Where did my Internet Speed go?

It has now been over a year since I was on a plane visiting customers, colleagues and partners yet I have talked to many of them multiple times over the past year all via some form of video conference software or service. The largest challenge has been that while I am fortunate and my home internet had GB download there are still issues with contention and latency resulting in jittery video, audio failures and a general lack of a decent view. We have all experienced these issues and for those of us that are audio and video content creators it is exasperated. Lets take a little deeper dive into three of the things that are having the largest impact.

Shared Home Coaxial Networks

Many home users are using cable based internet services from the likes of Xfinity, these internet providers use a shared coaxial network strategy that means a single large line is brought into the a service group. These service groups can have hundreds of users in it. With the uptick of work from home users there is an influx of additional users on the same main line. Many of the providers have tried to shrink the size of the service groups but it is still an issue with contention, especially as users are utilizing more video conferencing and streaming services. These heavy video workloads used to be reserved for the commercial accounts that we in smaller service groups or dedicated lines to begin with.

Lack of Broadband

Many users these days take the high speed broadband we have today as a given, unfortunately there is still a large segment of the population that either do not have fast broadband because of economic conditions or locale. The locale situation is being addressed slowly with satellite broadband and new innovations like the Starlink from Tesla however the economic issues are still of great concern.

You may wonder why this divide makes it seem like your internet is slow, well its not probably your internet, it could be on the other end of your connection. With people connecting in from their homes instead of corporate locations there is no standard to the level of internet provided to every household and with costs in the hundreds of dollars a month in some places it is cost prohibitive. Looking at the Urban-Rural divide is just one way to examine this problem but know that it is real and isnt just impacting those with slow connections or no connections now.

Data Flow and Usage

Examining data usage is something we are used to for mobile phones but many of the largest internet providers have limits on the amount of data you can send from your house. These limits were often only hit by power home users that ran their own servers in the past but now the added data transfer from video conferencing, streaming, large file uploads and downloads can quickly make a home user approach a limit. The challenge with these limits is they either charge high rates for extra data or slow your speed. That slow speed is often what many users are experiencing.

So What Now….

The next logical question is probably how do we fix all of this, sadly we cant fix everything but what we can do is be cognizant of it. Look at bills like Virginia has introduced that will help fund broadband speeds for underserved students or look to invest in solutions like Starlink that could potentially provide internet to areas that don’t have cable and fiber lines. The other key thing to realize is that the size of data today is constantly growing. When the Apollo mission touched down on the moon the guidance system was able to store 2048 words, this article alone is 679 words long. As the world creates more data it has to travel the same internet lines that have been used for years, expect upgrades, expect innovation and expect increased access. If your vendor isn’t meeting those expectations and your internet keeps getting slower, then look elsewhere and vote with your wallet.

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