A Genuine Labor Day Miracle

As I just noted on Twitter:

John ScalziFor reference, the old “top” speed of my DSL was 6Mbps, and mostly operated at between 4 and 5. This was fine when I subscribed in the early part of this century, but has become increasingly untenable in the age of streaming. The new package boasts speeds of “up to 40mbps,” and subsequent speed tests to the one I posted on Twitter see it getting closer to that; the one I just did had the line at 29.7Mbps down as, I guess, the line gets uses to pushing more electrons down the pipe, or whatever. Honestly if I get something in the 25Mpbs range on average I’ll be happy (for now).

Ironically, the way I found out that my provider CenturyLink had finally upgraded DSL service in the area was that I was in the middle of writing a whiny post about how awful my DSL line was, and went to the CenturyLink site to confirm once again that the “high speed” internet they were pushing in my area was capped at 3Mbps (I had gotten my 6Mbps line before CenturyLink bought out Qwest, from whom I had initially gotten the line; I was grandfathered in). When I entered my address, the CenturyLink site told me they could now get me 40Mbps.

Bullshit, I thought. I’m actually going to call their service people and confirm this is bullshit. Because this is how little I trust CenturyLink’s marketing people at this point. So I called and stayed on hold for almost an hour to get them to admit that this was bullshitty bullshit they were foisting on me.

But when I finally got hold of a service representative, not only did she confirm that, indeed, a 40Mbps DSL speed was available to me, but that also if I switched over to it, it would actually be cheaper than my current tops-out-at-6-fucking-Megabits-per-second line. Would I like to switch over?

Reader, I did.

The upgrade was scheduled for Wednesday, but apparently some industrious CenturyLink worker wanted to be paid time-and-a-half on the holiday, because I was informed a little while ago that the upgrade just happened. And now I’m cruising the internet at (runs a speed test again) 38.9Mbps! Calloo! Callay!

Obviously this makes me happy, because now I suddenly have internet speeds that mean there’s a chance I may no longer need to kludge my way to faster speeds for a while. As many of you know, in addition to my (previously) shitty DSL, I also have a mobile phone line that I got expressly to be an internet hotspot. It was faster (usually between 10 and 30Mbps), but it was also data capped at 100GB per month. I originally had it as a backup for when my DSL (frequently) went out, but over time I used it as a second internet connection specifically for my office, so that I wasn’t slowing down the main line for Krissy when she was working from home, or the rest of the family when they were watching something on Netflix. Now, potentially, that second line can go back to being an emergency backup and travel hotspot.

I should be clear that “up to 40Mbps” isn’t a great, or even an actually very good, broadband speed; right now on Twitter people are posting speed tests showing their 250Mbps connections and one person from Germany just smacked down a 1Gbps connection, which is ludicrous. 40Mbps is, however, eight to ten times faster than my previous usual connection, and actually adequate for streaming and downloading things, which the previous connection was emphatically not. I will be delighted to download a video game in a couple of hours instead of having to set it to download overnight over a couple of nights, which is a thing I’ve had to do up to this point. I might be able to participate in a Zoom session and not look like a pixelated mess. I can actually now use the Internet the way it’s currently being used by people — still slower than most, but with enough speed to get it done. That’s progress, here in rural America.

So, anyway: Wheeeee! More internet speed! One less thing to complain about. Don’t worry, I’ll find something else soon enough. And this was one time, at least, where planning to whine about something actually ended up improving the thing I was going to whine about. If only it worked like that all the time.

— JS

71 Comments on “A Genuine Labor Day Miracle”

  1. Congrats! Also, I hate you. ;) Our dsl won’t be upgraded until AT&T actually shells out money to buy new hardware. Which they *need* to buy new hardware – their techs know it, and a lot of things are having to be scrounged through the grey market since they aren’t being manufactured any more. But have they yet? They have not. (Lucky to get 2 Mbps a lot of the time.) We have a better chance of Spectrum actually extending their cable/fiber lines than that, I’m beginning to think.

  2. I am so leased for you (he says through VERY firmly clenched teeth) The one thing that comforted me about my terrible connection was “at least it ain’t as bad as Scalzi” – now that comfort is gone forever and I will cry alone.
    Incidentally the 1GB you mention isn’t so ridiculous. There is an outfit in Northern England Called B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North)that provides that as a base product – in rural areas, as a community project where all profits go back to the community! Worth a read about them as they are essentially a bunch of farmers who got tired of waiting and did it themselves.

  3. CenturyLink? You have my sympathy.

    Years ago AT&T forced me from DSL to U-verse, lied to me about it and STILL disconnected me for a day.

    Still better than CenturyLink though.

  4. Just tested my Verizon FIOS line, and I have 867mbps down, 939mbps up.

    It’s good to live in a University town.

    Verizon customer service sucks, but their tech actually works.

  5. In this very rural spot (by the standards of southern England, which means ten miles from a world-famous city), they’ve just installed fibre to the premises, so our wired Internet has gone from 1Mbps to a potential 900Mbps (we’re only actually paying for 100Mbps, because that’s all we really need).

  6. GREEN WITH ENVY HERE. I could only wish to have your old DSL speed. I live in truly rural America. My phone company’s the only ISP but they won’t bring DSL out my way. There’s not even cell signal for me to make my own hotspot. I went from dialup back in the day to satellite internet where I’ve been stuck ever since. Streaming movies? Zoom? Hah! I can’t even look at GIFs without buffering.

  7. I am familiar with this bittersweet customer service experience: You call up and find out that you can get a better plan for less than your current plan, but they hadn’t exactly fallen all over themselves to tell you about it. Not naming names, but in my case it was a Company with an Xcellent internet/cable product…

  8. I live in a suburb of Paris, France and my village got installed with fibre optical cable for internet. A year and a half ago a technician from Orange, my internet provider, knocked on my door, explained that they had just laid down the cable on my street and asked if I would like my house to be hooked up to it. I asked how much it would cost and he said it is the same price and the same contract and my internet speed would increase by 20 times.. My wife started to close the door while saying “We will think about it.” I said STOP. There is nothing to think about! It was like the cartoon where the guys says “Shut up and take my money!”. The technician installed it right away and now my wifi speed is 500 mbs and 1 GB direct.

  9. I’m really hoping that Starlink will work out as well as Elon Musk is promising. I know (and am rather glad) that it will not be available in cities (too many people to serve in a small area) but for all of us in rural areas Starlink could really be our liberation.

    I mean, even if Starlink is only half of what Elon has promised it will be a huge upgrade for so many people.

  10. 1gb isn’t just in Germany… I switched to AT&T Fiber a few weeks ago as part of my preparing for schooling from home (which is transitioning to actual homeschooling but that’s another story) not only is it 960mbps or so (synchronous – so both up and down are nearly that fast!) but it is also, get this, $70/mth CHEAPER than Xfinity/Comcast was charging me for 500mbps speeds (which admittedly is still ludicrously fast). Now it should be noted that to get that speed of a connection requires either that I’m plugged in via Ethernet to my router or that I upgrade from the WIFI router that AT&T provides which can’t keep up with that speed to one that can come closer. Which of course I have done splurging on a Wifi mesh system (which I need to set up – see above note about school from home switching to homeschooling if you are curious why I haven’t had time to disrupt my home’s internet…)

    So there are pockets of the US that now have actual fiber – to install it the installer literally ran a fiber cable from a junction box on a pole two houses down from me, along what I thought were just power lines across my neighbor’s backyards and then along the side of my house and underneath it to the wall of my family room. But my friend who lives just across the street can’t get fiber yet so they haven’t figured out how to serve everyone yet.

  11. Congrats. Wonder if google fiber will ever expand beyond the few spots it covers now. Gigabit up and down sonds nice.

    Musk’s satelite internet is scheduled to provide service for the southern US first, then the entire nation. It would be cool if it didnt entirely blot out the stars like a poor mans dyson sphere.

  12. Good for you, John!

    If you want some expert speculation as to how this miracle occurred, I could offer some. I spent 14 years in the DSL world, both on the provider (GTE – there’s a name millennials won’t know!), and then on the hardware vendor side. I tramped all over rural Ohio (and rural America, in general), working with Centurylink and other phone companies, trying to get more bandwidth out to people like you.

    There are three major improvements that had to be made for you to go from 6mb, to almost 40: the quality and number of the phone wires (called the ‘Outside Plant’ or simply ‘Plant’), the type of concentrator that’s probably 2-2.5 miles from your house (called a ‘DSLAM’ for DSL Access Multiplexer), and the nature and quality of uplink from the DSLAM to the nearest town (the ‘backhaul’). All three undoubtedly had to be upgraded/replaced to get you more than 6mb.

    Best guess, they brought fiber out to the DSLAM, upgraded it (and your DSL modem) to VDSL2, and then reconditioned and/or replaced whole sections of phone cable between the DSLAM and your house, probably boosting you from one pair of wires to four or six.

    Another possible approach would be to do the fiber and DSLAM upgrades, then add in VDSL2 repeaters about every 5kft along your cable route (powering them becomes an issue, though).

    I was an engineer in Access networking, and used to help regional managers build the business cases to justify spending the money to do all three. So if you ever have insomnia, I can put you to sleep explaining all the things that can go wrong with DSL! :-)

  13. One of the few advantages (as far as I’m concerned) about living in the I-95 corridor in Maryland is the Verizon fios. We’re upgrading to 1 gigabit service in a couple of weeks.

  14. I am happy that you now have greater internet speed. When I had DSL (which in my view stood for Darned Slow Line), I could not wait to move away from it. Should you want to review other options in the future, perhaps you could look into going the satellite route given you’re not near cable or fiber lines. Satellite is not faster than cable or fiber, but depending on the vendor and plan, you just might find a plan that offers you speeds greater than DSL at a competitive price. Keep in mind that besides speed, factors such as up-time and performance during inclement weather come into play. You’d have to shop carefully, of course. Good luck!

  15. Initial real world beta testers have averaged 45 mbps down and 15 mbps up, 30ms ping times using the very incomplete Starlink system recently. Price? Nobody has concrete numbers, but I vaguely remember somebody from Starlink said something in the $80/month range.

    I guess we will know soon, since they plan on being operational in the northern US latitudes by year’s end.

  16. Our internet was terrible just a month ago. The speed was fine, but the connection was unreliable. The cable modem would disconnect randomly for hours at a time. It turned out that an electrical storm and cutting the cord helped us. A nearby lightning strike fried the power adapter for the cable modem. On a lark, I tried a new adapter and it worked fine, with far fewer disconnections. Then, the cable company installed a filter on our line because we got rid of cable TV. We haven’t had a disconnection yet. As a bonus, somehow we can still get local TV stations through cable.

  17. I also live in the country, equidistant from where both Spectrum and Comcast stop service.

    DSL was a pipe dream.

    So, we had 5mb cellular internet. When Covid started we bumped it up to 10mb.

    So, you’re currently 4x faster than me. I assure you we are paying for than you are for your DSL.

    Living in the country is great, unless you want great internet. 😟

  18. Lee S.:

    In fact I’ve seen the CenturyLink folks working on the lines and various outside boxes on my street earlier this year and vaguely wondered if that would have any benefit to me (literally) down the line. I guess the answer was yes!


    I’m going to wait and see, re: Starlink and other options. Honestly, 40Mbps should probably handle what I use the internet for right now.

  19. Count me as one of the jealous folks reading this. DSL isn’t available here…. I too am dreaming of Starlink.

  20. As someone relocating to the north side of Columbus (OH) in two-three years I’m hoping the situation is a lot better there!

  21. Congratulations on the internet upgrade! I understand your instinct toward CenturyLink…they lied to us about internet speeds to our house before we bought it and for nine years afterward, promising us upgrades then giving us the same 3mb downloads…for nine. years. (A local ISP finally installed more lines past our house allowing us to get gigabit connections; you know, the Internet.)

  22. Your download speed is 7x faster than mine, and I’m in (rural) Massachusetts. Server is in NYC, there’s a lot of people twixt here and there… I could probably upgrade but I’m cheap and $40/month seems like enough for internet access. (No I don’t stream except youtube videos.)

  23. I live in an ‘undesirable’ part of the city according to AT&T so every time I asked about fiber for the last 5 years they had no plans for it in my area. That left me with the awful choice of their shitty U-Verse DSL which I had enough experience with in St Louis to avoid like… well clearly we don’t avoid plagues here in the Midwest so not that… or Charters equally awful but slightly cheaper cable internet. So I put up with multi-hour outages a few times a month for years.

    And then a rehab company known for shoddy work and sloppy workers took out the cable distro for the neighborhood on a utility pole. Charter’s fantastic solution since they couldn’t be bothered to properly install a new distro box (apparently it was mostly the power supply components that got trashed) they chained a gas generator to the pole and wired it to the box and had to send someone out to refill the generator every 14 or so hours. So every 14 or so hours all cable for the neighborhood went out for a few hours until someone could be bothered to refill it. I and all my neighbors called Charter many times and were assured they were working on it. We are not in some rural area or out of the way place. We are in the heart of the city with a major highway two blocks away and major arteries on two sides a block away. The main offices and depots for the utility companies are 5 minutes from here. This went on for two weeks with no indication they ever planned to actually fix things properly. So I called AT&T and found that they were suddenly offering fiber in our neighborhood for the same price I’d been paying for Charter and I switched that day. Ultimately I think all our multiple calls to the state utility commission and the power company (who lease the pole usage to charter) had far more effect than our calls to Charter themselves as they clearly did care at all until the regulators and other vendors got involved and they finally fixed it a week later.

    Wow, I really went on a ramble there. TLDR: fiber > cable, absolutely anyone > charter.

  24. I live in a university town but I’m only getting 188.4 Mbps download,11.7 Mbps upload. Still, I shouldn’t complain– that is enough for 3 people using computers without it being too bad. We used to have more choices for internet, but currently there’s a monopoly in my neighborhood.

  25. AT&T* is upgrading the DSL service here to U-Verse, so I switched to cable modem :-)
    I’ve been happy with 3Mbps DSL for years, but my wife has been using YouTube more and wanted more speed. We’re in a condo that has cable TV, when we bother plugging in a TV.
    They’ve kept sending me ads for U-Verse, but any time I’d checked, they look at my address and say “Oh… you again… sorry” – I’m in the middle of Silicon Valley, but the telco and cable TV wiring infrastructure both evolved strangely on my side of town.

    But recently they said “We’re getting rid of Central Office DSL, would you like U-Verse?”, so I checked again, and they said “Oh… you again… we can’t give you TV, but we can give you 10mbps.” Cool! And the installer said “you’re really far from the node, I tweaked it as much as I could”, and it got the speeds but would cut out for a few minutes a few times a day, and even when he backed it down to 5 Mbps it did that. There’s another U-Verse box that’s much much closer, but in the wrong direction, and they haven’t wanted to recable my entire block to use it.
    So now I’ve got cable modem, and while I dislike a few things about the terms of service, it works fine.

    *Disclaimer: I’m an AT&T employee, this is not the company’s official blah blah. I was a beta customer for their DSL service back when 384kbps was blazingly fast.

  26. Very happy to hear this. Honestly, one of the reasons why I don’t want to ever live in the country is the lack of Internet. (And these days, fires burning the houses down here.)

  27. Congratulations to the Scalzi household.

    Thank you to everyone for sharing your stories. I don’t feel now like it’s only my own fear and incompetence that has created our current internet solution.

    Two decades ago, when we first got online, we signed up with a local independent ISP. Right from the start their customer service was superb, and it has been right up until the current day. This was/is not our phone company (CenturyLink, back when they were Qwest). The ISP was so good I expected to be their customer for life.

    But time passes, technology, equipment, and infrastructure change. The ability to provide reliable and reasonably fast DSL was sold out from under our ISP. Recent speed tests say we get close to 1 Mbps, if that. It’s not uncommon that the internet goes out at least once a day, sometimes for hours. The ISP is sunsetting the DSL service, and has been *instructing* their customers to find an alternate internet provider. Essentially: “Flee! Save yourselves!”

    So I am working on that now. My best current bet is CenturyLink. Recent inquiries say they could give us a whole 3 Mbps (still three times what we get now). We live in a first ring suburb of Minneapolis. I don’t want to deal with Comcast, which I believe is the only viable alternative for our area. It’s possible that CenturyLink will upgrade their equipment here sometime in the foreseeable future — they’ve been working out here, and just recently their techs did a fantastic job of restoring and improving our landline service (Yes, I require that we keep the landline in addition to the cell phones, since we can afford it. Yes, I’m a Luddite), which required physical replacement of lines and reconfiguration on their part.

    Another data point, US Internet is installing fiber throughout Minneapolis. To my surprise, they’ve also started installing in some areas westwards of the city, including my own suburb. Not our part of the suburb, but still! I have a friend in Minneapolis who’s in an area that is pegged for service by the end of the year, and he’ll be switching as soon as he can. I hope to learn of his experience.

  28. Come live in New Zealand (maybe once Covid goes away….)

    Fibre to the house is fairly standard (for urban locations – rural it’s a work in progress); 1Gb plans are common, and they’ve trialled 10Gb to the home too.

    (Not that I’m on anything that fast myself – 100Mbs download; but by choice because it’s adequate and lower cost than Gb plans)

    And if you like numbers: The national fibre network (run by “Chorus”) peaked at 3.15Tbps (Terrabits / second) recently – thanks to an entire country trying to download Fortnite updates…


  29. An award AND faster Internet in the same weekend? Jeez, aren’t WE living the charmed life!

    We’ve had Fios for several years and been happy with it, with one weird issue: my current laptop does NOT like the Fios Wifi router much at all. My wife and daughter’s computers work with it just fine and they just stream and surf their little hearts out, but my computer (a relatively recent Dell Inspiron)? Not so much. And my computer works BEAUTIFULLY on the Wifi at work and in hotels and other places I’ve used it, so it’s just a home issue. But I did find a weird workaround that I can’t explain: my phone, which uses the home Wifi when I’m home (obviously), gets along VERY well with my computer when I set it up as a mobile hotspot, in my own home. I do not know why this works, but it does.

    Anyway, enjoy the faster Interwebs!

  30. Congratulations 👏 on both this and the Dragon. Also, congratulations for prompting me to check my speed, something I have never done. Took a few minutes to figure out how to do that, but I believe I am at 195mbps, on my back deck, which is where I am, at the moment. Is that good? Fine for me and mine, but it’s not something I ever considered, which I suppose is a sort of privilege. Huh. For reference, I live in a marginal neighborhood in a major metro area in the Pacific Northwest, USA. You know, liberal elite socialist country. 😉

  31. I just ran Speedtest. On the best plan we can get short of a business account and the best router and model we can find, MediaComedy is giving us 3.76Mbps download and .19Mbps upload. “High speed internet?” >_< Plus it's glitchy as Hell. I'm already on the list to try Starlink.

    I'm so disgusted with the Internet companies in this country. We live in Springfield MO. It's not like we live in a cornfield fifty miles from the nearest town.

  32. I know both your pain and your triumph. Particularly the example of downloading games, because I’m a big gamer and used to have to do the exact same thing of downloading things overnight, or even over multiple days. Then about a year ago I moved to a different state and my connection went from 10mbps to 200mbps. Talk about a serious quality of life upgrade, especially in this time of COVID. Enjoy your new-found decent speed!

  33. That’s not bad. Like Lee, I tromp around a rural state, administrating a wide-area network for a non-profit. 40×5 service in many locales would cause great celebrating. The biggest driver for to-the-curb improvements have been local telecom co-ops getting USDA grants for rural broadband. The part that drives me crazy are the co-ops which then offer service packages in 10-20 Mbps range because their backbone can’t handle a drastic increase in demand; or the local offices who choose a low rate of service (10-20Mbps down) because they’re concerned employees might be, “on Facebook all day”.

  34. @Kelly Sedinger: The wifi access points that providers ship in their modems are canonically hot garbage. Quite likely your Dell is sensitive to some detail which their implementation gets wrong, but your phone gets right.

    Highly, highly recommend you get a dedicated wifi router or access point—the Wirecutter recommendations all look fine ($65-200), although personally I’ve been recommending friends go with Ubiquiti’s Unifi Dream Machine ($300), because while expensive, the Unifi hardware and software ecosystem is just the best I’ve ever seen, and unlike hardware from some of the cheaper companies, I trust that Ubiquiti will support it well and for a long damned time. (And I’m a happy customer of Ubiquiti’s enterprise gear in my home.)

    Even a $65 router will outperform whatever the providers ship you though. Make sure it supports at least dual-band (2GHz and 5GHz) operation and the 802.11ac standard and you should be good to go.

  35. ” where planning to whine about something actually ended up improving the thing I was going to whine about. If only it worked like that all the time..”

    Yeaaaa! I want to whine about Donald Trump . . .

    . . . (Did it work?)

  36. We’re about 20 miles north of Charlotte NC, on Lake Norman. Speedtest shows a pretty consistent 940 Mbps. AT&T says it’s supposed to be gigabit, but that’s market hype.

    My first net access from Providence to a TIP at BBN in Fresh Pond was at 110 baud. This is noticeably faster.

  37. Starlink is an abomination to professional(like me) and amateur astronomers worldwide. I hope it’s an utter failure. From what I can gather about its pricing, the offs on that are not small.

  38. I was going to say it was your telco’s infrastructure that was capping you but Lee S. said it a lot better than I could have.

    My favorite Internet experience was when the local telco (my wife’s employer at the time, too) told us they could put DSL in our newly-built house but they couldn’t actually schedule a time to come out there. We went three weeks without Internet or even phone service before my wife gave up and called her employer’s chief competitor. This was in 2000 but I was still unhappy–especially considering I worked for a colo facility across town.

    That particular telco was a terrible place to work, but they did pay for most of her MBA.

  39. I was stuck with DSL at about 1.4Mb/sec for almost 12 years, and then about a decade ago, AT&T brought U-Verse into the boonies at almost 16Mb/sec. It took 11 service calls before they finally got the wiring stabilized and cleared up so I didn’t get disconnected a dozen times of more a day. Then the “upgraded” U-Verse modem bit the dust and they replaced it with a modem with actual ac wireless built in instead of n. The bad: my download speed with the new modem dropped to 14.5 Mb/sec. I’ve had this now for about a decade, and I doubt they’ll do any improvements out our way for many years.

    The maddening thing is that there’s an fiber intercity backbone at the main road less than 1/2 mile away, but there’s no local service attached to it.

  40. You may want the thank that new Winery near you, they may have been at least part of the reason your area got a network upgrade. Can’t have a Winery or other food/beverage place without at least OK WiFi.
    Apparently they have food trucks on occasion, If you want to go show off your burritos and horrify them. Get some wine for Krissy while you’re there

  41. I’m stuck with mediocre speeds from ComCast. I get ~150 down, which sounds like a lot. Till you realize that the friend of mine that lives on the opposite side of the block gets 1g synchronous fibre from AT&T for the same price…

  42. Envious congratulations!

    A little timeline:

    1988: move to a cabin at 9650 feet on a remote mesa in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. There is no phone service, much less Internet.
    1989: Contact U.S.West (which begat Qwest, which begat Centurylink) and ask about cost of phone service on our mesa. “Same as anywhere else,” basic around $8.50/month, plus a one-time installation fee of $67,000–that’s thousands, not hundreds!–to run five mile pole line. That’s before legal fees to get easements, etc.
    1990: Make friends with someone in town nine miles away, almost line of sight; get phone service to his attic; install my own 30 watt microwave link (former radio ham), $3500 worth of equipment. Eureka! A dial tone! and blistering 300 Baud via (that’s bits per second) dial-up modem data–one can read the characters streaming across the screen. Graphics? Fugheddaboudit. Suddenly, everyone else on the Mesa is our friend. If we want to have an intimate afternoon, we put the phone outside the (locked) front door on a long extension wire.
    1991: US West installs their own “mesh” radiophone system: 19.2 Kb (Kilo–not mega–bps). But not if it’s stormy, or foggy, or snowing. Still dial-up modem.
    1992: We try Hughes satellite internet. Very expensive, very unsatisfactory.
    (fast forward to about 2000): DSL! 3 Mbsec at first, then 6 for more $$.
    (present): grandfathered with CenturyLink, generally getting about 8 or 9 Mbsec down, <1 up. On a good day.
    Now: we look on the same CenturyLink website John saw. They offer "up to 30 Mbsec" at our address for not much more than we're paying now…but…

    …we have to either buy ($200) or lease ($180/year) their "premium" modem, even though the specs on the one we have say it's good for up to 24 Mbsec. There are only two of us up here, and now only during the summer (after 15 years full-time, my wife saw the first flakes in 2003 and said, "I'm outtahere–dig out my car"). Our current "service"–often an oxymoron with CenturyLink–seems adequate for emails, simple app downloads, even the occasional Masterpiece Theater, Brit crime drama on Acorn, or Amazon Prime.

    So–are we going to upgrade? Don't know yet…considering where we've come from, 8 or 9 Mbsec is already blisteringly fast, and seems adequate for our modest needs. But then, there's what Stewart Brand, in the Whole Earth Catalog (that dates me) calls "The Tyranny of the New…"

  43. So I don’t suppose anybody wants to hear me whine about our 1.2M CenturyLink DSL, which spent much of August and a chunk of this month down several times a day while GTT repaired/replaced infrastructure devices. CL owns the lines and has frozen our locally-owned ISP out of the wired broadband market, so I can’t even pay for faster service without changing providers (and giving up an email address I’ve used for decades) and fighting my way through up-selling efforts. And CL’s tech support is abysmal.

    This in a metro area of around 70,000 with a university and a community college. There used to be a little bit of competition in our market, but Charter bought it out. Fortunately we don’t do any streaming, so 1.2M is functional for our working needs–though with my wife teaching all her classes on line now, it would be nice to have a bit more bandwidth for the Zoom sessions.

  44. Congrats, John, on joining the 21st century :)

    So could you whine about 2020 to be over with (and COVID), please? You never know.

  45. Rural Nova Scotia (but still technically within the city of Halifax): 2.7 M _bits_/second. And this is a good day. Speed test says “Your Internet connection is very slow.”

    “I guess, the line gets uses to pushing more electrons down the pipe, or whatever.”

    I guess you probably really know this, but it’s really ADSL — where the “A” stands for asymmetric. The Telcos decided that the A was bad marketing. Commercial DSL, in the days when that was the best speed anyone got, used to be symmetric, but afaik it’s always been ADSL to the home.

  46. Internet speeds needs vs. wants is always interesting to watch. My ~20 / 4 mbs rates is way more than adequate for my now two person household. Its from Charter (previously Time Warner). I realize that a person’s / household / business activities and various technical requirements vary tremendously and may justify much higher bandwidth. But there is bandwidth envy when someone brags about having hundreds of mbs rates at just $xx per month and able download a pirated xx gb movie in less than 10 seconds! At some point as more customers have higher and higher Internet bandwidths, that will become the new norm and Internet services and their offerings will then begin to require such bandwidths for their customers enjoyment.

  47. With the specter of high speed low latency satellite internet rearing its ugly head, I guess DSL and cable providers are scrambling not to lose too many customers when the time comes.

  48. Speed isn’t really our issue here (although the smartassTV™ roundy-roundies now and then); our issue is usually somebody’s server is swamped.
    Also we have an enormous tree resting on the lines between us and The INNERTOOBS since Isaias which nobody has brought in the big grapple truck needed to remove it safely. Our internet could go out again completely at any minute.
    The joys of forest rural life are different from the joys of great plains rural life.

  49. I’m in rural Texas and still stuck with entirely shitty satellite internet. But there is hope on the horizon as I did find CenturyLink flags along the side of the road marking out where trenches are to be dug. Someday.

  50. Welcome to the 21st Century John.

    We downsized into our retirement home about 4 years ago. We live in a rural area in Central NY. Our new home is less than a mile from the old homestead. We had had DSL since it was offered in our area, sometime in the 90’s. We went from 3 Mbs to 6 Mbs and then when we moved we doubled that to 12 Mbs. Over the years, up to today, we have had problems with signal strength and noise, mainly due to aging telephone infrastructure. I am on a first name basis with our local Windstream tech. Recently we were having chronic problems with disconnects. It got sorted out eventually but while he was here he informed me that Windstream would be putting in fiber optic in the not too distant future. I’m not holding my breath but I’m considering opting in if only to improve the up-time.

  51. Q: am I the only one seeing certain patterns of indifference in QOS?


    …consider all these idle teenagers and out-of-work college students …plus starving sharks (uh, lawyers)

    …given all the legislation passed about telecom accessibility — state as well federal — I wonder if anyone ever mashed up a map down to zip code level of where there is zero service, moderate, good, great

    …with overlays of which legislation applies where and who is being denied access

    …then overlaid ethnicity percentages and poverty levels and who is being overcharged for identical services

    …start chatting with folk about class action lawsuits to demand what is necessary for remote learning by K-12 and possibility of distributed office workers for those permanently furloughed

    …be nice before C19 gets into third wave if folk were granted a more level playing field

  52. I’m on CenturyLink DSL as well. I just went to the website to see if we could get upgraded, as we’re maxed at 5mbps currently. Naturally, CenturyLink says that they’re unable to offer us any internet service even though we’re on it…

  53. Wot? Not everybody has gigabit fiber? I thought that was promised along with flying cars for everybody?

    Congrats. 40 MB must feel just like flying. You can get lazy and use Crashplan or Backblaze now! ;-)

  54. I live in south Denver, we too were on 6mb nominal from CenturyLink until this year. Some months ago we were able to upgrade to the heady pleasures of 20mb.
    It’s not a rural issue, it’s a US one.. or maybe it’s just flyover country ?

    The other weirdness I found is that no-one makes or sells DSL modems any more. Last time I was able to get one at BestBuy, but alack no more. I had to pay top dollar for a CenturyLink modem which I have not yet installed, as it will upgrade the security to a standard that isn’t supported by several of the household devices.

  55. We now have a natural experiment: will the higher internet speeds increase Scalzi Household productivity? (I’m betting no, though improvements of Zoom/Video calls is not to be discounted.It still takes months to produce a book, and the distraction potential is higher. But willing to be convinced by the data.)

    Either way, welcome to (early) 21st century data speeds. The damage Qwest did lives onward, while the good is interred with its early-1990s cabling.

  56. After no small amount of rasslin’ about who’s allowed to touch telephone poles where AT&T and Xfinity teamed up to whine/bribe the Nashville city council into submission, we got Google Fiber a couple of years ago after they said “Fuck it, we’ll just bury the lines in the streets.” And it’s been lovely, except for the week they resurfaced the street and tore up all the fiber.

    Guess which company the DOJ is suing for monopolistic practices?

    Anyway, I’m thinking if I ever sell the house having Google Fiber as an available ISP is gonna add some change to the asking price.

  57. Congratulations, John!

    Also, it has been nice (in “well, it could be worse” sort of way) to see in the comments that… Well, we could have it worse.

    We are 27 miles WNW of the Tennessee state capitol building, about 2600 feet as the wires run from a main connecting highway, and best I can tell from having called around we can’t even get landline service.

    We did get a “fixed LTE” service through Fire WiFi, which is what I’m connected through this very moment. We are connecting to a tower that’s near the practical edge of use, so one of the projects in store is to increase the antenna height from twenty to forty feet to see if we can get more consistent signal.

    Despite my amateur astronomer’s dislike for StarLink and the No Good Very Bad VLEO Satellite Swarm, I really am looking forward to trying the service.

  58. To be fair Internet infrastructure in Germany is pretty shitty compared to other many countries and 1 GB connections are not as widely available as they should be and relatively new. Also rather expensive at around 80€. It’s nothing to brag about.

  59. Not only 300 baud but acoustic couplers. Actually, I have a dim memory of 150 baud connections. And I (and my incomperable wife) typed my dissertation on an IBM 360 with line-printer terminals and a line editor. My committe read the draft chapters on greenbar fanfold paper and the final copy was printed on the last Selectric terminal on campus. It looked dreadful. (I believe I am the reason the graduate dean’s secretary*–the czarina of all things dissertational–declared such practices were Not To Be Repeated Hereafter.)

    * This was long ago. She would now be the dean’s Executive Assistant and/or Office Manager. But she would still run the shop.

  60. My *incomparable* wife and First Reader would have spotted that misspelling, were she not spotting worse things in her students’ work right now.

  61. The US has the absolute worst internet speeds in the industrialized world, all because we don’t treat it as a public utility.

  62. As someone in rural Tennessee with AT&T 1.5 Mbps DSL, I envy you. I also have a Sprint hotspot for most usage, but would rather have a reliable hardline.

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