Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fractional Reserve Bandwidth

I'm convinced AT&T are selling more bandwidth than they actually have. I have AT&T DSL, and my connection speed varies dramatically throughout the day. We've had the service guy out twice, he's changed a line filter and whatnot, but it really has made no difference.

Usually I get about 2.5 Mb/sec download, which is bad enough, I understand many DSL connections achieve up to 8 Mb/sec. But then it will clog up and I'll get only 20% of what I was getting just a minute before. The performance fluctuates throughout the day and night, but the most likely time to get the really slow speeds is early evening, so it seems correlated to peak hours.

My understanding was that a DSL is a hardwire connection to the internet. Its bandwidth should not vary. I highly suspect AT&T has developed a scheme that continuously re-allocates bandwidth among active users, "robbing Peter to pay Paul". Not all of their customers use the internet at the same time. For a certain number of users, the re-allocation would be unnoticeable. But the more users on the grid, the more performance would have to suffer. The temptation on the part of AT&T would be to service as many customers as possible for a given hardware investment.

This is not unlike the way banks originated the process of "fractional reserve banking", where they would fraudulently issue paper receipts for gold far in excess of the gold they actually possessed. Of course, the banks eventually managed to "legitimize" the practice and eliminate the obligation to redeem in gold at all.

Is anyone else experiencing fractional reserve bandwidth? Is this what you paid for? How might the large internet providers seek to legitimize the practice, once it becomes known?


AC said...

DSL is the same as cable in that you are sharing your network connection with other users. i.e. your connection is contended with other users. For DSL you are sharing your connection with between 19 and 49 other people. The difference with cable is that you are on a 'ring' and thus always sharing with your geographic neighbours (this is why cable companies often use dynamic throttling, so one person in the street can't eat up all the bandwidth). With DSL you have your own dedicated connection to the exchange that you share with no one. However at the exchange you have to share your connection out of the exchange with 19 to 49 other exchange users. This is why on a 2MB line you can only download at 200kb/s.

Ace Baker said...

Thanks AC, what you describe certainly matches my experience. DSL was certainly not described to me like that. I was made to understand that I was paying for a particular bandwidth.

Shallel said...

I have 10 MB DSl and it usually gets me a solid 9.5 but would drop to zero. Had the service guy out three times, and was told repeated lies about it being my wiring, and "we checked and it works fine".

If I plugged a phone in it was really bad static and hum.

After hours on the phone, finally had to get nasty with them, and they finally send out an old timer who tracked the problem to a bad line half a mile away between two junction boxes. Now I have that there is no noise on the line I get a steady 9.5 Megs.

I don't know if your problem is the same, I would listen to the line and see how much noise is present, (mine would get worse when it rained) or maybe it is a bottleneck when there are a lot of users.

You can pretty much expect these companies to lie.

That is why I don't trust the free market as much as you do.

Peace, and hope you can get it straightened out!

Ace Baker said...

Of course people have an incentive lie to advance their own interest, whether they are in the government, or a private corporation.

Against corporations, consumers have recourse, such as giving their business to someone else. Government is, by definition, a monopoly.

You say you don't trust the free market as much as I do. How can granting a monopoly on anything help solve the problem of liars?

Shallel said...

Your right, monopoly is the problem, and the government is the biggest monopoly there is.

I don't see much difference between the corporations and the government. It would be great if it were a fair playing field, but the problem is big corporations and monopolies alway develop more power and capital and eliminate the smaller fair players, and the government regulation [including the judicial] that could be an advocate for choice is filled from the ranks of the big corps.

Well, we all know things must change soon. Somehow.

Blessings to you & yours -