Hey, all. Here’s a post that substitutes fecklessness for anything even remotely resembling politics.
The sprout, a gamer, just came in to ask if we could upgrade to 330 mbps internet from RCN, from our current 155 mbps.
We got the latter on a 12 month intro price that has just expired, and we’d get the new service on a renewed promotional price, so the all-in price is only about eight bucks more per month.
What I’m wondering is if the increase in download/upload speed will make any noticeable difference to our actual web life. We use our home connection to do very conventional things: email and the kind of online work that grown ups do (I spend a lot of time mousing around digital archives, for example, and a lot looking at online art galleries); gaming (my son) and streaming TV: Netflix and Amazon Prime right now.
We’re getting artifacts and annoying skips and resolution loss in the latter, and it would probably be worth a few bucks a month to smooth that out. But I have no real idea if our bottleneck lies with the download speed or if there are other bottlenecks to blame.
Any thoughts, oh more technically capable folks?
Also, any reason I shouldn’t by a DOCSIS 3.0 modem instead of renting one from RCN? Any insight on how malicious the cable companies are about obsolete-ing home gear?
Thanks to any and all.
Image: J.W.M. Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railroad, 1844.
IMHO: unless you want to stream multiple HD videos in parallel, you have enough bandwidth.
Surely you mean up grading from 15.5 mbps to 33.0 mbps. The only way you could get any lag on 155 mbps down is if your sprout is downloading the entire internet at once.
I doubt you’ll notice, or will your kid.
Ask your spawn to kick in the delta between 155 and 330 to see how serious they are about it.
And yes, I would buy my own cable modem. ROI is usually around a year, and you could also buy used ones. RCN’s website probably has a list of compatible ones, so get one that is on their list just to keep things as simple as possible.
You might also have some home gateway/NAT/firewall box (linksys, dlink, etc) that is between your home devices and your cable modem. Make sure it has enough horsepower to support 330mbps if you decide to upgrade.
1) Your gamer is almost certainly more concerned about latency than about bandwidth. Latency and bandwidth are different and independent. The classic example is a truck carrying a load of DVDs.
2) It’s unlikely that you need more bandwidth than you’ve got now.
@Hunter Gathers: I thought the same thing. RCN does actually sell 155 and 330 mbps service.
I hate just about anyone that lives in a major metropolitan area. The fastest we can get in Rochester is 50Mbps from time warner. And they offer sweet packages (internet/tv) in all sorts of markets EXCEPT Rochester. Might be time for a call to the Public Service Commission again (they helped when TWC wouldn’t cancel my cable)
@MattF: With regards to latency, upgrading your modem from 155 to 330 will almost 100% not cut your latency in half.
Do a packet loss check if you’re worrying about latency more. I’ve had to call Comcast at a couple places to come do line tests. Sometimes I can even make them fix up the whole neighborhood line.
@Central Planning: Was going to edit/add, but FYWP for not having permission to edit my comment.
One other thing with regards to latency is how over-subscribed RCN is. I’m sure they have all sorts of models to figure out how many subscribers can saturate a 10Gbps pipe to their upstream internet providers. Since that’s all statistical, there will be times when it’s slow (like evenings) and fast (when kids are at school). Not much you can do about that, or even figure out what those statistics are unless you know someone that works there.
@Baud: Do they have that? I know when they went to regular HD, performers were unhappy cause it showed too much detail(skin problems).
@Central Planning: I’m a net admin for a medium sized company (200 some odd employees, half of whom are connected to the net). Our ‘business class’ internet from New Wave maxes out at 50 mbps down. If 50 mbps down can work for that many lazy fucks watching You Tube all day, 155 mbps down is overkill. You’re going to pay for bandwidth you’ll never get close to actually using.
RCN says their 12 month plan for 330 is $55/month. I’m paying $65 to get 50. Fucking TWC.
For $55, I would get the 330. Just because I can.
If you’ve got problems, it’s not the listed speed. Run Speedtest.net (or the app) to see what the speed is really. Test the wifi and the jack depending on how you’re using it.
I’m running 55 Mbps at home with no problems, downloads are fast enough for me. I use a Roku3 for streaming, no issues.
In contrast, I still have my mother’s house on 1.5 Mbps (barely) DSL. I stream over there with a Roku Streaming stick and Netflix is fine, but there is more compression used. YouTube is a bit slow to get buffered and you don’t want to try to fast forward a video
I might consider renting to try the modem and buy one if you like that model. Otherwise go find another brand/model.
Yes on buying your own modem, check eBay, Craigslist, offerup, local Facebook garage sales, or whatever other swap sources you have locally, you can usually get the standard model most people use for really cheap.
@BillinGlendaleCA: It’s your home town industry.
Porn is usually on the cutting edge of tech.
I’m happy to say that I finally dumped Comcast and their obsolete technology for FIOS (fiber optic network). The catalyst was a tree falling on the cable, so it was repair or replace.
I could have got 500MPS but opted for 100MPS, and that’s fine for me. Streaming, Web browsing (including email), no gaming but I doubt you need an extra 200MPS for that. Also I get the same speed for both upload and download.
I am impressed that I am getting 100+MPS for real.
Since I only watch TCM, I also skipped the HD so I don’t need the space heater STB, just a small box that delivers SD video. I’m not interested in HD with all the deep colors compressed the hell out of it, I’ll stick with my BR collection. Call me an anachronism. Once I have some time, I’ll replace out their modem so Verizon doesn’t have a back door into my network.
I don’t even need a DVR. Watch TCM, their streaming app, effectively gives me a TCM-only DVR for free.
Gin & Tonic
I run network connectivity for a ~300-employee company with multiple, important, externally-facing sites on two 100 Mbps circuits. There is no way you need 330 for a household.
As others have pointed out, it’s latency, not bandwidth, that causes any problems you might see. And without some very detailed information which you are unlikely to provide, it’s hard to tell where your issues are. The complexities behind this sort of question are the sort of thing which keeps me gainfully employed.
Absolutely buy your own cable modem. I imagine that every cable company is different, but my sister’s modem was over 5 years old and her cable provider had made no moves to upgrade.
I’d be somewhat skeptical that you are actually going to get the full 330 mbps, given the track record of service providers in this area. I also highly doubt that you need it, unless el niño is secretly running his own cyberempire. Ask him why he thinks the upgrade is necessary – and if he can’t make a convincing case, say that, under the circumstances, he can have any and all upgrades that he is willing to pay for. I think you’ll find this produces a satisfactory outcome to the process.
I liked RCN when I used their service – honest and competent and quick to help out. In my experience, they were fine with you getting your own gear, so long as you didn’t trash the stuff they provided.
@WaterGirl: We had a Motorola Surfboard DOCSIS 2.0 modem on Cox for something like 11 years before I finally got a DOCSIS 3.0. ;-) If it works, the cable company isn’t going to mess with it (they don’t like spending money on sending people out).
ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem is what we got to replace it. It works fine for us – dunno if you’d need something fancier for 330 mbps. Our connectivity issues have almost always been the external wiring to the pole (most of our neighbors seem to be on FIOS now). We don’t game or download movies and haven’t noticed any latency issues.
@Another Scott: That’s what I had before this one (6141). I got the ARRIS SURFboard SB6190 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem last January and it made a difference, but I had been having trouble with the previous one.
@nominus: Agreed. It certainly sounds like the modem is to blame here, and replacement would be worthwhile. I’m not up on the latest home modems, but the home firewall market is jumping leaps and bounds – especially as 802.11ac becomes more available and affordable.
Streaming over wifi? Wired connections will almost always be faster – but that means either an electrician recabling your house or a lot of exposed wires.
Tim F. might also check what “wifi-enabled” devices are in the house. Most newer laptops will have 802.11ac built-in, but few desktops have anything newer than 802.11n, and many don’t even have that. Also, USB adapters are limited to the speed of the USB bus: and at USB 2.0 nothing faster than 802.11b/g speeds are worth paying for.
Short and sweet: replace the modem, get a good firewall/router, direct wire whatever can be cabled, and upgrade the wifi equipment (desktops should get PCI cards, notebooks should get new cards or be replaced). Don’t buy the “super-duper-fat-pipe” marketing from your provider: the bottlenecks are more likely on the inside.
Oooo-yay. Tech questions.
I suspect my older, no thrills modem is showing it’s age. This is a single user household. general internet usage with emphasis on streaming movies via Comcast Xfinity. May I please have a few suggestions for a new modem to buy?
“Don’t blame *our* internet speed for *your* crappy gaming skillz! Go-back-to-your-room-no-dinner”
Go for it.The more the merrier. Just do another 3-4 posts a day in order in order to cover the cost.
I’d definitely recommend doing speed tests before doing an upgrade. With both and old and new modem, my service provider gave me some horrid performance degredation after my modem had been on for too long. Right after resetting the modem, I’d get pretty much the rate they promised, while over a week or two it would slowly drop.
Best network performance improvement I have gotten was with a smart switch that reset my modem once a day. (And yes, I’m aware how poorly this reflects on my service provider)
OT Football .. GA upset Auburn.
Raven is happy
I can’t even comprehend 155 much less 330. I live with 12 and stream netflix and amazon but no gaming.
My cable provider has a list of what modems work with their service and I bought my own in 2001, for $69.99 at Costco. I bought another one in maybe 2008 and my latest two years ago for $59.99. You just have to call them and read them a number off the thing and it’s good to go.
Saved a ton of money. I just pick the one that has the highest rating on Amazon or other online rating service. Installation is just plugging a cable in, plus the power cord. Five minutes start to finish tops, including moving furniture.
I hate all you all. My DSL is 2.5Mbps. It does stream Netflix fairly well owing to their custom compression algorithms, and the screen resolution is surprisingly good. I think I read somewhere that my LG 4K tv can magic better resolution out of a low bandwidth stream but that may be more BS than anything.
You shouldn’t have skipping or artifacts at either 155 or 300mbps. I get smooth Netflix HD at 12 mbps although just a single stream. Still something else is going on. Make sure you don’t have some kind of rootkit serving kiddie pr0n or something.
@JPL: Yay raven!
Connect a PC straight on the modem port. Check the speed. It will be fine.
Then put the money into upgrading your piece of crap wireless router/firewall.
Villago Delenda Est
THE key issue for anyone playing games over the ‘Tubes is latency. The lower, the better. Bandwidth isn’t nearly as important for gamers, except when they’re updating software, and all the usual rules about bandwidth apply. Latency is also key for YouTube type things, although bandwidth always helps.
Higher bandwidth (mps) will help gamers out when they’re forced to share a connection with the mundane who want to do clunky things like download files; poorly set up podcasts, for example, can cause latency over the circuit to go stratospheric; the party downloading the podcast doesn’t care, but your gamer does. Windoze updates can also raise latency to the moon, Alice. It’s a matter of virtual life and death for a gamer.
Echoing above — latency, not bandwidth. Latency is the amount of time it takes for a packet of data to go to the remote server and back again.
What sort of games does the kid play? Twitch games (doom, quake, etc) are far more sensitive to latency than other types of games, eg Civilization.
Depending on the type of game, it may offer ping measurements in game. Otherwise, try pinging various servers.
It’s also worth noting that latency is affected by everything between you and the remote server. The things in your control are the wifi router in your house. If you’re depending on the built-in wifi in the cable router, that’s often shit. This can be fixed by buying a wifi router to connect to the cable modem via ethernet. One way to test this before buying a wifi router is to plug the computer you’re playing with into the cable box directly using an ethernet cable (most should support this) to see if that helps, either in game latency or ping.
Feel free to ping me via the email that I presume you can see if you want more info.
edit: it’s perfectly possible that you streaming video at the same time the kid is playing games can hammer latency. Again, just measure this by stopping all other network activity while playing games. If that is the problem, a decent wifi router should be able to prioritize the traffic and help a lot — watching netflix is not particularly latency sensitive. Look for qos features on the wifi router.
I think the earlier comment about 15.5 and 55 vs 155 and 330 is correct. 330 would be more than enough for any online activities. Hell, 155 Mbps is more than enough for most online activities!
And yeah, buy the modem. Costco will usually have a cable modem that is compatible for around $60 to $75 so you should recognize the savings within the year.
Many thanks to everyone. The consensus seems to be “no” to the speed upgrade; “yes” to buying my own cable modem (and wifi router).
It will be done!
And yes, if I run into trouble, I’ll ping as offered or broadcast a bleg.
Again, my thanks.
oh yeah — it’s perfectly possible the problem is the cable company’s hardware between you and upstream fiber. In that case, SOL without moving or trying dsl.
But as I said above, consider taking the $100 you’re willing to spend and seeing if a better wifi router will improve matters. And share the name of the games.
Villago Delenda Est
@Earl: Anything twitch is sensitive, MMOs are sensitive. Stand alone on the PC games don’t care much how much latency you have, especially turn based games, like Civ or similar things that can be multiplayer over the ‘Tubes.
Villago Delenda Est
@Earl: To echo this, the quality of the connection is very important in figuring out latency issues. Old copper that’s been chewed by squirrels is terrible latency wise, but if you’re just downloading stuff you won’t notice it except as it makes for a longer download. Anything interactive will notice the quality of the connection, no matter how high speed/tech your equipment is. In an ideal situation (say, Sweden!) we’d all have fiber connections and things would be grand, but ILECs will NEVER upgrade their data outside plant last mile unless they’re forced to by someone like Google coming to town and offering fiber connections.
Bill E Pilgrim
Someone touched on this above but one thing that isn’t always obvious is that the speed hardwired into your modem and the wifi speed are going to be pretty different. I signed up for 90 Mbps with Comcast/Xfinity and speedtests were showing it at 20 through wifi. I talked to them and blah blah blah but when I plugged it directly into the modem it was actually higher than 90. I drilled a small hole in a wall, got one of these and threaded it through so I have it direct to the bedroom also.
Just saying, test it both ways, but if you can hardwire the gamer (okay not the gamer but the gamer’s computer I mean) that might solve your problems. And I second the idea that your Amazon issues aren’t because of speed.
Gin & Tonic
It could be anywhere upstream. I once spent the better part of four months diagnosing an intermittent latency problem that affected voice connections between one of our branch offices and our home office. I mean detailed, packet-level diagnosis of the connection process that takes place when somebody picks up the handset to make a phone call. You have to have forensic-level data to talk with carriers. In the end it was a mis-configured piece of equipment at an upstream provider that we were not a contractual customer of.
Luckily this was part of my job and I’m salaried, because I dread even to think of what that problem cost.
I get 65 mps on Carter and I access that over WiFi (airport extreme, 100mps max speed). I’ve done the speed test and when everything is working properly I get 65 or slightly better. The speed of the connection to the backbone and my computer is not the problem. As several have stated latency is a lot of the issue. At my last place we had 20 mps and I was wired to the modem. That worked almost as good but it was FIOS and their latency was crap, so the overall satisfaction was less than great. It was far better than the DSL I had lived with for 7 yrs.
Yes speed is important but the number of steps and how crappy they are, the number of people actually on the same service line as you are all more important after a certain speed.
I’m on a CenturyLink 14/2 Mbps DSL connection. I can game, my son can game, my wife on the tablet gaming or browsing and we can stream (non-4K)Netflix and I never see buffering on the streaming service. Unless you are going to be streaming on more than three devices, or upgrading to a 4K streaming package, don’t waste your money on extra bandwidth. Hunt down the latency issue (in-home wi-fi? connection to the home? provider routing/priority decisions?) and that will make a huge difference.
I would suggest a separate router and modem, makes later upgrade easier, and if one goes down, replacing one can be cheaper and offer more options.
What really chaps my ass is that Charter wants to double my cost because they say that is a competitive price. How is that a competitive price when Charter is the only provider for my area? I went around with them a bit and then filed an FCC complaint. I then got contacted by a higher up who also gave me the competitive price bullshit. I’m now paying the same $39.99/month as I was for 65 mps, internet only, no phone, no TV.
I also know an ISP who provides service to cities and counties which is supposed to be very secure. They paid a lot of money to bring in 2 separate backbone connections to their new location so that they would never not be able to provide service. I was told that in one year the cost of better servers for their farm kept them from having to double the farm size to deliver a much better product. The providers we all use don’t do that. They don’t have to, so they don’t.
Seconding the hardwire for the gamer. Games over Ethernet vs games over wifi do not compare at all. If running cat5 sounds daunting, we have had decent results with an Ethernet over electrical line system in our house. The far outlets cannot have a GFCI between the outlet with the router and the outlet for the router, but that’s the only issue we’ve had. We have 5 devices on Ethernet (Apple TV, Xbox, my Imac, the music/print server and an upstairs wifi repeater) which are all behind the firewall and we have yet to hit a congestion problem, even the times I have stress-tested the network. You do need to have copper electrical — some houses do still have aluminum — but the various boxes do not need to be on the same breaker.
Do run the speed tests with a hard wired computer, however. There’s a not bad chance that your provider is not consistently providing the speed advertised. If they’re not, it’s worth making calls.
As an aside, wifi in a crowded neighborhood gets sketchy. Check which channel you’re on and what is less crowded in your neighborhood.
@Keith G: Arris SurfBoards are getting some good ink, and the bandwidth looks decent. For router/firewall, look at Asus, Linksys and D-Link: all have some good fast devices with good security features.
I have no idea how to answer your questions, but that is one of my favorite paintings.
You might want to read this article because it is quite possible your latency problem has nothing to do with your bandwidth, but rather with the bad software in your cable modem, wifi access point and upstream equipment. Eta you may be able to modify parameters to improve matters, and newer docsis modems have parameters to address the problem.
As others have said, the issue isn’t likely bandwidth from your IP. More likely, it’s one of the following:
* Your Fire receiver, if you’re using one. Amazon Fire is crap, both the stick and the box. Amazon can’t seem to get the software right, and the hardware is junk. Everyone I know who’s had a Fire has had it go bad. Get a Roku.
* Your Wifi. Wifi sucks anyway. But try moving the router closer to any devices having problems, or connect them with Cat 5 if possible.
* Your cable modem. With cable modems, you get what you pay for, unless you’re renting from the cable company, in which case you probably have a refurbished POS.
* RCN. Call CS and ask them to test your connection. There may be some technical issue somewhere upstream from you that they don’t even know about.
Occurs to me that something as easy as changing the channel on your router to one less crowded might help.
See here for basics.
Steve in the ATL
Tom, a couple of years ago you posted a picture of an old painting of a young boy in red (I think) with a bird in a cage. Do you remember what that was?
I ask because my great grandmother, Minnie Maude McMullen May, had a copy of that in her library in her house in Sumner, Mississippi, and i still have nightmares about it, nigh on fifty years later (nigh on–I’m not fifty yet!).
@Steve in the ATL:
i bet the picture you are referring to is a Goya, owned by the Metropolitan Museum. you can see it at this link:
i would post the picture directly but don’t know how to do so.
Hkedi [Kang T. Q.]
@Another Scott: I’m the informal IT department for our household, and I also recommend the Arris SB6141, It’s reasonably cheap, has all of the data throughput you can get out of a non-fiber-optic link, and that’s all it does. You will still need a wireless/wired router to plug into it though, if your router is really old that might also be causing a bandwidth bottleneck.
Finally, a quick way to check your cable modem is to either find the WAN IP address from your router (when you log into your router look for the gateway host IP number under the internet tab of your router). Often the cable modem is 192.168.100.1 with a login of admin and a password of password. That allows you look at the actual signal link to your cable company. If you see lots of uncorrectable codewords, then that’s a problem on the cable company side (I’ve had less than 2000 on each channel per month).
We upgraded to Google Fiber 100mbs service from AT&T 20mbs service that averaged about 10mbs most of the time. Various speedtest sites shows us that our PCs w/ethernet cables are indeed loading the internet at 100mbs. Unfortunately our browsers’ performances do not reflect this speed increase. Firefox & Chrome are still painfully slow at times, uSoft Edge is a bit faster but very klunky. Our Netflix streaming via ethernet-cable connected Bluray player still freezes & shows artifacts. I’m not sure what is keeping these things slow but I suspect it is our low-end PCs & Netflix’s streaming ability at their end. Dunno what the effect on gaming PCs would be but faster hardware better handles faster bandwidth. It might behoove you to see if you do a trial connection before you sign a contract – Google has a fiber demo site downtown here where you could likely plug in your gear for a test & AT&T uVerse sales offices might offer a similar feature elsewhere…