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Faster internet is coming, but only for a few (axios.com)
36 points by JumpCrisscross 76 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

I don't think I need Gb internet.

I recently upgraded from 30Mb to 75Mb. I don't really notice a big difference. Very little I did before needed a full 30 Mb connection. Is Netflix higher quality now? I can't tell.

I doubt I'd upgrade again anytime soon. I've reached a point where my internet speed's bits per second has exceeded my ability to consume data.

It's a chicken/egg problem. No one is going to develop mass-market services that require users to have a gbit internet hookup if there are hardly any potential customers. Which leads people to think they don't need gbit internet because there is nothing that requires that kind of speed.

Just like there was no need for most people to have >10Mbit internet without the likes of Netflix or Youtube existing, and no way for those sites to survive if everyone is using a 56k modem.

Yeah No. Exponential curves always mean you've zoomed in too far on the chart. There will be a plateau, and the exponential bit of the curve tells you essentially nothing about where that plateau will be. In the case of home Internet the plateau is likely somewhere in the 100Mbps ballpark. It's probably more than 10Mbps and it's probably less than 1Gbps.

- The most important change was NOT the bandwidth increase from 56kbps to low megabit speeds. The most important thing is Always On which for most people arrived at the same time. Omnipresent Network Access changes how and why people use the network. I lived in a house that had 24/7 56kbps Internet access in the mid-1990s and it was basically the _same_ as now [except video was much poorer quality] because it was _Always On_. People who had to wait maybe a minute for Dial-up had a completely different experience because dialing up is a thing you do, like watching TV, whereas being connected 24/7 is an inherent thing like being able to understand Spanish. It felt weird _not_ having the Network if I was away. That feeling finally went away when I got a smartphone years later.

- All the applications already existed. Youtube is a refined version of technologies that already existed back in the 1990s. It's video on web pages. Yes it's much higher quality video, and it's better integrated and so on, but those are refinements, the basic idea wasn't created when enough people had "high speed" Internet access, the idea is decades old. If your hypothetical killer app for gigabit home Internet was going to appear it already would have done so, at least twenty years ago.

Maybe I want to watch every NFL game live, simultaneously, in 4K.

There's a limit though, is what I'm saying. My hearing and vision are getting worse, not better, as I get older and there's diminishing returns on increased bandwidth in terms of utility.

Give me streaming audio at the absolute quality limits at 8Mb, 32Mb, 80Mb- I won't be able to hear a difference. My internet bandwidth is beyond my ears capabilities.

I've seen 4K and 8K TVs recently- I can't tell the difference. (I'm far more interested in contrast ratios, frankly). If I can stream video at 4K, my bandwidth will have exceeded my eyes capabilities. Why would I want to pay more for 8K hardware and bandwidth if I get nothing other than smug satisfaction?

At a certain point, there isn't any benefit to each human to having more bandwidth. And me? I think I've reached my limit at only 75Mb. 1Gb would be neat, but what for?

For streaming VR? I agree, I was upgraded from 30Mbps to 60Mbps and I really couldn't care less. The annoying bottleneck is on the other side, which regularly caps to 10Mbps or less.

1Gbps sounds great for an office, though; kinda sick of having shared 50Mbps connections where some stream HD videos just to listen to music.

Right, the use case for 10x bandwidth is so you can discard 90% of the download so you don't have to decide even 1second on advance which part you want to keep.

Partlt true but only partly. I almost never watch anything in hd, even 720p. Most of the time I watch 480p although hd is the mainstream ... I don't find any value in it.

I consider gb internet to be the same.

I'm probably stay at IRC level of bandwidth. Of course i will Switch to gb speeds because some ISP gonna sell it half my dsl line to 'grow'.

Netflix probably didn't change. Even if you pay extra for their Ultra HD mode that will fit down 30Mbps without trouble. If you have kids this upgrade should mean now your family can watch 3-4 videos at once even in Ultra HD.

I concur with the sibling comments. I had 30Mbps and it was "good enough", but I know have gigabit at home and its reached the point where its actually quicker for me to work from home when dealing with large production database dumps and trial-and-error Docker pull and build than it is to work at the office.

Its simply a case of when you have it, you find ways to use it, but boy is it one of the small pleasures in life to do a dist-upgrade in about 15 minutes.

We have 60Mb and most of the time that's just plenty. I would like a little faster speeds when I download a new Linux image or something, but even then, it only takes a few minutes.

Trust me, once you get a 1Gbps network connection, you will love it. It's not that Netflix would be faster, but watching wget or curl reach massive speeds is just awesome :-)

> watching wget or curl reach massive speeds is just awesome

I don't get any joy out of that. I mean, yay, it's a big number. So what? My file still arrived in an instant. Whether it takes 1 second or 0.1 seconds is of no difference to how my life goes.

If I were a heavy bittorrent user, maybe that would help? But most of the content I want is on legal means now, Netflix and Prime TV. And even if I wanted to pirate something, at 75Mb I can get it fast enough.

I work from home and pull a ton of docker containers. I currently have 500/50 but would pay for as much as they would give me.

Other than the joy, Gbps is useful for households with more than one person streaming netflix or other services at the same time, or slower game update downloads. For devs, this is useful when pulling docker images or os images.

I’m still on 15 Mbps at my home, for $30/month. I haven’t found the need to upgrade even though according to the FCC, I don’t even have “broadband” (defined as 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up). I don’t often hear people complain that their internet is too slow, only that it’s too expensive. I hope that more bandwidth translates to cheaper internet, but it seems like the past 10 years my ISP has had the business model of raise the price and the speed at the same time and remove slower tiers of service, basically forcing people to pay for speeds that they never use.

Interesting. I didn't realize that I don't have "broadband". I haven't had any problems streaming video or anything because our internet is super consistent at 20 down, 10 up. I'm on a fiber network with 100-BaseT for the last mile, so unfortunately I'm unlikely to get a big speed upgrade, and the top tier is just 10 mbit faster.

I've considered switching to another ISP, but the service is so reliable and I only occasionally want faster download speeds. I also like that I don't have to deal with cyclic deals like cable and DSL providers do, I just pay a flat $40/month.

Verizon sold most of its landline business to Frontier over the past decade. While the few remaining Verizon FiOS customers got upgraded to gigabit, the Frontier FiOS customers were left with the old technology. Our Frontier contract just expired and we’re upgrading from 150 mbps to 500 mbps for about $5 more tomorrow. But I’m not optimistic about the speed. I tried paying $150/mo for the Frontier 500 mbps package two years ago and downloads never came close to that speed, the only thing that did were speed tests. Hopefully they’ve optimized more.

The saddest part is that the sales rep insisted that we’d need a modem, I’m sure because the majority of their service areas have been left on DSL.

Don't most servers throttle how much bandwidth outbound traffic gets? I never expect to get full speed downloading a random file. Even a super popular torrent might not have enough peers to reach full potential before it's done downloading.

I remember never getting more than a fraction of the speed. Like maybe 200 mbps max on a 500 mbps connection when downloading a file. I assumed with the number of people with gigabit connections two years ago I’d have at least run into a few servers that didn’t throttle that low.

Those servers have more than one user, perhaps.

Very few websites are going to serve anything with that much bandwidth for a single connection. You’re limited by their upload.

Try a few 4K YouTube videos and see what happens.

What are the uses for downloads beyond 150mbs? 4k video and stadia? Sharing one connection between multiple users for pricing arbitrage?

Downloading and uploading large files more quickly.

If Speedtests come close, what are you downloading? You could be limited by the servers. Try a few torrents maybe? But then the modem they provide might not be able to handle that many connections. I can only get full speed with my own router running Openwrt.

I live very far from any major town(10 miles from post office, 15 miles from a high school, 20 miles from a major retail outlet). Our current internet is $35 for a 5Mb connection and the best I can currently get is $70 for a 10Mb connection. But sometime next year I will have fiber available to me. IIRC, it'll be something like $60 for a 250Mb connection and $110 for a 1Gb.

It'll be interesting to see how fiber transforms rural areas compared to areas that don't get it.

There is a weird dynamic in the US where many rural areas have garbage level internet access ... and some pockets have insanely high levels of service.

Somehow some random telcos have found a way (presumably government subsidies (I don't think that is bad)) to provide some amazing service, while others wallow in absolute trashy telco service.

I know folks with consistently low latency 1Gb service that is just amazing, and folks where the local telco literally left lines lying across their lawn providing terrible service claiming they'd get back to it and never did.

I worked with one rural telco provider who had datacenter grade switches running 1G sfps (they could have run 10G sfps on all of the ports if they chose to do so) ... one port per household. I talked to the guy running the show there for a while and he said they just had this massive budget so "why not?". He noted almost none of the houses used their service to its fullest extent with the exception of some local teens ;)

It would be interesting to overlay a map of high service levels on top of railroads and universities. Naturally, the backbone of the Internet has to travel through rural areas to reach urban centers, but universities (especially research universities) were also among the earliest sites connected and they tend not to be in urban centers. Railroad right of ways are great for long-distance cables, so they would likely be heavily used early in the construction of the Internet.

Sometimes, a higher quality of internet service can be attributed to 1. Household is in-between two major cities, 2. Household is close to major highway (lower cost of building and maintaining infra), 3. Household is in the vicinity of a highly valued facility (E.g. military), 4. Telco designated the area as a higher priority on the subsidized list.

I feel like it's more likely impacted by simple time: rural areas tend to see changes at a much slower rate, and I believe a (very) large chunk of the infra cost is just digging into the ground, and by the time it's being done for a rural area, it turns out fiber has become fairly cheap to produce...

So when the upgrades do finally roll around, it's not incremental -- it leapfrogs 2 decades or whatever of technology upgrades. A single upgrade places you far ahead of your peers, creating the dynamic you describe (and yet, your peers aren't actually that far behind, if they wanted to catch up)

The same thing occurs with third-world countries getting first-world tech; they get it sporadically, and so see large jumps of change instead of slow, incremental shifts; this also gives a bit of an advantage, as they don't have stale infrastructure from the incremental change, and so can make much more extensive use of the new tech. For example, China skipped credit cards and went directly to mobile payments -- and with only cash to compete, mobile took over entirely.

And so when these rural counties finally see an upgrade.. they see rapid full fiber coverage. There's simply no competing technology in the area, since its so far behind, and fiber keeps the county prepped for the next 20 years of no upgrades..

With the amount of money Americans have spent on internet everyone could have 100 gigabit by now.

The real question is how telcos have managed to spend all of their income. I know mine Frontier spends it all on interest payments for the service areas they’ve bought.

> The real question is how telcos have managed to spend all of their income.

It is returned to investors.

Interesting, but purely US focused. Anybody have good data on progress in the rest of the world?

I'm in Japan, paying 980 yen ($11) a month for a gigabit connection for the first year. After that it's 4000 yen (~$45) a month. Progress is good here :)

In Ireland, oddly, (typically 1Gbit, with artificial caps for cheaper plans) FTTP is becoming quite common in rural areas, but is almost non-existent in cities, where (100Mbit or worse) FTTC is dominant.

UK Has good coverage except in rural areas, and in some rural areas they've done their own FTTP (B4RN for example).

There's a big "full fibre" push from various different providers (Hyperoptic (FTTB), GigaClear, CityFibre, BT OpenReach).

Most densely populated areas have the choice of FTTC (the infrastructure is ALL BT OpenReach, however you have a choice of providers who piggy back on this), and in bigger cities/towns Virgin Cable up to 380Mbps down 37Mbps up.

Pricing is very competitive, because even with areas that are all BT FTTC lots of providers use their infrastructure and OfCom regulates how much OpenReach are allowed to charge.

I have a truly unlimited cable package for £50 a month, 384 down 37 up.


Openreach is utter shit outside of very very lucky areas. I live in London (zone 6) and we get 30/8 (after fighting with BT support for two months to fix it from 22/1). If you're not covered by VM and win the postcode lottery as to not have it drop constantly, you're lucky to get "tolerable" speeds.

Sounds like a pretty local issue, and while it's true that there are spots like that (Mudchute in the Docklands is also awful) a lot of the areas with FTTC are pretty stable ... just look at TBB broadband stats for real speed tests.

Anecdotal ... I've lived in two completely separate areas of the UK and been connected to 3 different FTTC cabs ... none of them were problematic.

And even those lucky area are capped at 50mbit upload, which is better than nothing but that's not what I call a "gigabit" speed, and still make having all your data in the cloud a distant future.

Just count yourself lucky that you don't have an Exchange Only (EO) line, that doesn't have a cabinet and runs directly to the exchange.. I'm in Whitechapel (Zone 1) and get 8/1

There is an ongoing programme to upgrade EO lines to have their mini-cabinet so they can get vDSL. You are an inadvertent casualty of "unbundling". To promote competition the Exchange is allowed to have equipment from other providers in it (most exchanges have only one or two other FTTC providers, many have none) and that _could_ be ADSL and so the interference from VDSL _could_ break that, violating the unbundling rules, so, they just don't offer VDSL.

It would be technically easy to give you VDSL, it would just break a rule that was put in place to ensure competition for ADSL service, which you now don't care about because even that close to the Exchange it's only giving you 8/1

I have a friend who lives in a small market town in the North on an exchange only line, he gets 2/0.5. Most of his neighbours can get vDSL too, poor bastard.

He uses a 4G router with a Three unlimited SIM.

He has both connected because we do a lot of FPS PC gaming and the latency on 4G is too poor to game so he switches to his ADSL connection to play games and then uses 4G to download/stream.

> Signals from space have to travel a long way, so the connection is slower than earth-bound internet options. But in unserved places, it's better than nothing.

Is this true for LEO projects such as Starlink and OneWeb? I thought the latency characteristics were much more reasonable there. Or is this speaking about bandwidth? The wording is a bit vague.

I think the author is remembering 15 years ago when the first satellite internet companies existed. I remember trying to play Warcraft 3 at a friend's house in the country and having 2-3 second pings.

Those companies were using Geosynchronous satellites so that dishes could point at a single spot in the sky. Unfortunately, geosynchronous orbit is at a height of 35,786 km. That means almost 120ms just to reach the satellite, plus another 120ms to get the signal back down to earth, then your request hitting the real internet and another 240ms to get back to you over the same two satellite hops.

SpaceX's Starlink will be <1000 km up in low earth orbit, so somewhere under 5ms away at speed of light. For any transmission across an ocean, Starlink will be much faster (so you just know high speed trading companies will be big customers). How much bandwidth it offers remains to be seen.

No, LEO satellite meshes can be faster than terrestrial options. Light travels faster in a vacuum than fiber optic cables.

> I thought the latency characteristics were much more reasonable there

London to NY via space should be faster than through the ocean fiber, though it won't have a steady RTT over minutes, as the satellites pass overhead.

Look at fig 7 on [1].

[1] = http://nrg.cs.ucl.ac.uk/mjh/starlink-draft.pdf

The Wikipedia article for Starlink says 35ms ping:


I think they mean latency, which is less of a problem, though still not good, for hypothetical LEO solutions. Bandwidth, however, will remain a problem.

This article is written like a powerpoint slide. I'm left wondering what they are trying to convey.

Interesting to see discussion where people say <100 Mbps is enough. No. In Lithuania, general household internet speed is 300 Mbps. I'am with 1 Gbps and I can't imagine how other countries have average 10 Mbps per user. Wow.

It's like a car engine: it's better to have 3.0L than 1.2L, because when you need the power, you will get it.

I think it's simply a case of not missing what you don't know.

I got my first 10 Mb/s connection around 2000. At the time I found it to be as fast as I could possibly want. I mean, it's the same speed as the local network at the computer club just a few years prior.

Now I have gigabit (2 Gb/s actually, but I can't be bothered to configure network bonding), and I couldn't imagine going back to anything slower.

This seems purely driven by profit. Retrofitting cell towers has a ROI that is inverse to density of customers willing to pay (broadcast distance is limited). Whereas if fiber has already been run and good Ethernet cables already laid, increasing total bandwidth for wired connections has a cost ~proportional to paying customers.

Bah, should have had mobile in the title. I have gigabit fiber at the house and its fast enough that I have no idea what to do with that much bandwidth.

There isn't anything to do with that much bandwidth.

It's another space where there's a consumer product and consumers have been taught that the bigger number is better, so you advertise a 1000Mbps service and consumers think it's worth more than your competitor's 500Mbps when in reality although those numbers are "true" they're irrelevant.

Eventually consumers get jaded and learn to ignore the number, the way you'll see nobody cares when you tell them your "hi res" audio is 96kHz at 24 bits - CD audio with 44.1kHz at 16 bits was more than enough, more isn't better for ordinary users so they eventually learned to ignore it‡.

I had Gbps Internet access in 1998, and in 2015 I was buying new service for my new home. Should I buy the cheap 40Mbps package? A bit extra for 80Mbps? Or spend a lot more for 1Gbps? And I knew, which most consumers don't, that it didn't matter, 40Mbps is fine, once in a while 80Mbps would be slightly better (maybe a new video game downloads in 10 minutes rather than 20 minutes) and 1Gbps would just make some numbers bigger that I'd show off once in a while but make no actual concrete difference. So I bought the 40Mbps service, no regrets.

The main practical things 1Gbps will do for you is avoid buffer bloat since there's less need for a buffer, but you could also do that by just buying hardware that doesn't have buffer bloat.

‡ If you are a recording studio you might actually want 24-bit, and maybe at a pinch even 96kHz, but ordinary consumers needn't care. Likewise somewhere like a school definitely wants 1Gbps networking, but my mother needn't care.

Host downloadable content for your websites? I'm also on gigabit fiber and not really using it :D

This article is stupid. Urban and suburban dwellers are not “the few”, they are the overwhelming majority of the population.

I'm happy on 4G internet.

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