The Ugly Truth About Broadband: Upload Speeds

84 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Broadband: Upload Speeds”

  1. With Mozy at least, there is some sort of upload cap. It took me 15-20 days for my entire hard drive to be backed up (and I had to prevent it from backing up my 8GB Parallel image because it changed too frequently)

    1. I’m not sure about that upload cap idea. I backed up 85 GB to Mozy in less than a week. Once I got my computer to stop going into standby in the middle of it, things went much quicker!

      1. I’m having the same problem with my computer going into standby when I’m trying to do a Mozy backup. What did you do to get it to stop? I’m tired of having to reset every few hours.

      2. Robert,
        Thanks for the feedback. But I’m using an iMac and I my problem is that my connection gets broken off as I’m uploading. Responds to repowering the cable modem. Don’t know if it’s a problem with Comcast capping my upload, my cable modem is going bad or there’s something with my internet connection settings.

    2. When I first started with Mozy, I didn’t back-up my whole drive at once. I started with the most critical folders, and added a new one to the upload every day until it was all up. Then after almost all of it was up, I finally set it to back-up everything. Not a big issue 🙂

  2. Yeah, I’d say a lot of this problem stems from the outdated idea of “who needs to upload anything? The internet is for downloading”. With all these new cloud based initiatives that one sided ness tends to go away.

    Assuming you had such a thing, how usable would an online Adobe Premier app be if it’s going to take you 4 days to upload your raw footage.

    It’s an issue you never see brought up when people discuss the future of Cloud computing.

  3. Doesn’t A in ADSL stand for Asynchronous? The technology itself is doomed as it’s hit the wall with the downstream speed. If the telcos fail to upgrade they network (read: deploy FTTH and the likes), radio based connection will prevail, I guess.

  4. Sounds like you need to look into QoS settings for your router and give certain things higher priority, like voip service.
    If your router doesn’t have it, get one.
    Also, maybe adjusting port settings or dedicating a port for transfers instead of using random ports might help with the speed.
    Also check your number of TCP/IP settings for number of download connections (default is 10, change it to 50). There are programs that help with this.
    If you’re going to push the technology to it’s limits, you have to do some tweaking.

    1. QoS isn’t going to do much good since nobody outside of your home network is going to respect your Diffserfv Code Points. QoS is most assuredly important inside corporate networks (where you have ther control to deliver QoS end-to-end) and if your internet router itself were the bottleneck then maybe – but at 800k upload speeds I am positive that the router’s internal queueing and processing isnt the issue. Changing ports isnt going to make any difference either unless for some reason somebody upstream is throttling or otherwise slow queueing your traffic over those specific ports, and the TCP/IP setting to which you refer only apply to the browser. Any other TCP/IP application isn’t bound by those restrictions (and incidentally for IE before version 8 the limit was 2 connections per RFC2616 which is ignored by IE8 and firefox to use 8 or 10 simultaneous downloads – which is plenty.) You do NOT want to increase theis number to 50 unless you are sure know what you are doing because it causes an unnecessarily heavy load on any webserver at which you point your browser.

  5. I’m at 30Kb/s download speed and thats the best unlimited broad speed in India. Who should I complain to? But yes, what I have now is much better than what I had 2 years back. I hope to move from a 256KB connection to 2MB connection in the next 1 year or so.

  6. Om, you’ve got more than enough upstream bandwidth for a decent Skype call or even Slingboxing. However, I agree your online backup plans will suck. Even with my higher cable modem speeds it took days on Mozy to back up a portion of my stuff. Which is why I now back up locally again and will physically move some data out of the home for safe keeping.

  7. Josh, there are a lot of companies (some of them providing Internet access) for whom the outdated idea of “who needs to upload anything? The Internet is for downloading” is their dream of how the Internet should be. All the really interesting, disruptive things we can do online rely on being able to take part.

  8. And then Imagine that KPN in the Netherlands is rolling out P2P ethernet FTTH and is still only offering asymmetric subscribtions. 3/30, 5/50 and 6/60. the mindset has so settled in the minds of marketeers that thye can’t see the world any different anymore.

  9. Om, Firstly blame ADSL which is Asynchronous design to deliver higher downstream bps than upstream
    Also, since downstream traffic has rocketed sky high, operators put upstream data on really high concentration ratios

  10. Unfortunately, even in 2009, rich media like music is best in a traditional, old school client-server model. I just set up a home server and access it via some mp3 yi component i found somewhere. 1996 technology.

    Hopefully fiber will start to become more and more ubiquitous, but even that doesn’t solve the ‘last mike’ bottleneck.

  11. The service provider measures in kilo-BITS-per second:

    1Mbps = 1048576 / 8 / 1024 = 128 kilo-bytes per second MAX

    860kbits = 860000 / 8 / 1024 = 104 kilo-bytes per second

    With TCP/IP overhead and such – your speeds seem pretty normal as per the service you have.

    1. Not a bad idea, but no diversity and I have well seen many times when the host corrupts the drive itself. For super critical documents and such VOLUME is not the choice. Its finding the most important things and getting that protected. The rest can be lost in your home in a natural disaster in a flash. So while for the bulk of things a drive is good, there is no substitute for a diversified backup off site. The bandwidth problem is a function of need. Lower the need and the problem goes away.

  12. My current speeds via Comcast using the same test service are 27.28mbps download and 2.39mbps upload. Higher than I pay for. An advantage to living in a community with few geeks, I guess.

    1. When I get numbers at or below what I’m paying for, I shout at Comcast cust service – and things are usually back to normal [above std] within hours.

    2. More to the point, I have a few friends telecommuting who arranged with customer service for their ISP to re-apportion their bandwidth. That is, those who have a total of 16mbps to slice asked for and got 8mbps up and down.

    Have no idea if this was easier in the burbs where most of these folks reside; but, it can be done in some circumstances.

  13. I work at Cucku and we fix the upload speed problem for backup by letting you run the first backup at LAN speed and then use the Internet for sending changed/updated files (the same is true for restore). This works because you’re backing up to a friend or family member (social backup) rather than to the cloud. I’m afraid we don’t support Mac yet, but for Windows users I think that it’s the best of both worlds.

  14. This is exactly why we created iForem. Most critical documents and files are small in size. Backing up all of these systems music files and the like are important, but the most important and critical things should not have to wait in a list behind your system files and countless over/under exposed snapshots.

    Find the most important items, email them to a secure place and let this long term backups go for things you may or may not really care about in 20 years. I created iForem for just such a reason and I hope you might appreciate the value as well.

    Good luck with system backups. Cheers.

  15. I have to settle for satilite in my rural area. I wrote all my senators an email about how we’re falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to broadband speeds, and we claim to be tech. Advanced. The world is on it’s way to being paperless and we can even transfer basic files in a decent time. Senator Vitter addressed my concerns and agreed we need a national standard minimun broadband speed . Obama also has this at tge top of his list of things to do. I encourage everyone to write your senators! With Obama in office, we have the best chance of getting these standards raised across the US.

  16. Yeah, I used to have Charter here in Central Mass and the upload was killing me. I used to work for the company and had the highest speed, which at the time had about 2MB upstream if I remember correctly. Then I got Vonage phone service and the very next week they dropped it down to 768. Which worked fine for Vonage . . . unless I wanted to download something big at the same time. And digital distortion on the phone line doesn’t fly with my un-technological wife.

    So I ended up having to set up my Linsys WRT54G router with DD-WRT and set up some QOS rules to severely clamp down on bit torrent speeds and anything else and give Vonage preference. But it still wasn’t perfect.

    Then Verizon FIOS came to town. I’ve got a 2MB upstream now and just leave the router speed wide open. I can watch streaming video, download bit torrent, and talk on the phone without a blip. It’s a beautiful thing.

  17. Om, I have read a number of your posts like this and it seems that you want to have your cake and eat it too … for example, what is so bad about metered broadband? why should I subsidize the guy next door who wants to pirate commercial content?

    1. … and if metered broadband were really about making the network better for all users, your statement might make sense. Look at the ISPs who are doing metered broadband (in the US, at least): surprise, they’re all cablecos. It’s not about customer service, it’s about 1) making sure that you have a lever to encourage your customers to continue to subscribe to overpriced TV programming plans (rather than getting their content over the Internet), and 2) to a lesser degree, to avoid having to build out the infrastructure necessary to support the services you claim to provide (over-provisioning is finally catching up with providers, thanks primarily to the explosion in IP video over the past few years).

  18. Exactly. I had a 6mbit down, 500k up Comcast Connection. Time Warner took over and uploads started going down to 30k. Not to mention, when you would upload, the download speed would go down to 300k. After 7 months, they had an engineer come to my place and explain to me that they were prioritizing packets. I upgraded to business class (10mbit Down 1.5up) and now I get an upload speed of 200k. Hmmm.

  19. Your pipe is in rated in Kb and your application is reporting in KB (8 times smaller) so what you are getting is what you should be. Not that this is any help 🙂

  20. You need to move to Lafayette, LA. Their utility system just launched their fiber network where you can get 50Mbps symmetrical for less than $60/month. Plus they have an embarrassment of riches in that Cox just launched their first DOCSIS 3.0 service in Lafayette, almost certainly in response to the presence of LUSFiber.

    Needless to say, I’m green with envy as here I am in the heart of our nation’s capital, with the Capital Dome out my window, and the best residential service I can get is roughly 12 down, 2 up, and I’m paying more than $70 a month.

  21. Om,
    The real issue here is not about metered broadband. This what these carriers are going to do to make their ancient business models work. The real issue should be regarding why we accept this broadband status quo within the US.
    For instance, when was the last time you ran a story on an innovative new “real” broadband carrier? They don’t exist here today because the energetic ideas, and youth of today would rather chase the next great web application than waste their time trying to fix America’s broadband mess. Who can blame them, thats where most of the VC money is also flowing too, not to any challenger with great new “real” broadband plans. Until this fundamentally changes, I’m afraid we are doomed with senior telecom guys telling us that the best way to build America’s real broadband networks is the same way that they built the copper and cable plants. Trust me, this is exactly how it is getting done today and why we are getting left behind.

    It all needs a significant market shift, a new entrant that could make “real” broadband sexy again. Google, perhaps? However, if the focus is on making sure that all our applications can work over the existing last mile limitations, and not try to fix the last mile, then again, not much will change.

    I had hoped that the Fed stimulus plan for broadband might provide that opportunity. Instead, the reality is, it barely gets coverage in your blog, and I don’t see or hear any new innovative private companies going after those dollars with creative new “real” broadband plans. We’re all happy to sit back, wait and see, and accept the crap we’ve got.

    You mention Sweden and Japan, well without some sort of major shift, you can keep dreaming or move back to the East coast and if you live in a wealthy area, you might just be lucky enough to get FiOS. (assuming of course there are multiple businesses nearby where they can really make their money).

    The model is broken, but I don’t see that many people care or want to do anything about it.

  22. Om, you are so right most people don’t appreciate that upload speeds can be significantly slower than download speeds. The MozyPro service that you are using has no bandwidth cap. The initial backup always takes a while, but once complete, Mozy does incremental backups at the block level which are very quick and you’ll find the cloud is almost always a mirror image of your local machine.

    Devin Knighton
    Mozy by Decho Corp

  23. I have COX and they throttle the upload speed and limit it to 1 connection (anymore than 1 upload connection and they reset the connection) I belive it has to do with P2P. The upload is slow as molasses and in my opinion is a part of their deceptive advertising. It took me over a month to backup my 200 gigs of music to my own servers via COX. I have no other choice where I live – its either COX or Verizon DSL.

    This is a major problem for people like me – those who actually know how to use their bandwidth.

    1. “for people like me – those who actually know how to use their bandwidth.” Are you sure backing up 200GB of music to an external server is a good idea? A 500GB hard drive cost about $200. Run a backup once a week and put it in a safe deposit box.

  24. I f you have access to FiOS or some other FTTP option, why in the world aren’t you taking advantage of that? I got FiOS the day it was available, _specifically_ for decent upload speeds – I could get comparable download speeds with cable, but a connection that’s only fast in one direction quit being useful to me a few years ago. 20 meg symmetrical connections can be had for ~ $60/mo, which is comparable to most cable/DSL connections that are only fast in one direction.

    why would you not take advantage of the best offering available?

  25. Om,

    This is exactly why we recommend IDrive Online Backup. (http://www.idrive.com). IDrive performs better than mozy or any other online backup service for PC and Mac.

    This might sound like a marketing talk, but it is really true.

    It is not just us. PCPro in a recent head-to-head performance comparison rated IDrive significantly better than mozy.

    Raghu Kulkarni
    IDrive.com

    1. Backup’s are great, but again,, why so much effort on “backups” when no one really needs a system state backed up. Let alone restore. The end result is find whats important and back that up – use what ever service you like, iDrive among them. But in the end, you really need to assess what is MOST CRITICAL to backup and backup often. The rest is NICE to have.

      1. I agree. How does one restore a system via broadband? Online backup is for backing up IMPORTANT files. The kind where your life or financial health or business might be in jeapardy.

  26. Thanks for the post. I have this problem

    When i was with Comcast i never had this issue. This is only with AT&T.

    There is no solution to this thou..

    Nice article. I am planning to switch to ComCast

    tks, Nag

  27. Doesn’t the speed test do an actual upload to come up with that #? So, it seems that the tests might not be t inaccurate, but that there is the possibility that the services you are uploading are the bottleneck.

    Not to say that your article doesn’t beautifully illustrate the horribly asymmetry of bandwidth.

  28. Consider yourself fortunate. ADSL2 where I live here in NSW Australia may reach the blistering download speed of 1.8mbps and an upload one sixth that if you get lucky. Wish I was in Singapore where 30 to 100mpbs is not that unusual.

  29. Given that you’re using crappy old ADSL instead of AT&T VDSL or 50/5 from Comcast, as well as a timesharing host, I don’t know you’d expect anything to work any better. For your constraints, I’d suggest you get a fat hard drive just for backup. It’s hard to beat SATA for upload speed.

  30. time to change the laws to unbundle copper loop (again) and do the same for cable last mile. both of these last mile infrastructures have been effectively supported with taxpayer money in the form of duopolistic profits seen by cable and telecom companies. without unbundling we will NEVER see real competition.

    wireless will always be a good filler solution for greenfield/rural/developing countries, but will always be 10x/100x behind wired in speed and throughput.

  31. Be pleased you aren’t living in Australia. Our 2Mbps DSL lines are the fastest available in the country to home users, and that’s only a theoretical maximum – the max DL speed I’ve ever managed in a home environment was 110kbps.

  32. Some of you people suggesting a change in service are missing the big picture point.

    There isn’t always someone to switch to. I get about 3 meg down and .5 meg up. I’d love better but AT&T and Comcast don’t provide service in my area. There is one high speed ISP here.

    Hell I’ve got In laws who have dial up, that’s all that’s available at their home without switching to some sort of wireless.

    1. BINGO – I live in the bay area and my service on Cable waivers daily. It ranges in speed and stability. No matter what I use. Even my 3g Super EVDO cards don’t hold signal in my house and I live near the airport. Forget the house i have in the MT. Dialup – can’t even check mail with reliability. Focus on the content and the need, then deal with the solution.

      Segment your content and desires into Must have and Nice to have. Then match your services and needs to that. Ohm, its a great topic and its has shown that we assume too much in our expectations. From the start to the end.

    2. Josh, I agree with you. Choice is the issue. I live in Princeton, NJ and I have a choice of Verizon ADSL (3mb/s down and 768kb/s up) or Comcast (16mb/s down and 1mb/s up). Currently I used Comcast broadband bundled with cable. Drop the cable and my costs go from $45/month to almost $60/month. The ADSL is $30/month.

  33. How about this… Lets have a survey shall we.

    Of all the stuff you have on your system right now! Aside from photos and videos, (and even then you can select a few precious ones of those), how much CRITICAL stuff do you need to get off the system right now!!!>>>

    I did this test and is 250MB. Total. Hell used a USB drive copy it 10 times and mail it in a circle around the world as your redundant backup. Use iForem is my choice. But really – upload issues will not be solved for years and using mainline services to push content into our use tools they provide will take days if not months to back up and your not SURE you got the most recent stuff. God forbid you have more than one computer in the house trying to do the same thing…

    Apple to apples, find the most important stuff and post just exactly what the amount is you can’t dream of losing.

    Mine – = 250MB +/- another 1gb of nice to have and the rest is just there taking up space.

    Cheers.

  34. We have the same problems here in the UK and it is quite ridiculous. The fastest connection available is with Virgin Media, a cable company, who offer 50Mb download speeds. Pretty good, you’ll agree and you’d probably expect an upload of around 5Mb. But what do they give you? 1.5Mb and I imagine the real-world speed is somewhat less. We need some ISPs over here to start offering a decent upload rate as I’d prefer to drop my download speed in exchange for better upload.

  35. I agree. As of now, the UK Virgin Media service at 50 Mbps download offering only a tiny 1.5 Mbps upload, means so-called ‘unlimited’ cloud backups (and unlimited storage) on their very own “V Stuff” service is pathetically being used as marketing to get users to upgrade from lower packages, with us later finding out how completely unusable they are.

    It took the Virgin Media backup tool for Mac’s over 20 mins just to assess the total filesize it needed to backup, then click through to next screen telling me to expect 13+ DAYS(!) for my 180 GB to be uploaded!
    Right, like I can afford to not do anything on my machine for a couple of weeks!

    Cloud backups for most people are pie-in-the-sky until we get at least 50 Mbps as our UPLOAD speed (probably not for 5+ years), when download might be appraoaching South Korea standards of 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps / 125 MBps: that’s 125 mega BYTES per second).

  36. You are so right the major point is that inadequate bandwidth which means the actual upstream speeds fall short of what the speed test claims. Its a constant battle to get the correct figures. I got fed up and went on the hunt for something a little more in-depth than just a speed checker and came across a website Web-Meter.com that gives you the history of your usage and It shows transaction and data volumes for upload and download, broken down by individual web sites. Its actually really good. It also shows me the highs and lows of my ride on Broadband. I used it to show my broadband provider that they were not doing what it said on the packet and left them to go elsewhere. I hope some else finds it useful.

  37. OK listen, so your getting 860 kbps upload on speedtest.net but when you actually upload it says your getting 90kbps. this is because some places measure speed in KILLABITS or KILLABYTES, a BYTE is 8 times bigger then a BIT. 860 / 8 = 107.5 so that is why its only uploading at 90kbps.
    Also, if you suffer from slow upload like most people then get an external hard drive and backup files within minutes…

  38. There are tons of technical explanations, but the simple truth is that the ISP’s throttles your upload speed because of abuses they experienced when they first rolled out broadband cable. People were running FTP file servers and web sites from their home PC’s. Once they throttled the upload speed, it was no longer practical.

  39. I just bought a new modem and noticed my upload speeds on Cox went from 800k to over 4mbps. This is also over my Linksys router that is several years old. Loving the faster speeds but I always want more when doing large backups to Mozy.

  40. I wouldn’t use Comcast if I were you. I use Comcast and I just checked my upload speed and it is a consistent 2.55Kbps and the download is also consistent between 10.00Kbps and 28.00Kbps. That is now. Three weeks ago the download was less than half that. What changed? I upgraded to a Linksys N wireless router. It nearly doubled my download, but the upload is still the same 2.55 Kbps

  41. I’ll get high speed dial up for 9$/month and load up flickr pics soooo much faster than you.

    owned.

    does anyone really want a fast upload speed?

    or, instead of using ‘mozy’ or those bs programs buy a real backup hard drive for 30$ and run it in raid 1 or transfer all your data from time to time, depending on the size of your HD it’d take between a few minutes to an hour.

  42. You’re confusing the results of your speedtest. Most broadband internet companies market their speeds in Megabits per second, not Megabytes per second. The same is true on a speed test. Your 1 Megabit upload speed is only equivalent to 125 Kilobytes per second. The 860 kilobits per second on your speed test is about 107.5 kilobytes. So you getting 90 kilobites per second on an upload is very reasonable since youre using 720 kbps of your total 1 mbps.

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