Monday, January 02, 2012

ISP travails: Forget buffer bloat, what about my upload speeds?

Cringely was right about BufferBloat. I give him full credit for that one - I've not seen anyone else describing this networking problem. Once again I miss BYTE; they would have caught this long ago. (Old guy thing - I'm fascinated by good stuff that goes away without replacement.)

That's not what bugs me though. My video streaming is good enough. I'm a lot more concerned about my upload speeds. I'm getting about 0.1 mbps (real data) over CenturyLink DSL (formerly qwest) with a 1 GB cutoff [3], even though my download speeds are about 10mbps (networking traffic, not real bits). Yes, my current upload speeds are less than 5% of download speeds. CenturyLink has boosted its download speeds to be more Comcast competitive, at the hidden cost of upload speed.

No, I'm not running a Torrent. I've got too much to lose to be pirating movies, besides, it's wrong [1]. I'm just trying to share 1.5 GB of our summer vacation photos [2].

So what's the problem? I can just switch ISPs right? I'll just Google those sites that compare upload speeds. I remember using them only five ... ok ... ten years ago.

Not so fast. I can't find those handy comparison sites any more. The American ISP industry has consolidated so much there's not much point in doing comparisons. Locally my only alternative option is Comcast, and while it's probably better that CenturyLink it's not much better.

Cue the ominous music, because there are logical reasons for uploading to suffer in today's market. Most customers don't care about it, or don't realize that speeds are asymmetric so are baffled by mpbs marketing. On the other hand, Torrents are enemy #1 for most ISPs. Photo sharing and online backup services may simply be collateral damage of anti-BitTorrent wars.

I can live without sharing full sized images; almost nobody I share with wants a 6MB JPEG. I can also go without online backup -- I don't trust online backup anyway.

Even so, it's a bummer. Monopoly sucks.

[1] Sort of wrong. Given the legislative conduct of the IP industry there's a definite Robin Hood angle to stealing movies.
[2] Big JPEGs. A downside of today's monster DSLs, combined with some unfortunate side-effects of processing JPGs in Aperture. 
[3] Throttling? Automated nightly modem reboots?

Update 1/7/12: I did hear back from CenturyLink. Basically, 300 kbps (100 kbpbs real throughput) is as good as it gets. If I want a different balance of upload and download then I need a "business" line. Sadly, this makes sense. I'm more like a business customer than a consumer customer.

1 comment:

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