Cable Modem Blues
Cable modem users have had a great deal going on for them compared to DSL folks like me. We have had strict caps on bandwidth and some have to pay extra to get 768k instead of 128k, for instance. But most cable modem users have had an open ceiling on download speeds. At least, that is, until now.
AT&T of the United States and Rogers Cable in the great land of Canada are both looking at implementing a tiered rate strategy that would charge users more for higher bandwidth consumption. They say that some 10 percent of the users take up some 70 percent of the bandwidth. Yikes! Still, to try to put a cap on your download speeds after the cat is out of the bag, well, Iím not sure how well that will go over. Wasnít the cable modem industry supposed to be less expensive than DSL in the first place? After all, most homes already pay for basic or advanced cable, and this was supposed to be a simple add-on, right? But it is clear now that since the competition has folded all over the place (can you say Excite?), these companies are going to drop the hammer down on us and gouge us for a lot more money. After all, by low-balling the competition and driving them out of business, you can now feel free to jack up the prices like the virtual monopoly you are! (snicker)
As if that was not bad enough, there is one more little tidbit worth sharing. AT&T is trying a new strategy to wring even more hard earned cash out of the loyal U.S. workforce. You know how now you can go down to the store, pay some $70 and get a nice broadband router for your home that lets all of your computers share the same account to get online, thus reducing your overall cost? Well, AT&T wants to take that away from you.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, they want to nail you for another $4.95 a month for each computer that accesses the Internet through their cable modem system. They want to eliminate NAT (Network Address Translation) completely, which not only means you canít have more than one user share the same account, it may also mean you canít hide behind your trusty firewall any more. One of the reasons to use a NAT router, besides multiple PCís, is so they canít see who you really are. They see as far as the router and no further. However, by working with companies to sell non-NAT enabled routers, AT&T may be taking that protection away, meaning you are not going to be as anonymous as you once might have been. Be careful who you visit...
Getting The Most
One thing I noticed on my trusty Windows 98 SE machine is that it is not optimized for broadband packets. Just because I pay through the nose every month for a 768k download speed does not mean I get it. Thankfully, there are sites out there dedicated to helping you get the most from your DSL connection speeds. One of those sites is DSL Reports.
In addition to a ton of great information on the DSL industry, there are some very cool speed tests and configuration tweaks available in their DSLR Tools section. I initially tested at about 600k download and 110k upload speed, which is not quite what I pay for each month. After trying all four of the available registry tweaks, I found that the medium size worked best and I got 715k download and 122k upload.
Of course, the tests are somewhat subjective, and not all sites let you download at high rates. Some sites have a 384k download cap to save bandwidth costs, while others may have 786k instead of the big 1.5m speeds. Regardless, they are all faster than dial-up.
If you wish to test the true download speed after you make the tweaks, try going to big commercial sites like Mandrake and downloading big huge demo or distribution files and see how they do. I know downloading a huge 600 meg ISO file can put a strain on things, but it is a good measure of how much your modem and Internet connection can handle. You may be surprised at just how fast your connection ends up being after all of the overhead. If you are not getting the speeds you are paying for, even after the tweaks, it is time to call your provider.