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Can Cable Really Be Slower Than 56K? 181

Ralph Bearpark asks: "June's IEEE Software mag carries an article titled 'The Cable Modem Traffic Jam' that claims (amongst other things) that 'a 56K dial-up modem can at times be faster than a cable modem and access can be more reliable' due to neighborhood bandwidth hogs, billing system bottlenecks server overloads, and various other problems, many of which apparently also apply to xDSL."

"Now, I had been seriously considering upgrading to cable, but now I'm not so sure whether it will be worth the extra cash. What is your experience? Is broadband really slowing down?"

I'm working at a cable-modem connected computer which really does seem sometimes to lag behind good old 56K -- anyone out there have advice on avoiding The Great Slowdown?

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Can Cable Really Be Slower Than 56K?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Since you decided to get anal...

    There's also a difference between baud and BPS. Baud refers to the number of state shifts on a carrier line, while BPS refers to ... bits per second. The two are sometimes, but not always, equivalent.

    56k modems are 5.6Kbps (well, 5.3Kbps here in the USA). I don't know what their baud rate is.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Huh, DSL can provide 45Mb if you use the right DSLAM and DSL bridge! It all depends on which DSL standard you are talking about. Many people are using ADSL, SDSL, or RADSL. But there are much faster standards too, such as VHDSL. You can range from 56Kb to 45Mb+.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here in good old BC... we also have Shaw@home..which used to be Rogers@home... now reliability of the connection is decent (couple days a year hopefull), although the local ADSL is like .5h/year downtime....

    The big problems with shaw et al. are a couple of things... their mail server gets an uptime of about 50%. It sucks... end of story. Not only that..but all @home connections have to bounce through ontario before they hit the net.... so... guy in BC wants to see a BC site... must send packet to ontario and back to BC... jeez...the federal government is like that.

    Another pet peve about @home... tech support. I used to have I know all about them... you spend hours waiting to get someone who doesn't know ANYTHING except that if they type "ping" it gives them things. ADSL I called and spoke to a guy who knew what he was talking about... and not only that...but when I called back..they routed me to the SAME GUY for continuity. (@home seems to think that if you explain it to 5 or 6 different people who have no might get it right).

    I don't know how things are run in other areas...but here if you want cable... you call and bingo... you are off to the races... they never check how many people have it in that area or anything. ADSL you have to have the opening at the tel. co. for it... you CAN'T overload unless your network people are idiots.

    Oh yeah... and @home here gives you 1 IP via DHCP...then they charge you more for additional IPs... and requires a separate cable outlet (unless you split it..which the cable company hates)... ADSL here gives you 2 IPs via DHCP, roaming access anywhere they have dialup access (BC, alberta, and some other areas), and it uses your regular phone line.

    Cost for cable: $40 CDN/month + $10 CDN/month for cable outlet (roughly)
    Cost for ADSL: $35 CDN/month.

    oh yeah... that is $35 CDN/month for 1.5Mbps down, 512kbps up.

    And when I had cable (in a neighbourhood where few had it)... I would only get ~50KBps on average.... I get the same via ADSL... but in a MUCH more populated area, for cheaper, for a more reliable service...hmmm... which one am I going to choose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:35PM (#78561)
    If my cable modem weren't being so fucking slow right now!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @02:06PM (#78562)
    Apoogies to the other guy:

    I have __________ (broadband tech) from _________ (company) and get _________ (speed) except between _________ (times) and/or from _______ (hosts). Therefore, _________ (broadband tech) is _______ (adjective) except for the tech support which is _______ (another adjective).

    Seriously -- These posts say *nothing*. Broadband infrastructure varies wildly depending on the neighborhood, company, locale, local PUC, blah blah blah. Unless you are comparing the same company in the same zip code, your nice packaged conclusions don't merit the bits they are printed on.
  • fucking retard.

  • Uh huh. And 600 kilobytes is well within 10 megabits per second.

    Do the math. It isn't too tough.


  • Idono what kinda crack these people are smoking, or where the hell they live that their podunk cable providers are that congested, but I've *NEVER* had a complaint about either my DSL line *or* my cable modem. The cable connection consistently averages over 100KBytes/second, and oftentimes *well* over 600KBytes/second. The DSL connection is slightly less speedy, at a "meager" 150K/second.

    Where do you all live where the internet connections are that bad for DSL/cable? Geographic locations, please. I'll know never to move there.


  • by Tim Doran ( 910 ) <timmydoran&rogers,com> on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:51PM (#78566)
    Your post sounds a *lot* like my local DSL provider's aggressive advertising. "Bob was so tired of sharing his cable modem with the neighbourhood that he bought the whole neighbourhood". *Sad scene of a kid riding a tricycle down an empty sidewalk*

    I really don't think the last mile is often a bottleneck for cable or DSL. I lived in the burbs for two years and was the *only* subscriber on my segment for much of that time. Now I'm in the city and sharing the segment with many others. No perceptible difference in speed.

    YMMV, of course, but I really think the cable vs. DSL argument is a non-issue. It's the backoffice hardware and backbones that I'd be concerned about.
  • by CaseyB ( 1105 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:42PM (#78567)
    ...they are too focused on expanding their customer base than actually maintaining a proper infrastructure. ... Another case for DSL, perhaps?

    Absolutely not. That "proper infrastructure" is NOT all about the last mile to the home. I think most of the problem is well inside their routing facilities, where their backbones are hopelessly overloaded, and would provide poor bandwidth to users even if they all had private fibre lines. DSL providers are just as likely to have poor central routing and bandwidth as cable providers.

  • I'm not as much concerned with speed as with feature set and consistency. Reliable and consistent 416-Kbps symmetric DSL and routable IP address space---like a /27 or /26---would entice me away from my reliable and semi-consistent 2-Mbps CATV connection with only four (freaking!) IPs. But my connectivity needs aren't typical of your average Unreal freak, and unfortunately, the DSL market sucks and the cable providers aren't really in the biz market at the low end.

    It's all rather frustrating.

    Er, I had a point. Oh well.

    Rev. Dr. Xenophon Fenderson, the Carbon(d)ated, KSC, DEATH, SubGenius, mhm21x16
  • Do the math!

    300KB/s = 300 * 8 Kb/s = 2400 Kb/s = 2.4 Mb/s

    That's way higer than typical "DSL speeds".
  • No problems with ADSL here in the UK. I just wish the prices would come down.

    Well, other than the fact that BT like to turn you off for a few hours every week, without telling you, OR your ISP.

    Probably the cleaner come in to do some vacuuming in the server farm and unplugging some equipment to plug in the vacuum cleaner.
  • Actually I've got a friend who's DSL routinely gets him 3-400KB/s off of high bandwidth servers (tucows and the like). Granted, I know people in other parts of the city (Dartmouth NS, Canada) who have less than stellar DSL coverage. Because of this uncertainty, and the fact that my cable modem might not perform quite that well but it's been working consistently for me for 4+ years so I'm happy.
  • You are speaking, kbits, he is speaking kbytes.
  • I too have had excellent experiences with Shaw. I do know a little bit about their infrastructure. I toured their facilities since I have business contacts at Shaw and was quite impressed. In my city, at least, they have deployed fiber to a dozen or two nodes around town (I live in a small city of 80k - Sault Ste. Marie, ON) and each of the nodes, while equipped to handle about 5000 connections, are split once they reach 50% capacity (split meaning they essentially create another node).

    Apparently they have some agreement with Terayon to use all their stuff, but while the equipment they use for the nodes claim to handle so many connections, Shaw has noticed reliability drops from 100% once capacity passes 50%. Perhaps other cable companies don't bother doing QA testing and take the word of the sales department of the technology the use at face value.

    In any event, infrastructure-wise they certainly seem to have their shit together, at least here. I've been happy with their service. Tier-1 support in Calgary are handled by a bunch of morons, but that's okay because they're supposed to deal with lesser morons. For our business contact we go right to the local tech manager and we always get very prompt and competent responses. (Which is good, because it saves me from giving the Tier 1 guys the usual "Look, I've forgotten more than the Tier 2 guys know, so please pass me up to someone who can make decisions.")

    I'd certainly recommend Shaw cable to anyone in Canada.


  • by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:40PM (#78574) Homepage
    If you have a sucky carrier for any type of broadband, your speeds can be very low.

    If you have a good carrier for any type of broadband, your speeds can be very high.

    Now, as the article discusses, there are more things the cable company has to keep track of to keep your speed high than with DSL. OTOH, you can get much higher top speeds with cable modems than with DSL. On the lioptonline group (for people with Cablevision's Optimum Online cable modem service) we have people complaining when their local transfer rates dip to 300KB/s... which is higher than the top speed of any consumer DSL I've seen.

    So what you need to do is talk to other people with the provider you're considering. See how their speeds have been, and whether the provider seems responsive. See if there are any mailing lists you can check out to see if people are unsatisfied. Check out both DSL and cable modems to see which are better in your area.

    For me, when things have been working, I've never dipped to DSL speeds, let alone a 56Kb modem. And when things stop working, the cable company comes out and fixes it (although sometimes it takes a while to figure out what's wrong).
  • The problem with your argument is: DSL is shared also.

    Instead of everyone in the neighborhood sharing a 30-45Mbit local loop, all your traffic is aggregated at the head end (the telco office) then multiplexed and shot out a single connection.

    Cable: The load is on the local loop.

    DSL: The load is on the network gateway/peering point.

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!
  • Cable: The neighborhood shares the local loop (usually 30-45Mbits).

    DSL: Traffic is multiplexed at the head end (telco office) and the aggregate is pushed through another, higher bandwidth connection (depends on the provider).

    Cable: The load is on the local loop.

    DSL: The load is on the head-end/peering point.

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!
  • I dropped my cable modem because it was slower than a 56k modem. Whenever I started up a game of quake3, I couldn't move, and my pings shot through the roof. I'd have my housemate do an icmp and it would be like 2000ms, exit quake3? Everything's fine again. I could download at 50KB/sec maybe. One person downloading would have a similar effect. If someone else starting downloading something, pings shot through the roof. We spent way too long speaking with the clueless tech support at Comcast.

    Oh and we would "loose sync" multiple times a day.

    The weird thing is, that we had the exactl same cable modem even at our old apartment, and the thing flew! (Comcast@Home, in Gaithersburg, MD) Anyway, we dumped comcast@home after over two months of frustration and no solution or even a hint of what might be going on and now have speakeasy 384 sdsl, it's over twice as expensive, ($109/mo) but it's a dream.


  • by cluening ( 6626 )
    Cable modems can't be slower than 56k! It is impossible for them to drop below 60k, otherwise the bomb on them will explode and blow Ted, Neo, and all of the passengers into little pieces.
  • read it again, he says,"he's never gotten 56k on a modem" which is normal as the federal limit is 53k and most folks rarely exceed 48k.
  • Actually, what most people (admittedly, not gamers) notice most is downlink speed, and you being slashdotted slows down uplink speed, not downlink speed. So you may be causing less trouble than you think - you will be producing some latency in acks that will slow down apparent downlink performance, but this might not produce a very noticable effect.
  • So, uh, what did you do to exercise your arm in order to crank Bono hard when it was manually driven?
  • I think you are talking about the DSLAM (DSL Access Multiplexer) - this is similar to the network access server (NAS) used in dial Internet infrastructure, except that it's an ATM switch and normally has no IP functionality.

    It's true that the DSLAM can be overloaded, in the same way that any link or node in an ADSL or cable network can be overloaded. And of course the upstream link(s) from the DSL/Cable network to that provider's ISP(s) can also be overloaded. However, this is fairly unlikely - now that there is some experience with running DSL/Cable networks it's fairly easy to dimension them. The only caveat is that if all users are running high-demand web servers or streaming media downloads the whole time, the network could be overloaded - this is why access providers have terms of service that enable them to do something about this.
  • This assumes full-duplex all the way. Not always a safe assumption.
  • I am pretty sure that no one supports service level agreements for home DSL or Cable connections. With an SLA you would be guaranteed X bits/s at a minimum, or be due money back, or parhaps X bits/s 95% of the time, etc etc. Better service promises would cost more money. Currently phone and cable companies make some effort to maintain connections and speed but are under little obligation to meet exact specifications.

    The only reason for slowdown (besides weather related things) is over subscription. With Cable since it is a directly shared medium it is easy, with DSL it is less likely, but DSL connections are often concentrated together with your neighbors, and certainly eventually you need to talk to the rest of the internet and that is shared so there is always a bottleneck. Check for cable and DSL reviews in your area. If you can't deal with some slow downs run a wire to everyone in the world you want to talk to, then you will be all set. (which is sort of what the plain old telephone system was, but is becoming less and less so every day)
  • The original poster said 300 KB/s, which are obviously kilobytes. 384 "K" for DSL is 384 kb/s, which are kilobits.
  • Yeah but Shaw is probably one of the best Cable providers around -- they don't use, for example...
  • Thats not possible. Look how much thicker a coax cable is than a phone line. The bandwidth is tons higher.

    That has to be the dumbest statement I've read on /. in a good while. By your scale, I could run 14 gauge lamp cord and get even better bandwidth because it's "much thicker"

    If bullshit was gold, Slashdot would be Fort Knox..

  • It made it less funny.

    But I still gave it a +1.

  • Depends heavily on your area. I go through Cox@Home in San Diego, and I'm so far pretty satisfied with the speeds. Downloads normally run about 300-400K/sec ( nominal downstream speed is about 3 megabits ). There's occasional dips to 100-200K/sec, but they don't last. The really bad speeds, down in the 20-40K/sec range, are usually associated with specific sites and I think indicate either network problems outside @Home's network or bandwidth or server problems at the site I'm accessing.

    Other areas served by Cox seem to have different results. Some are as good as me, some are horrible. So far, though, the worst rates I've seen are still somewhat better than the max rate of a 56k modem, and I never got 56k on a modem.

  • Theoretical max speed on a 56k modem is about 7K/sec ( 56 kilobits / 8 bits per byte ). Lowest speed I've recorded on Cox@Home is 18K/sec ( to Sunsite, on a high-traffic day ). 7K/sec is less than 18K/sec. QED.

  • Not to pick nits, but if you are using asynch serial protocols (which you are), your theoretical maximum is 56k/10 (8 databits, 1 start bit, 1 stop bit), or 5.6k.

    Realisitically, since we are talking about IP, you also have to figure at least 20 bytes IP datagram overhead per MTU, so lower yet, etc., etc. Once you add in these mandatory minimum overhead elements (you should add a UDP datagram header as another minimum), you'll get a number a lot smaller than 7k for a theoretical maximum throughput.
  • by WasterDave ( 20047 ) <(moc.pekdez) (ta) (pevad)> on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:50PM (#78592)
    We had a cable modem service called Chello, run by a Dutch ISP apparently. They were dumb enough to offer unlimited downloads and consequently a few people attempted to make copies of the entire Internet. Well, perhaps just the pr0n and warez, but you get the picture.

    So, their business model which was based (as best I can tell) on a T1 and a colossal cache was quickly reduced to rubble and download speeds allegedly dropped to the 56K kind of arena. Lots of pissed off people = no more chello.

  • This is so true... I'm with Cablevision and I constantly get 200-300 KB/sec from sites across US. They have a ftp site set up to test the "last mile" speed, from that I get 650KB/sec. Uploads are good also, around 110-120KB/sec. Mind you, this are kbytes not kbits.

    Bottom line is, if you live in the Tri State area, get this service... it kicks Verizon ass any time, day or night.
  • I'm fairly sure there aren't many users on my local loop - I'm always seeing the max allowed upload speed and often get the max or close to it while downloading. My parents, who have more users on their node, see lower speeds, but not 56K-modem speeds.
  • I have cox@home in Santa Barbara, CA, and I have never seen any speed problems. I heard all of the horror stories about cable modem companies and bandwidth problems, but I have never seen any. Maybe my results are atypical. I get a capped upload speed of about 32kBytes/sec and an average download speed of 150kBytes/sec I have seen downloads up to 400kBytes/sec. The service has gone out twice in a year for about 10-15 minutes each time. The price $45/month with cable modem rental. All in all I am very happy with the service. What makes me the happiest though was the ease of install. That is the major difference between cable and dsl in my mind. With Cable you are dealing with 1 company. This makes a huge difference. I called the cable company on a Monday it was installed as promised on that Thursday. As counterpoint, My girlfriend had DSL installed and it took literally 6 weeks to get it installed (coordinating the dsl people and the telephone people was a nightmare, they both pointed the finger at each other about whose fault it was). Her DSL experience is probably atypical but the average DSL user seems to have more install headaches than the average cable user. Just my 2 cents.

  • OK, the upload cap, price hike and lack of node split are all AT&T's problem, not @Home in this case. Please bitch at your closest AT&T rep.

    Vote Socialist [] or quit whining!

  • It doesn't take an Einstein to say that some parts of a cable or DSL network are going to be slower due to conjestion. But you might try [] to get a feel for what your local cable and xDSL connectivity is like.

    I certainly can't complain. I consistantly measure at 2-3Mbps on my download stream. I've never seen it go below 1Mpbs that was due to anything but the remote site being slow/jammed.

    Of course, with a 56k modem, you don't have to worry too much about local (or remote) traffic conditions. You're too slow to stress anyone.

    Try that DSLREPORT site. Very handy.

  • hey i'm not too good at math but:
    700*8/(10*60) = 9.33 megabits/sec.

    if you are getting 9.3mb/sec you could setup a nice web hosting/colocation business in your house. you should really consider this as an additional source of income. a t1 is 1.5mb/s so you are effectively getting 6 t1's through you cable modem. i'm plugged into internet 2 here at school and i cannot even get that kinda speed!

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • Wow, this is the first post I've seen in a year or so that's gotten above -1! Impressive.

    Trolls should take this kind of work in mind, and try to do so well themselves.


  • I was pulling down a Flash animation at over 100K off my @Home connection - of course, where I live (northern outskirts of Phoenix, AZ) I can't get DSL, but then again, no one in my "neighborhood" has a computer besides me, so no one else is ever on, it seems.

    Generally, I get well over 70K most days...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • Should be k and not K (I only wish)...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • Informative? I guess that means fiber optic cable should have the smallest bandwidth since it's the thinnest?

    Get real. Moderators, blast this thread down.
  • Well, I would have gotten here at least at some time if my cable wasn't down, which it is 50% of the time, like right now!

    Now, does the fact that I am typing this make it more or less funny? I dunno, but I do not think so because I have to use DSL at work to get to slashdot...:) You be the judge...
    ---------------------------------------- ---------
  • by drivers ( 45076 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @03:55PM (#78604)
    I have DSL from McDonald's and get 55 MPH except between noon and midnight and/or from and goatse. Therefore, Cablemodem is longwinded except for the tech support which is galvanized.
  • No, the modem can't go over 56kbps, but you have to remember that this is raw bandwidth. The data gets compressed before going on the wire, so if you're transfering data that's highly compressible (like a text file), you'll see higher effective throughput.
  • However, the FCC won't let it go faster then 53Kbs. Even then, you'll be lucky to connect at 48Kbs (6Kb/sec) on older phone lines.

    That's not (entirely) true. The FCC only limits the maximum power level on the line. This limits the number of PCM codes that are available for the modem to use. For X2, the proprietary 56k protocol developed by 3Com (or was it still USRobotics?) before V90 was adopted, it meant that it could not go above 53kbps. V90 on the other hand, is able to connect at 56kbps and stay within the limit, although it's obviously much harder than if the limit wasn't there. So, while highly unlikely, it is possible to connect at 56kbps with V90 in the US.

    I personally connect at 49,333 every time, on a local loop that is more than 17kfeet long.

  • It really depends on your neighborhood and the time of day.

    I can't speak to neighborhood, but in my experience (Time Warner cable modem, Akron OH area) time of day is a definite factor. There seems to be a "rush hour" around 4-6pm (kids getting home from school, people getting home from work), and Sunday afternoons can be brutal.

    In the wee small hours of the morning I can get 400kB(yte)/second web downloads on a fast site. At the worst of rush hour I usually don't fall below 60kB/s... and that still makes a dialup connection look pretty sick.

    Yeah, I expect it to get worse, but I figure I've got a while before the ol' US Robotics starts looking good again.
  • XDSL, or more properly, xDSL, is a generic term for Digital Subscriber Line technology. It includes ADSL and SDSL, and all the other DSL variants.

    I suspect you probably have something called DSL Lite, a splitter-less variant of ADSL that's being pushed for lower cost.

    Like many people have pointed out already, it's the carrier, not the last mile technology, that is the current bottleneck. It shouldn't really matter if you go with cable or dsl.
  • I don't think your gf's experience was as atypical as you think it is. I also don't think most DSL problems are related to the interaction between the DSL provider and the ISP.

    I requested DSL to be installed in Fayetteville, Arkansas by Southwestern Bell. They told me to expect it to take four weeks. That seemed like pretty crummy response time, but it was the only high speed option I had. Note that SWB was both the ISP and the DSL provider.

    Well, four weeks came and went. No DSL. I called them once a week for several months; still no DSL. They also never, ever returned any of the ~20 phone calls that they said they would return.

    Finally, a friend of mine pushed me into asking one of his buddies, who runs an ISP, to get the service for me. The new ISP told me it would be two weeks to get the DSL. Four days later, DSL was up & running!! So, after _10 MONTHS_ of waiting for SWB to set up my DSL, the 3rd party ISP got me set up in less than a week!

    The moral of the story is that sometimes, the 3rd party ISP can get your DSL service to you faster than interacting directly with those bastards at Southwestern Bell.

    Bobby Martin aka Wurp
    Cosm Development Team

  • Yeah, I have been following BS's deployment schedule for a while now. DSL was deployed to our CO last fall, however my neighborhood suffers from some undisclosed facilities issue that prevents me from getting service in my home. Supposedly they're working to correct the problem. Some friends one block down the street have DSL and are much happier with the service than they were with Charter. They use Telocity because they heard that BS sucks.
  • Until very recently, my cable modem service provider (Charter) had a couple thousand customers sharing a single T1 on the head that services my home. In the evenings, the service was completely unuseable (below 20kbps). Charter credited my account for several months to make up for my inconvenience. While waiting for it to be resolved, I frequently used an AT&T dial up account. They've recently installed a T3 to service our head,and the speed issues have largely gone away. Unfortunately, I'm still dealing with frequent service interruptions that leave me off the net for hours at a time.

    Charter was obviously only concerned about getting a couple thousand paying customers lined up, and could care less that their infrastructure was incapable of handling the load. If only Bellsouth would get off of their dead asses and get the infrastructure in place for dsl to my home.
  • Any network access can be oversold...cable or DSL. I have a friend who had GTE DSL and his ping time was over 500ms to his first hop at his ISP. I've had friends with saturated cable connections.

    It all comes down to your ISP and/or telco not overselling the connection. My RoadRunner cable modem is as fast today as when it was installed, and we were one of the first few in our area to get it. So good service is out there!
  • Most of these posts are nicely redundant and all, but I thought I'd pipe in for a moment here...

    Cable modems, phone modems and DSL all share lines, but in different ways. The phone-line modem connection is your own... at least all the way to ISP modem bank. DSL is about the same, I think, though connections may get joined in between... I'm not really certain. Cable modems use (or at least previously used... some may have altered the system) a token-ring network to link together a region. What this ends up meaning is that if your cable company is actually paying any attention to the amount of traffic, the only time you'll feel any sort of slowdown is if the number of users on your ring goes up significantly (percentage-wise, that is). And that slowdown should last for anywhere between a few hours to a week at which point the number of tokens being passed will increase on the ring and you'll be back to your old speeds.

    The possibility of Cable dipping below dial-up speeds exists, but is so compeletly unlikely that it might as well not be a possibility. Of course, some cable companies might be worse than others... Thus far Road-Runner hasn't given me any problems in any location I've used it (Syracuse NY, Albany NY and San Diego CA).

    Research into the local companies never hurts, though... There are always a few aberrations.

    ~Anguirel (lit. Living Star-Iron)
    "Veni; Vidi; Vi C++"
  • You haven't seen these problems yet, so you assume they don't exist. I have. They do. I've experienced both bandwith and latency problems, but the latency problems have been the most irritating to me because I play a lot of quake (poorly...). Sometimes I can get sub-100 ping times for hundreds of different servers -- others, I can't find a single sub-800, and 999 lag spikes mid game are no fun.
  • Cable can't be used in a business environment, because you can't get business support or a static IP. Period.
  • I'm from Canada and here my cable connection is fast all the time.
  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:37PM (#78617) Homepage
    The problem with companies like @Home and Charter is that they are too focused on expanding their customer base than actually maintaining a proper infrastructure. I hear stories every day from people who's cable access is unusable at 5 PM and fire up the 56K on their phone line to check their mail. Another case for DSL, perhaps?
  • Actually, the *theoretical* best of a 56K modem isn't 5.6KB/s. 56 means 56Kbits. In theory, it can do 7KB/sec (KiloBYTES).

    However, the FCC won't let it go faster then 53Kbs. Even then, you'll be lucky to connect at 48Kbs (6Kb/sec) on older phone lines.

    Incidentally, I've *never* seen my cable modem (Optimum Online, south west CT) drop below 160Kbs. For sites with decent bandwidth, I generally get upwards of 3.2Mb/s
  • It really depends on your neighborhood and the time of day. The problem with cable modems is everyone in the neighborhood shares the same line. You have peek times when everybody and there uncle gets on and uses there connection, and if a lot of people in your neighborhood have cable modems, this can and does cause a bottle neck which results in slower sspeeds. How slow? That depends. Theoretically, it is possible to be slower than 56k because you don't have a dedicated line as with dial ups and dsl services.
    If you live in NYC, you might see this more often, but if you live in the country, you might not see this that much.
  • It really depends on when your trying to access it. Then there is the sites your trying to access, the traffic flow from your computer to the site's servers, etc. If you try accessing the inter at the wrong time (when everybody and their uncle is trying to) you'll see bottleneck no matter what you are using. If you always access the internet during those off times, then you will not notice a difference. It depends on the trafic.
  • When Optus@home [] first came out I thought the broadband market here was finally getting somewhere but I was going to wait until ADSL came out. Telstra also claimed to be coming about with a new plan to compete with Optus, but as I expected this was a load of bullshit.

    But I got sick of waiting so I contacted Cable and Wireless Optus (C&WO) to inquire about Optus@home. They got back to me a week later to say that they couldn't install to my house because there is more than one dwelling on one block. After hours of phonecalls and the fact that they installed it to one of my neighbours in the same block of townhouses they agreed to install it but then the land lord had changed her mind.

    At this stage, Telstra's Cable was capped at 400kbit/sec, compared to C&WO Optus@Home cable capped at 3-4Mbps for downloads. When Telstra ADSL came out they increased this cap to 512kbit/sec and I decided that this still wasn't worth it.

    Finally in late November 2000 I got an email from Primus [] offering me ADSL for $115 a month at 1.5Mbps with no download limit. I was a bit weary about using them from a reliability point of view but I figured that anything would be better than dialup which wasn't 100% reliable anyway. So I got it and they are about the only provider without a cap so far. Unfortunatly they don't seem to be offering the same deal anymore to new subscribers. It has had it's outages as well, but we got the first 3 months for free to comphensate for that.b

    Melbourne, Australia
    ICQ 19255837

  • Doesn't posting to the thread you moderated, remove your moderation?
    • TOS
      A recent thread on a local sysadmin mailing list has talked about not only Tems of Service, but what's actually implemented. One local DSL provider is accused of blocking outbound TCP port 25. No SMTP from your box, except to theior official mail relay. Is that in the Terms of Service? Allegedly not. Bottom line: some ISPs are committed to full/open access, while othetr have TOS or de facto policies that limit you. Good providers? In the US, Speakeasy for DSL is very highly regarded.
    • fearmongering
      56k can be better? Pure fearmongering. Ask them for statistics, actual measured instances of this slowness. Then push them on their data gathering methodology. It's bunk.
    • latency
      Any half-decent broadband, in addition to higher (downstream) speeds, will give you much better first-hop latency, which can make a big difference for some activities/applications. POTS+modems suck.
    • contingency plans
      What does the provider do if the broadband circuit is down? My cable provider used to provide dialup PPP access for when the cable plant was screwed up (not that the cable connection has given much trouble at all). Now they apparently don't. And with the "free" ISPs kaput, even rebooting into Windows, I don't have any network access if the cable plant chokes. That sucks.
  • by Judg3 ( 88435 ) <(jeremy) (at) (> on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:41PM (#78624) Homepage Journal
    I've used and worked for several cable modem ISP's. RoadRunner, @Home, Adelphia Powerlink, and I find that on the slowest days, they are still faster then 56k. Maybe not by much, but faster none the less. The main problems I had was frequent disconnects. With Powerlink, I used to lose synch regularly, for sometimes hours at a time. Thats the frustrating part. With a dialup, if your connection slows or drops all together, you just dial back in and hope to connect to a diffrent modem. With Cable, if you lose connection, you cant do much besides unplug your modem and plug it back it. If you dont get synch badck, oh well, wait. Same goes for DSL, but I've noticed that DSL is a lot more stable then cable overall. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that you KNOW the bandwidth of your DSL, and it's harder to overload then with cable. From what I've seen, cable companies basically add on customers till the lines drop, then get more lines. Rinse, repeat.

  • I've got Shaw@home in Canada (Edmonton), and I've seen both sides of the bandwidth fence.

    When I first got the cable modem two years ago, I think I was the first one on my block to get it. I got speeds up to 1.2MB/sec in real world transfers (Hotline). As more users got on, the speed dropped to a more reasonable 180k-220k/sec.

    Then for a while the speed slowly degraded to a miserable 8k-10k/sec for about 3 weeks. Everyone must have complained hard because speeds jumped back up then to about 200k/sec.

    From what I've seen here, cable is generally faster than aDSL but DSL speeds are more consistent.

    So check with your neighbours and other customers of whoever you're getting the service from first. If there are tons of complaints on their forums I wouldn't take a chance with them. Of course, YMMV.
  • Depends on your DSL provider. Here, the DSL is constantly having problems. If it's not their backbone going down, it's the mail servers crashing, or the authenication servers crashing, or the PPPoE servers crashing. We also have two different companies providing cable service to the city (in different parts of the city), one of them provides excellent cablemodem service and the other provides extremely poor service.
  • Other options include getting a burner at work (assuming work has a decent connection) and downloading large needed files there.

    Not necessarily. One of the last places I worked the Corperate NOC watched bandwidth usage closely. When the techroom started downloading movies in DIVX, about a week later every single person in our location from management down got flamed for our bandwidth usage. :)
    Too bad they're in chapter 11 now... Guess there might have been a reason for it.
    Oh, BTW, it was an ISP as well.
  • (Cable Provider Shaw@home, Vancouver, BC)
    Welcome to the 2Wire Bandwidth Meter. This meter will determine your maximum throughput to our Web site.
    Test completed...
    Bandwidth = 9251.7 Kbps

    Let's see your 56k modem get those kind of numbers!

  • Depending how large a cable company defines a neighboorhood, how about a 3000 person dormitory complex. It was great working for those bastards anyways though, received a job ticket for slow/no service, went to the users apt, hung out for 15 minutes waiting for the service to step off of peak and billed for 1 hour, the user got their connection and I got paid.
  • He's an AC... I hope someone sees this to mod it up (or reposts the same message without the fucking for the PC crowd ;) )
  • Can it: theoretically, yes. Is it: no. Seriously... I have cable at my parents house (ADSL here), and while I usually average between 50 - 65 K/s on the DSL, and 50 - 100 on cable... I've _never_ seen a website that wasn't slashdotted (or running off another 56K) download slower than about 15 K/sec. Same goes for FTP. It's true that broadband often transfers the bottleneck further upstream... but that just proves that having a bunch of pseudo-T1-capable line accessing a T1 is not a viable long term option
  • But I still gave it a +1.

    And by posting non-anonymously, you've just undone that moderation, and wasted the mod point.

    Keep up the good work, Skip.

    (Hint: RTFM [] next time.)

  • I don't think it is all that widespread. Can it be slow? Sure, no doubt about it. As the quip goes, the first thing you notice when you get broadband service is how slow the rest of the Internet is. Last night, among other sites, seemed pretty poky. But at work - which is a hell of a lot better wired than my apartment is! - things can often be surprisingly slow too. I wouldn't be too quick to pin things on cable.
  • Assuming 600Kbyte/s,

    600kbyte/s * 8bits/1byte = 4800kbit/s
    4800kbit/s * 1m/1024k = 4.6875mbit/s

    In theory, it could happen.

  • by jasno ( 124830 )
    Is this really a widespread problem? Myself and several friends all use cable modems in the San Diego area (both Time Warner and Cox) and I don't think I've ever heard any complaints. Incidentally, I've been using it for a year and a half now and I think I've only had one short ( 1 hr. ) service interruption and the only drop in speed came about a year ago - I originally could get 400kB/s (yes, that's kilobytes) on ftp while now I can only get 150 or so...
  • "
    Spoken like someone who has never had broadband access. If someone has never had a microwave oven, it's a hard sell. But once you have had one, the usage patterns become established, and you'll find it indispensible. Same thing with broadband access.

    I've recently given my brother back his microwave and haven't replaced it. Still haven't starved in the past two months either.
  • by TobyWong ( 168498 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @02:34PM (#78653)
    The problem is not with dialup modems or even cablemodems for that matter - it's with the terminology.

    For gods sakes, a "56k modem" CAN NOT do 56KB/s. At its *theoretical* best it can do 5.6KB/s and practically speaking you will be lucky to hit 5. Dialup users only *wish* that a 56k modem could do 50+KB/s.

    "56k modem" means "56,000 baud modem".

    If your cablemodem is consistantly dropping below 5K/s then run, don't walk, to the nearest phone and call your cable co up because obviously you have severe technical issues.

    The whole issue is confusing because companies will flip between Mb/MB/Kb/KB depending on which sounds most impressive in that particular ad.

  • Can it be slow? Yes. Is it really in most cases? I doubt it.

    One thing I know for sure...I have Charter Cable and I am supposed to get 512K down and 128K up. Off peak, I get it. Peak (say 6PM EST to 9PM) I only get about 300 - 400K. Slower than a 56K dial-up? Never.

    This is about like saying "Yeah but sometimes a Porsche is slower than my if it breaks down. Yeah. Then my Hyundai is faster than a Porsche 911. Of course, the only problem is my Hyundai breaks down more often than the Porsche."

  • The question was "Is broadband really slowing down?"

    ADSL is broadband.

  • I'm sure that while his upsteam is sending more packets, the flood of http GET requests pouring through his downstream connection slows things down a bit.

    Heh. Well, my download is 1.2Mbps, from a Nortel DSL modem. With PPPoE (yuck!) overhead, I've capped out at 1Mbps. But not with GET requests...

    My upload speed is allegedly 320kbps - that's how my ISP advertises it - but I know it's capped out at 15kbps. With PPPoE overhead, I usually cap out at about 13kbps. About 3 times the upload of a 56k modem, but not stellar.

    Now that the dust has cleared, and going through my server logs, I see that from 5:PM to 7:PM EST, I was averaging over 30 requests per minute, but topped out at over 250 requests per minute for about 15 minutes.

    It seems that Bobo attempted to crush my webserver [].

    That was fun. Can we do it again sometime? :)

  • (it took me a WEEK to get the idiots to have my IP reverse-resolve can't browse slashdot without resolving, b/c they time out on a lookup (I guess their logs are configured to do lookups)

    Hmmm... Well, I have a static IP, and my nameservers point to it. But my ISP's techs didn't delegate authority, so reverse DNS on my IP address will come up as a Velocet address. So far, it's only caused me a problem once, and that was trying to send an e-mail to an Internet security company.

    Cablemodems are great! It's just the fools administering the service that suck.

    Same with DSL. I was a cable modem fan until started offering DSL with an optional static IP for $5/mo. That was when I eschewed the relatively proven technology of cable modems to try out DSL. When I signed on a little over a year ago, they were basically a startup, and their service _really_ put the "U" back in "SUCK". But for the past six months, [rapping my knuckles on the gorgeous mahogany veneer cabinet of the Philco beside me] they've been really good. I'm impressed. Hey, they've even e-mailed me to alert me of impending downtime - what more could you want?

  • Kind of reminds me of my first internet connection back in 1993-paying hourly rates. Power users paid more than moderate to low-end users. Is what we're seeing now a rerun of the old internet connection fee structures? Is that like one step forward and three steps back?

    Sure sounds like it. But I don't think it'll play out, at least in urban areas. In moderately rural areas, cable installations will happily carry Internet access to those who are too far away from the CO to have DSL as an alternative.

    DSL is also a fairly immature technology, and I suspect that innovation will lead to longer allowable loop runs. After all, DSL is only the same modulation technology as a 56k modem uses (a kind of sophisticated multi-carrier QUAM), but with wider analog bandwidth (which allows for more QUAM carriers and therefore more data), at a higher frequency (from 5kHz to 250kHz or so) and with greater loop impedance (so the phone is still "on hook" even while carrying several QUAM carriers). It's not magic, it's just several 56k modem chipsets and a custom controller chip stuffed into a small box with a UTP connector on the back. Nor is it doing anything that copper wire everywhere isn't already doing.

    Even if the loop is long and doesn't give more than 10kHz bandwidth, DSL could now be implemented for an alway-on approximately 56k connection that doesn't interfere with voice communications. And, in practice, except for hum-bucking coils and line pads, the bandwidth of an unshielded untwisted pair (ie. telephone wire) is limited only by stray capacitance between the conductors. Picofarads, at best.

    Since Xc = 1 over 2 x Pi x f x C, and arbitrarily assuming that the allowable maximum capacitive reactance is 100 ohms which roughly corresponds to the impedance of having three telephone extensions off hook on one line, AND given that telephone loop wire is 24? gauge (very small, anyway, meaning stray capacitance per foot is pitifully small), getting at least ISDN speeds out of a long DSL loop should be possible.

    I think technology will prevail. Competition will help to control overly restrictive bandwidth usage policies.

    I think I'll stick with my simple, reliable, and ultimately cheaper (for now), Kflex connection :).

    Spoken like someone who has never had broadband access. If someone has never had a microwave oven, it's a hard sell. But once you have had one, the usage patterns become established, and you'll find it indispensible. Same thing with broadband access.

  • I've recently given my brother back his microwave and haven't replaced it. Still haven't starved in the past two months either.

    Like they say, "The blade of grass that bends with the wind will bring a thousand happiness to the potter who also breeds chickens".

    The DSL Slashdotting continues! []

  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:44PM (#78667) Homepage

    'a 56K dial-up modem can at times be faster than a cable modem and access can be more reliable' due to neighborhood bandwidth hogs, billing system bottlenecks server overloads, and various other problems, many of which apparently also apply to xDSL

    If my cable modem weren't being so fscking slow right now!

    Wow. I pity the other users of my ISP right now. My DSL's upstream bandwidth is *pegged*, simply by putting a link to details of my Junkyard Wars application [] up on Slashdot.

    If you can't be part of the solution, at least be part of the problem. (My ISP needs to improve its infrastructure a bit, anyway...)

  • by cbr372 ( 193706 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @03:16PM (#78672)

    What you have to remember is that the exchange in the local area of the DSL provider puts in a multiplexer to add digital information to the lines for DSL, while it's true that this equipment is wonderful, it's not bulletproof - if the equipment is overloaded (yes, it's possible that they're running an ATM switch at 100% utilization and it's not functioning 100% anymore, or that their multiplexer is under too much load to function 100%). So, yes, in the case of DSL, it's 100% possible that in some areas and at some telcos, the QOS (quality of service) isn't always 100%.

    Cedric Balthazar Rotherwood
    Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform +
  • I can say that @home is a pretty mediocre ISP. Their aim seems to be to get more customers to sign up than to split our overcrowded node. Since they raised their rates to $45 up from $39, I've seen service go steadily downhill.

    Their 128K upstream cap is very annoying too.

    The worst part of it all is that they're the only high-speed option in my neighborhood. I live within 6000 feet of a Qwest DSL station, but for some reason service isn't available here.

    But then, what can you expect from a company that posts this slogan on their home page?

    "@home - So good, it's like Feng Shui for your computer!"
  • Well, I noticed my ADSL would become unbearably slow at certain times of dat (I have I began to track it and found a reliable pattern-- which did not correspond to anything on my system or in my house. I concluded that it must be the ISP. (RTS get sent but no CTS recieved during these times, and connections become unreliable. When they are slow, they are slower than a 14.4 modem!)

    But then I suspect that is not being very forthright about the matter (they have suggested interference, etc. but the same thing at the same time every day is too predictible for interference, IMO. Nothing has worked...

    Sig: Tell all your friends NOT to download the Advanced Ebook Processor:

  • The really bad speeds, down in the 20-40K/sec range, are usually associated with specific sites and I think indicate either network problems outside @Home's network or bandwidth or server problems at the site I'm accessing.

    It may not be a problem on the site at all - I've heard a number of sites are throttling bandwidth on a connection basis - ie you can't download beyond 40 KBps or so to conserve bandwidth on their links.

  • I'm sure that while his upsteam is sending more packets, the flood of http GET requests pouring through his downstream connection slows things down a bit. ;-)

  • Thanks for clarifying that. People toss around 'xDSL' like its another variant aside from aDSL and sDSL..

    Personally, I have aDSL and my downstream is great (I can download from most fast sites at 200k/sec). My upstream, however, is capped right around 13k/sec (i mean kbytes) which I find annoying. Still, I'm happy because its cheap and it very rarely goes down.

    (i have a pacbell line and service from [])

  • Before making a decision on any broadband provider, do yourself a favor and visit [] . And, after signing up with a provider, return the favor and report your experience there as well.

    Oh...and should you happen to choose SpeakEasy [] (one of the highest rated ones), do me a favor and tell them pjwal referred you so I can get a free month ;-).
  • Cable is a shared medium, like ethernet. The more people on the same segment, the less bandwidth each one gets.

    So how do you avoid paying for a cable modem, then 6 months later it becomes slower than 56K? Well, first, see if they put any sort of meaningful service guarantee in their contract. (If so, let us know. I want to invest in that company, if they look likely to actually meet their commitments!) Or see if you can call one of their executives and ask about segment size. Quite likely the response will be "Segments???" Avoid that company, unless you think it's going to be quite a while before they hook up too many modems.

    The other thing that can go wrong, and it affects _everything_, is that the server the cable, DSL, or whatever goes through is too slow for the traffic, or the connection out from there is not wide enough. This would cause slowdowns even if you had your own direct fiber-optic cable to the server. Companies that allow bottlenecks to develop here are just plain irresponsible. What did you expect when you signed a contract that said you were responsible for paying them, and they were responsible for nothing at all?

  • by Glasswire ( 302197 ) <glasswire AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:50PM (#78705) Homepage
    If I use so much capacity that I impact the performance of others, it is not a comment on my telecom morals, it's evidence of the underprovisioning of the infrastructure of the provider. It's well known that many cable providers often sign up far too many users for the headend/switching/upstream-pipe plant they have. Service was good during their ramp-up when their user-count was within spec, but expansion without investment killed quality. The real reason much of the population likes cable modem over dialup is not only the speed diff (when there), but (he says cynically) that they skip going through the dialup ritual and get to be ON ALL THE TIME. (Esp. Instant Msging junkies).
  • I've seen that comercial! You're CANADIAN!!!!

    Pick me up a double leg plate at the swiss chalet would you?

  • by TargetBoy ( 322020 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:39PM (#78711)
    This gets down to the basics of the contracts that we have to sign to get access to this service.

    They make a lot of promises in advertising, but write all sorts of legalese crap into their contracts that disallows them from actually having to do much of anything while simultaneously restricting what you can and cannot do with the alleged bandwidth you are supposedly paying for.
  • If there's a lot of traffic at that moment, cable modems can be painfully slow. It often depends on the service provider.

    If you're looking into cable service, there are a few things you can do:
    • Talk to other people who are using the service, and see what they think.
    • Look at your neighbors. If there are a lot of computer users, then local traffic will be higher and you will have a slower connection.
    • See how many units your local node serves. Be especially careful if it serves an apartment complex or some other sort of high-density housing.
    • Look at the age/quality of the cable itself. I know that it's not supposed to make any difference, but I live in an older part of my subdivision, while a co-worker lives in the newer part. He consistently gets higher bandwidth, though we share the same node.
    You may also want to consider DSL if it's cheaply available in your area. You don't have to deal as much with things like congestion, but you have to be fairly close to the provider.
  • by Ambient Sheep ( 458624 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @02:54PM (#78726)
    I suppose I'd get a slap if I pointed out that "56k modem" actually means (roughly) "56,000 bits per second" modem?

    "baud" does NOT mean "bits per second", it is a measure of the number of state transitions per second on the line - not the same thing, as each state can encode multiple bits.

    > and practically speaking you will be lucky to hit 5

    For what it's worth, I consistently get a 50,666bps connection...

    Agreed about the general misuse of kB/s vs. kb/s etc., though.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.