They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

The Myth of Unlimited Bandwidth


The actual rate of data transfer is only as fast as the slowest link in the chain. And the transfer interface between protocols. WiFi can be considered pretty fast at times, but not as fast as a hardwired 100Mb or gigabit connection. So in the office WiFi is the limiting factor, unless I have a cabeled connection. At home, DSL is the limiting factor.

It's plastic, it's fluid.


DSL is set up with variable speeds. What you buy is a guaranteed minimum bandwidth rate. If the DSL grouping you're on isn't saturated, you can get way faster service than the minimums. Which is, for us, most of the time.

We used to get something I called Friday Night Gaming. Our bandwidth took a nosedive on Fridays, whether by every neighborhood kid jumping onto World of Warcraft or everyone jumping on streaming video. When we first got the Sony Blu-Ray player with WiFi, we had Hulu+. Excessive buffering on Friday nights meant we really couldn't use it then.

Eventually, we dropped Hulu+ -- too few of the things we wanted to see -- and reactivated the Netflix account as streaming video only. Early on we still had some buffering issues, but not so much anymore.

It may be that Netflix streaming is more efficient than Hulu+. But it's also that our DSL is through the local Allendale Telephone Company. And despite being a small carrier, since they serve the university, they've more than kept up with their technology. So I expect that the local fiber optic system continues to be upgraded.

You know, we still have to deal with the Last Mile problem. You can have all the fiber optic bandwidth you want, but if the last connections involve coax or twisted pair copper wires, then there is automatically a limiting factor.

Right now we're still half a mile from the network box with the fiber.

Of course some of you will say, whatcha bitchin' about? Cable Internet is faster than DSL. To some extent, sure. But our Telco is much better run than any cable company I've ever dealt with. A lot of cable situations don't do a great job of firewalling, either inside or outside the system. In one study, some techs found that a newly connected device gets attacked within twelve seconds on a cable modem. Yes I have security enabled. But even better is to get your net provider to stop some of the crap ever getting to you.


Of course, using more Netflix streaming over our WiFi DSL eats into our bandwidth. With both of us connecting, while watching streaming, it's a LOT slower to pull down big downloads at the same time.


The real reason for this post surfaced on Thanksgiving evening. Got a Facebook message from a cousin asking if I was on the phone with my mom -- she kept getting a busy signal. I wasn't on the phone, but I got on the horn and tried Greensboro. Got a busy signal.

But... there are busy signals and there are busy signals. This one was cutting in too early. Seemed like a trunk line busy signal to me.

Back a long time ago, when I used the dorm's payphone to call home every Sunday, sometimes I couldn't get through. Busy trunk lines. Most especially on high volume holidays -- the obvious ones like Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving. And Mother's Day. (grin)

But for years there's been an orgy of building fiber optic bandwidth over long distances. When we were in the U.P., a train actually ran from Baraga to Houghton. The railroad had leased buried fiber cable rights along their right-of-way and had to run the trenching and cable laying machine down the tracks.

For a while, there were people worried about overbuilding the infrastructure. But streaming video, etc., has eaten into that reserve capacity.

And given the amount of large minutes long distance plans, I guess I'm not totally surprised that the phones can still get clogged.

But it was unexpected after a long run of clear sailing.

Oh, and yes I did call my mother today. And yes, she's okay. And no, she wasn't on the phone last night. And yes, I sent a new message to my cousin saying it's all right in Greensboro.

Technology -- you gotta love it.

Dr. Phil

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