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Top U.S. cities have seen internet speeds decline this past week (techcrunch.com)
161 points by arcamax 15 days ago | hide | past | web | 87 comments | favorite

The actual report: https://broadbandnow.com/report/internet-speed-analysis-marc...

"But New York City, now considered the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., saw download speeds drop by 24% last week, compared to the previous 10-week range. That said, NYC home network connections, which have a median speed of nearly 52 Mbps, are managing."

It took me a few times reading it to understand what this is trying to say. What they mean is that many of these cities that are showing slowdowns already had higher-than-average median speeds. Many of the cities that aren't seeing slowdowns were already pretty slow to begin with. E.g. Chicago has only slowed down 10% but its median speed is only 26.79 mbps.

It seems more like a mix shift issue, than a real issue.

If most of the fastest internet speeds are in offices, and people start working from home where slower speeds are located than average speed will decline.

Is that true? My home connection has always been far faster than my office connection. Sometimes I go home just to download a particularly large file.


If I want to download a particularly big file, I use tethering via my phone. Seriously, about 90Mbit/s download on the phone, that's faster than most places I've worked and also faster than my home connection.

It was so obviously better, that I switched home to be on 4G instead of ADSL, because the 4G was both cheaper and faster. It's working out well, but the phone still manages to be faster than the router.

In Norway if one has a copper phone line into house, then the speed is typically bound by 40 Mbit/s. And it is not just rural areas. The apartment I live in is close to the center of Oslo. But as it is an old building with few flats it is not profitable to lay down the fiber even if it is just extra 10 meters from the near office building. With 4G with a good phone or modem one gets 50-300 MBit/s depending on the provider and coverage.

Yes. Most people don't realize this. (4G phone >> home internet)

I tether my iPad to my 4G phone because the latency/bandwidth is much higher than my home internet (40mbps).

I ran Speedtest on my phone vs my desktop with a wired connection to the router and learned that my 4G wireless connection was faster.

I think most of my town must use 4G at home because between 4pm and midnight my ping is too annoyingly high to play counterstrike

For most of us in the US, that does not work when you need to upload a file. (or synchronous communication, like video chatting, etc)

What kind of office is it and where is it located?

not the parent but that kind of situation is pretty normal in germany with consumer gigabit costs of about 50€/month.

enterprise connections pay a premium, and smallish employers often don't want to spend money on monthly expenditures, so mostly ~50-200mbit shared between all people at the office

To be fair, i spent 1500€/m for 1gbit fiber in the center of Frankfurt, which was considered cheap at the time.

You can get 1g down, 50mbit up for less than a tenth of that with cable for example. We used that line heavily and I loved it, but I'm still unsure if I should rather have spent the money differently.

We've moved now to a WeWork Style Location ( Studio from Tishman Speyer ) and are down to 100/100, have put our vpn equipment in a datacenter for 70€/m and nobody complains.

How small if its over 5 or so

They do know that consumer internet is asymmetrical and not practicable for real work.

FYI ELM (ethernet last mile) at 70Mbs in the UK costs about £70 pm

true, but qos is usually terrible and there is no sla to speak of on the consumer offerings. the most common offer (vodafone cable) has frequent outtages where you only hope is to call a robo-center and the optimal outcome is a troubleticket and maybe a refund. upload speed on gbit-cable is also only 50mbps...

if your business relies on connectity, best to avoid it.

Only download. Upload is far worse usually.

they are often "up to 1Gbps" and also not available everywhere. In my area it's also at least 70 EUR, so I am fine with 400Mbps at home.

Fortune 500 in Portland, Oregon. My home Internet is more than twice as fast as my office line.

A dedicated 50mbps/50mbps fiber circuit for a business will be better quality than a home cable (coaxial) “100mbps” connection, shared between a million houses with 2mbps upload. Notice how you can’t even find upload bandwidth advertised for residential cable internet, much less other factors affecting connection quality.

the fastest connection available to my home is ~60Mbps, my office has a 1Gb line, soon to be upgraded to 10Gb

Maybe not in your case, but it my case, that big pipe is shared with a lot of people, and full of MITM, shaping, "threat detection" etc, that makes it sloow. And currently fronted by a shite VPN for all of us working from home :)

if you work for smaller or non-tech companies maybe. My employers in the last 5 years have all had at least 1Gbps, current one has 10Gbps and a 2Gbps backup.

On the bigcorp end of things your corporate network is so fucked and the gateway to the public internet so slow you're back down to 50Mbit. With HTTPS MITM.

I am really sorry you have bad experience with your Big Co. Understand, not every company is like that.

Also there is no need for the kind of language. It definitely isn't helping your argument so you might just as well drop it.

Your office connection is probably scaled well. If it was as fast as your home broadband it would mean your company overpays for it and actually looses productivity.

Office work does not require fast Internet access and does not require that your Youtube videos load instantly.

We did some research and it seems broadband Internet access does not improve productivity and may actually reduce it.

Any minuscule increase in productivity (I mean a total of 5 minutes of loading times per employee per day) is meaningless. People can't focus on their real work for 8 hours straight. When Internet works faster, people just use more of it and are less selective about how they use it. People also get quickly used to increased performance and will be complaining at almost any performance point.

Another research on build times showed that hugely increased build times don't improve productivity either. At first yes -- people get excited. But then, when build times are very short (say 5s compared to 10m) most (but not all) developers just stop staring constantly at their IDE and thinking about how to structure their code and instead reduce their iteration to a minimum (say couple of lines of code) and just restart to see if it works. This seems to actually reduce quality of produced code.

I seriously doubt you had the kind of precision to measure a 1% change in productivity. What exactly where you measuring?

There's also lots of bored folks at home streaming Netflix, Hulu, and the like. That would have been at work using a lot less bandwidth.

I've again switched to BTing what I want to watch rather than watching it streamed because 2-3 hour late evening binges became an exercise in frustration.

> 26.79 mbps

Milli-bit per second? Really?

Feels like it sometimes!

> 112/200 top U.S. cities have seen internet speeds increase this past week

And no matter how hard we try, half are below the median!

Checking the actual report (broadbandnow.com, not the linked article, which is blogspam) they looked at the weekly median download speeds for the previous ~10 weeks. Last week, 88/200 cities had a median download speed lower than any of the previous 10 weeks.

Statistics are unforgiving!

Network speeds in other cities didn't increase, they just didn't decrease.

So am I the only one that's happy and amazed it's working at all? Unprecedented demand and it's still running, just a bit slower than normal. Imagine if it all fell apart.

I'm having trouble imagining a failure mode that would cause total collapse under load rather than just reduced per-user speeds. Networks have to deal with spikes in demand pretty frequently anyway, usually during the evenings when lots of people are streaming video. A sudden increase in overall demand throughout the day doesn't seem like it should be that big of a deal; and so far it seems like it isn't.

How about the mode where, video streaming makes normal browsing impossible for some users? Their packets just don't survive the public net in the blizzard of video packets? That would cause apparent collapse for some at least.

Not sure how 'net neutrality' would factor into that - a free-for-all would mean it might happen more, but a pay-as-you-go would eliminate a whole class of users. A hard problem.

Networking isn’t magic, it’s pretty well understood. And ISPs are pretty good at QoS to make sure that doesn’t happen.

When it gets full (like it is some places), then the only strategy is to drop packets. If they are dropped systematically (by some rule) then some demographic loses some part of their internet entirely. That's also well understood.

Its a product of non-neutral nets, where by definition they do something by a rule (instead of randomly for instance).

And even randomly dropping (neutrality?) stresses certain subsets of network traffic more than other e.g. video can recover from dropped packets; TCP traffic not so much. Again stymying certain classes of activity more than others.

Netflix reduced the quality of videos in Europe to combat this.

It seems almost funny now, but in the late 90s there was a lot of talk about how the internet could fail under its own load. The arguments never made that much sense to me, but they attracted attention...

I'm in NYC and have been having trouble loading YouTube videos seem like they fail about half the time. I don't recall ever seeing that before last week.

It's just a reality check on how much your current ISP has oversold their capacity (similar to overbooking of airplane tickets).

If anything it shows how over subscribed the lines are by the providers. I'm sure they'll use it as an argument for gov. investment. :/

They already burned money given for them to do that. The next logical step is to simply take the infrastructure for the public.

So thoughts on rural areas- my experience is that they generally have more workers that will be considered essential than in urbanized areas- agricultural workers, truck drivers, people in the supply chain, etc. That might provide some moderating forces on the lower bandwidth options they are often stuck with.

That being said, schools doing distance learning over low bandwidth dsl or fixed wireless is going to be interesting...

If by "shine" you mean "be as ineffective and underfunded as they have been for decades", then yes.

Rural phone and electric service exist largely by government based efforts.

Market solutions don't work for disadvantaged communities, we've learnt that lesson repeatedly.

Answering your presumption: no, that's not what I mean at all.

I'm on rural wireless broadband about an hour outside of SF. While the service has never been amazing (3Mbit on a good day, 10Mbit at best), it's been sub-1Mbit (and sometimes sub-0.1Mbit) for quite some number of days now. The rural wireless ISPs are swamped.

I had to do a temporary move, and ended up in the only rural county in NC with county-wide municipal fiber. It's working great, FWIW. I'm hopeful this situation will finally prove to the rest of the state that rural fiber is a worthwhile thing to do at scale. I've seen people argue it's not worth it b/c it doesn't attract enough jobs to pay for itself, but the additional network resiliency and quality of living improvements alone are worth it. Especially in times like this. If Wilkes County can do it, so can others.

FYI, "lower bandwidth" can effectively mean dial up connections only, depending on how far someone lives from a major population center.

My uncle lives about 50 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and unless he wants to pay more than his entire (fixed) monthly income, his only option is dial-up. Cell data isn't even very good out there.

Lots of people in the US in rural areas are going to be entirely shut out of schools and businesses for the duration.

Agreed, I don't want to minimize the impact on them. I was responding to the article's DSL population.

For your uncle- I know that both suburban and rural providers in my area are providing various "COVID19 lifeline" deals, including fixed wireless operators serving some super rural locations. Might be worth looking into.

Try office hours (i.e. video calls) over satellite internet! It's the only thing that's on offer in the boonies.

It's peculiar how everything that has happened in Italy is slowly also happening over there.

And weird in a sense that the US actually has/had a chance to use other country's hindsight and is not doing it.

Italy is 60 millions of people in a country 116,000sq miles.

The US is 328 millions of people in a country 3.8 million square miles.

For different reasons, its playing out similarly?

If it was overloaded handoffs or connections, the problem would be cheap and easy to fix. Unfortunately the problem is overloaded last-mile. Way more expensive to fix, because it costs money and cuts into profit margins.

Everyone is trapped inside trying to stream HD video and all physical medium has limits. Especially coax. Why does supply and demand surprise anyone? This isn’t a conspiracy.

I used to read about how ISPs were overselling and would be in trouble if everyone was using their connection to the fullest. It was always talked of as a hypothetical because it used to be pretty unlikely that every person would be home and needing to use the internet so much at the same time. Now that so many people are home and needing to use the internet, it’s not hypothetical and we get to see how ISPs are actually able to handle the load: and as many predicted it would not be able to keep up. I think this isn’t news in the sense that everyone thought it would be fine; I think this is news because this was a known but not addressed situation. It will be interesting if this leads to capacity upgrades or if we’ll see more pleas for major content producers and consumers to constrain their resources to keep the infrastructure running. I think people would like to see upgrades so that we can get the previous speeds and quality but we’ll see.

The hypothetical already exists, it's called the evening peak hours. I'm not familiar with every part of the US however in Europe most ISPs saw no need to throttle video as the current situation merely makes the usual peak last longer.

> however in Europe most ISPs saw no need to throttle video as the current situation merely makes the usual peak last longer.

"Netflix to cut streaming quality in Europe for 30 days" https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-51968302

It was a precaution ordered by regulations rather than something out of necessity.

I could see this being up to 2x of the normal peak because everyone's at home.

Or more, as now "watching on-line videos" doesn't compete with alternatives like "going out" or "being too tired after work to do anything but eat and sleep".

Why would it be 2x the normal evening peak hours? Yes, normally maybe second shift workers and the rolling shifts of people going out to eat would reduce normal peak usage slightly, but I can’t imagine it being 2x.

Because ordinarily, not everyone watches videos in the evening; people go visit each other, go out to bars, go on dates, etc. Now however, meeting and outside activities are unavailable.

I haven't heard of any ISPs throttling video. It's the video streaming providers who are doing that.

Cell carriers are always throttling video, but I know that's not what you meant.

It is common for ISPs to have 2000+ customers sharing a 1 gig line. Regardless of the speeds offered end users use about the same amount of bandwidth. End users all get "full speed" until the link is 95%+ used.

Source which explains this in more detail?

This is about the contention ratio, and service delivery. When you have many users you can still deliver great service even if the contention ratio seems higher. There are two main factors for planning the bandwidth needed, the average data use/bandwidth use, and what max utilization is during the peak, typically 6-8pm when the highest number of users are using the network. If you are selling 100mb plans, as long as you have at least 100mb of available bandwidth during the peak times, any individual user can still burst up to the plan max. So that is 90% on a 1 gig line, or 95% on a 2 gig line. 1 gigabit a second for a month is about 325k gigabytes total. Or about 160gb per month per customer data use for 2000 customers sharing a 1 gig line with near 100% use. There are also multiple steps where the contention ratio or bandwidth use matters ranging from very local, last mile issues to international ones related to peering.

https://startyourownisp.com along with dsl reports and ubiquiti forums have info on planning small ISPs

It's contention ratio, but I don't know the current situation. Upgrades to infrastructure where I live mean it's no longer something we think about.



In the US, most providers are operating under a near total government-granted any government-protected monopoly. They like to pretend there’s competition in the market but that’s mostly smoke and mirrors, designed explicitly to preserve their special status as the only game in town.

The fact that they are oversubscribed to the point where it doesn’t work well in an emergency would not be such a big deal - except that they are granted a moat.

They can and should be held to a higher standard as a result. The term “critical infrastructure” comes to mind.

Anecdata. Chicago suburb on WOW.D 78 mbps U 10 ( I pay for much lower speeds ). I was able to get Doom Eternal in 30 mins or something. Decent stress relief.

I am not sure what is happening. It is obvious WOW lifted caps on me and I am actually benefiting, but I am not sure how that is possible since everyone near me ia streaming something.

Seems to be a worldwide thing. I have a 50Mbps symmetric optical fiber line in Bengaluru, and servers hosted outside India have come to crawl these days, even while latency/bandwidth within the city are as high as before.

I wonder if the undersea cables have become overwhelmed in the past few days.

Yeah, I wouldn’t be pissed if 4k doesn’t work. If the content is good even less than HD works for me. Everybody’s on, the network is congested, lets not be too picky for now. Stay safe everyone

Anecdotally, here in Nebraska my residential fiber connection remains 1gbps symmetric. Haven't seen any fluctuations at all over the last few weeks.

Living in less densely populated areas does have its advantages at times.

Likewise, in St Louis on AT&T Gigabit fiber. There have been many outages with Spectrum cable though.

Anyone use bevcomm? I have fiber to the house at 300Mbps but rarely get it. I wanted 1Gps but apparently my ONT can’t handle it. I’d get it replaced but trying to avoid covid_19 at this time.

I'd guess this is less of a concern than the services people are accessing being slow. E.g. even though I've got FTTH, youtube is still sometimes slow to load the front page.

Fortunately youtube and netflix has a good CDN at our major ISP interchange node as we are about 12,000 km from New York so all our traffic goes via undersea cables.

My fiber ISP is doubling my speed for free during the 21 day nationwide lockdown ... currently on 50/50 Mbps.

25/25 fibre? That's... Cheap

It will be upgraded to 100/100 in the next few days ... pay about 75 USD but it is really a luxury for most where I live.

i understand wireless is tied to the internet backbone, but i'd imagine with so many people at home, wireless data congestion must be at an all time low, with everyone (probably) on their home wireless networks rather than using cellular data.

I think by default some Android-based devices and iPhone in recent years (since about 2014 I believe but don't quite me on that) can use cellular data even when we are on WiFi if the WiFi signal is weak like when you've wandered too far from the access point.

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