Throughput and the power it holds

Note: this post was migrated from my old Tumblr-backed blog

I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with the current broadband offerings provided by nearly all of the ISPs in the area. Although they place a lot of restrictions on their users, the most annoying restriction that I’ve encountered from my own provider (TimeWarner’s RoadRunner cable internet service) is that, even with their “Turbo” package, their upstream throughput is horrific.

Whenever I go to a friend’s place with my laptop, one of the first things I do is check out and see what kind of speeds they’re given. At home, I typically see approximately 30Mbit/0.5Mbit (down/up). While the downstream throughput is FANTASTIC, the upstream is embarrassing. Most “competing” services provide 1/3 of the downstream in exchange for 4 to 6 times the upstream.

I quote “competing” because in this area, there is little, if any, overlap between consumer broadband internet providers. Frequently, you’re left with one option: whichever company services your area. I can’t get FiOS here. I can’t get Speakeasy. I could get business broadband, but I don’t want to spend > $200/month.

The upstream throughput on the consumer offering from TimeWarner is embarrassing. Let me put this into perspective…

Last summer, I went to Ireland and, having just purchased a new Samsung 14.7MP digital camera, proceeded to take a LOT of pictures. Between my camera (whose battery kept dying) and my iphone, I took around 1200 pictures. Once I got home, I spent days going through the photos, deleting duplicates and any blurry pictures or ones with bad lighting. My plan thereafter was to upload them to Flickr. It took me nearly 8 days to get them uploaded to the site and during that time, I was mostly unable to function in my normal digital world. The upstream to my internet connection was completely saturated during this time which was causing severe slowdowns to my downstream throughput. My 360 was unable to remain connected to Live, netflix would only stream in the lowest quality possible and Youtube would take forever to load videos. I could barely do anything except read slashdot and chat on AIM.

Back when broadband internet connections were new, only more technical people got on that. Less techie users stuck with AOL or whatever dialup service they had and the geeks out there would saturate their broadband connections by distributing music and video; it was a heaven for the media hungry minority and they were blamed for all kinds of issues that remain today.

Today, everyone is uploading media to Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, myspace, YouTube, etc etc etc. It’s not uncommon for a normal user to upload 500MB of their own content to some website. It’s not uncommon for a normal user to own a camera or even a cellphone that takes multi megabyte photos. Cable companies (especially TimeWarner) need to realize this and provide an acceptable service to their users.

Heavy users are not pirates anymore and the industry needs to stop treating us like we are.