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Surviving the Internet On Low Speed DSL 277

Posted by timothy
from the why-when-I-was-a-boy dept.
toygeek writes "Earlier this year my family and I moved out into the woods, where high speed is simply not available. We traded in high speed for high latency, clean air and peace and quiet. We've made it work, and can even watch Netflix and Hulu while I'm off in another room working from home full time. Read along as I share some tips about how we've made it work, and the compromises we've had to make." It can be done; low-end DSL from AT&T is also what I somehow muddled through with for most of the last 18 months; though the connection often failed and the followup support was terrible, it worked well enough most of the time, and sure beat a 56K modem.
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Surviving the Internet On Low Speed DSL

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  • How is this news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:37PM (#45716899)

    How is this news?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:05PM (#45717221)

      Man has first-world problem and somehow manages to survive. Film at 11!

    • by twocows (1216842)
      DSL. Hah. I lived on DSL for the better part of a decade, from the early 00s well into 2008. I've lived with dial-up several times in the past few years alone (see here [] for a detailed post about that and how I coped if you care). I sure as hell didn't try to submit it as an article, though. Maybe I should start a blog with a fancy newsy-sounding name and submitting every entry to /. at the rate articles are getting greenlighted these days.
    • AC first poster says,

      How is this news?

      Of course it's modded +5 Insightful....but I'll bite....

      This is news because at the extremes of any system's performance you can more easily see the faults of the system.

      Anyone who does internet work of any kind should try to do their daily browsing or w/e you do on a 56K modem at least once.

      When you see, even just browsing the mainstream 'internet-y' sites like,, and compare to slashdot or others...sometimes system design solutions **just click** because you see it in a different context

      TFA is like a pro football player doing cross training. It's relevant to us professionally and personally too if you have nostalgia for the early days of the internet.

      • I wish I had points. And I wish web developers did not think everyone has 20meg connections to the net. MANY places outside of big cities are very speed limited.
  • You poor baby (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:38PM (#45716925)
    OMFG how ever will you survive on 1.5mbps?

    5 years ago where I live finally got DSL at 768bps. 2 years ago it actually got bumped to a maximum of 3mbps. WTF are you whining about?
    • Re:You poor baby (Score:5, Informative)

      by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:46PM (#45717021)

      Amen. Until I moved 7 months ago I was on 1Mbps for the last 10 years, and actually - it ain't that bad. File downloads go a bit slower naturally and some video streaming stuff didn't work great (Youtube worked fine though), but in general web browsing was absolutely fine at that speed and online gaming wasn't an issue either.

      When I moved to my current home my local ISP has a host of plans available - from a minimum of 10Mbps to a max of 110Mbps. I took the bottom plan at 10Mbps and I've still not found any major reason to go faster. Don't get me wrong I'm a big techie and spend tons of time on my computer, but I haven't yet found a need for some of the crazy internet speeds available these days.

      • I'm still on 6 Mbps down and 0.5 up - and I live in what is technically classified as an urban area. There are higher speed plans available from other companies, but the QoS from them is notoriously terrible.

        My crummy little DSL might take a while to download a large file and has an occasional burp if two people try to stream at once, but the connection itself is otherwise rock solid. I'm connected to the line via an Ethernet cable since I'm the gamer in the house, but everyone else does just fine on w
      • by Bengie (1121981)
        I'm not a fan of waiting, I value my time, and waiting for a 20GB Steam game to install on a 1mb connection would drive me nuts. I only have so much time on Earth and I don't want to spend it waiting for a progress bar.

        Everyone has opinions and priorities, and this is just a reflection of how I feel on the subject.
        • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:53PM (#45718491) Homepage Journal

          waiting for a 20GB Steam game to install on a 1mb connection would drive me nuts

          To put it into perspective: 20 GB (160,000 Mbit) at 1 Mbps is about two days if you don't do anything else with the connection. Amazon Prime ships faster than that.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Big downloads run overnight, just as they always have for me. Still faster and easier than driving to the store. It's not like I'm staring at the progress bar while downloads happen.

          • by Bengie (1121981)
            I don't do it as much as when I was younger, but I still like to play games as soon as they're released. I won't be fully satisfied until there is absolutely no perceivable wait. I am content and happy with waiting over night, but my goal is to never wait for anything when it comes to transferring data. With new tech coming down the pipeline, my dream may be realized before I die.
        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          Unless you're downloading from a BBS using ZModem, you can actually do other things while your computer downloads a game.

        • by Jeff Flanagan (2981883) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @06:53PM (#45719871)
          Maybe you should smarten up and not stare at the progress bar. There's this new thing called Windows that allows you to use other applications while Steam downloads. There's another thing called "life," which has something to do with being away from the PC, but I'm not really qualified to speak on that topic.
    • Re:You poor baby (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:46PM (#45717035)
      The fact he works from home certainly raises the stakes.

      Secondly, what may have been OK 5 years ago is not necessarily OK today. When tech is available, it tends to become implicitly mandatory. There are now many jobs where it would be frowned upon to not carry a cell phone, for example. Expectations rise - not just our own expectations but those placed upon us. I don't think this is recognized enough among people who always feel we should be "thankful" for everything.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Unless he's working from home in a media-intensive industry such as photography or video editing or something, I can't really fathom the need for a high speed connection. I work from home with a 3mbps link in a pretty media-heavy industry: video game development. I never really thought about download times as being excessive for all the content that I end up downloading.

        Granted I'm not moving content continually, and I do initiate large syncs at night so that I'll have them when I need them. The majority of

        • by alen (225700)

          KVM switches need lots of bandwidth
          in our old office with a few T1's every time i would fire up the KVM switch app on my PC the networking guys would call right away

          • by BitZtream (692029)

            In the modern world ... people use RDP which is extremely lightweight, or VNC, which isn't horrible. Both are far better than streaming video. What app do you speak of that was so bandwidth intensive?

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            KVM switches need lots of bandwidth in our old office with a few T1's every time i would fire up the KVM switch app on my PC the networking guys would call right away

            That. Does. Not. Compute.

            Seriously, this suggests a totally messed up network setup (and/or the networking guys didn't what the hell they were doing.)

            • My guess is the K and M components do just fine on limited bandwidth connections. It's the video that's the problem.

              Perhaps the CLI would trim those demands down to something reasonable? GUIs are a passing fad, anway.

      • Re:You poor baby (Score:5, Informative)

        by bloodhawk (813939) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:06PM (#45718669)
        nothing much has changed in 5 years that would make working from home any harder on such a link. Unless he is into high end photo or video editing it just means it is slow to surf utube during breaks. I CURRENTLY regularly work via a 500kbps link and it is perfectly fine, most people have an overinflated view of what you actually require for bandwidth which has come from multimedia intensive sites and streaming video.
      • by IANAAC (692242)
        I get by on basically the same as the story submitter, and I work from home too. There is a speedier option for me - satellite internet, for about the same price.

        I won't jump to satellite, though. Here's why: I stream a LOT of shows. I mean most of what I watch is done over the internet. I may occasionally have to wait for a buffer to fill, but other than that I have no problems. Satellite comes with bandwidth caps (unless I want to be up all night taking advantage of "free" off-hour bandwidth). With all

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The article is pretty lame, and appears to merely be ad click-bait.

      Up until 3 years ago I was limited to 768kbps down, and I made do without all the weird crap that is mentioned in the article (other than AdBlock). Even now -- I just checked -- I only get 3mbps down. I never really thought about this as being slow. I guess I don't stream enough videos simultaneously in resolutions higher than my monitor supports?

      • by robot256 (1635039) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:52PM (#45717093)

        The article is pretty lame, and appears to merely be ad click-bait.

        Well, he does work from home. Be a sucker and click on a link so he can have a cup of coffee.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yeah, most people don't really need internet that's that fast. 5-10 Mbps should really be more than enough for most home users. This gives you enough bandwidth to stream a couple videos at the same time. The big problem that I have is that with my current ISP (and all others in my area) is that the pricing structure is set up all wrong. You can either pay a low price for 5 Mbps, but be limited to 15 GB of transfer, or you can pay more for higher transfer speeds (up to 150 mbps), and then be given more hi
        • Re:You poor baby (Score:5, Interesting)

          by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:17PM (#45718041)
          Ugg, metered Internet... there is no future in that, the sooner ISPs drop that idea the better...

          I live in Texas and have Verizon FIOS, 150 down 65 up, and it is wonderful. Works all the time, amazingly fast, low latency.

          Downloading large media files or games from Steam, normally I get over 18 megabytes per second. That is faster than I can write to a lot of USB flash drives! :)

          We use a lot of streaming media in our house and while 150 down isn't required for that, it sure makes the experience nice for multiple users. The 65 meg up also helps for remote VPN connections (I work from home a lot).

        • I would love to be able to purchase extra throughput, without having to pay for higher speeds at the same time, but such a plan doesn't exist.

          Look into any business plans your provider offers. They're more expensive for a given speed, but are often uncapped, plus you get better customer service.
    • by McGruber (1417641)

      OMFG how ever will you survive on 1.5mbps? 5 years ago where I live finally got DSL at 768bps. 2 years ago it actually got bumped to a maximum of 3mbps. WTF are you whining about?


      I live within 4 miles of the center of a major US City and the best DSL I can get is 0.65 Mbps down and 0.10 Mbps up.

      • I have friends 15 miles from Washington D.C. who are on dialup (or Verizon wireless cards) because it's apparently not cost effective to run cable or DSL to their neighborhood. My folks live in Montana. They don't even have good dialup. Forget 56k, they're falling back to 14.4kbps.

        I'm in suburban VA. No DSL and my Comcast loop is so saturated that I don't even bother trying to use it at prime time.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      AT&T says we can't get anything faster where I live. I only have DSL with AT&T. To get faster I'd have sell my soul to them for UVerse shit or get ComCast shit. There may be some other ripof...cable company where I can get overcharged.

      Well, my wife has to use a program called OptiTime in Paris. We're in GA. When she is on there for work, ALL internet activity has to cease or she'll get a bunch of time-outs. So having only 2.0/0.2 (according to SppedTest []) limits our use.

      Streaming video has to have i

      • by Luyseyal (3154)

        Not sure why you're not interested in Uverse if it's available. Are the Internet-only plans there unreasonably priced?


    • by AK Marc (707885)
      I lived on no better than 320k DSL until 5 years ago when I moved out of the US. I presume higher speeds would have been available in the same areas now, but I don't have to worry about it.
    • I'm whining about the fact that downloading an ISO is an overnight event. This is 2013 and we live in the richest nation in the world. There's absolutely no reason we shouldn't have had this entire country wired with fiber a decade ago. Wait, there is - we spend tens of billions of dollars dropping bombs on innocent people in the middle east only to spend billions more rebuilding their countries instead of spending it on infrastructure to improve our own country.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Fiber to every home? That's ridiculous. Who pays for that? Even if you get a fiber backbone you still won't have fiber for those last few hundred yards. The only way it happens is if the customer pays exhorbitant fees, like $100/month. No ISP is going to act as a charity.

        Plus you don't need fiber. 768Kbps DSL is adequate for the vast majority of people, and yet we don't even have that available to the majority of the people. Stop whining about your streaming being bumpy when there are people who can

        • Also, why should people in urban areas be forced to subsidize people who want to live in the middle of nowhere and then bitch because there's no infrastructure near by.

          If you want the advantages of a place with a high population density, move to a place with a high population density. If you want the advantages of a place with a low population density, move to a place with a low population density. But you can't have your cake and eat it too.

        • Good god I hope that's a bad attempt at trolling. People having even shittier service is an excuse to find 768k DSL acceptable? Again, richest nation in the world. If we spent 2% of our annual defense budget on building out a broadband network, it would be done in two years. Who pays for it? We do, with taxpayer dollars. Run back to a central aggregation point and give the US actual competition at the POP instead of granting monopolies on last-mile.
    • Then you both have crappy Internet connections. It is easy to say, "what are you complaining about, it's fine" when you've never had a good connection.


      Once you've had one, you'll never go back...

      My office has 75 down, 35 up, and I can tell the difference between that and my home which has 150 down, 65 up. Not a huge difference, but there is one.

      My Mother is still with AT&T on DSL, 6 down, .768 up. Complete crap experience all the way around, but she doesn't know it because she's nev

      • Re:You poor baby (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Bengie (1121981) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:55PM (#45719235)
        Except in the case of bulk file downloads, the biggest difference past 10mb/s is the quality of the bandwidth, like latency. My work's 10gb fiber connection feels slower than my at home 50mb fiber connection because my residential line has lower latency to Chicago, where all the popular regional CDNs and datacenters are located.
        • That is true, ping times and latency do matter. Thankfully my local FIOS has pretty good latency, it is nice.

          One benefit of fast downloads isn't obvious until you think about it.

          The amount of time it takes to start streaming superbit 1080P from Netflix is shorter with a fast connection, when you fast forward or rewind, it starts playing faster as well since it buffers faster.

          When you have 3 TVs in the house doing this, as we sometimes do, it becomes even nicer. A 10 megabit connection would not near

      • by 0racle (667029)

        Then you both have crappy Internet connections. It is easy to say, "what are you complaining about, it's fine" when you've never had a good connection.

        I said whining and I did it in an extremely condescending way, because the whole premise of the article is 'how will I ever survive on 1.5mbps.' It wasn't, 'this kind of sucks but oh well.' The article is whining like a little bitch for having speeds comparable to most of the rest of the US.

        my home which has 150 down, 65 up

        That's it? How ever do you manage,

        • Funny... :) 150 down / 65 up is reasonable, however they do offer faster here, they just charge a ton for it and I'm not ready to pay quite that much.

          Our local equipment can handle gigibit today, but I believe the most they actually sell to a single home is 500 down, 200 up. Costs more than $200 a month however last time I looked. As it stands, I pay $90 a month for 150/65.

    • by hey! (33014)

      He's a regular Daniel Boone, leading a life of simple-but-rewarding chores: loading logs into the log splitter as he waits for his iTunes movie to download; snow blowing a clear path for the UPS truck to deliver their Amazon groceries; or just whittlin' a shim to mount the high gain yagi antenna to the mast so he can check his Facebook down at the fishin' hole.

    • Lets get real here for a moment. It’s 1.5mbps DSL. It isn’t going to be fast. There’s nothing you can do but work around it and not try to make it something it isn’t.

      Oh, whaaa! You may not be able to stream 1080p SuperHD from Netflix or HDX from Vudu, but this is fine for just about everyone. Most of my friends who are on DSL are on 768k, and I got a few friends on cable and UVerse at 1meg and 1.5 meg. They watch YouTube and Netflix, they download torrents, they play games.

      Truthfully, if you are still close enough to an exchange to get DSL, you are probably in an area where you can get wireless internet (microwave). I have friends who live way out on ranches and stuff w

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Just a case of geeks feeling entitled to internet. 1.5mbps is great for almost all uses, more than most people actually get, and all you need as long as you don't go in for bandwidth hogging uses (streaming video).

      • as long as you don't go in for bandwidth hogging uses (streaming video).
        Huh? I don't quite understand.
        Why would you not stream video?

    • by Idbar (1034346)


      I lived for 1.5 years in a place. Since I didn't originally know the length of my stay in that city, I contracted Sprint 4G instead of a wired network provider.

      Turned out my connection was very spotty, so I had to tape the usb dongle to the window, use a USB cable extension and use a laptop to share the internet. I still had about 1Mbps, with 100ms+ latencies to Google. I streamed Netflix and hulu without much issues (unless it was heavy raining, or something happened at Sprint).

      Not sure what's all t

    • Using a mac is a good way to instill a lust for bandwidth.

      A delta update is a few hundred meg, and the new OS versions are a few gig each. Much more if you (like any sane geek) want the compilers as well.

  • Usenet & Gmane (Score:3, Informative)

    by wispoftow (653759) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:40PM (#45716957)

    I have found enjoyment reading the (text!) news groups and RSS feeds via Usenet, gmane, and gwene. (I prefer emacs and gnus)

    Although they are no match for the information of the entire web, I find that there are more than enough high quality posts on different topics to keep me entertained during my personal "surfing" time, and the text groups load in an instant and can be easily browsed and responses written in "unplugged" mode.

  • Didn't really see anything useful except for maybe the bandwidth monitoring.

  • by thetagger (1057066) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:44PM (#45717001)

    Well, to begin with, for Netflix latency doesn't matter. It's streaming. As long as there is sufficient bandwidth and not too much packet loss it's going to work.

    The poster's experience with the Internet is probably as bad or better than what people have to live in most of the world that isn't the US or Europe.

    • With latency comes jitter (the first derivative of latency with respect to time). Jitter most definitely does matter, especially with streaming.

      See, if you had a nice steady 30 seconds (RTT) of latency, that would be fine. Your content starts streaming 30 seconds after you click play, no big deal, as long as there is no jitter. Now, what happens if latency suddenly drops to 20 seconds? Well, you just got yourself 10 seconds of streaming video in an instant. That needs to be buffered. Nobody expects jitter
  • Even slower (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slashd[ ]fi ... m ['ot.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:47PM (#45717039) Homepage

    Until recently i had to make do with 0.5mbps dsl, and there are people who are still forced to use much slower links than this...
    This is one of the reasons i immensely dislike streaming services, i would much rather schedule a download to occur at night when i'm sleeping, streaming over 0.5mbit would be very poor quality but i can download a 720p movie or tv episode while i sleep.

    • Where are all these sub 1.5meg DSL connections?

      In 2000 I had a 1.5meg DSL connection from SBC in Dallas, that was considered the "baseline" for DSL back then, when did someone install slower?

      • My first post dial up connection was half DSL. I think it was actually good for 850 kbs down, 160 kbs up.
        Verizon swapped it out for FIOS four or five years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Annoying ads, annoying plugins, and annoying ajax crap are the major slowdowns when browsing the web.

    So much faster without them - and I'm on a fast fiber connection :)

  • I weep tears (Score:5, Informative)

    by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:48PM (#45717057) Homepage Journal

    Tears that used to weep at the blinding speed of 300 baud modems after my early 110 baud modem days.

    You poor poor thing.

    Hint: use the mobile website and turn off images.

  • by Nemosoft Unv. (16776) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:50PM (#45717071)
    I bet you are being more productive too. Having a low speed forces you consider what to do/watch/download, and simply not click on every thing that comes into your mind or pops up in your mailbox/twitter/facebook/whateversocialmediayouaresubscribedto. So less distraction. I also like your batch-download; rather than drumming your fingers for 15 minutes until that file is finally downloaded, you queue it up and continue with whatever you were doing.
    • by Ardyvee (2447206)

      Even with fast internet access that seems like a sensible thing to do. Sure, if I have nothing to do I might be okay with waiting for that download, but otherwise just let it run in the background. Preferably without disturbing everything else (such as video streaming, voip calls, gaming, timely communication with remote server, etc).

  • I live in a small, rural community myself ... yet we have both the local cable provider AND Verizon FiOS available to most homes and farms in the area.

    If you *really* have your heart set on living literally in the middle of nowhere, that's one thing (and at that point, I'm not sure one can even expect DSL service?). But we've got clean country air and plenty of peace and quiet in our town of 5,000 or so people -- while still having enough customers to apparently make broadband offerings viable. (A number

    • by swb (14022)

      I wonder what the minimum size requirement is for Redbox.

      You would think they could get those things down to pretty bare-minimum maintenance. I don't think they take cash, so the only thing really left to maintain would be the movies themselves.

      You would think they could almost boil that down to some kind of maintenance mode where the disks to be removed could just be bulk ejected and then the new disks just fed in. They could almost hire someone locally to do this once a week and just have them Express

    • Posts like this make me want to stab someone.

      I live in NJ, right in the middle between Philadelphia and New York City. My town has about 100,000 residents, and ranks as the fifth most populous municipality in New Jersey. We've been seeing advertising for FIOS for close to a decade now. It's still not available.

      Meanwhile you're sitting on a farm in a small, rural community, with your god damn fiber to the premises. Fuck my life.
  • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:03PM (#45717197)
    I don't remember my 1.5Kbps DSL having high latency.
  • by Jawnn (445279) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:11PM (#45717313) are most definitely not "out in the woods". Yawn...
  • But it's rural enough that the neighbor's cows had to be chased out of our yard more than once.

    Anyway... even here, we've got 25mbps down / 5mbps up cable internet through Comcast - and I could get 50 or 100, if I chose to pay for that. But we can see our neighbors, and perhaps the poster is living out more in Kaczynski territory.

    The world, it's a changin'.

  • by hduff (570443)

    He needs a squid proxy and also block the ads there.

    Another speed tip: Use the mobile version of the website.

  • by water-and-sewer (612923) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:01PM (#45717857) Homepage

    It's an interesting article, but I have trouble sympathizing with anyone "suffering" with low speed DSL. I lived and worked in Benin, West Africa for four years, with a DSL connection that was barely any faster than dial-up. I even got myself a dial up connection as well, to compare, and found them nearly equivalent during most of the day.

    Here's what I learned about it: []

    I can tell you one thing, the idea of downloading an ISO and burning it just disappears. Youtube is not an option (I don't even bother clicking on the links). And most crappy webpages stuffed to the gills with scripts, javascript, counters, ad displayers, and the like, are useless. I did a lot of websurfing with Lynx, which I'm surprised to say was a better experience for many sites, including sometimes this one.

    Good luck with your DSL, buddy. I hope you don't suffer too much during the drone wars.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I can tell you one thing, the idea of downloading an ISO and burning it just disappears."

      I downloaded plenty of .isos while on dialup. (The first was Corel Linux, it's been a while....)

      Start download manager in the morning, leave for work, perhaps stop then resume the next day if I wanted to surf in the evenings.
      Not worse than awaiting a very slow and interrupted torrent today.

    • Honestly, I'm shocked to hear that Benin even has any Internet connectivity. If you don't mind me asking, what were you doing out there?
    • An ad blocker may keep out the newest brand of leaches-- video banner ads.

  • You know, just noticed something about most of the responses to this article: most people saying "I live near a major city and still only have X.Y bandwidth" are American.

    This seems to be a reminder that lots of the world has awesome broadband (S. Korea anyone?) while the United States of Dysfunctional America is still struggling with crappy bandwidth and monopoly provider ISPs.

    You'd think the NSA would lobby for better bandwidth so they have more interesting stuff to listen to.

    • by freeze128 (544774)

      You'd think the NSA would lobby for better bandwidth so they have more interesting stuff to listen to.

      Then they would need a LOT more storage, which means a LOT more money. They're trying to stay off the radar of congress....

  • It's not so bad. I can stream Netflix OR download stuff OR play games. Not at the same time. Latency is good, about 50ms at best.

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      I'm guessing you don't have FiOS in your area yet. Verizon DSL was usable for me until FiOS came through- the DSL quality started going down immediately. The connection speed theoretically remained the same, but it dropped the connection with increasing frequency until it became unusable after about a year. I suspect they just stopped doing any maintenance on the DSL lines and equipment.

      On the positive side, FiOS does work well.

  • All of his incredibly insightful suggestions are wise even if you have a fat pipe. Local DNS? Adblock? A VPS somewhere when you need to look like you're somewhere else? DUH. -1, Oblivious.

The best way to avoid responsibility is to say, "I've got responsibilities."