgrade their systems to provide it. I suspect, based on what I saw while living in Utah, that 30 years from now there will still be substantial portions of the country on dial-up.

    Small towns, by their very nature, are, well, small. They will never be on the leading edge of anything much, which is of course both a plus and a minus. What I think will be interesting is whether the lack of access will become a material factor in people's relocation decisions in the near future. If it does, we might see some *very* interesting changes in the pattern of urban, suburban, and exurban growth of the last several decades. Population densities have been going way down in many places during the last century as the car has become a dominant transportation mode. It would be interesting if advances in communication technology could reverse that trend.

  • Just like a yank to mistake 'American' culture for 'North American' culture....
  • A pound of C4 located convniently to your neighborhood plant should take care of Qwest's plans (or lack thereof)

  • by Eidolon ( 29916 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:45AM (#177851)
    There may be something to what he's saying. I think Dvorak is normally a blowhard, but let me tell you a story.

    For the better part of a year, I tried to Qwest (then US West) to either stop sending me ads for DSL or install it in my home. I spoke with many of their representatives, tested my lines online and through their service office, and finally encountered someone very high up in the food chain in their broadband department, who was smart and helpful (if you know Qwest, you know how amazing that is) and went to the trouble of gathering data about my phone lines and making the necessary calculations to determine whether DSL would work in my home, and if so, how well.

    This was, in summary, the conversation we had:

    "So, thank you very much for going to all this trouble."

    "Oh, no problem, you're welcome."

    "What did you discover? Can I get DSL at my house?"

    "I'm sorry, it's not going to work."

    "Does that mean, it won't work now but it will work at some point in the near future?" (Qwest kept our hopes up with slogans about new equipment and plant upgrades. Everyone would have DSL Real Soon Now.)

    "Uh, no. I'm sorry. You will never have DSL at your location."

    "Never? Never as in 'we have no immediate plans to provide DSL in your area?'"

    "No, never as in you will never have DSL, ever, unless you move somewhere else."

    "I see. Well, thanks again for your trouble."

    The punchline: I live approximately 500 feet too far from the nearest DSL-equipped central office, and the plant in my neighborhood is so old and crappy that Qwest has no plans to do anything but patch it up forever. It's funny, because I get acceptable analog modem connections (48 Kbps most of the time). One would imagine DSL would be no problem here at some point. Yet, a pretty big wheel at Qwest said, "never." DSL may become widespread, but it will never be ubiquitous, even if I am the only exception (which I seriously doubt).
  • Not everyone can justify spending $480/year for a cable modem when a dial-up costs only $240 ($20/year) and ties up your phone line. Wait, at best, an extra phone line will cost you, at best, $20/month, so we're looking at about the same price. What is my point? With a little digging and thinking, his prices are bogus.

    Broadband will not be a 'standard' until a lot more people have access to it. Plain and simple. Also, people sign up for dial-up because their computers come with special offers and modems. A lot of these people don't know any better. They're taking baby steps into the world of computing and may not understand the benefits of broadband. They may not even know that they can access their AOL through their cable modem.

    Dvorak, as usual, is just being sensationalist.

  • Who need's to disconnect?

    I've just got a 28.8 modem, and if there's anything big (or a bunch of them) I want to download I just add them to a script ("getem"!) using wget that I'll run when I'm done using the net. If anything fails wget can continue from where it stopped if there was any error.

    I think most ISP's (like mine) will disconnect you anyway after enough dead time - I can't think I've ever seen the connection still up in the morning.
  • Well for some poeople the cost difference between dial-up (anywhere from free to $20-25/mo) and DSL ($40 or so) is going to be an issue, even if it is available.

    There's also the fact that even where DSL is "available", you may be too far from the CO (like me) to be able to get it, and there's not much that can be done about that, even if the max distance can be extended - there's always going to be people out of range.

    No cable access here either :-(
  • You're lucky to even get that 48Kbps dial-up connection - I'm too far from the CO too, and only get 28.8Kbps. You probably know it, but you *would* be able to get IDSL (144/144), since the range is considerably further, although it's a lot more expensive than ADSL (figure around $70/mo at the cheapest, maybe more depending on the provider).
  • I don't know what my ISP's TOS are, but in practice I don't seem to be getting disconnected based on connection time, although I've had a few download sites that will do that. The way I workaround that one is to telnet into my ISP (Solaris shell account is for free) and download into the /tmp directory where there's no file quota limits, then ftp from the ISP back into my Linux box and transfer it. I normally leave an "at" job running to delete the big temp file a few hours later just in case they'd get upset - never had any complaints about doing this yet, which surprises me!
  • i remember when they cable guy came to put our box in in the early 80's. he had to run coax every leaving bits and pieces of sheilding and wires in his wake. it was expensive at the time (hell our vcr was huge by todays standards) and here we are now. cable tv is cheap enough to be used to educate the masses and teach them the moral lessons of pokemon.

    my parents and the others on my block were footing the bill for for the infrastructure and now that it is in place whe have cable tv in every home (better than clean water :?), at least some might think so). like any new technology it will take some time and the time is inversly porportional to the demand. if enough people want it it will get there alot quicker.

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • by revscat ( 35618 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @08:14AM (#177862) Journal

    IMHO, having bandwidth intensive applications on your website not only isolates your from reaching a large portion of your user base, but it also tells me that you haven't done something correctly. Even Flash, as complicated as it can be, is a very compact data format relative to MPEG, QuickTime, or other multimedia formats. Pretty pictures tend to distract the user from what they are at the page for in the first place. This isn't to say that media intensive sites don't have a place, for they do. But only in a limited set of circumstances.

    My rules for designing good websites are:

    Make em standards compliant [w3c.org]

    Make em work on different browsers on different platforms. [webstandards.org] Incompatible with the first point, but there we are.

    They only have content that is necessary to the purpose of the site

    I assume that Dvorak's audience here is web designers. If so, he's telling us nothing we didn't aleady know. (And if you're reading Dvorak for tips on web design, then, umm, go here [alistapart.com] instead. You'll be better served.) The net is still (thank Buddha) primarily a text-based medium. Even on high speed connections it takes a significant amount of time to download multimedia content. It's just simple politeness not to require your users to download that crap unless they request it. But even if broadband does become universal, the Right Thing To Do(TM) will still be to make pages that are as lean as possible, for simple reasons of maintainability and professionalism.

    If, on the other hand, you have no multimedia on your site and it takes longer than 8 secs to load on a 28.8 connection, you should probably be reconsider your design choices and/or toolset. Throw GoLive out the goddamn window & get one book on HTML & one on JavaScript, k?

    (BTW: I saw Princess Mononoke for the 1st time last night. 5-stars, friends! Ck it!)

    - Rev.
  • My favorite head scratcher from this article:

    . Compare this situation with Windows and Linux: Windows is dial-up, and Linux is broadband--a niche market.

    Apropos to what? I use linux with a 33.6 modem every day. Weird, man.

  • Must be nice that you, and everyone you know, lives in areas where broadband is available. In the Real World, they aren't. Unless you are lucky, or live in a rich suburb, you don't get broadband. Many small towns have neither cable modem or DSL, as there is no incentive for the companies to upgrade their systems to provide it. I suspect, based on what I saw while living in Utah, that 30 years from now there will still be substantial portions of the country on dial-up. Heck, there are towns in Nevada that still use party-lines for their phone systems. IIRC, BellSouth didn't replace the last mechanical phone switch until about 30 years after the electronic switches were invented.
  • Don't the filters and modems do all the work? If the phone company needs to modify its network significantly then DSL could take a long time to grow to where it is useful to home users.

    You have just described the problem with DSL (and cable modem). Infrastructure. Switches need to be installed in the central office building. If there isn't room, they aren't installed. The wiring from the switch to the house has to be of good enough quality to carry the signal. If it isn't, it has to be replaced (which may involve tearing up streets, climbing a few hundred poles, etc). There can't be any repeaters in the line. 30 years from now people will still be using dial-up.

  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:45AM (#177870)
    You make an excellent point. Always-on is very important, especially given the 30-second-plus connect time of modern modems.

    Of course the downside to this is that you're a sitting duck for k1dd13z, but that's what home firewalls are for. I use an SMC Barricade, which can be had nowadays for under $100, and it lets two (or more) computers share the link.

    One reason (not the only one!) that DSL is so hard to provide is that it overshoots the mark. It was designed for video on demand, which needed 1.5 Mbps, so it doesn't work on marginal wires (and thus is unavailable to, oh, 50-60% of USA households). A broadband always-on scheme that delivered, say, 256-512 kbps, but was more robust, would be more appropriate for most users. Just not as macho.

    And as a cable modem user, I can vouch for how easy they are to get installed and working.
  • Like the manager I've known who, having read that download time is important, applied idiot's logic and concluded that reducing the delivery time of a page from 400 milliseconds to 200 would double page access by outside users.

    After the web page involved was necessarily stripped of content to do this and when, of course, the number of users dropped precipitously as a result, refused to believe the real reason for it and demanded the sysadmins and web engineers "prove" to him "why the page is now being delivered more slowly [instead] to the users".

  • Which is why DSL wont work. Someone needs to take the technology of a regular mode and make it faster. 56k to 128 then to 256k. Then maybe high speed will take off. But until normal computer modems can do the speed of dsl we wont see it grow like people want it to.

    In other words, spend as much money per line for upgrading lines used for both modem and voice lines (which don't need the upgrade) as it would cost them to add DSL service to the line - and then have to add more DSL hardware on top of that for those who need better than this still half-assed service, which would still be delivering digital data through totally unnecessary analog-to-digital-and-back conversions.

    I can only conclude you must work for a modem manufacturer.

  • The problem with DSL is that telcos are trying to do it over ANCIENT POTS lines. Much of it untwisted, oxidizing, all connected at rats nest type junction boxes, alligator clips, etc. Good enough for voice. But no more than that.

    And this whole "how many feet are you from the switch" contingency only proves that DSL is a HUGE KLUGE.

    It's not just the quality of the old lines. The distance limit is inherent in the use of the copper pairs.

    A copper pair has stray capacatance, inductance, and resistance. The stray capacatance and inductance combine to form a transmission line. If it's balanced well enough that the audio isn't crufty, it's balanced well enough that the first hundred or two megahertz is pretty OK, too.

    Deviations from a smooth twised pair (like the stuff you see in junction boxes) distort the smoothness of the transmission line, producing some reflections and other pathologies. But the amount of havoc they produce is dependent on their size relative to the wavelength of the signal - and the wavelength of one megahertz is pushing a kilometer. (That's why T1 (and Primary Rate ISDN), with a carrier at 1.544/2 MHz and harmonics several times higher, can travel over ordinary pair, junction boxes and all.) Just don't splice in a branch with a few hundred feet of wire to give options on what house to feed. (Or cut the branch off when somebody wants to use the line for DSL.)

    But the wire also has resistance. And that makes the transmission line a LOSSY transmission line.

    The distance limit comes from the fact that the stray resistance is in SERIES and the stray capacatance is in PARALLEL. That forms a low-pass filter. The farther you go down the wire, the more AC is attenuated, and the higher frequencies are attenuated more than lower frequencies. They are also shifted in phase as you go farther down the wire, and the combination of the two effects distorts waveforms as well as losing power.

    After a few miles, even audio becomes muffled. (Then phone companies may add "loading coils" - lump inductors which level out the high frequencies a bit up to the resonance - a couple KHz - but eat everything above that. Which is why you can forget DSL, base-rate ISDN, and 56k modems in rural areas.)

    A DSL modem acts like a bundle of narrow-band modems operating at a comb of frequencies. Each modem handles only a narrow range of frequencies, so the phase distortion within its band does not produce significant waveform distortion of its portion of the signal. The modems are independent, so phase differences between the separate carriers can be ignored. And the modems can independently adjust their gain, so the selective fading of the higher frequencies can be compensated for - up to a point.

    Eventually the signal in the higher bands is too weak to reliably extract from line and modem internal noise. So the modem drops off the higher carriers and runs at a lower data rate. And the farther out, the more you lose, until there's really no point to it...

    Want to go farther? Use thicker wires, spaced farther apart. (Lower resistance and lower capacatance.) Want to go still farther? Use an amplifier/filter combination (like the cable systems do) or a repeater (like some extended-DSL systems). Want higher data rate, ditto - and also use a different insulation. (Insulation can attenuate REALLY high frequencies by "inductively coupling" a "stray resistance" into the "stray inductance" of the line.)

    But if you replaced the copper with a type-II superconductor and the plastic with vacuum insulation, and didn't foul up the smooth twist too much, you could run your DSL line to the other side of the continent.

    The main thing that "category >3" lines are doing is twisting the copper pair more often and more evenly, so frequencies in the hundreds of megahertz don't couple to nearby wires and get interfered with, distorted, or lost. For the first couple megahertz, phone lines are OK except for the selective attenuation issue. Cat 5 still has the same selective attanuation as Cat 3, which is why you can only run it around in a building rather than all over the city.
  • With a tenth of the U.S. population and the vast majority of Canadians living within a hundred miles of the U.S. border, it's much easier to set up the infrastructure for Cable, DSL and telecommunications in general. That's why cable TV flourished in Canada much sooner that it did in the U.S.; it's also why it's relatively painless to get cable or DSL service here too.
  • Dude, the problem is that they don't have enough DSLAM ports.

    Kind of like if you have an 8 port hub, and 8 computers, and then you want to add a ninth, you're fscked, even though you've got a NIC.

  • by kniedzw ( 65484 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @08:04AM (#177879)

    I'm being pedantic. I know. It's horrible. ...but I'm getting sick of people thinking that broadband simply means "fat pipes."

    In reality, the distinction is between "broadband" and "baseband." Broadband sends the data signal over a carrier frequency. In most cases, this frequency is your cable television information. Baseband is sent directly over the wires as spikes in signal, much in the same way that old-style telegraphs were sent, as with Morse Code.

    Having said that, I suppose it's inevitable that "broadband" will eventually become a codeword for "high-speed, generally residential, Internet access," but I'm fighting that trend every step of the way. :)

  • She has one phone line (cancelled the other one when the price went up).

    She will never pay $50 a month for broadband, not when dialup is $20 or less.

    Same with my sister, and three brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles and so on. I'm the only one paying for broadband.

    Are all my relatives hicks? Nope, just cheap. They don't see enough benefit to go through the hassle and expense.

    Dvorak is correct, widespread broadband is MUCH further off than any analysts have been speculating.

    (to be fair, one brother had DSL, but has moved to Germany where he cannot get broadband at his apartment).

  • It's not like that everywhere.

    DSL and cablemodems in Canada are included in the price of the service. I'm actually quite shocked by how the IsPs down there would charge people for the devices. In 1997, when ADSL was still new (it was introduced in 1996 here), you had to sign a one year contract. Nowadays you don't have a contract to sign for a minimum term of service, but there are setup fees (100-150$) which are usually waved (the never ending special sign up offers that Shaw@Hame and Sasktel use to get customers).

    The basic service is ~45$ Cdn a month before taxes. It includes traditional ISP stuff (some web space, email, etc), and the useful part (the bit pipe). If you pay more, you get more. I pay 150$ Cdn a month (again, before tax) for 3Mbit/640Kbit transfer rates. I get two static IPs as well, and ignore the ISP services (running my own).

    Setup takes at most 2 weeks (because of the demand and scarcity of techs). No one in thes city of 270,000 I know of who has inet access has dialup still. Maybe 1/40 inet connected households does, as a rough guess. Any independant ISPs which don't support broadband died out over the past few years, leaving the continual service battle between Shaw@Home and Sasktel.

  • I get pissed when I can't get 300KB/s on my cable modem. I couldn't imagine paying the same and hoping for 300kbps. Of course, you may have meant bytes instead of bits...in that case, rock on.


  • Or pay for your bandwidth on your DSL line. I don't know about cable, but a lot of DSL providers will give you static IPs and won't bitch at you about your usage starting in the neighborhood of $200 a month (You might be able to find it for less now.)

    Back when I was working at MCI, we'd charge $1600 a month plus local loop charges for a T1 line. For some customers, local loop charges were more than the base T1, too. We still had a terms of service though, and reserved the right to cut your line off if we got enough complaints that a customer was using their connection for spamming.

  • 10 years ago (or even 5) you couldn't call a company like MCI and get a T1 run to your house. I called them and asked. They just wouldn't do it. 5 years back you could get ISDN run, though, if you wanted to drop $200 a month with an internet provider that supported that kind of thing. I did that for a while.

    I also played with the early Linux load balancing driver; I'd had two voice lines and two modems set up and found that I could usually get somewhere in the neighborhood of about 40kbits/sec with two 28.8 modems. I ended up setting a fellow I knew in New York up with a dual pentium with four 56k modems in it and some shell scripts to keep all four modems dialed up at all times. It seemed to work very well, quite an impressive feat for the OS (MS "Innovated" that feature about a year later, though I haven't heard much from them about it lately.

    It's kinda rambly but may be neat history.

  • BITD John use to produce some thought provoking columns. It seems now that his job has turned to focusing on the problems in our industry, and I believe his first-person anecdotes are hardly representative of what the typical individual will experience.

    No, John's job is to write troll-like articles that get linked to from places like slashdot. That way, his page gets thousands of hits, his bosses make plenty of ad money, and they keep him around for another week.


  • This is fact. Everyone I know in college got DSL or cable the instant they got their own places. While a lot of users may be getting dialup, once they, and their kids, try broadband, they're never going back.

    "I may not have morals, but I have standards."
  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <gorkon@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 04, 2001 @08:54AM (#177899)
    In think we are looking in the wrong place. Cable Companies have a chance to totally steal the business off of the LECS. Everyone might malign the cable companies, but one thing that they are doing is making it easy for you to connect (with self install or idiot install). DSL's run by the LECS basically, suck in my opinion, until you get it setup. The telephone companies are under this mass assumption that we will continue to pay ridiculous prices for Voice and Data and not look to others for service. I believe that everything will come into the hosue on one piece of cable, be it fiber or coaxial. Everyone will complain about Cable Modems, but with exception of a couple outages (for which I got credit for....try that with a LEC!), I am nothing but happy! I started out with a Legacy modem and moved to DOCSIS because of a problem. DSL has too many problems becuase it's all related to heavy duty business stuff like T-1's and T-3's and must be configured similarly. I ain't saying it's easy to setup a cable modem (for the company anyway) but they seem to have less bureaucratic horse manure to deal with unlike the too big for their britches LECS. The only other little problem I have with my cable modem just every once in a while (usually starts when a special on new accounts is going on) is that occasionally they outsell the avaulable IP's on the DHCP server and sometimes you can't get one, but this happens so rarely now I don't notice.
  • People have downloaded ~100GB of crap off of my FTP server in the last month to month and a half. I'm on a 1.5Mbit DSL line. Cable is meant for Joe Shmoe I-burst-to-1.5Mbit-when-i'm-downloading-my-go4t-pr 0n-but-don't-really-use-the-bandwidth-since-they'd -cap-me. I like the freedom of paying for access and not being told what I can do with it. I rue the day that I will have to go to a cable provider thats trying to sell me some consumer oriented bullshit instead of the phatp1p3 I have now.


    Fsck the millennium, we want it now.
  • @home thinks of cable modem like cable TV, graze all the adverts you want kiddies. No servers, random IP, but totally clueless, arogent and dishonest service reps. I was once told, while asking for DNS that works, that by surrendering my box's static IP I would get better DNS. Right! Back to leaching off the local university DNS.

    DSL companies sell more equal footing. Mine, Telocity, provides static IP with few restrictions (I think they have some kind of upload limit per month). It's not perfect, but it's much much better. If Bell South does not screw them and they can keep their lines open as well or better than the cable folks, the cable folks can kiss me goodbye!

  • Dvorak was a pretty smart guy back in 81-84, but he is currently completely lost. He's the guy who you expect to hear "why do we need these here new fangled pentium boxes? My old 8086 is workin fine!" He is a media head, not a techy anymore, and he is bitter because he can't keep up. I assume because he is so out of it with technology, he figures no one can use the stuff.
  • More correct than you probably realised. All a DSL does (well, "all" is a bit negative.. .it's actually quite a bit) is modulate your TCP/IP (or whatever is coming out of your nic) to a high frequency analog signal which it then amplifies the hell out of to get it across that up-to-18000 feet of low-grade twisted-pair phone line running to a DSL demodulator connected to a fiber line.

    Actually, a T1 line works more or less like that, just forcibly pumping bits over copper. DSL uses a quite sophisticated modulation scheme so it can work over wires that couldn't handle a T1.

  • DSL ought to work much better than it does. Most of the problems seem to stem from inept coordination of installation, bad tech support, the involvement of too many organizations, and insufficient regulation of service quality.
  • ...but as a DSL subscriber I'd consider myself an expert at:

    1. Paying a $50 bill every month, service or no service.

    2. Enduring month-long outages at a time.

    3. Having the support number auto-hang-up on me after 40 minutes of hold time. (I'm serious!)

    4. Calling 10-12 times and never getting a support representative to take personal responsibility for my case.

    5. Calling the service line and telling them that it's their damn routing table and that they should do a rip and rebuild again (They love that!)

    ...but all in all it's still worth it for the blazing fast pr0n downloads!

  • I think most ISP's (like mine) will disconnect you anyway after enough dead time - I can't think I've ever seen the connection still up in the morning.

    It's not just dead time. I know that at the very least my ISP [att.net] explicitly states that they will disconnect based on connection time, not on usage level, when they feel the need to disconnect people. I'd strongly recommend looking at your TOS to find out.

  • BITD John use to produce some thought provoking columns. It seems now that his job has turned to focusing on the problems in our industry, and I believe his first-person anecdotes are hardly representative of what the typical individual will experience.

    Sure, I have my own DSL sagas circa 1998-2000 that I certainly do not want to relive. Lately though, my experiences with PacBell Internet have been a lot different. Fast, reliable connections, 75% of my questions getting answered (they still need to work on that), low hold times for tech support. I actually get roughly 5.5Mbps download (it's enhanced DSL) and the full 384K up, and my pre-war apartment builing is wired with farily oxidized Cat 3 cable, (and the C.O. is about 1.5 miles away as the crow flies)!

    I characterize my earlier DSL experiences as those of dealing with an emerging technology and a provider experiencing massive growth pains. I still hear DSL horror stories, and yes, when I design a website, it is still with an 8 second load time@48K in mind, but I would not count DSL out. The fact the dialup is growing faster than broadband suggests that broadband will grow, because dialup is a stepping stone to broadband for the newbie, and let's face it, at this point _ALL_ growth in consumer access is due to newbies. Where I live, you have to be completely insane to pay $10 less a month (compared to DSL) to get the second phone line so you can talk and surf. Maybe time isn't worth much to some people...

  • ...at least for the web. I will read email at dialup speeds, but for web browsing, if I can't have broadband, I'd rather do without.

    Far be it from me to disagree with the great Dvorak, but I have to believe even the non-geek crowd can be taught to crave bandwidth. DSL providers and cable operators are sure trying. Has anyone seen the cute (the first few times you see them) Roadrunner commercials? Beep-beep!

  • by kalifa ( 143176 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @09:11AM (#177927)
    In European countries, where you're billed on a pay-per-length of connection basis, the biggest asset of dial-up, ie cheapness, fades away for heavy Internet users (which I am). I share my life between Paris and New York: in France, I have broadband access, whereas I'm still with good old dial-up in New York.

    Otherwise, the claim "dial-up is a standard, and standards tend to stay" is rather Dvorakiesque (read: stupid) in my opinion: standards stay for compatiliblity reasons, plain and simple. This is not a problem with broadband: you don't have to change your PC, your operating system or the plugs in your appartement when you decide to go cable or DSL: just buy a modem.
  • Yeah, but...

    When did the telephone become truly standard? When did the telephone move from a line for a town to a line per house? When did the telephone move from 34K to broadband?

    If you're going to use the telephone as an example, than you should realize that the telephone really does exemplify what Dvorak's saying. When the telephone started, it was a line between two locations. In it's first useful implementation, there were actual human operators who used switchboards to connect a caller from one line to another. The telephone had to go a long way from to reach the 34K standard - and it took a while for it to go just like it'll take a while for broadband to come into common usage.

    In 1877, there were no switchboards in use - there was practically no telephone infrastructure (they were building the infrastructure then, as the first public telephone service started in January 1878). If you wanted to talk to someone a ways away, you used telegraphs or the postal service. While Decemeber 1877 stands on the start of the telephone revolution, the telephone had a slow start - the first "modern" telephones became common around the 1950s - when rotary dialing and the dial tone finally became a common standard (a variety of other methods were used before then, including operators, existing rotary dialing, etc.) - but it was in the 1950s that it became possible to dial for even long distance calls. Although it wasn't until the 1960s before even that became universal.

    Which means that telephones as almost all of us think about them didn't really come into existance until the 1960s - and those were rotary phones. Touch tone didn't come into play until around the 1980s, about the same time as cellphones came around.

    Which means that although the telephone may have drastically changed people's lives, it didn't come into widespread usage until after the Great Depression (during which the President got a telephone) and didn't even reach what we'd consider "normal" until around the 1960s. So if you want to think of broadband as a new standard, and base it on the telephone, then Dvorak's right - standard broadband (dial tone / rotary dialing) is still a couple of decades off, while most people stick with the human operators or crank switches.

  • It's interesting that you are so certain that where *I* live isn't "the Real World". A neat little way of discounting everyone's experiences but your own, isn't it? "Oh, you don't live in the Real World (TM). Only I live in the real world!"

    News flash, bub. Most people don't live in small towns or the ruburbs, anymore. I'm not particularly thrilled about it, but most people live in cities and the suburbs. Personally, I live in the city of Pittsburgh (PA). Hardly a rich suburb. Maybe I'm just lucky.
  • Ok. Every now and then I enjoy reading an interesting (albiet ignorant) ZDNet article. But what is this guy talking about?

    34 Kbps, the typical speed produced by a dial-up connection (plus or minus 10 Kbps), is a true standard.

    Well sure, but it's quickly becoming outdated. With roadrunner in the price range of a dialup account plus an extra phone line, who would want to stick with it?

    Nobody today can produce a Web site and not care about the dial-up user. So everything gets designed and optimized for the lowest common denominator: 34K.

    And I used to have to still consider people using Netscape Navigator 2.0 when I was designing my web pages. Do I still have to? NO! Because OLDER TECHNOLOGIES ARE BOUND TO BE REPLACED by something faster and better. I still make my pages VIEWABLE with even lynx, but will they get the experience without a better browser or a faster connection? Now, today we still have to consider the dial-up user. Yes. But why would we begin to call it a standard now, right when it is being ready to be replaced?

    A couple months ago my Grandmother (still trying to stay ahead of the curve, god bless her heart) called me to discuss this crazy commercial that she saw where she could send movies and stuff to others! I set up a call with roadrunner to her house, they installed it, and she loves it. Ask anyone who has used broadband if they would go back to a dialup. The resounding answer will be no. Whether or not the companies that base their business around it make it (won't even go into their business plans) is another story. Just my $0.02.

    Revelations 0:0 - The begining of the end.
  • ... those online services had a niche market, as tech savvy geeks represented the market.

    The net is used by nearly all and a good majority of them are not tech savvy, nor do they wish to be - they just use the net as newspaper, TV, or radio, or telephone.

    And bandwidth is still expensive - any high traffic site faces $5K and more for monthly bandwidth charges - that may be peanuts for a large company but that is prohibitive for most citizens ...

    Though I do agree that Dvorak is a clueless hack to be ignored ...

  • ... mark on this one ...

    I'm reading a lot of comments here where people are questioning the ease of setup, difference between dialup and broadband, etc. ... While, those are good arguments, I have to say you arn't getting the point - Broadband is not taking off as fast because (1) it's still not available to a large segment of the population, (2) it's still nowhere simple as plugging a phone line in and getting a dial tone and (3) a good deal of people really don't see the need for broadband over a standard dialup connect ...

    DSL providers and cable companies have scaled back their rollouts - in my neighborhood, cable access was supposed to be here already but the target date keeps slipping (first it was summer of 2000, then it was early 2001, then it was end of 2001, now I'm told by Cox that they're re-examining their rollout strategy - whatever that means ...). I keep getting ad fliers telling me that I'm elgible for DSL but when I call, I'm told I can't get it and that there are no plans for when and just to keep checking back periodically. I believe Sprint broadband is available but I'm not too familiar with it and fear spending money on technology that may be defunct after a year or two ...

    Dialup net access is simple - you plug in the phone line to the back of the computer, and most people are so lazy that they are paying $25 a month to AoL just because their machine came preloaded or they popped in a 30 days free CD, not realizing that they could receive the same service for $15 a month or less from a local ISP. And sorry, broadband is not as simple as cable hookup even - most families have issues with multiple PCs, extra costs for wiring, etc. ... - it's not a big deal for techies like /. posters and readers but for the average Joe it is a larger hassle.

    This may shock some geeks, but broadband access is not seen as a "must have" by many. Again, the average Joe feels he is served enough with email and basic net access. He's not downloading ISO images or building an MP3 collection. Yes, this may change at some point in the future, but not for at least several years. Also, many don't realize the difference unless they are a heavy net user - and Dvorak is right (o, it pains me to say that ...) about the web being standardized for a dialup connect visitor - it doesn't make sense to do otherwise - and he's right - streaming media via broadband still looks choppy - it does make the net surf exprience a quicker, smoother one, but unless you use the net frequently, is it worth the extra money and hassle?

  • Indeed, dial-up is a great deal more reliable, although this isn't due so much to the technology as the support behind it. Consider:

    DSL - The phone company puts multiple people on one DSL line (yes, you do often share, despite the "cable sucks, it's a shared line!" hype), and has absolutely no clue how to support it well. One of my friends uses DSL, and it's awful - disconnects almost every day, and a blatant lack of tech support from the phone company. I notice that the people I see most dropping from my online games are the people on DSL. :P

    Cable - Ok, you have to share a cable line with others in your neighborhood. Honestly though, I've never found this to be much of a problem, and neither have any of my cable using buddies online. We all still get great speed. However, the tech support is just garbage most of the time. I had to jump through multiple bureaucratic hoops to get up to a "high level" tech support guy who pinged my cable modem and told me "everything looks fine." Thanks a lot.

    When I was having massive lag spike problems with my cable modem, I was seriously considering going back to dial-up. Modem may be slow, but at least it's reliably slow.

    For broadband to really replace dial-up modem, the companies need to support it better, and actually give a damn about their customers. They seem to think I'll stay with a provider who can't give me stable service, even if I do get 800k/sec downloads when it's working. I won't.
  • the guy right before you decides to set up a macro to download porn 24/7,

    That's against the cable company's TOS. Didn't you know? You can't actually USE the connection 24 hours a day unless you're at the keyboard 24 hours a day. You're not supposed to automate anything or actually take advantage of the bandwidth and connectivity that they provide. It is technically possible, but contractually forbidden.

    Of course, you are right about location. Many people have a choice between Cable or Cable. Sometimes they have a choice between DSL and DSL.

    And if it's Cable, their choice is often between the local monopoly branch of a big multinational corporation and the local monopoly branch of a big multinational corporation. With the aforementioned TOS.

    That is what I don't like about Cable Modems.

    Of course, if it's DSL the choice is often between getting DSL from the local Telco monopoly branch of a big multinational corporation, or from the alternative provider that is about to go bankrupt.

  • From Dvorak's article:

    I have a megabit line into my home office, and when I view a streaming video feed, I still get a herky-jerky 20-Kbps stream. The true advantage of broadband is realized only on FTP sites or peer-to-peer, where downloading is optimized for speed.

    I'm not sure what he's trying to say, here. If anything, most video servers are far better optimized for real-time bit streaming than most FTP servers. And "peer-to-peer" is so broad a classification as to be meaningless. As any Napster user can attest, it's quite common to find oneself at the receiving end of a 0.1 kbps feed from some hapless dialup user supporting 20 simultaneous downloads.

    The point Dvorak seems to be trying to make is that the "last mile" (be it dialup, DSL, cable, or dedicated connection) isn't the only potential bottleneck in the path from a content provider to your computer. I used to work for a broadband media company, and I can attest that there are quite a few DSL providers out there who offer megabit connections to their subscribers, but who have an aggregate CO-to-backbone bandwidth adequate to support less than 20% of their subscribers at maximum rate. This oversubscription model works most of the time, as odds are good that only one subscriber out of five (or fewer) will need max bandwidth simultaneously. But let the law of averages fail, and suddenly everybody's bandwidth suffers.

    Similarly, there can be significant congestion between the content provider and the backbone, if capacity on this leg is poorly modeled or if demand grows beyond what was modeled. I call this phenomenon "suicide through success", in which a content service becomes popular, grows faster than was planned, and at some threshhold number of users saturates its outbound pipe and begins to degrade for everyone, driving users away.

    The best summary of the situation I've ever seen is: "Solving the broadband problem by increasing DSL and cable modem penetration is like solving traffic gridlock by widening driveways."


  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @09:07AM (#177943) Journal
    You should check out:

    http://www.newnetworks.com [newnetworks.com]

    It has all kinds of links to good stories on Broadband Issues, each of which would be worthy submissions to SlashDot.


    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • and it might be even possible one day to have a phone line as fast as a DSL, of course, then it would BE a dsl.

    More correct than you probably realised. All a DSL does (well, "all" is a bit negative.. .it's actually quite a bit) is modulate your TCP/IP (or whatever is coming out of your nic) to a high frequency analog signal which it then amplifies the hell out of to get it across that up-to-18000 feet of low-grade twisted-pair phone line running to a DSL demodulator connected to a fiber line. Of course, it adds a bunch of error correction as well, but it is a pretty good hack of a 100 year old phone system. Once it's there it's probably sent via ATM to your ISP, where it's changed back into a TCP/IP signal and sent out over whatever connection your ISP has to the net.

    Both DSL (and the UHF-ranged VDSL) and Digital Cable/Cable-modem suffer from the same difficulty - infrastructure costs. Whether one "wins" or the other depends on which can provide the service quickly enough in a particular area, and keep the costs of recouping the investment from preventing people from buying into the service. Once those initial costs are covered, and the roll-out of, say, DSL is fairly complete, the pricing can be rolled back (if there is sufficient economic or regulatory reason for the phone companies to do so) - rather like the cost of a 3 minute coast-to-coast long distance call dropping from around $25 in the first years of the service to around $.20 now (in NON-adjusted dollars).

  • Plenty of people talk about Cable Modem. Personally, I don't care much for a service that advertizes maximum achievable performance knowing full well that if it takes off like they want it to, that performance will drop through the toilet because the guy right before you decides to set up a macro to download porn 24/7, but hey, maybe you'll get lucky and the cable company will refuse to install faster than they can provide the service. Of course, given that the cable company where I'm at is now owned by AOL, I wouldn't hold my breath. Maybe AT&T is better.

    The central issue, however, is what's available when you're looking. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, there are numerous pockets without DSL availablity that do have Digital Cable/Cable Modem. In my part of town, DSL went in 3 years ago and Digital Cable just hit my high-rent apartment building sometime between Sunday night and whenever the last time I watched TV before that. Thus, I use DSL and have no plans of switching.

  • Fiber's expensive. Really expensive. Way too expensive to run to people's homes. It's an unfortunate reality, but it will be a long time before we get rid of that 24 gauge twisted pair running out of our phones.

    On a non-bandwidth-related issue, however, this is a good thing. We're in for a summer of proving that our power grid (at least here in the US) isn't up to snuff. Put in fiber to the home (at least in place of twisted pair) and your phone only works if youhave power. I, personally, want that 56 milliapres being sent to me by a big battery at the phone company.

  • True. But it's a lot simpler matter to control bandwidth in such a situation (as evidenced by the fact that even though the DSL protocols support at minimum 1.5MB inbound, the service is generally sold with 1/2 to 1/3rd of that). Being on the same Cable Modem ring is effectively the same as being on the same dumb hub.

    And, frankly, if the 2MB/sec maximum touted by cable modem companies is already down the the 100-200MB/sec experienced by the previous replyer, I'd start getting REALLY worried, since only a small percentage of cable subscribers on the line are currently using the broadband service. Keep in mind that these rates are being achieved on wires that have just been put in over the last couple years. How likely do you think AOL/TW (or AT&T, for that matter) is going to be to augement their existing digital cable lines for existing customers when those actual rates drop to 3-5MB/sec during peak times? And how long will it take once they start? It took them around a year just to lease more of an existing telephone infrastruture for their AOL service. This'll take laying still more cable. The permission to dig up the streets again could take a year or two itself in itself (especially when reps from Qwest or Verizon or whomever can go into the city council meeting show them just how much of a community need there isn't for more cable modem lines in 2 years).

  • Yes, the minimum ADSL protocol - the one allowing for 18000 feet to the fiber - supports 1.5Mbps per line. That's limited by the providers as it's not necessary for most subscribers. It also can be limited by dynamic bandwidth allocation for poorer lines. However, once your line is trained and your agreement is settled on, as a DSL subscriber you know your minimum connection rate. As a cable modem subscriber you know your maximum.

    So let's look at those numbers. Downloading from a fast ftp site, you get 100-200KBps, depending on time of day, on your "up to 100X faster than 28.8" line. That's 28-56% of advertised rate. Downloading from the same site, at any time of day, I get around 56KBps on my 512Kbps ADSL line. That's 88% of advertised capacity - far more easily accounted for by internet latency than any of the numbers you're getting, and it doesn't matter to me who's watching Friends or playing Everquest next door.

    Yes, you have the value add of having a faster (if inconsistantly so) connection for those locations that can make use of it. I have the value add of not having to send my data through a few dozen other people's homes. I also don't have a company that's trying (or will be trying) to get all of its customers to toss another 64KBps of digital voice data onto the same piece of coax with a voice-over-ip service.

    Of course, as I noted in another post, it really comes down to what's available in a particular area and how well it works. DSL beat cable modem into Minneapolis by 3 years, and works just fine. You've had a cable modem for two years on a ring that hasn't added more than a handful of users in that time. Lucky you.

    However, additional users will slow your line down if they're allowed on. Perhaps your provider is being judicious and only allowing so many on - if so, great. You're set. However, I've seen nothing from the two biggies (AOL/TW and AT&T) to indicate that they'd be opposed to overloading lines, at least for "reasonable" periods of time. And it wouldn't take "10,000,00 on one cable drop" to make a difference. 3 guys downloading an IE update at the same time and you're under DSL bandwidth left for you. It's just the physics of the line.

  • by MacGabhain ( 198888 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:38AM (#177954)

    Here in Qwest territory (I know, it's more in Bell South and Verizon territory) DSL is only about $10/month more than a second line. This goes to the availability point made earlier - if you're someone who is on line more than a half hour to an hour a day, DSL makes the whole experience better and isn't that much more expensive than the second line you'd likely want for your phone anyway.

    As far as content goes, there's certainly some out there. I've gotten high-speed realvideo from quite a number of sites and, of course, www.nakednews.com has a broadband feed that's quite good. :)

  • On cable, the best 'broad' band is the range of frequencies carring Playboy, Spice Channel, etc.
  • by ageitgey ( 216346 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:36AM (#177965) Homepage
    is that broadband providers are stuck on the old dial-up mentality. They think that they can get away with the kind of service that they used to subject dial-up users to (disconnects, unable to get a connection, etc). They price their services with the expectation that the average user isn't actually going to use the service all the time and won't be sharing large files. They advertise "always-on" connections and "instant downloads" but as soon as you try to stay connected all the time and actually use the bandwidth you pay for, they become upset. Ford doesn't sell you a truck and then make you keep it in the garage 18 hours each day and limit your mileage. Broadband providers should provide what they advertise. Gone are the days when you can run an ISP that is busy most of the day. Likewise, you can't sell broadband service and expect that people won't use it.
  • Don't forget that DSL or cable availability is still far from ubiquitous yet. Most places simply don't have it yet. Even worse, my parents aren't within a local call of a dialup provider without a special calling plan from the phone company!

    I think we also forget that not everyone is willing to pay the price of broadband, which is alot higher than the $9 dialups you can get. Many people just don't need it.

    Unfortunately, too many of us in the web industry forget or totally ignore the fact that not everyone is broadband. This is a major reason the web is such a bloated cow.

  • John Dvorak has a really great track record for talking absolute rubbish [catalog.com]

    Maybe the best way to think about his articles is to cheer for the opposite of what he's saying.

  • ...it just seems like Broadband's "EA" stage is going to be a bit longer than some others. But, if you compare broadband adoption/use to PC use, you'll see that it's most likely way ahead of the curve. The major detractor for the masses is that "BB" service is still at a price that most Internet user refuse to bear. Why would a family who spends only 10-15 hours a month online, doing nothing but e-mail, maybe some banking and IMing want to pay double what they're paying now for service?

    Personally, I suspect that two other things are probably restricting the growth of broadband...
    1. Many people have "BB" access at work and simple spend time at the office surfing and thus don't need high speed access at home.
    2. Many people have never used broadband, thus they don't know what the difference relative to dail-up is like.
    I personally have cable access and every neighbor who's seem my access, now has broadband as well. There's something about going to your favorite website and seeing it load in 1/10th the time or watching an MP3 download in 1/100th the time it takes for their dail-up, that makes the cost seem much more reasonable.

    I think John D. is wrong about it taking decades for it to be ubiquitous. In fact, if AOL ever really gets behind "BB" and makes it affordable at say $30 a month, you'll see an explosion of "BB" use among the masses.

    Sig, we don't need no stinking sig!
  • I'm in central London. We've got access to cable (in theory) and xDSL. I haven't bothered looking into former as I'd have to move to the cable co's own ISP. The latter is available from my existing ISP (Demon Internet [demon.co.uk]) but it's fifty quid a month plus large installation charge - and that's the cheapest retail package, with a 20:1 contention ratio... (translation - fifty quid is about $75.)

    I looked into this for while as I'm paying nearly that much in POTS charges, but now I've decided to run my own web proxy, upgrade to 56K (yep, I'm still on 33.6)' hopefully that'll reduce charges whilst speeding up access a bit. I'll look back at DSL when the contention ratio is better and the service is cheaper. Oh, and I've got the OpenBSD firewall/gateway working properly... at present it keeps locking the password file apparently at random...
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"

  • iomart.com are the cheapest I've found - not sure which geographical areas they cover though.
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"
  • 1. Many people have "BB" access at work and simple spend time at the office surfing and thus don't need high speed access at home.
    2. Many people have never used broadband, thus they don't know what the difference relative to dail-up is like.

    That's funny. My father is a UNIX developer for a large international telco equipment manufacturer, so he's quite accustomed to browsing on the fat pipe at work. When cable modems first became available in his area he swore up and down that he didn't need it, he'd never use it, and his V.34 dialup was good enough.

    That lasted until the day he needed me to test a piece of hardware on one of my PCs. He came over to my house and we had to download a 10MB driver package for the device. He was absolutely dumbstruck by how quickly it was downloaded to my system (cable modem). He had the cable modem service ordered and installed within a week. Apparently he knew that it would be faster than dialup, but didn't realize just how much faster it could be. I mean, I've got a T1 at work that I share with 60 other employees. My cable modem gives much better throughput than I get at the office. There's no comparison!

    The other thing about broadband is that it changes the way I use the Internet (dad too). I used to spend a couple hours a day dialed in and reading various tech news sites or downloading drivers/patches. But I never played online games and I found it very difficult to take part in an online discussion (like Slashdot) because it takes so long to load pages that there's no hope of ever reading all the comments in a single article. During my first week of cable modem usage my "sessions" dropped from a couple hours every night on dialup to about 20-30 minutes on cable. I'm now back up to a couple hours per night, but I get a lot more done in that timeframe. Dad discovered the beauty of Napster and Gnutella and what-not. Now to mention he has VPN over cable to his office (now that's a true timesaver there!). He's very happy with it.
  • Broadband has been "just around the corner" for 15 years or so.

    The difference is that 10 years ago (or 5, for that matter), I couldn't just call my cable/phone company and have a megabit+ run into my living room (at least, not for a price I could afford.) I'd say there's a big difference between a world where broadband is something companies talk about offering, and a world where they're aggressively rolling it out to the mass market. Whether consumers'll buy it is a completely different issue, and that's what Dvorak is tossing around in his uniquely informative way.

  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:46AM (#177995)
    Most activity targets the dial-up user, making broadband just a luxury. And in some cases, it may be an unnecessary luxury, as full-speed feeds to broadband users are fairly rare. I have a megabit line into my home office, and when I view a streaming video feed, I still get a herky-jerky 20-Kbps stream

    Color TV is just a luxury, too. The truth is, waiting for a modern site to load over a modem is just plain painful. Most dialup users don't realize this, as they've never used broadband-- instead, they think the net just has to be slow. Broadband is slowly making inroads into people's consciousness. The best thing about it is that it doesn't require you to make some massive choice as a content provider-- any site that works over a dial-up connection will work even better over broadband. And those 20K internet streams are generally the result of poor site design. I consistently find myself taking advantage of over a megabit of my connection, just for day-to-day applications: watching movie trailers, downloading files, etc.

    As far as the increasing numbers of dial-up customers; well, that seems to conflict with another recent study that showed cable-modem and DSL use to be up significantly while overall numbers of Internet subscribers dropped. In any case, dialup connections are easy to get into and out of; they don't represent any sort of commitment. It's fairly likely that a good portion of the new dialup crowd will eventually find themselves using broadband.

  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @09:19AM (#177996)
    There's no incentive (or profit) to supply broadband content until there's a lot of broadband, and no incentive to get broadband until there's a lot of content.

    Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. I read the whole article, and it was this fallacy that got me particularly teed off. Broadband content is not like HDTV. You don't need sites to provide special "broadband" content to get an enormous benefit from the modem. Simply getting through that obnoxious Flash download in 3 seconds instead of 30 every time I go to my bank's site is justification for the exta $20/mo, in my opinion. You don't have to be watching streaming video to appreciate the difference. Most of what I do on my broadband connection is simple web browsing. Browsing a catalog, or graphics-intensive site (and most modern sites are) on a modem is slow and unpleasant compared to the same experience over a broadband connection.

    There were some pretty interesting research studies carried out when cable companies were considering entering the market, comparing the usage habits of broadband vs. non-broadband households. These people were not early adopters in the classic sense, they were average households that were selected and given a free cable modem. What they found was that the broadband households used their computers much more frequently than non-broadband families, and they used it much more like the TV. It tended to live in the living room (or some other family area), and the whole family would make use of it much more frequently and casually as compared to the dialup families. Mothers and children actually tended to very big users in the broadband households, unlike the non-broadband families. They also found that people stopped thinking of the Internet as something you had to "log on to" or "go to", but rather as just another app on their machine.

    You may feel these results are pretty obvious, even mundane. But the implications are fairly profound for the industry. Average families, once they've been given the connection, have a hard time going back to dialup. They do notice the difference, even if Mr. Dvorak (I swear he only got his job for having a great name) doesn't think it's so important after a few weeks of casual usage. The tricky part is convincing them to make the switch, and that's something that's just going to have to create its own demand, the same way the dial-up net did. Putting more streaming video on the net is certainly not going to entice too many people to buy cable modems.

  • DSL is a total con job.

    Cable modem was out first with 10X DSL's speeds at the same price.

    That DSL made inroads in any neighborhood where Cable TV exists--and therefore where cable internet could be run--is testament to the power of the con game run by the LECs.

    Broadband RF such as SpeedChoice only made the DSL marketing more pointless. But somehow barely slowed sales.

    Clearly, many people don't want the best service. They want to be had. I'm only sorry I'm not the one taking their money for jiggly clods of dirt.

    • I can attest that there are quite a few DSL providers out there who offer megabit connections to their subscribers, but who have an aggregate CO-to-backbone bandwidth adequate to support less than 20% of their subscribers at maximum rate

    Want a laugh? BT [btopenworld.com] in the UK offer residential ADSL that is contended 50:1 at the exchange. That's not a typo, I said fifty to one for the upstream bandwidth. 2% capacity. Makes cable seem like a dream.

    On the bright side, the service is so overpriced (£40 = $60 a month plus £10 = $15 line rental, perhaps soon to go UP to £50 = $75 a month because "Nobody's taking it"!) that the chances of them ever getting fifty people into any given exchange is pretty low. I don't know whether that's funny or pathetic.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @07:59AM (#178000) Homepage

    I was all set for a good old rant about this, but I have to admit, he has a point. For those who can't be bothered reading the article (hi guys), he's saying that there's a Catch 22 with broadband. There's no incentive (or profit) to supply broadband content until there's a lot of broadband, and no incentive to get broadband until there's a lot of content.

    It's hardly rocket science, but he makes a salient point. Read this, and have a good think:

    • A typical DSL connection costs about $600 a year--something not everyone can afford. We heavy Internet users see things differently and assume that everyone wants to be like us. But the AOL phenomenon should give us pause. Technology mavens saw AOL as training wheels for the Internet, yet AOL now dominates the online world, with over 20 million users--many of whom still use dial-up.

    I have to hold my hand up here. I was with AOL back in the day, when there was very little alternative in the UK. I got off of it at soon as it made financial sense to do so. I expected my friends and family would to. They didn't. They stuck with it. I've shown them the alternatives, I've set them up for them, they're just a click and a phone call from freedom. And still they stick with AOL. It's what they know. It's all they need. They don't want to be bothered with changing ISP, and they most particularly don't want to go through the risk and hassle of changing to DSL or cable, because really, it wouldn't benefit them that much.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @02:46PM (#178001) Homepage
    • Dvorak cites cost as a primary strength for dialup. And that's about it. Let's debunk this

    You're quite right. In the UK, I can pay my cable company £20 a month for a second line and unlimited diallup access, or £25 a month for 512/128kbs always on. The choice is a no brainer.

    And you're quite wrong. If it's a no brainer, why isn't everybody doing it? I have friends and family that happily pay their £15 a month AOL tax. They won't switch to broadband. They won't switch from monopoly telco BT to another telco or cable company. They won't even switch to another ISP. It's too new. It's too scary. They just don't see the need. I don't understand them, but they don't understand me. I'm a geek, they're not.

    Dvorak is right on this one. He's an cud chewing moron, but he's right, because he understand other cud chewers. There will be no great consumer demand for fast always-on in the next few years, because until you have it, you don't know you need it. Sure, now that I've had it, I won't give it up. Ever. But me and thee (and Canada) are not who Dvorak is talking about, and we're not who the cable/DSL providers want to sell to. Because we'd use the connections, and that's bad news for them.

    Their dilemma is that to make money, they need to pitch their services to people who don't need them and won't use them. That's got to be a tough sell.

  • by MwtrV ( 311470 ) on Monday June 04, 2001 @10:55AM (#178004) Journal
    Dvorak cites cost as a primary strength for dialup. And that's about it. Let's debunk this.

    Anyone who uses the Internet for dialup will be paying $10-$20 for a basic anytime dialup Internet account. What Dvorak fails to mention is this does require a phone line. An extra phone line jacks the cost of your phone bill up I'd say $10 (very BEST case scenario) to $20. So basically, you are going to be paying $40 for what is a second rate connection.

    Now how much is Cable & DSL? You will pay about $53 with tax and modem rent with ATT broadband (formerly Comcast @home.) That extra money enables us who run Internet-centric (ie. Debian; apt-get on broadband just feels so good) operating systems he calls niche operating systems to keep our systems running new and improved software all the time.

    However, the above is just an example of the many vast benefits broadband offers. There are too many things -- like having a static IP and being able to receive mail directly to your machine -- that make broadband worth what it is.

    Since this is a competitive, fast moving industry, Dvorak [from one perspective] partially invalidates the claim about broadband not catching on via stating dialup trends increasing; I would certainly expect broadband to do everything within it's capacity to compete more and more, even if that would mean lowering prices. I will not be suprised when we see cable drop down to $40 a month.

    Also, last but not least (and to end this tired rant) Dvorak is completely ignoring the fact dialup ISPs are being eaten up left and right by other ones larger than them. Put two and two together; they're obviously not making that great of a profit. Hence, the desire to move into broadband. Retrospectively, we will need regulations to get the phone and cable companies to release their hold.
  • This was an email I wrote my father (who sent me the article) before I realized it was written by john dvorak. I'm glad I didn't know and have that cloud my judgement.

    "Thanks for the article, I just have one question. What the fuck was he talking about?? "windows is a standard, not a product, sure it gets debugged, improved, new versions come out and it gets faster and better, but it's a standard." How about we apply the same logic to bandwidth: "bandwidth is a standard not a product. Sure it gets faster and better, but it's a standard." Why don't you ask this fucko who's still using windows 3.0? or 2.0? or 1.0? Oh but people still use a version of windows so it's a standard. So, same thing with bandwidth, sure, it's a standard, but in ten years from now we'll all be laughing at how slow cable speeds were (Let alone what we'll thing about dial up). This guy is such a fool, the last thing he said was "broadband may be decades away." so what does that mean, 20 years, at least? is this guy on crack! Of course people don't want broadband now because of the price. Does anyone really believe that bandwidth isn't getting cheaper and cheaper, daily? Does he really believe that we'll be going at a poky 34kbps in twenty years? or even in five???? The thing is, besides the price and the fact that it's more difficult to install since it's a new, niche product, DSL is basically the same thing as dial-up. Agreed, it's very different on a technical level, but to the user its essentially the same thing: stick a card in your computer and jack it into a phone line. As DSL becomes more ubiquitous, users might not necessarily even realize that they're using another product. In other words, if DSL is available to every phone jack, then there really isn't a difference from the users point of view. He says that most users are ambivalent about broadband, and I agree. But when their phone jack has access to DSL, and when Dell tells them to get a DSL/Ethernet card instead of modem, for say, 10 dollars extra, they *will* listen. What's this guy smokin?

    Ok, maybe that was more than one question."

  • Yeah, limit prices and competition, that's a great way to improve broadband service. Funny, where'd you get the "great service" part from? Does Canada have regulations about service too?
  • Once again John boy takes a legitimate concern and instead of taking a reasonable position he runs straight into the realm of absurdity.

    Dvorak says "Broadband may be decades away."

    WHAT? This is like saying that since we Americans like SUVs and pickup trucks so much, fuel efficient cars may be decades away.

    Sure, our vehicles aren't as efficient as they could be, but we're doing better than we were 20 years ago. To draw the tangent, sure only about as many people use broadband as use Macintoshes (I happen to be in both groups), but the relative newness of broadband and the fact that in many areas it's not an option should bring that into perspective. In 5 years even web browising will be so plug-in heavy that people with 56k modems will be like those poor SOBs today with 14.4k modems.

    Dvorak assumes that we will continue to have the same crop of users forever. As people younger than us venture out into the world high bandwidth will be a must. People who are college freshmen today are NOT going to go back to dialup when they move into their first apartments after they graduate.

    Dialup has taken a shot through the heart, death is certain, the only question is "How good are those paramedics?"

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.