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Can Cable Really Be Slower Than 56K?

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the so-slow-you-can-hear-a-pin-drop dept.

The Internet 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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Re:"56k modem" != 56KB/s (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#78558)

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.

Re:Depends on your cable carrier (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#78559)

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+.

I would have gotten first... (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#78561)

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

Slashdot Broadband Mad Libs (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:It depends... (4)

Tim Doran (910) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:Yes, it can. (3)

CaseyB (1105) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:Depends on your cable carrier (1)

Eric Sharkey (1717) | more than 13 years ago | (#78569)

Do the math!

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

That's way higer than typical "DSL speeds".

ADSL in the UK (1)

chrome (3506) | more than 13 years ago | (#78570)

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.

Re:Depends on your cable carrier (1)

Shrubbman (3807) | more than 13 years ago | (#78571)

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.

Depends on your cable carrier (5)

Alan Shutko (5101) | more than 13 years ago | (#78574)

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).

Re:It depends... (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 13 years ago | (#78575)

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.

You're still sharing. (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 13 years ago | (#78576)

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.

Re:My exp. (1)

gid (5195) | more than 13 years ago | (#78577)

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.


No! (1)

cluening (6626) | more than 13 years ago | (#78578)

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.

Re:Cable speeds depend (1)

Archfeld (6757) | more than 13 years ago | (#78579)

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.

Re:I would have gotten first... (2)

mellon (7048) | more than 13 years ago | (#78580)

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.

Re:I would have gotten first... (1)

cymen (8178) | more than 13 years ago | (#78581)

So, uh, what did you do to exercise your arm in order to crank Bono hard when it was manually driven?

Your mileage will vary, check DSL reports. (1)

warnerpr (9286) | more than 13 years ago | (#78584)

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)

Re:I would have gotten first... (2)

davebo (11873) | more than 13 years ago | (#78588)

It made it less funny.

But I still gave it a +1.

Cable speeds depend (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 13 years ago | (#78589)

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.

Re:Cable speeds depend (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 13 years ago | (#78590)

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.

Re:Cable speeds depend (1)

evilpenguin (18720) | more than 13 years ago | (#78591)

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.

It happened here (NZ). (3)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.


Depends on your local situation (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 13 years ago | (#78594)

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 love my cable modem (1)

Spoons (26950) | more than 13 years ago | (#78595)

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.


Slowness is relative. (2)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 13 years ago | (#78597)

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.

Re:I would have gotten first... (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 13 years ago | (#78599)

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.


The other night... (1)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 13 years ago | (#78600)

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!

Re:The other night... (2)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 13 years ago | (#78601)

Should be k and not K (I only wish)...

Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!

Re:I would have gotten first... (1)

vladkrupin (44145) | more than 13 years ago | (#78603)

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...
---------------------------------------- ---------

Re:I've never known why cable was so highly pushed (1)

sshore (50665) | more than 13 years ago | (#78608)

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.

Re:I love my cable modem (1)

wurp (51446) | more than 13 years ago | (#78609)

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

It absolutely can (2)

tnakilper (55391) | more than 13 years ago | (#78611)

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.

Not just cable. (2)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 13 years ago | (#78612)

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!

Re:I love these question headlines (2)

oddjob (58114) | more than 13 years ago | (#78614)

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.

Maybe in the States (1)

devin15 (62895) | more than 13 years ago | (#78616)

I'm from Canada and here my cable connection is fast all the time.

Yes, it can. (3)

bconway (63464) | more than 13 years ago | (#78617)

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?

It depends... (1)

jmccay (70985) | more than 13 years ago | (#78619)

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.

Re:It depends... (1)

jmccay (70985) | more than 13 years ago | (#78620)

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.

Re:I would have gotten first... (1)

Tril (84619) | more than 13 years ago | (#78622)

Doesn't posting to the thread you moderated, remove your moderation?

My exp. (5)

Judg3 (88435) | more than 13 years ago | (#78624)

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.


Check with your neighbours and other customers (1)

tonywong (96839) | more than 13 years ago | (#78625)

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.

Re:My exp. (2)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 13 years ago | (#78626)

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.

Doesn't appear to be so... (1)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 13 years ago | (#78628)

(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!

Re:Duh? (1)

biohazard99 (114288) | more than 13 years ago | (#78629)

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.

Re:I would have gotten first... (1)

mikeage (119105) | more than 13 years ago | (#78630)

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 ;) )

I love these question headlines (5)

mikeage (119105) | more than 13 years ago | (#78631)

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

Re:Huh? (1)

mz001b (122709) | more than 13 years ago | (#78635)

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...

I think the fact that you've experienced a greater than 50% cut in your bandwidth demonstrates that this can be a problem. If they don't add capacity at the same rate that they add users, then your performance will suffer. 150 kB/s is still excellent, but if they keep adding users and don't upgrade, your bandwidth will suffer even more.

Re:Huh? (1)

jasno (124830) | more than 13 years ago | (#78636)

True, but I think the point is that the level of service hasn't dropeed below my expectations and I believe that the company (TimeWarner) has been responsible in keeping up with demand...

That seems to be what it all boils down to. This isn't a problem specific to cable modems, its a problem inherent in any kind of hierarchical networking scheme - you're always limited by the smallest link in the chain. And if the provider is responsible, then there aren't any problems.

I could just as easily claim that OC-3 links can be slower than 56k modems.

Huh? (2)

jasno (124830) | more than 13 years ago | (#78637)

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...

Oh no! (1)

Boatman (127445) | more than 13 years ago | (#78640)

Imminent death of broadband!
Film at eleven.


Telstra Bigpond (1)

chrisom (129213) | more than 13 years ago | (#78641)

Well, we just pulled out of Telstra Bigpond because we had noticed a decrease in speed.

Also, it should be noted that they did cap the speed to 45kb/s ... and then they put a hard limit of 3GB on the amount of traffic per billing period.. all round badness.

A good site for any Australian boradband user, or potential user to check out is Whirlpool []



Re:Telstra Bigpond (1)

chrisom (129213) | more than 13 years ago | (#78642)

Argghh.. sorry. Got the speed wrong (was thinking of something completely different...) It's been capped at 512kbps...



Optimum Online is all good (1)

Rydor (129335) | more than 13 years ago | (#78643)

I use optimum online, which is the cablevision cable ISP. I can easily get speeds of 300-500 kiloBYTES persecond (about 2400-4000kilobits persecond) compare that with 56k, and i think you see the point. i suppose it all matters where you live though, and whether you're cable company throttles down your internet speed, which mine doesn't.

yes, cable based access can be very slow (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 13 years ago | (#78644)

A cable-based network is similar to a shared ethernet. Multiple shared segments (that is users coming to the same headend device) used to be called NAN (neighborhood area network), don't know how it's called now. In any case, if overprovisioned, you effective speed may become very low and in a worst case practically come to the standstill, again, just like on shared ethernet.

Re:Depends on your cable carrier (1)

krogoth (134320) | more than 13 years ago | (#78646)

The solution to this is easy: have cable and DSL! That may not apply to some people, but I could get that for 90$ (CDN) a month (of course i'd need a little extra routing equipment but I already have a small LAN... nothing a linux router with 3 eth cards couldn't handle :)). Although I have a friend who's tried the local cable and DSL providers and the cable was never as fast or as reliable as the DSL (which, btw, is down about 3 hours a year here). My DSL is also faster than I hear from a lot of people - 1.4Mbps down and 384Kbps up. With the current quality, it would take a lot more speed for me to switch to cable... and even then I'm not always downloading huge files. With a good server I can download a CD in 30-45 minutes, and that's good enough.

I must be lucky.. (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 13 years ago | (#78647)

I have had cable for a year now. I live in South Dakota. I've had no problems with the speed whatsoever. I get anywhere from 50 - 400 k/s usually in the 200's. It's fast as hell.

Re:Cable speeds depend (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 13 years ago | (#78648)

If you've gotten on a 56k before, how do you know if your cable speeds never compared to it?

"56k modem" != 56KB/s (4)

TobyWong (168498) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Re:My exp. (1)

scrye (169108) | more than 13 years ago | (#78654)

I used to live in your area of the world 2 years ago. The quality of dialup there differs from ISP to ISP ( is much higher quality than Same with cablemodems. I happen to know for a fact that the retards at Powerlink run all winnt based crap, while those at ctel which offer residential and commercial dsl/leased line run on {SUN/x86} {Solaris,Linux}. Roadrunner in the southern part of the state is run by a bunch of twits also, and go down every sunday morning for 2 hours at a time for "maintainance". Quality of Service reaches beyone speed. Uptime is crucial especially for anyone that works at home. Ive sinced move to another country (O Canada!) and the service here (albeit i dont know much about thier infastructure) is great! better than the commonly available crap in previously stated state. (@home was here previously here, and sucked ass).

Depends on where you are (1)

Busiris (172301) | more than 13 years ago | (#78656)

We all know that this varies from provider to provider as well as location. I can tell you that between 5pm and 10pm my cable modem would _not_ work at ALL. So, technically, yes. At those times my 56k modem was faster than my cable connection.

Re:My exp. (1)

herbierobinson (183222) | more than 13 years ago | (#78660)

The problem with modems is that you will have to reconnect hourly because the are constantly screwing up.

Re:I would have gotten first... (3)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 13 years ago | (#78667)

'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...)

I think the question is... (1)

slowhand (191637) | more than 13 years ago | (#78668)

Can you download a video stream and watch it in faster motion than you can see it on your TV... all coming in via the same line. -Anonymous Coward != Unanimous Cowherd

But probably not from the same isp. (1)

azephrahel (193559) | more than 13 years ago | (#78669)

From the same ISP, cable will, in reality, almost always be faster. Saturation is saturation, it only takes longer with 56k modems than it does with cable or xDSL.

Ameritech in the Chicagoland area for instance, has God-awful DSL. Many sites won't come up at all, others have horrific ping times. Using their dialup is no better however. In this case I think they have a f*cked up router or firewall somewhere, and not saturation, (they refuse to admit there is a problem any way you slice it) but the situation would be the same if it were saturation.

My point? Well I guess I'm just saying its the quality of the isp you really need to worry about, more than the type of connection. I'd rather have crappy cable modem service than 56k service myself, but I used to work for a dialup isp back in the day, so I'm pretty good at getting crappy dialups working. Good cable over crappy DSL any day of the week...but good DSL still beats good cable.

Kinda makes you miss your dorm... a 10baseT hookup streight from a partial T3. Ahhh the good times.

Re:Mea culpa (1)

azephrahel (193559) | more than 13 years ago | (#78670)

Sifl&Olly? Where where where? Sorry to be a dork and post offtopic, but where have you found those online? I miss those guys.
Those were some pretty good actors.. I wonder if those socks ever got any more work..

I've never known why cable was so highly pushed... (1)

Mynn (209621) | more than 13 years ago | (#78676)

Sure, the wire in some cases is there, but everyone knew about the bottlenecks.

XDSL (what I have) seems to be better; I don't have the "every one in the 'hood sharing one connection" problem. Given the choice between dial up and Cable, I stuck with dial up until XDSL became available (our town was built 10 yrs ago with fibre optic, I think they had to retro-fit us with copper or something).

Have you thought about getting cable, but maintaining a dial up back up? Or can you sweat it out until XDSL is available?

Other options include getting a burner at work (assuming work has a decent connection) and downloading large needed files there.

-Mynn the Museless

cable experiences (2)

X-Dopple (213116) | more than 13 years ago | (#78677)

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!"

yes, true, but very unlikely (1)

room101 (236520) | more than 13 years ago | (#78683)

This is true by definition (cable is shared access, thus, it is theoritically possible), but the likelyhood of it getting that bad is pretty low. I used to have cable access (then I moved), and sometimes the packet loss was so bad, that playing quake was worse than on a 56k. My download speeds and www page load times were still top notch, but the packet loss made playing games just terrible. It turned out to be a router problem, but of course, I don't know what it really was, since the guy I talked to wasn't sure what a router actually did.

Most providers have QoS (quality of service) statements that specify that it won't get as bad as [fill in the blank] or they will add capacity or fix the problem. For Time Warner/Road Runner (in Memphis, Tn, anyway), it was that it wouldn't get worse than ISDN. But the catch is, how long do you have to live with that crappy service before the fix it?

Re:I love these question headlines (2)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 13 years ago | (#78684)

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:

Might be your ISP (1)

WillSeattle (239206) | more than 13 years ago | (#78685)

Cox Cable overbuilds their network and uses premium circuits, with a faster maintenance rebuild schedule than most. I found that dial-up was also better (GTE circuit) down there in Santa Barbara too - could get 40K consistent in Santa Barbara and 24K in most places in Seattle.

As I understand it, Cox has fewer oversubscribes, and part of the problems that other people talk about are due to oversubscribed cable segments using oversubscribed fat pipes. Apparently Cox doesn't do that.

Re:Depends on your cable carrier (1)

the_rev_matt (239420) | more than 13 years ago | (#78686)

>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.

Not an absolute truism. If you're close enough to the CO you can get 7Mbps via DSL, I don't believe that cable goes that high (could be wrong, wouldn't be the first time, but I don't think so).

Re:Depends on your cable carrier (1)

the_rev_matt (239420) | more than 13 years ago | (#78687)

Just re-read the rest of the original post. I don't know any DSL subscribers that are below 384K, which is higher than what the original poster positied as the high speed for consumer DSL. Personally, on a good day I get 768K (Qwest is not very good at bandwidth throttling) on a bad day 384K and I'm paying for 384K. Most of my friends are in the 512K-1.5M range.

2:00 am - 4:00 am... (1)

lyapunov (241045) | more than 13 years ago | (#78688)

that is the only time i can download my pr0n on cable in a reasonable amount of time

Re: Can Cable Really be Slower Than 56K? (1)

sielwolf (246764) | more than 13 years ago | (#78693)

Re: Can Cable Really be Slower Than 56K? Can I get an amen from all Optel subscribers in the house?

Re:Cable speeds depend (2)

baptiste (256004) | more than 13 years ago | (#78695)

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.

Obvious (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 13 years ago | (#78696)

Well, you just have to do what my school do: stick 500 student's rooms and 300 teacher's offices behind a single T1 pipe. Yeah and it's an engineering school.

Re:I would have gotten first... (2)

kilgore_47 (262118) | more than 13 years ago | (#78699)

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. ;-)


Re:I've never known why cable was so highly pushed (2)

kilgore_47 (262118) | more than 13 years ago | (#78700)

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 [] )


First things first (2)

_newwave_ (265061) | more than 13 years ago | (#78701)

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 ;-).

Life in the sticks... (1)

plopy (265642) | more than 13 years ago | (#78702)

I live out in the middle of nowhere, and the people who live around me are the kind not to have computers. I don't get too many slow downs, and the service is excellent. When I lived in the 'burbs tho, the connection dropped occasionally (sic) and it was slow at peak hours.. Guess it all depends where you live and how many people use their cable near you.

Mea culpa (1)

Mister Black (265849) | more than 13 years ago | (#78703)

My name is Mister Black and I am a bandwidth hog. I'm sorry, it's all my fault. I must apologize for the slowdown. I use my cable modem to download all the porn, mp3s, futurama and sifl&olly episodes I can. It's going to get much, much worse before it ever gets better because I'm not going to stop.

Mister Black

Is broadband slowing down? (2)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#78704)

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?

"Bandwidth Hogs"? (3)

Glasswire (302197) | more than 13 years ago | (#78705)

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).

My Experience - It's Fast (1)

nemesisj (305482) | more than 13 years ago | (#78707)

This summer I am getting much faster speeds on my cable modem than on the campus of my school, which has several T1's feeding it. One of the reasons for this may be because I am on the outer limites of my city and therefore I don't think my node has very many people (I can get around 250-500 KB a sec). I did have one outage for around 5 hours (I use Time Warner) but that's been it. If you're thinking to switching to cable, a lot of providers in my area waive the installation fee and first month's charge if you set it up yourself.

SocalRR is cool... (1)

xkenny13 (309849) | more than 13 years ago | (#78708)

I had DSL (through for about a year and went from 256K to 768K (via a $50 service upgrade) for about $50/month.

Eventually I switched over to cable (Time Warner Cable / Road Runner) and was getting considerably faster access ... according to the Road Runner page, I was seeing 1.5m+.

Overall, I have no complaints!! The service goes down infrequently ... in fact, it's on-par with the DSL service I had. It's also $10/month cheaper.

I'm told other locales aren't so lucky. My friend lives in the San Jose area and he fully verified that sometimes a cable modem can lag behind a 56K dial-up connection. Man, I'd hate to live there!!

Anyway, I suspect YMMV ... go with what works best in your area. Me? I've yet to see any significant slowdown in my area ... Orange County, CA.

Re:It depends... (2)

infinite9 (319274) | more than 13 years ago | (#78709)

I've seen that comercial! You're CANADIAN!!!!

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


TargetBoy (322020) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

ATT@Home: not slow, but high latency (1)

3ryon (415000) | more than 13 years ago | (#78714)

Here is a summary of 144 pings to my default gateway:

Packets: Sent = 144, Received = 143, Lost = 1 (0% loss

Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:

Minimum = 10ms, Maximum = 1252ms, Average = 183ms

This adds up to being killed a lot in Unreal Tourneyment.

Re:Slashdot Broadband Mad Libs (1)

darkpenguin (442917) | more than 13 years ago | (#78717)

This is true. I use @Home and have been very pleased with the available bandwidth. I don't think this is another reason to switch to DSL, I think it's another reason to move to a older neighborhood. I've found that old folks don't have broadband. (Hey, don't pretend that your not a big enough geek that you wouldn't move just to get better access.)

Of course it can (2)

MajorBurrito (443772) | more than 13 years ago | (#78718)

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.

Re:"Bandwidth Hogs"? (1)

NotoriousQ (457789) | more than 13 years ago | (#78722)

People who don't disconnect are not causing that much problem, they are using perhaps only 1kB/s stream to use their messaging and stuff. Your problem is people like me...multiple downloads of linux iso's, and a lengthy (as in time) ping -f (my modem is a router, or so it seems)

Remember, when you are downloading MP3's, you are downloading communism!!!

Baud != Bits Per Second (3)

Ambient Sheep (458624) | more than 13 years ago | (#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.

Oversubscription (1)

Kenyaman (458662) | more than 13 years ago | (#78727)

The main problem is oversubscription. When I got my DSL line, I had really good performance at first. Then the company got aquired by another company that got aquired by another company that got aqcuired by a huge national ISP.

Each time, my "hops" to the backbone increased (by the time I left them, I was 9 hops and an average of 70ms before I even hit the backbone!), and my throughput plummetted.

One day my throughput dropped to ~ 1 K/sec, much slower than my modem used to provide. I contacted the ISP and once I finally got up to someone who knew something, I found out that the national ISP had brought a new bank of modems on line between me and their main office. They planned to get me up to 128kbps (twice 56k speeds) in 6-8 weeks.

I found another ISP and have not had any problems since.

Re:QOS/TOS (1)

dohcvtec (461026) | more than 13 years ago | (#78730)

Honestly I don't expect any sort of QOS when I'm paying $40/month for a fairly consistent 2Mbps pipe. If I were paying $60-80/month for DSL (that's what it costs in my area) then I would expect QOS. And it's not in the legalese where they disclose this about cable service, either. Watch @Home's commercials; they clearly mention "Speeds may vary."

Re:I would have gotten first... (1)

Valiss (463641) | more than 13 years ago | (#78732)

That's why I have a job where we have multiple T-1's so I don't have to worry about lag period. At home I had DSL and I got lagged out all the time. Finally I switched my Primary DNS to another city nearby and that improved my speeds a great deal. All in all I have had better speed when using a cable modem but it seems to be less reliable. Go figure, you can't have your cake and eat it too.


The solution (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 13 years ago | (#78733)

Sure, cable is really slow at peak times. If you're like me, and download everything at 4am, it's not a problem. :)

Duh? (1)

Philipv1 (467269) | more than 13 years ago | (#78735)

Modem access, just like cable access all are filtered through switches and then fed through routers. The *only* difference is that cable modems have these hubs for each neighborhood, which is a Good Thing(tm) because it has many pipes all filtering down into the main router rather than just dialup-switch-router where the single switch can be overloaded, whereas cable networks wont unless the neighborhood somehow eats over a gigabit of data at the same time (Not likely!). Stories like these are just urban legends and people really have no idea wtf they're on about .. "I heard cable is bad because too many people can slow it down!" .. Yeah, well, its the same for ANY ISP mr brainiac, difference being Cable has it laid out 10 times better. I get insane transfers from my cable modem and download an entire Data/Audio CD binary in just under 10 minutes (700MB). It is never slow, and is always up.

Interesting premise ... but where is the data? (1)

martinbogo (468553) | more than 13 years ago | (#78737)

I am a cablemodem subscriber in the Bay Area, and have been checking my bandwidth pretty regularly over the last four months.

In all that time, my average incoming bandwidth has remained between 1.5 and 3 megabits. My outgoing bandwidth has been a relatively constant 384kbit.

As with anything else, a well maintained cable modem network works. I'm sure there are still people out there in copper-land who can't get better than 26kbit, because of noise on copper lines.

Oversubscription will lead to poor service, and poor service will lead to customer attrition. In this case, I am confident that customer feedback will correct the deficiencies in companies that are providing poor service.

cable in Wisconsin (1)

schtickgod (468587) | more than 13 years ago | (#78738)

I have cable in wi, and they had some problems early on, but lately have been pretty good about it. I usually see 60-70k on a good day and 30k on a bad day. Sure beats my 56k line, and good luck getting DSL around here.
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