Internet Speed Update
Posted on September 21, 2020 Posted by John Scalzi 32 Comments
This will sound slightly ridiculous, but I can’t tell you how nice it is to have reasonable internet speeds after close to two decades of having to make do with substandard bandwidth relative to the rest of the county. When I moved to Bradford in 2001, the only local internet provider had speeds of 9600 baud, and since then every internet connection I’ve had was a compromise — slow and/or metered and/or susceptible to clouds or rain. Prior to this upgrade I could either have fast internet or unmetered internet but I couldn’t have both, and I spent a non-trivial amount of time doing the daily internal calculus of how I was going to access the internet with which gadgets and for how long, and whether it would affect what the other people in the house were doing.
Now for two weeks I haven’t had to do that, and it has been delicious. Again, an internet speed of 40mbps down/3Mbps up isn’t great, either in itself or relative to speeds available in non-rural areas. But it is enough — enough that I don’t have to do any of the connection calculus that I’ve been doing on a daily basis for literally years. I can just use my connection, like I can use my plumbing or my electricity. You turn on the tap, and there it is. A long-standing resource issue has been effectively solved, and I can use the brain cycles previously occupied dealing it for something else.
And yes, it’s been a genuine resource issue; more than most people, my life and livelihood are tied into my ability to get on the internet and use it. Or, more accurately, more than most people until recently, as the plague times we’re living in have made it clear to everyone that internet access is no longer a luxury or nice to have when you can get it; it’s an actual necessity for work and for school and for communication, for better or worse. The rural internet gap is no joke. I could get around it, sort of, because I have the money to do so; not everyone who’s been in the same sort of rural internet desert as I’ve been in has the same (imperfect) options I’ve had.
Intellectually I’m annoyed at how pleased I am at my increase of internet speed; emotionally I don’t care what I’m feeling about it intellectually. What a pleasure it is to simply to have enough bandwidth, for now, anyway.
Thanks for reminding those of us in more established areas how lucky we are.
The Google just announced an increase to 2 GB users for their 1 GB users for, I believe, $100/month. I think one of their services area is rural, too (Kansas City?).
Here in rural Texas, I am, at this very moment, trying to find a better alternative to my satellite internet company who has advertisements (lies) all over this nation. I believe I may have found it. Wish me luck!
Do you think Starlink (and other competing space based systems) will have a notable impact on the rural broadband gap?
Ah yes. The information superhighway we all dream about.
Sounds like you might now be on a highway at least. Better than that bumpy dirt track.
@pandorasdad I, too, am on satellite internet, that same company that has ads (lies) all over this nation. With no cell signal here and the closest DSL still too far away, I’m stuck with what I have. I’ve signed up for Starlink but who knows when/if I’ll get it or if it’ll be the improvement that is advertised. It burns me that my phone co. received federal funding to get DSL to its rural customers, but refuses to extend DSL to the most rural of us. Legislators have been going on and on about improving broadband access for rural America for years now but nothing ever happens.
With everybody online due to COVID, my access now sucks worse than ever and I’ve been an online worker for 20 years now, so this is torture.
I can only hope. I live in the city of Springfield MO. The city allowed neighborhoods to be partitioned into areas of monopoly for cable and internet. I’m at the mercy of ComedyCast. Even though we pay for their highest home package, the service stinks. Speed varies wildly and dropouts are common. It can be a trial just attempting to stream video or audio, even just a freakin’ Zoom call.
Satellite internet is our only alternative, but bad weather cuts it off when we need it most. Europe and East Asia has us beat almost nationwide by an embarrassing margin.
Who did you say your carrier is, John? 😆😆😆😆
I’ve long thought that improving internet access for rural Americans is this century’s equivalent to electrifying the countryside in the 1930s. We badly need an internet equivalent to the Rural Electrification Act.
My spouse teaches in a rural district and part of why he’s back at work with students despite being high risk is lack of connectivity. Waugh.
Kansas City is not particularly rural, as it goes. 2.3 million in the metro area.
@Diana, that would be delightful. My mom isn’t truly rural, but less than 10 miles outside major Ohio metropolises even DSL is spotty. If you aren’t in Honolulu, good luck getting fast Internet speeds without paying extortionate rates. And as usual, any ISP uses the weasel words ‘up to’ when talking about its connectivity; sure you can get 100 MPS down, at 2:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, for 3 minutes. Everything less you will take and you will like it.
I just look at your speed with envy. And yes I do understand, because I too, live in a rural area. I’m lucky to get 12 Mbps. 41? WOW!
I’m with a community-based co-op-style ISP here in Ottawa-Gatineau. I haven’t been metered in years, and I’m glad to be done with it. I could wish for faster speeds, but I’ve just upgraded from 6/0.8 to 15/10. I’m good enough with that for most of my internet needs, including video conferencing. I’ll make do with this because it’s better than what I had. For the next months/years, anyway.
Nowadays, it is an essential tool for children’s schools.
One of the things that a Biden administration can do for rural areas is to invest in a government-based utility to provide it, like the TVA and other rural electrification authorities did during the New Deal. This would help improve rural economies, provide incentives for young people to move (back) to rural areas, and expose more people to liberal ideas.
Just checked, and my fiber connectivity is showing 100 mbps down/120 up. My big delay is the security programs and settings I have which slows down the internal processing and displays once the data is received. A noticeable delay, but one I’m more than willing to accept to run a high level of security.
::One of the things that a Biden administration can do for rural areas is to invest in a government-based utility to provide it, like the TVA and other rural electrification authorities did during the New Deal. ::
Unfortunately, despite Obama declaring 25Mbps Up/Down the MINIMUM of what could be considered “Broadband” and using his influence to push for something very much like this, neither major party Presidential candidate this year (any more than in 2016!) is likely to do any such animal. Trump only likes the Internet when it can benefit HIM (like Twitter, which can be run from a covete — er, “smartphone”), and Biden is too deep in Profit-Based Big Telco’s pocket to redefine Broadband Internet as a public utility.
What you describe is absolutely what America needs, and it’s absolutely what both Trump AND Biden would rather cut their nuts off than give us… Just like Universal Healthcare (not “access”, b/c we had that BEFORE Obamacare, it was just nobody could afford it – any more than they can now!).
FWIW, my raw speeds are ~5x yours, John, but I’m usually running through a VPN that slows things to about your speed and I can barely notice the difference (except for the rare occasion when I have a game downloading on Steam and want it done in a few minutes).
Since I’m living in the 8th century and really have 0 knowledge about the ggb’s or ppm’s or any other letter damnit’s of the computer world.
Up here in Stirling City is like living in a black hole in reverse nothing gets in.
To use my phone I have to go out of town!
We are 20 miles above Paradise, during the fires it would have been helpful if we could have used our phones.
I recall upgrading from a black and white vacuum tube TV to some solid state color TV and thinking, this is incredible. But really it was quite average. The tube tv was built like a brick and just wouldnt die, until years after color was fairly common and it finally gave up the ghost. To me, color tv was an amazing upgrade, but to most others at that time, it was bog standard.
Timeliebe:”Biden is too deep in Profit-Based Big Telco’s pocket”
Uh …. “Biden is too deep in Profit-Based Big Telco’s pocket to redefine Broadband Internet as a public utility.”
9600 baud… In two-thousand-one?
I notice that you still don’t mention data caps? In Australia we’ve had all kinds of ridiculousness in recent years with our national broadband system that has been gradually built, where it’s primary claim of “equity” has been a complete farce, with some people having drastically improved connections and others having genuinely worse than before. And data caps are still the biggest issue, especially in rural areas where satellite connections have been deemed suitable for enormous amount of people, even those not particularly rural. Anyway, glad your situation is improved!
Is that a wired or wireless device? Wired will give better results, naturally.
You might also want to look for a closer test server than Ohio… Unless CenturyStink is really back-hauling all your traffic there…
It’s like not having to check the price and receipt when you buy gas for your car. You are now officially internet bandwidth wealthy.
A month and a half ago I upgraded from 3 Mbps DSL to cable modem. I’d been happy with 3 Mbps, though my wife is watching a lot more YouTube this year so we really needed about 6 Mbps, and you know, it really IS nicer to have more. Stuff mostly just works, or if it doesn’t just work, it’s definitely the browser or Windows causing the problem, not the network being too slow.
It’s a bit less reliable (once or twice a week it gets hosed for a minute or two, which means 10-15 by the time the modem resyncs), compared to the DSL having always worked except for the month or two when squirrels had chewed my phone line half a mile down the road during the rainy season. I switched because the telco was retiring the old central office DSL equipment but wasn’t willing to rewire my block to backtrack from the nearby U-Verse node instead of the older one that’s too far away. But meanwhile, I run all the videos at full resolution, just because I can, and the work VPN connects a bit faster.
@iliadawry – Apologies for the “rural” dig at KC. I meant it as a joke but it’s probably my coastal bias coming through.
I grew up in southern California and live outside Washington, DC. Most people still refer to the District as a “town” rather than a city. And looking things up, the DC metro area is #5 in the US. Whooda thunk it?
And yeah, we pay our local monopoly for 300 mbps service down, not that it ever happens with all the other Internet traffic. Beats my first 300/1200 bps modem all to hell.
Be careful turning on the TV though.
@Anon E Mouse. I assume John is testing at home in which case Columbus probably is the closest option, though there might be an option for Dayton or Cincinnati that would be closer. I’m just amazed that Century Link has finally arrived in the 21st century. I was betting on at least another 20-30 years before that happened. (note the 9600 baud in 2001).
I live in a semi-rural semi-exurban town. The municipality a couple of years ago installed its own fiber network. The justification was to attract businesses, but it is available anywhere within the municipal limits. The city government also realized that it isn’t qualified to be an ISP, so it contracted that out.
Putting this together, the city treats internet like a public utility, to be operated as a public good without a profit motive. The results are wonderful! I have excellent broadband at a low price.
This is a pretty conservative area. Ordinarily the idea of the government owning something that a private company could own would result in cries of “socialism!” The irony is that these people will shout “socialism!” if you suggest, for example, that cops ought not shoot random black dudes. But fiber network, which really does point in that direction, provokes not a peep. Good internet and attracting business trump such considerations. Or in the alternative, the people shouting “socialism!” haven’t a clue what the word means, but know it is scary.
Last week we upgraded our information highway from graded-gravel county road to two-lane blacktop. The local alternative to cable (shared bandwidth in a college neighborhood inhabited by sports fans and gamers) is CenturyLink’s copper-based DSL with its 6-meg ceiling. At least their gateway servers don’t seem to go down several times a day, the way GTT’s do. And we live in town, less than a mile from the switch. But there seems to be no incentive for CL to rewire the city for higher speed. (About their customer service and tech support, the less said the better. I talked to five techs before I got accurate answers and the necessary credentials to activate the new service.)
While not as rural as I believe you might be, We too have been suffering from low internet connection and stability issues. We use VDSL and, when working, get a decent 12Mbps. Our problems have become mostly due to signal stability. The signal strength varies during the day and from day to day. Sometimes it’s great and then sometimes it goes right through the floor. It’s those times when we find ourselves resetting the modem, sometimes more than once. The techs can never find what is causing the problem because it is always working fine when they come out. I am pretty sure that the problem is the age of the copper and interconnections that exist between us and the central office. I’ve lived in this area for pretty close to 60 years and I’m fairly certain that there has been no major upgrade to the copper infrastructure.
I mention this only because I can appreciate your celebration. I’m happy that your struggle seems to have been relieved. That and your relief seems to coincide with the possibility of relief from our signal issues heralded recently (last Monday) when I talked to the tech about recent problems. He indicated that they will be offering Fiber in our area in the not to distant future. Good news. Better news is that he says that it’s likely that I can get 100Mbps for about the same price as I am paying now. Honestly, 12 suits me but I will welcome something updated with less signal interference issues.
I had only dial-up till 2013 when I moved. Neighbors finally got internet in 2015.
I moved to my suburban house in 1995. All that was available most places was dial-up. Still had dial-up until I moved in 2013. This just outside Columbus OH city limits and still in Franklin county. According to one survey, we were 1 of 11,000 households without access to higher speed internet in Franklin county.
Unfortunately, I was the next to last house on the rural phone system, two houses away from the Columbus ATT lines.
This would have made no difference as we were more than the acceptable 6000 feet from the switch to run DSL.
I was able to get about 3 megabits per second up until about two and a half years ago. I moved about a mile away and now my speed tests average about 980 megabits per second. My friend and neighbor whom I left a mile away is still left with that slow internet speed. I find it to be sad that reliable internet access is that close but still unattainable for so many.