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Networking Canada The Internet United States

Why Broadband In North America Is Not That Slow 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the aside-from-the-throttling dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Globe & Mail has an article written in response to a recent study done by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard about how far behind the rest of the world the US and Canada are with regard to broadband internet. The refutation basically tears apart Harvard's analysis and shows why the US and Canada are actually far ahead of most European countries. 'Canada has a true broadband penetration rate of close to 70 per cent of households. And North Americans use the Internet somewhat more intensively than do Europeans, according to Cisco Systems data on Internet traffic. Further, business Internet traffic in North America appears to be at levels substantially higher than elsewhere in the world. Sadly, there is little systematic effort by international agencies to measure the intensity of Internet usage. Instead, we see comparisons of advertised speeds and "price per advertised megabit," which are especially misleading. Advertised broadband speeds vary from actual speeds. In North America, this is largely a result of "network overhead," and is quite modest. In Europe, however, the variation is often dramatic.'"
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Why Broadband In North America Is Not That Slow

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  • Right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:24AM (#31389526) Journal

    Checklist:

    [ ] Can I get 1 Gb/s to home in Canada? (I can in my home town Stockholm)
    [ ] Is the true broadbrand penetration 98+% like in most of the Europe?
    [ ] Is the quality of line actually such that you get angry when the line goes down for a few minutes once per every 1-3 years?

    Seeing all the complaints here on slashdot too, I really don't think it's the same. Often times I am even surprised how you put up with it.

    Hell, even in the beginning of 2000 the competition was so bad that features that usually only came with business lines were offered to tech-savvy home users. Needed static ip's or a block of 32 or larger ip's? Ask for it and they gave.

    I also seriously doubt North Americans using Internet more intensively. Even if I personally dislike it, P2P is pretty damn rampant and that takes a lot of bandwidth. Also everyone uses YouTube and other high bandwidth sites (which obviously have local datacenters because of the demand)

    What comes to business lines, I think they are quite equivalent to each other. Premium, fail-proof lines cost in both NA and EU. But as the home-lines in EU are reliable and theres no bullshit terms to deny such, a lot of businesses who directly aren't working on the Internet use those.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ha - even paying big $$$, "fail-proof" is a relative term here in the US. I've been chasing Speakeasy for three months to fix the office T1, which regularly drops 10% of outgoing packets and spikes from 50ms latency to 3000ms every 10-15 seconds. They claim it's caused by "line utilization", but don't have an answer as to why it continues even when using a machine plugged directly into the interface with no other clients. Ugh.

      • Time to change service provider then. We were on Wave2Wave for a while (should be called Wave to Nowhere). The worst ISP EVER. Replaced and now happy.

      • Re:Right (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Pharmboy (216950) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:48AM (#31389770) Journal

        I'm leaving AT&T to go to cable based solutions for a dozen users in an office. I know the reliability will be only 99%, but my 99.99% SLA is useless, as they go down all the time (and compensating me, which is a joke since I need the service, not $50 credits). Moving from ATT's service of 12 phone lines and two bonded T1s to cable phone lines and two 5/1.5 internet circuits will save me over $30,000 per year and have me at a FIXED PRICE, unlimited LD. In the current economy, this means three people won't have to get their hours cut to 50% time during the slow half the year. Since the level of service that I actually get will be the same, I would rather give the money to the employees who would otherwise be cut back, rather than AT&T who has failed on every level since they bought out Bell South.

        For the servers that need better than 99% uptime (credit applications, etc.), we rented a box on Server Beach, their special unmetered 10mb connection for less than $150 a month. As a side note, Bell South was actually good in service and product before AT&T bought them out. The other day AT&T wouldn't issue a trouble ticket and told us that they would have someone there 24 hours later, at 5pm the next day, in spite of our 4 hour SLA. I get better service from Time Warner for my $100 home internet/tv than I do from AT&T under contract for several thousand per month.

      • I've been waiting five years for BT in the UK to fix my line. I can still sometimes hear other people making phone calls, and signal to noise ratio on my ADSL line varies by 10-12dB throughout the day. ADSL2+ is not an option as my line to the exchange is too noisy, I have to live with my 2.5Mb/s line for another ten plus years until they put fibre to the kerb.

        • Re:Right (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Durrik (80651) <pwright@ryk s y l l . com> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:17PM (#31390652) Homepage

          I've had the same problem with ADSL in Vancouver. My ISP is Teksavvy (Who're Great) but they resell Telus (Who suck). For three years now I've been unhappy with my 3/1 line. It started out I was able to get 2.5 / 384. But the SN ratio sucked. I complained, Telus tweeked the profile. I kept having my ADSL drop, I complained, Telus blamed my modem. I got a new modem. I kept getting dropped, I complained, Telus blamed that my wiring was wrong. I replaced the wiring from the demark, replaced it with Cat-4 cable, put the filter right at the DMark, filtered the entire house, no improvement. I complained Telus said their was DC on my line. I switched modems back to the original, no improvement. I got myself a new outdoor filter, no improvement. I complained, they said it'd cost $200 an hour for them to send a tech to look at it. My ADSL got worse, went down to 1.5/256 (Which was not good true, all the speed tests I could find were saying 900 down and maybe 105 up). Started the process of switching to Cable, got that in and started to switch my services across, (But it has no static IP address, want it for at least DNS). ADSL completely died, I complained, Telus said their was no problem on their end, must be my end, closed the ticket. Called back on a Monday, hit the roof, told Teksavvy to yell at Telus, they did. Found that the connection on the outside of the remote box was corroded, and fell apart and was in several pieces on the ground. ADSL is now at 3/1, very good SN. But it took three years of Telus saying everything was good on their end, it must be my end, and for the ADSL to completely fail before they would even look at their end and fix the problem. I'm keeping both cable and adsl active, since occasionally one or the other will go down (At least once a week right now, mostly is the cable, but its 5x faster then the ADSL)

          With my experience with Canada ADSL I'll have to say if this study is correct then the rest of the world must be terrible, no better then a 300 baud modem to AOL. But I just don't see the complaints coming out of Europe and Asia. Also I use to work for a telecom that produced IPDSLAMS (Not where I worked but another division) and they were telling everyone how they were happy to be rolling out 58 mbps ADSL to Japan, that was 6-7 years ago. I have 3 mbps ADSL now and 15 mbps cable (When everyone is asleep and hopefully my house is the only place with power). There's no way that North America is better then the rest of the world.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Europe isn't just one country. Perhaps you don't see complaints from Portugal because we can hardly ever stay online long enough to post them? ;)

            Your story sounds just like my typical interaction with my ISP... Except I have to do that about every six months - I've probably had trouble about fifteen times by now. They, Portugal Telecom, the former state-run company which has a monopoly on telecommunications in many areas of the country and owns one of the only two DSL infrastructures - never, EVER fix *anyt

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by inhuman_4 (1294516)

            I also have Teksavvy and I agree their service is fantastic. But here in Ontario we have suffer through what Bell claims is "service".

            For example. My torrent programs are throttled, which makes downloading distro's to play with a pain in the ass. Of course you think it's the ISP right? Wrong. For about a month Teksavvy kept sending me email updates about their fight to get Bell to stop throttling the lines of their customers. The CRTC of course did nothing. So in as a work around they now offer a dual line

    • So, why isn't there a tag on the story, "Horseshit"? That's what it is, nothing more, and nothing less.

      *takes deep breath*
      Ahhhh, I love the smell of horseshit in the morning!

    • The area of Sweden is about 450,000 square kilometers. The area of the state of California is about 425,000 square kilometers. The number of illegal immigrants alone, in the US, is estimated at around 10-15 million, depending who you ask. The population of Sweden is about 9 million.

      You can throw out all these comparisons of broadband, but when you get down to it, it turns out that things are radically different over on this continent. Just want to point that out before we start saying that one or the othe

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:18AM (#31390050)

        Yes, California is a lot denser populated than Sweden. Hence, it is a lot cheaper to build out infrastructure in California. The actual size does not matter. Larger country with more people => same as several smaller countries, or likely even better due to economics of scale.

        Why does Sweden (sparsley populated) have a lot of fiber build out + really large ADSL build out and low prices?

        • North America has a population density of 32 people per square mile. Europe has a population density of 134 people per square mile. I didn't read TFA of course but it seems if we are comparing continents...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Idiomatick (976696)
          Macao should have the best internet ever! 48,000ppl/mi^2.

          Seriously though, to illustrate your point:
          Lithuania: 15.3Mb/s || 51ppl/km^2
          Latvia: 17.4Mb/s || 35pp/km^2
          USA: 7.7Mb/s || 32ppl/km^2
          Kyrgistan: 5.6Mb/s || 27ppl/km^2
          Sweden: 14.8Mb/s || 20ppl/km^2
          Norway: 8.1Mb/s || 13ppl/km^2
          Canada: 6.5Mb/s || 3ppl/km^2

          The US generally seems to do about as well as undeveloped countries when looking at similar population densities. BUT it isn't the only 1st world nation on that boat. Plenty of other places tha
      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        The area size really doesn't have anything to do with it. Population density does, but that also is almost half in the EU compared to US.

        That combined with the fact that most of these companies aren't even multinationals, so they don't benefit from economics of scale or small taxes like the few major US ISP's.

        • by jopsen (885607)

          The area size really doesn't have anything to do with it. Population density does, but that also is almost half in the EU compared to US.

          Okay, maybe I'm not understanding you correctly... But population density is higher in EU than it is in the US... Just, check wikipedia...
          Sweden have better broadband, because their government have created most of the infrastructure (the backbone)... Thus the natural monopoly is handled by an entity that cannot discriminate...
          Things are similar in Denmark, here major the larges telecommunication company have been forced to license it's lines to thirdparties at reasonable prices...
          So it's probably due to

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Nadaka (224565)

            The US telecom companies were also granted billions of dollars by the US government to pay for a roll out of broadband infrastructure to nearly every American. Unfortunately non-compliance consequences were not specified, and the telecoms provided fat bonuses to shareholders instead of infrastructure investment.

      • by jcupitt65 (68879) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:23AM (#31390092)

        It's not just size and population density.

        For example, consider a large North American city like New York. Very high population density, very wealthy, lots of demand. By your logic, broadband there should be cheap and fast, but it isn't (or not at Scandinavian levels anyway).

        (don't worry about moral superiority, this debate is really just frustration almost everywhere that we can't get the astonishing service they have in Sweden, argh)

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        I know your post was intended to pre-empt the stupid comments that will quite possibly come up, but still, I get the impression that the study was intended to look at overall quality of service. At the end of the day customers care much more about the service they receive than the relative ease or difficulty of bringing that service to them. The argument is a fair one to make when talking about why the US and Canada are (or aren't) lacking in broadband tech, but it's irrelevant if the question is simply "Ar

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        Lumping Canada and the US together doesn't work. Canada is WAY ahead of the US in terms of broadband penetration, always has been, and will likely continue to maintain the lead over the next decade.
      • by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:34AM (#31390222)
        Also, when you have free time in California you can enjoy the sun, hit the beach, surf the ocean, or whatever else it is that young, happy people do outside. But what are you going to do when you're stuck inside during the long, cold Scandinavian winter? Before the Internet, Scandinavian kids used to get so bored, and thus angry, that they would do crazy stuff like this [wikipedia.org]. Now fast Internet access makes life bearable in the inhospitable north. Of course everyone wants it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No you are not getting 1Gb/s to home in Stockholm. Advertised rate is not the same as real rate.

      In Korea they advertise 100Gb/s to home. I lived there - you don't get 100Gb/s. Its more comparable to typical USA cable speeds. It is just an advertising gimmick.

      • Re:Right (Score:5, Informative)

        by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:31AM (#31390188) Journal

        I can personally say that you do. Of course I won't be getting that 1Gb/s from most http sites especially if they're in the US, just because they either don't have the bandwidth, are limiting per user or that you just can't deliver that fast from other countries - but the bandwidth is still available and will work 99% of the time to its full extend, provided you have the hardware capability. Now you don't really need that fast yet, but that's an another matter and will change over time.

        Also, we have quite strict laws regarding advertising. What you describe wouldn't cut it.

        • by Kevster (102318)

          Is that 1 Gb/s symmetric? Can you get close to that when transferring large amounts of data to someone next door or on the same block? That would be worth paying for. Here in Canada, I get 15 MB/s down, 1 MB/s up for C$45/mo. To get around the asymmetry, my neighbour (with whom I have line-of-sight) and I are setting up a 802.11g wireless link. Sad, but at least it's been fun. :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sopssa (1498795) *

            Yes it's symmetric, and we've tested it across the city and it's pretty much what you would get on LAN. While you obviously don't get full of it from elsewhere (100 Mb/s is common in other cities, maybe slower in towns), you basically never run out of your own bandwidth. No caps, either.

          • Well in Bucharest, Romania you have 100 Mb/s metropolitan speed offered by most ISPs. Interestingly, larger/country-sized ISPs don't offer such speeds, not even for metropolitan network.
            I have tested with other people connected to the same ISP, 100 Mb/s up/down is no problem. My ISP has over 40K subscribers, and transferring data to/from them is easy and fast. As for ping? 1-5 ms to any I have tried.
            My requirements are fast speed and low ping to people close by. As for external websites (outside Romania),
        • by shentino (1139071)

          Yup

          Having a large faucet doesn't help if the water company can't spit out enough water.

          Try testing it against a neighbor that has the same service and you'll get a good test of the actual hardware capacity.

          Testing further away exercises the network, but eventually your water's going to flow through someone else's tubes.

          A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

        • Of course I won't be getting that 1Gb/s from most http sites especially if they're in the US, just because they either don't have the bandwidth, are limiting per user or that you just can't deliver that fast from other countries - but the bandwidth is still available and will work 99% of the time to its full extend, provided you have the hardware capability

          .

          On the contrary, I have 6mbps internet service from Comcast. Downloads go at 700kBps or so, however, web browsing rarely tops 50kBps. Comcast ins

    • Re:Right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mikael_j (106439) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:22AM (#31390088)

      Yeah, where I live (Östersund, northern part of Sweden, population ~40k) the choices are FTTH through the citynet which has five different ISPs offering everything from 1/1 Mbps to 100/100 Mbps with the most expensive 100/100 service costing SEK 459 ($65) per month, ADSL through a multitude of ISPs offering their services through DSLAMs and networks owned by TDC, Telia or Telenor and finally cable (DOCSIS) through ComHem who offer speeds from 5 Mbps to 25 Mbps (although Comhem are being booted out by the landlord since the citynet is a much better solution and not tied to any one ISP like Comhem's network).

      Also, as you said, downtime even with DSL is generally quite low (at least if you live in an apartment building, if you live in some shack in the woods and the copper runs as overhead cables then you'll probably have some issues but that's like expecting to be able to drive your new Ferrari at 200 km/h on a dirt road that hasn't been maintained since the 1920s...). Total downtime due to DSL outages for me has definitely been less than two or three hours in the last year.

      As for caps, they seem very common in the US and I don't know of a single ISP where I live that has any caps except for when it comes to 3/3.5/4G connections.

      /Mikael

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "Choices". There, you just ended the entire argument.

        My "choice" is whether or not I buy DSL. If I lived in a truly open and competitive market my "choice" would be whether to buy DSL or Cable. In the absolute best case scenario I have two companies to choose from.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Where I live (Newark, NJ), my choices are:

        • $60/month cable Internet access ($50/month if bundled with a cable package)
        • ~$20/month Verizon DSL Internet (not that great)
        • Dialup
        • FIOS isn't here yet
        • Run a private line to my house through a business-class provided like Speakeasy

        I would love to have the choices you have over the choices I have. $65/month is your most expensive package? $60/month is the only package here worth buying.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Caps are very UN common in the US. That's why you hear so much screaming when some ISP proposes instituting them.

        Anywhere where I live in Central NJ we have Verizon FIOS which is FTTH, Cablevison DOCSIS3 which also gives you metro WiFi, and a variety of DSL options. Speeds are up to 100Mbps. None of them are capped. In reality it doesn't sound any different from what you experience in Sweden.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BikeHelmet (1437881)

        I'm in Canada. I like my ISP - 3mbit/640kbit with 200GB cap for $27/mo. Quite affordable!

        There aren't a lot of options cheaper than that, which don't sacrifice in some way. I could get 10mbit cable for a bit more, but then my cap goes down. I already use close to 100GB/mo, so that isn't really an option.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Checklist:

      [ ] Can I get 1 Gb/s to home in Canada? (I can in my home town Stockholm)

      I think that's too harsh. We damage our point by exaggerating in our examples... While you might be able to get that in Stockholm, you won't get that just about anywhere in Europe or even Sweden. But even when using more common figures... We are well ahead. We don't have monthly caps, have little to no throttling (I've never noticed any), etc... which seem to be more common elsewhere.

      I live in Finland and am surfing through 100 Mbit/second line. It should be 100/10 but I usually get about 95 megs/second dow

      • Good luck finding a decent ISP that gives that quality of service, for that price without annoying caps.
      • Now... I think that USA might still win us when it comes to price. In my previous apartment, 100/10 would have cost 55 euros (=75 dollars) a month. That might not be easily comparable if those bandwith's are less common in usa but even the 10/2 cost 45 euros (=61 dollars) a month. I think that you would get one cheaper than that in USA?

        ???

        I'm unemployed. I recently moved from dial-up (.05/.03) for $22 a month (not including phone) to low DSL (.7/.3) for $20 a month (phone irrelevant, taxes and fees extra)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hairyfeet (841228)

      Hell there are good chunks of the country where you can't get diddly squat here in the USA! Where I live (Northern AR) the cableco and DSL haven't run so much as a single foot since the mid 90s. Not a single foot. My mom was 2 blocks away from cable when she built her house in 1982, guess how far away she is from the cable now? 2 blocks! Last time I lived there a few years back there were even parts of downtown Nashville where you couldn't get broadband!

      The problem we have here in the USA is our "let the ma

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:29AM (#31389572) Homepage Journal

    Especially if you are penalized by your ISP if you use it..

  • Uhm, the speed used is not the speed advertised. Why, because it varies wildly and would be stupid to use. They use averages of speedtests. Which is the best indicator you'll ever get of speed. That kind of makes their point moot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nadaka (224565)

      right. and the average of my speed tests is less than 5% of the advertised 8mb connection I am supposed to be getting.

      The summary is dumb. Mr "anonymous reader" is basically saying that North America's internet is better because it is saturated by having higher use with a lower cap.

      I'll read the article, but only after posting in accordance with slashdot tradition.

  • Don't RTFA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by M_Hulot (859406) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:37AM (#31389666)
    The original report is really badly written. For example, this is a section heading:

    "A multidimensional approach to benchmarking helps us separate whose experience is exemplary, and whose is cautionary, along several dimensions of broadband availability and quality"

    Why do people write like this?
    • by gmack (197796)

      If the average reader sees a bunch of scientific sounding words there will be the assumption that the report's author knows what hes taking about.

    • Re:Don't RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by saihung (19097) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:34AM (#31390226)

      It's Harvard. If they write in normal English people might discover that the study is stupid. See also: every sociology department in the world.

    • by mbone (558574)

      Why do people write like this?

      "Words that write themselves for you."

      I would suggest you start with George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" and graduate to Victor Klemperer's "The Language of the Third Reich" [amazon.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        These aren't words that write themselves for you - this is a cleverly disguised level seven wizard spell, Runes of Inducing Headache. I honestly tried to RTFA - it is one of the most deliberately complex things I've ever waded into.

        However, the retort from Globe and Mail that tries to refute the study basically needs one big [citation needed] tag written under the whole thing.
  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:47AM (#31389760)

    I wonder how much difference there really is between the various counties?
    I've been in places in the Americas, Europe & Asia where 'remote' could be as little as an hour's drive away from a big city.
    Guess what? No broadband, & crappy cell coverage, (forget high bandwidth via cell).
    Why? Normally simple economics. Look at the cell maps; they all claim to cover '9x%' of the population, conveniently forgetting that that's != to '9x' of the inhabitated surface.
    Anyway, how much bandwidth do you really need? Is it really a handicap if you cannot run a call/data centre from some remote mountain or desert retreat?

    • by grumling (94709)

      Hell, sometimes "remote" can be one block away.

      But that's always been the problem:

      In the 1930s, all the power companies were happy to connect into downtown Nashville, but rural TN? No payback, no investors, no way.

      In the 1950s, the Bell System was permitted to be a monopoly only if they agreed to build out to 100% of the country. There's places in rural Colorado that have no electricity, single track road, cell phones are offline, but you can get wireline telephone service. That copper hasn't made AT&T

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:00AM (#31389886)

    The numbers for broadband penetration with active internet users in north america are 95+%, and for businesses are over 98%. That basically means everyone who actually uses the internet is on broadband.

    At that point is there really much to discuss? Everyone who actually uses the internet in any significant fashion is on broadband.

    • by bjourne (1034822)
      No because that misses the point. Of those that are literate 95% has read books therefore book penetration is high enough. The point is that if only a certain percentage gets regular access to the internet and the others has to do without, then we are creating a society divided by those who has internet and those who has not. That lead to problems down the line.
    • by arcade (16638)

      Define broadband.

      I would claim that anthing providing less than 10Mbit download and 2Mbit upload is bloody slow, these days.

      • IDK, but where I live, in Central NJ I have a choice between several services starting with DSL up through 3 bonded DOCSIS3 channels that gives me 100/15 Mbps service.

        The one I actually pay for is 30 / 5, mostly because I haven't found a reason for something faster.

        And yes I actually get 30/5.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        I would argue that most people won't know what to do with all of that (10m/2m). What they need is a certain RELIABLE level somewhere considerably beneath that. They need less overhyped speed and more reliability.

        Athough "web based television" could certainly drive more demand.

  • BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tiro (19535) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:03AM (#31389916) Journal

    Advertised broadband speeds vary from actual speeds. In North America, this is largely a result of "network overhead," and is quite modest. In Europe, however, the variation is often dramatic.

    I live in San Francisco, where Comcast advertises 8Mbps. We actually get 1Mbps down. If you want the full 6Mbps, you have to live some place like San Mateo County, where they don't have insane oversubscription.

    The Comcast drone I chatted with online asked me: "Would you like to avail the Comcast?" I don't even know what the F that means.

    • Re:BS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:46PM (#31390964)

      Would you like to avail the Comcast?

      Back when I had Comcastaway a year or so ago, their tech support was largely Indian. It was definitely a crapshoot ("To not be getting angry with me, sir! I am but trying to help you!" but if you called back a few times you'd eventually get someone with a half a clue. Now, at one point I was paying an extra couple bucks a month for a second IP (I didn't want to run my VoIP box through my main router.) Then I upgraded my service to the next tier, and all of a sudden my phones stopped working. I reset everything, and then the phones worked fine but nothing else did. Turned out they'd dropped provisioning for my second IP. So I call up about it, and was told that I needed a service call. It went kinda like this:

      "No, I don't," I told her, "It's a provisioning problem."

      "Well, I wouldn't know about that. We'll need to send a tech to make sure your equipment is working."

      "No, it's working fine. Tell you what, send me over to provisioning."

      "Oh, we're not allowed to do that. I can't call them either."

      At that point I gave up.

      "Whatever. Send the tech."

      So a pair of Comcast technicians shows up, and asked me what the problem was. They were pretty sharp, I have to admit: the Internet boys were generally good, it was the Comcast Digital Voice techs that really needed some more training, but that's another story. Anyway, I explained the problem, and the lead tech blinked and asked, "Why did you ask for a service call? That's a provisioning issue." Duh.

      So he calls up provisioning and this African-American woman answered and just wouldn't shut up for two seconds after he explained the problem, I was amazed that she found time to breathe. "He can just avoid the problem by simply plugging his VoIP box directly into his router. That would save him the monthly charges {blah blah blah, and furthermore, more blah} does the customer know that he doesn't need a second IP?". The guy looks around my shop and said, "Yes. I think he does. In any event HE JUST WANTS WHAT HE'S PAYING FOR." So the lady says, "Okay, all fixed." We restarted everything, it appeared to work, they left, and an hour later my second IP disappeared again. Argh. Still, all in all they did provide a reasonable service (a little expensive, but it was fast and fairly reliable) but they lost me when they started screwing around with torrents. Hands off my goddamn pipe, Mr. Robertson.

      Now I'm on AT&T U-Verse, and so far I've been happy. I have some interference issues that I discovered are due to noise on my power line, of all things (yeah, now I'm in power company Hell, but I can't blame AT&T for that.) I'm on the 18 mbit/sec tier, am getting 22 and I'm getting 2 mbit/sec upload. No complaints with AT&T so far. Ultimately, it just depends upon where you are. I'm in a broadband-competitive area, so they have to work for it. I feel sorry for people I know that only get Internet access from a single outfit: unless it's a fairly small, well-run operation they usually get crappy service. If it's a Comcast or a Verizon, and they don't have to compete for your dollars, they usually don't bother.

      Not hard to figure out why AT&T was so heavily regulated back when its Ma Bell days. I'm spite of what our laissez faire friends would have us believe, sometimes you do need regulation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by godrik (1287354)

      I believe it is BS too.

      But in france, on ADSL, the advertised bandwidth is the ATM bandwidth. So when Free Telecom advertise 20Mbps it is actually 16Mbps. And for trying to use this bandwidth for downloading... Debian ISO... over bittorrent, you actually get 16Mbps (ok perhaps 15.8 but who cares).

      So yes, there is an overhead between usefull bandwidth and advertised bandwidth which is constant by technology and usually written in the fine lines. Moreover, 20Mbps (atm) is a de facto standard in France, we ten

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raven737 (1084619) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:06AM (#31389934)
    My Parents live in the US (Missouri), i live in Germany.
    They pay more then i do, they only have one choice for broadband (SBC Global which is now AT&T) and their download speed is slower then my upload speed. And i don't mean 'stated', i mean actual.
    They have 768kbit/s down stated and they do get that but they pay around $45/month. In Germany i pay 29.90 euro for 32Mbit/s stated of which i actually get 3.9MByte/s sustained so 31.2Mbit/s actual and 2Mbit/s upstream stated of which i get like 220kbyte/s so 1.8Mbit/s).

    My brother lives in mountain view (near google) and used to live in menlo park. On both occasions he had only two choices (dsl and cable form one provider each).
    Each was horribly slow and very expensive. And this is in the F*ING HEART OF SILICON VALLY!!!. At least now in mountain view he gets free google wifi (which he uses exclusively, thank you google!).

    In Germany i have 8 different DSL providers, all tying to outbid each other (this is in a small rural town with maybe like 5000 inhabitants). Unfortunately with DSL the max they can provide is 16Mbit/s over twisted pair, that's why i went with cable, which for the speed is just as cheap and way cheaper then anything i ever saw in the US. Sure i heard of things like 'Fiber to the premises' but in the areas my parents, my brothers and i lived it was never even considered, and in the last 10 years the price of 'broadband' was actually raised 2x. Each time my parents would cancel or threaten to cancel to get the 'new user' prices again which would be what they payed before. But it's not really much of a choice, if they want broad band they have to pay what AT&T asks.

    This article is either total BS or somehow every place i know in the US has been miraculously spared of any type of competition leaving horrible service, horrible speeds for extravagant prices.
    Does anybody in the US have something like 32Mbit/s (uncapped) $40/moth? If so, where do you live and what is your ISP?
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Informative)

      by trapnest (1608791) <janusofzeal@gmail.com> on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:18AM (#31390058)
      I have 40Mbit/s with no caps for $60USD/month. I live in a small town about an hour north of tampa, in florida. My ISP is Brighthouse networks/roadrunner.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by IICV (652597)

        It's funny - whenever someone on Slashdot says "yeah well I live in America and I have this really great plan through $ISP", $ISP is never Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, TWC or one of the other major providers (actually I'm not even sure there's a major provider I haven't listed here - Ma Bell is reconstituting herself). It's always some small provider like Roadrunner or Brighthouse out in the middle of nowhere.

        In California, for instance, Brighthouse does offer some plans - if you live in Bakersfield. And all

    • Which cable provider are you on in Germany? I'm looking to get away from 1&1, and 30€ a month for a realistic 1.8Mbit/s of upload speed sounds pretty good to me :)

      Do they offer VoIP?

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      I see yours and I raise you my anecdote. I am actually in Germany, Baden Baden right now, lived here for a few months, came from Toronto. We live on sort of a mountain here though, and it's a nice place and all, but I cannot get anything except one single DSL provider, don't want to mention their name, but they are THE telecom in this country. Can't get cable, satellite would still only allow me the downstream. I got mobile actually, but again, where we are it doesn't work well, it works better downtown

    • Every place in the US has two wired options maximum: 1 DSL and 1 cable. Technically, you can get more options on DSL. However, if Verizon is the local TelCo, any other companies pay to "rent" lines from Verizon, and almost always are more expensive for the speed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Neoprofin (871029)
      My girlfriends mother lives in Duisburg, her DSL is in terms of latency not terrible, but the actual downstream is frequently barely above DSL levels. I'm currently staying in Belgium and the ISP here cuts service down to 56K levels after 100Gb. I don't know what they're paying for it, but for a house of 9 students they're on 56K service for roughly 3 weeks a month.

      Point being, what is "installed" and what is "usable" are two entirely different things.
  • Sooo... let's see (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I used to live in the US from 1996 to 2008, and I lived in the freaking center of a major city. In 1998 or so they started offering DSL, 768k SDSL, for like $80 per month. That was concentric, which ended up becoming XO and canceling all their consumer accounts. I switched to the excellent Speakeasy, but it was still more money for less speed at the time. Later, the truly craptasic Verizon DSL showed up, which many people signed up for, since the advertising was heavy. One of my friends have had that g

    • I don't want to hear the excuse "oh that's because Japan is a small island." We have as much empty space as the US to be sure.

      As much as? Japan is the same size as Montana (377,915 vs 380,847 sq km). And far, far more densely populated.
  • by divisionbyzero (300681) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:25AM (#31390104)

    Usually when a study comes to such dramatically different conclusions from a fairly respectable institution my alarm bells start ringing. It usually smells like media manipulation. So, let's see. The Globe and Mail is owned by CTVGlobemedia which in turn is owned by among others Bell Canada. Bell Canada (as well as the other former Bells) were excoriated by the Harvard report for being anti-competitive and providing poor value. Hrm... Nothing definitive but fairly fishy.

  • Nor, I suspect, that of many other slashdotters.

    I expect this to be rapidly crowdsourced into the dust.

  • It may suck now... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by masdog (794316)

    The state of broadband in North America may suck now, but it doesn't have to stay that way.

    The Obama stimulus bill provided billions of dollars for broadband development in rural areas. I don't know if any of that money is still available. If it is, then we (collectively) should start forming Co-ops like the East Vermont Fiber Project that was featured on Slashdot a while back and start building out our own infrastructure.

    • by sunking2 (521698) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:45AM (#31390322)
      Right, because of all the things ailing this country we need to tackle internet speeds. Nice waste of my tax dollars.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by toddestan (632714)

        Well, at least it would be building up infrastructure that would provide long term benefits for decades to come. Sure beats buying people new cars and dishwashers.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @11:32AM (#31390204) Homepage

    Even the article itself says that compared to Europe, we trail only an "elite group" of (mostly northern) countries.

    The problem with that, (if you're old enough to remember the sixties when the destruction of WW2 was recent enough to have much of Europe still like developing nations today where you couldn't trust the water), is that WE used to be the "elite". That even some European countries have pulled way ahead when they used to be far behind is all the proof you want that we haven't done nearly as well as we could have. (And as for Japan and South Korea pulling way ahead of us: both countries REALLY were developing nations when I was a kid. People in shacks. Widespread hunger.)

    Secondly, it's not how well we're doing leveraging an old 1930's copper wire infrastructure that was paid off by 1960 by telephones, or what we're doing with a 1970's coax infrastructure paid off by 1990 by cable TV bills; it's how well we're doing at putting in a whole new infrastructure for the Internet itself - one that will wipe the other two away.

    That is, where are we with fiber-to-the-home? Ten years ago, it was reasonable to address voracious demand for the new service by piggybacking it on old infrastructures never designed for it, but were sitting there, already deployed. That should have been matched by an aggressive build-out of the replacement infrastructure designed for the job. It should be nearly done by now.

    Alas, being able to send out TWO bills for the same infrastructure after dropping a few humming boxes on either end of the old wires, was far too lucrative to give up in favour of spending about 3 years of bills per house to run new lines, and government dropped the ball on regulating them to do that.

    Whether just a few, or several, European countries are were just as sloppy, their regulators just as captured, as ours, does not mitigate the mistake; it just gives us some more company. Big deal.

  • "Canada has a true broadband penetration rate of close to 70 per cent of households...." Is that US or Canadian dollars?
  • Instead, we see comparisons of advertised speeds and "price per advertised megabit," which are especially misleading. Advertised broadband speeds vary from actual speeds. In North America, this is largely a result of "network overhead," and is quite modest. In Europe, however, the variation is often dramatic.

    What a weasily way to make it sound like internet connections in the US are not so bad. The reason why advertised speeds aren't so different from actual speeds in the US, is because the offer is extremely low. If you have an advertised 3 Mbit connection in the US and in reality you get 2 Mbit, that's only a 1 Mbit difference. But if you have a line for the same monthly fee in Europe, advertised as 20 Mbit and you actually get 12 Mbit, there's suddenly a whopping 8 Mbit difference. So according to these folk

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If akamai is not coping with French geeks starving for bandwidth and only deliverying an average of 3.2Mbps, it does not means that the internet access is 3.2Mbps here in France.

    FYI, I got an average of 80Mb/s, 40Mb/s and less than 2ms to most french sites (Mo => MB for those who likes 10MB/s).

    ping to french hosted ping to google.com is about 12ms, .uk is about 20ms and slashdot is about 130ms.
    But ping to akamai.com is about 50ms and the same for lemonde.fr (a akamai customer) 40ms.

    The only conclusion f

  • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:31PM (#31390786)
    And now, I will tear apart the analysis that tears apart the Harvard analysis!

    Economists with extensive practical experience of telecommunications regulation have already rebutted the Berkman Center report that harshly assessed Canadian broadband performance, but it is also worth pointing out how much room for interpretation there is in broadband comparisons.

    Let me back up this point by just letting you know the research was refuted and not bother pointing out anyone who's refuted it.

    Residential broadband subscriptions, however, are taken at the household level, not at the individual level. And big businesses often connect several hundred employees with one “line.” The United States and Canada have 2.6 individuals per household, compared with 2.2 in Germany and some other European countries. Thus, if North American household sizes fell to German levels, and all households subscribed to broadband, the United Statse and Canada would have an additional seven lines per 100 persons... Thus there could well be more employees “connected” in North America, although there might be fewer connections.

    So, wait, you're saying that there's more internet penetration in North America because in NA there are more people able to check their e-mail from work?

    And North Americans use the Internet somewhat more intensively than do Europeans, according to Cisco Systems data on Internet traffic. Further, business Internet traffic in North America appears to be at levels substantially higher than elsewhere in the world. Sadly, there is little systematic effort by international agencies to measure the intensity of Internet usage.

    In fact, there's so little effort to measure internet usage that I can just spout this line and pretend it's true without anyone having to refute it!

    Real-world speed testing efforts, while not perfect, tell a dramatically different story from comparisons of advertised speeds. Using real-world data on the amount of time taken to deliver files to end users from its global network of servers, Akamai Technologies reports that the average download speed for Canada was 4.2 megabits a second, against 3.2 Mbps for France, whereas the OECD finds that the average advertised speed from French ISPs was a staggering 51 Mbps.

    Ah, but were they testing from home servers, or from work, which is where most people check their email in Canada?

    Fifty-Mbps speeds (and their prices) are representative of user experience only where advanced fibre and cable networks are widely on offer. Although parts of France have developed impressively in this regard, such networks are accessible to at most 25 per cent of households, and the take-up of high-speed services is very low.

    As opposed to the, what, 2% of North American households that get that kind of speed?

    Canada is likely soon to have a proportion substantially higher than France's of homes served by advanced fibre and cable networks that can deliver such speeds, thanks in part to the ubiquity of cable networks that are less costly to upgrade.

    Also, next year the Cubs will win the pennant. It's gonna be the year! They've been building such a strong team!

    Robert Crandall from the Brookings Institution has shown that in recent years, the capital intensity of the wireline operations of the incumbent North American phone companies has significantly exceeded that of their European counterparts. In 2008, Telus's wireline capital expenditures were about 25 per cent of its corresponding revenue, nearly double the ratio for many European incumbents. Likewise, the Wireless Intelligence database shows that between 2004 and 2009, the capital intensity of wireless operators has been 50 per cent higher in North America than in Western Europe.

    How do we know that North Americans get better internet? Because they spend more money on it! Or do they?

    So it is that in Ca
  • There are still areas of the US where you cannot get telephone service and eve some where you cannot get electricity so the article stating that internet speeds are not that slow is just plain - insert sneeze here - bullshit. Japan has 1GB to the home and I'll wager that the Japanese are far more "connected" a society than we are. I am also willing to bet that we pay substantially more for our service. I am more apt to believe a Harvard study that is done with significantly less bias than the Globe &
  • Furthermore (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:49PM (#31391006)
    If you RTFM and look at the comments, a blogger notes that Bell Canada has a significant ownership stake in The Globe & Mail which immediately takes any shred of impartiality out of the article.
  • This is all a weird argument to make. Broadband is much faster and cheaper in quite a few European countries than in the US, and while you can try to weasel your way out of it trying to paint it as unimportant or something, it is a strong demonstration of an important principle: government-enforced competition works.

    As soon as the Bush gov't got into office, its FCC removed the line sharing mandate that allowed competition in the broadband market. Inversely, at the same time, the European Commission forced member countries to implement such competition. In France for instance it allowed a small company, Illiad, to innovate. While we had disastrously low penetration for Internet connectivity before 2002, the numbers shot up after that. They also introduced VoIP, free international calls, TV over IP, and so on. Another company started offering free WiFi to all its subscribers through any of its subscribers' "boxes", a feature that is now available on all ADSL providers. Every ADSL modem doubles as a WiFi router, and broadcasts a distinct ESSID for the "free wifi" network. You connect to the hotspot, log in with a user id / password, and you are then connected on a different VLAN than the owner's so you don't see what's happening on their home network, thankfully.

    It might be that the situation in the US is not as bad as it's cracked out to be, but there's no doubt that it didn't have the same level of innovation.

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