Feb
25

The ISP Upstream Dilemma

Posted by Carson       Trackback

Comcast just announced that they have increased their premium tier high-speed internet package from 8mbps to 16mbps. It seems as though we might be finally catching up with the rest of the world in terms of real “high-speed” internet access until you read the fine print and discover that Comcast has not increased the upstream speed – it remains at 768kbps for even the premium package users, and 384kbps for standard users.

It’s puzzling that ISPs all seem to limit the amount of upstream data so heavily. About 10 years ago, as DSL and cable modem service began to proliferate, the standard data package was about 1.5mbps downstream and 768k upstream. The general idea was that the ISPs did not want individuals hosting web servers and other applications on their networks, so they limited the upstream pretty heavily. That seems reasonable, until you jump to present day, where the downstream is on average 3-5 times faster, but the upstream is the same or SLOWER than it used to be a decade ago!

With the advent of digital video and 10+ megapixel cameras becoming the norm, along with amateur video casting and web conferencing fast becoming mainstream, the slim 384kbps upstream pipeline just can’t keep up. Those that are a little more tech savvy and understand this limitation can take steps to live within the tight space of upstream bandwidth – things like shrinking large pictures and dropping the webcam quality can help conserve bandwidth. However, grandma just can’t understand why it takes nearly an hour (if successful at all) to send an email to her friend that has a half dozen 10 megapixel pictures attached.

The old “hosting web servers” argument just doesn’t hold up anymore. ISPs should stop gloating about their so-called high-speed internet access and increase upstream data to at least 1.5mbps to accommodate the online lifestyles of today’s internet user. Surely the backbones that the ISPs use can handle the additional speed. All internet backbone lines, whether they be older DS-based or current OC-based lines, utilize symmetric link speeds, both upstream and downstream, unlike the heavily lopsided end-user internet connections.

UPDATE: Comast recently announced faster uploads for all customers at no charge…they must be reading my blog!  Standard tier Comcast customers now get 6mbps down / 1mbps up and the premium tier customers get 8mbps down / 2mbps up!  Finally!  A nice speed bump…posting pictures to the family album is loads faster…

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