August 1, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Ups and downs of consumer broadband

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Sharing videos and pictures across the Internet should be a snap for Ron Gonzalez and his five siblings, who are scattered across California, Arizona and Colorado. Unfortunately, it's not.

Instead of posting photos and video of his 7-year-old son directly to a Web site, Gonzalez saves them to DVDs and sends them by mail.

"With the 256-kilobits-per-second upload I get with my service, it would take all day to upload my pictures and video," he said. "We all chat using IM (instant messaging). But forget about sending pictures--it takes too long."

Gonzalez is one of millions of Americans sharing content over the Net. And he is one of a growing number of people who complain that their broadband service isn't providing enough upload capacity for them to send rich content over their connections. While downloading music from iTunes or pictures from Snapfish takes only seconds, posting pictures to a Web site or sending video clips to loved ones can be like watching paint dry.


What's new:
Upload speeds for consumer broadband have historically been much slower than download speeds, prompting some broadband users to complain that upload capacities haven't kept pace with their needs.

Bottom line:
Broadband providers say current demand for faster upload capacity isn't significant. But there are indications that could change in the near future, especially as more and more mainstream customers use the Internet to send large files such as photos and videos.

More stories on this topic

Over the past year, cable and DSL broadband providers alike have touted their increased download speeds, but little has been made of upload speeds. Two providers, Verizon Communications and Cablevision, do offer relatively fast upload services in many of their markets--and upload speeds elsewhere have increased modestly over time--but some users complain that the speeds still haven't kept pace with their needs.

Analysts and broadband providers argue that this is only a small subset of their customer base and that most users are satisfied with the upload speeds offered.

"We don't receive complaints from customers of our standard service when it comes to upload speeds," said Glenn Lock, data service product manager for Adelphia. "Gaming customers who want the biggest and best service are demanding higher speeds, but they tend to be ahead of the mainstream curve."

Gamers tend to be early technology adopters who are typically willing to pay a premium for their high-speed service, he added. As a result, broadband providers have created special packages to cater to them.

Still, there is evidence that demand for faster upload speeds will continue to grow, in large part because it is starting to come from more mainstream broadband users.

"We are starting to see even our average customers wanting higher upload speeds," said Sharon Cohen-Hagar, a spokeswoman for Verizon. "They're finding these higher speeds an advantage for everyday use, especially things like sending photos and videos to family and friends."

pricing charts
How fast, for how much?
Upload and download speeds and prices of consumer broadband services offered by major providers.

As more people subscribe to broadband services, their use of the Internet is changing, say researchers with the Pew Internet and American Life Project. There's growing evidence that people are using the Internet more interactively to swap and share files that include rich forms of media such as music, video and photos. In a May 2005 Pew Internet survey, 27 percent of Internet users said they have shared files stored on their computers' hard drive.

"I think that's a compelling indicator that people are getting more active in sharing files," said John Horrigan, director of research at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. "I believe this trend will continue to grow as more people get broadband. One they have that connection, they want to start doing more things with it."

Broadband has also become a vital tool for a growing number of telecommuters. Download speeds that surpass the 1.5mbps speeds offered with traditional leased access lines called T1 connections (which are used in many offices), make it simple for workers to download files from headquarters while they're at home.

But unlike T1 lines, which are symmetrical, meaning they provide the same speeds for downloads that they provide for uploads, broadband connections are asymmetrical, with download speeds typically far higher than those for uploading. This means that uploading files back onto the company's server can be grueling.

"When I'm trying to send large files for work over the company's VPN (virtual private network), upload speeds are important," said Sushim Mandal, an Intel engineer outside of Portland, Ore., and a Comcast customer. "The download and upload speeds don't have to be symmetrical, but I'd like to see uploads of higher than 2mbps."

Broadband service providers have not completely ignored

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Bull pucky...
The ISPs are well aware the faster upload speeds
are at the top of user's wish list. The issue is
that they simply don't want to provide it.

Read the terms of service for your broadband and
you'll see that just about anything
"upload-heavy", such as serving videos of your
kids off your home PC, is strictly forbidden. Not
that you can't get away with it, just that they
promise to terminate your service if they do.

Want to host a newsletter for your knotting
circle on your home PC -- verboten. Verizon goes
so far as blocking inbound port 80 so you won't
be tempted to run a web-server on your home PC.

The reasons are varied. The Verizon rep I spoke
to said that the rule against running "server
applications" like web servers, game servers, or
remote desktop apps was because 85% of their
customers use Windows and they have had security
issues in the past with Windos machines. Comcast
(who I have an account with) claims that too much
upload capacity would tempt their cutomers to
engage in questionable activities (like
distributing family photos and blogging, no

Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Symmetrical Services Will RUle
The first players to the party will rule their competitive space. Symmetry is a GOOD thing.
Not sure I agree that it is to expensive to provide a symmetrical service in DSL world. It's the net round trip that matters to the DSLAM connection to the COre and the Internet. If we increase this link from let's say a DS-3 to a OC-3 we can handle most symmetrical services within real 10-12K of DSLAM. Cost will also be reduced as networks upgrade from ATM to IP/Ethernet and GigE is the link to the Core & Internet.
Posted by jacomo (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The "real" vision of the Net
As far as I am concered, the internet will just
be another television and radio medium without
high upload speeds. If the promise of Full
Screen HDTV Video conferencing (6mbps up - 6mbps
down) is ever to be reached we as consumers must
demand higher upload speeds.

The problem lies in the infrastructure. The
only guys who are ready for this is Verizon with
their FTTP connections. Sometimes coming into
the market late gives you the ability to analyze
problems of history and come out on top.

Currently the Cable Hybrid Fiber/Coax networks
can't compete because of their Modem
implementation technologies. Shared nodes
etc... I see Fiber as the only way to get what
you want. Now if only the Service providers
would allow Home users to run their own Web
Services such as a web site etc... That's my
complaint right now. Having to pay a hosting
provider to run my hobby web site is my only
option right now. That's when everything will
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
FTTP not really an option...
While technically possible, Verizon's legal
department is against you accepting in-bound
connections... Your service agreement forbids
you from running servers, etc.

I have a friend that works for a portion of
their technical group that's charged with
letting people know all the keen things that
they can doo with faster upload speeds of FiOS.
She was quite surprised when I showed her the
terms-of-service (which prohibits what they are
trying to evangelize), and that they block
various ports (such as port 80 -- so much for
the demo showing how you can run a hobby web
server at home)... She felt kind of upset. She
finally understood why they weren't getting the
response they expected...
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
Give the people what they want!
Upload speeds that are anything less than 1Mbps is an insult to the consumer. How long have we had Netmeeting and other free video confrencing apps? How long have web cams been available for under 50$? Well forget being able to live in the 21st century, no video confrencing will be happening without better upload speeds.
We're so close but yet so far. I hope to live to see the day. Maybe flying cars will come out first...oh wait the auto manufacturers don't listen to their customers either.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
upload speeds!!!!
services like will change the need for better upload speeds
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Definitely a must
the main reason I jumped onto Verizon's FIOS program when I normally would have waited to see how it panned out was that it offers the uploads - 2Mbs - which I was desparate for.

Most of these ISPs would rather offer faster downloads that they know people won't/can't use than more useful upload speed.
Posted by bjglavin (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They say people don't want it - so they don't give it
Yet I have probably 3 dozen (or more) cable channels I don't want (with more on the way!), but I can't have faster uploads cuz nobody wants them? Go figure! Comcast commercials like to tout things like video email, but never mention that it will likely be one-way, and only if the sender *isn't* using Comcast!
Posted by zizzybaloobah (218 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Totally agree
I have digital classic cable, and regular cable. I only watch channels 50-64, and some regular public channels 4-13. There is too much crap on TV.

Plus ive heard that at 4 mb/s cable internet only takes up about half of the bandwidth of 1 tv channel.
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
Link Flag
Broadband could improve, but...
It's still better than dial-up. I'd rather pay almost 4 times as much as I was for dial-up (I'm comaring it to PeoplePC) and not have to wait to connect and not wait 30 minutes for a song to download. Give it time, it'll quickly begin to improve...
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Always thought it was sneaky of comast...
To offer 6 mb/s downstream and only 384 kb/s upstream.
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cablevision is Full of SH__
Sure they offer 1 mbs upload. But if you use it they cap you down to dial-up speeds and don't warn you when they do or even post what gets you capped. The only way you find out is one day you can upload fast, then the next time you're stuck at 28.8 upload speed.
Posted by ballssalty (219 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DSL vs T1
My DSL is 3Mbs download and 512k upload. Works fine for me. I think if people want to host servers and other things on home computers they should have to pay. It cost a lot of money to maintain networks and keep bandwidth available to all. Most networks work off the idea that users can share bandwidth therefor reducing cost.

Here is an idea though. Why not give somebody a choice of higher upload or higher download speeds. For example, someone with a 1.5Mbs connection has the choice of uploading at 1Mbs and downloading at 512Kbs or vice versa. I don't think ISP should allows web or game servers to be run on shared lines. You want to do that buy a dedicated line.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I said it once, I'll say it again...
You must have the good fortune to live within 14000 wire feet of your DSL provider's CO. Or perhaps you are one of Verizon's fortunate few that has access to their new fiber service. That is why you have the down/up-load speeds you have.

With DSL, the further you get from the CO, the worse your bandwidth. I'm at 19000+ wire feet and the best that I can get is 144Kb/s SDSL @ $164/mo. That is a business service price. The next step up for better throughput, assuming I stay with the TELCO solution, is T1(1.5Mb/s) for $500+/mo. I don't live out in rural America either. I live in a city with 90,000+ people and a county of over 2 million.

My local "broadband provider" selections are Cox Sucker Communications and SBC (and those DSL companies like Covad or XO Communications, that piggyback).

I use XO because at the time, they offered the best deal for the 144Kb/s and 16 IP addresses. They lured me in saying they would route my /24 IP block but then after I signed the contract they came back and said that I would need to upgrade to T1 to really do it. There was no point in fighting about it because none of broadband provides will route a /24 IP block without at least a T1 and XO still offered the best low end business package that their competition. Covad wanted $175 for the same connection with 8 IP addresses.

I do find it rather ironic that I've had my IP block longer than a lot of the ISPs but unless I fork out the heavy coin for T1+, I can't get it routed. But that's a different rant.

SBC has been saying for years that they were going to be fielding remote DSLAMs connected to the CO by fiber. The first time I inquired was back in 1998. I'm still waiting. Fiber into the house? HaHaHaHaHaHaHa....In my lifetime...HaHaHaHaHa!!!

Cox offers faster asymetric business packages but the connections more often than not, are bridged networks. That means that the "business" level pipe that I'd be paying for is being degraded with crap that has no business being broadcast on my network. Hmmm...Sounds remarkably like the usual residential service, complete with the cable modem cycling every 24 hours. Why? Because it's the same modem they use for regular residential service. As for price, the packages start out cheaper, around $80 for 2Mb/s down, 256 up, but quickly get more expensive as you want more upload capacity. Cox does offer symetric service, but it doesn't use the cable. It uses the TelCo T1 service. I can't see having two incompetent ISPs pointing the finger at one another when something breaks and needs to be fixed. You're better off sticking with the TelCo in that case.
Posted by (63 comments )
Link Flag
Why not uncap if no one uses the bandwidth?
If the anylsts claim there is no demand for the service, what's the harm in Comcast/Cabelvision et al uncapping it to 2mbs??

If they are worried about viruses/trojan spammers, I've always been a fan of strict disconnection policies for ppl who don't keep their computers clean. :P
Posted by 202578300049013666264380294439 (137 comments )
Reply Link Flag
cap them...
That is their policy. No serving. I would have my own server for pushing my own films. I would ge tso many hits that it would bring the ISP to its knees and then cut me off. Or offer me service at a premium traffic rate.
They would love to charge us by the packet.
But allowing users upload privvy is like allowing more EZPass lanes at the tolls...but don't forget the 12 lane toll empties to a one-lane exit. Who cares what happens AFTER the fact.
So, that is why I am dumping Comcast for FIOS. I get 15Mbs down and 2Mbs up. Comcast only allows (theoretical) 4Mbs(500K) down and 384Kbs(48K)Up.
I've never seen a 500K/sec speed from Comcast. And more like 28K-36k up.
And like others, someone should devise a TV network that charges you PER CHANNEL. Forget shopping, church, gambling and old shows. I want news (unbias BBC), educational (Disc, History...) and ent (SciFi, ESPN, Nick...). Oh, and local w/PBS. $1/channel. Where is Sam Walton when you need him...
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Link Flag
Only in America
I think the problem has to do with corporate America. They can charge an arm and two legs for content download but could not charge a lot for uploading. I live in Hong Kong (Yeah, part of Communist China!) and I have a CAT 5 DSL line into my house. I have a download and upload speed of at least 6Mbps. I am paying an equivalent of US$ 25.00
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Your are Correct
The invented this stuff, and somehow other countries are now ahead of us on this? The BS about viruses is crap. You can send the same virus over a dial up connection as a fiber. It is all about the money and near sighted corporate weasels.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by jmaximus9 (86 comments )
Link Flag
re: only in America; my Japan experience
I live in Japan and agree with your take on this from H.K.; I also pay
aorund the equivalent of 25 USD per month for a typical NTT ADSL
package of 24 Mbps d/l and 1 Mbps upload. Slightly faster
uploads would be nice, especially for Bit Torrent kinds of uses such
as legitimate (non-bootleg) music-swapping of bands that allow
taping of their conccerts, but I'm not complaining. I just worry that
if/when I move back to America, I'll become just another shafted
broadband consumer by the big, overly consolidated, ignorant
telcos that I'm always reading about....
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
USA = "3rd world broadband country"
In Germany download speed of 6Mb/s and faster are already the norm for a reasonable price, between US$ 20 and 35! A DSL user in Germany has typically the choice to what upload speed he wants to sign up, not like Comcast who says "That's the speed we decided to give you!"
Posted by ofest1999 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Strictly Business

This is strictly a business financial decision. by cutting the upload dissallows potential servers to eat up tremendous amounts of bandwidth (in relation to the average user).

Keep in mind the average home user on say Comcast takes up what.. less than .01% capacity of their potential. hardly anyone downloads 500K/S non-stop throwout the day. Most still just check e-mail and browse websites which are MINISCULE bandwidth. Comcast actually provides very little very fast.

Now, pop on a server that runs 24/7 and that user is effectively taking up 1,000,000% more bandwidth than that average joe. Hmm.. If i was comcast i would not like someone sucking up actual bandwidth. decreases margins. Its almost a whole small neighborhood of usage on one user. Delete the user, or dont let him begin this to start with. IE, the CAP.

When paying high prices for "broadband" you simply get the potential for bandwidth. Eat it up and see how fast they turn you off. You think Comcast cares if they change the upload from 4 to 6 to 8? No one uses it. They just look better for offering it.

I hate big companies marketing tactics. Give the people big numbers which sound good and charge em up. WiMax im waiting for you!!

And Comcast - charge a fair price, before its too late...
Posted by xtksystems (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey! How about VOIP you dummies!
My small business is considering the advantages of VOIP but the
big issue is having the upload bandwidth at 90kb per "line". Add
to this the appeal of VOIP Video phones and their even higher
per line bandwidth needs and it's not too hard to see a real need
for symmetrical WiMax taking over a huge chunk of the last mile
market. Coming to a city near you in 2006.
Posted by woofs_a_lot (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
file sharing heheheh
thats right,people now need high upload speeds as well as download speeds to share files with others, like limewire and bittorent
Posted by Zakynthos (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You want it - you pay for it
As a computer user forever (wel, since the '70's), I'm just fine with 4meg download &#38; a trickle for upload.

You want more upload bandwidth, fine - but don't expect ME to pay for it. With a combined calbe/broadband/cell bill of about $160 a month, that's the ceiling. Any rise will mean somethings got to go.
Posted by (409 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Total BS. But spam would be a lot worse...
Am I browned off at the lousy 90kbps upload speed when compared to the 1.8Mbps(right now)?

You bet. There is no reason for this. No reason apart from greed. Pure and simple.

I console myself with the fact that spam would flood my mailbox in far worse amounts
Posted by CharlesRovira (97 comments )
Reply Link Flag
T1 info
T1s have gone down dramatically in price over the past few years, however it's still more geared towards the commercial/business sector. I've seen prices as low as $299 during a promo, but the normal pricing is around $400-$550 per month for 1.5 Mbps of downloading AND uploading. Perfect for web hosting applications which usually require high upstream speeds. Plus T1s are much more reliable and stable than consumer grade DSL and Cable. You always get what you pay for and it's no different when it comes to bandwidth. Thats why businesses serious about the quality of their communications use T1 for all their internet and phone services.
Posted by BandwidthSeek.Net (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
T1 info
T1s have gone down dramatically in price over the past few years, however it's still more geared towards the commercial/business sector. I've seen prices as low as $299 during a promo, but the normal pricing is around $400-$550 per month for 1.5 Mbps of downloading AND uploading. Perfect for web hosting applications which usually require high upstream speeds. Plus T1s are much more reliable and stable than consumer grade DSL and Cable. You always get what you pay for and it's no different when it comes to bandwidth. Thats why businesses serious about the quality of their communications use T1 for all their internet and phone services.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by BandwidthSeek.Net (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
T1 info
T1s have gone down dramatically in price over the past few years, however it's still more geared towards the commercial/business sector. I've seen prices as low as $299 during a promo, but the normal pricing is around $400-$550 per month for 1.5 Mbps of downloading AND uploading. Perfect for web hosting applications which usually require high upstream speeds. Also great for repetitive 24/7/365 large file transfers (T1s allow for truly unlimited use, with no bandwidth restrictions). Plus T1s are much more reliable and stable than consumer grade DSL and Cable, and often come with a 99.9% uptime guarantee. You always get what you pay for and it's no different when it comes to bandwidth. That's why businesses serious about the quality of their communications use T1 for all their internet and telephone services.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by BandwidthSeek.Net (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I will switch to fios soon if Comcast doesn't up its upload speeds soon.
Posted by djatwill (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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