Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bandwidth Anchors

I'm the kinda guy who has LOTS of betas, bleeding edge programs, and other sundry things on his computer, looking for the next great thing. I'm also not necessarily one who associates reduced performance with those programs. Good example: the Tab Effect I recommended a few days ago: great idea, but really slows down Firefox's performance: I ended up jettisoning it. Not quite ready for prime time.

However, I recently found out about other such programs, sapping not performance of my computer, but bandwidth. Remember when I mentioned about my aborted efforts to move to DSL? Well, my nephew Jeremy read that post, and IM'ed me this:

Hey Josh...you know, Cnet's speed test is horribly inaccurate. Go retest with Speakeasy's. http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ I get (on average) 5.7 megs a second....6.1 or so on good nights. I'd stay with Comcast, I've only had a problem maybe 4-5 times in the 3-4 years we've had it, and the reviews on Yahoo and Verizon in your area suck.


Well, I took his advice. While it was more accurate, it reported I had a connection not much better than a 56K modem. For $60 a month, that sucked. I called Comcast. First, they asked me to connect the cable modem directly to the PC: no gateway, no VOIP, no router. Ok, doubled the performance, but still not anywhere near the performance: about 900KBPS. Then they asked the question:

"Sir, do you have any other programs using your internet connection on right now? If so, can you close them?"

I shut them all down, and tried again. Suddenly, I was at 16MBPS! Holy...! I spent the rest of the evening adding each program back in, one by one, to determine the vampires. What did I find? FolderShare, which I blogged so effusively about, was sucking my connection dry. I immediately removed it. After reconnecting everything else, I was at a respectable 6MPBS. Still, I had a taste for the fast lane now, and there's no going back. The culprit seemed to be my gateway and AT&T's VOIP adaptor. Amazon got me a new wireless router/gateway for $50 (also allows me to finally upgrade to 802.11g instead of B, doubling my wireless speed), and a quick call to AT&T had them sending me a brand new Linksys VOIP adaptor to replace my aging Centillium one.

Occasionally, I can recover from my own errors. :-)

EPILOGUE: I called Comcast back, and mentioned that, 12 months ago, I got a great package deal from them. Now, my combined modem & cable bill had swelled to nearly $200. I said the magic words:

"I'm thinking of reducing my services."

The operator immediately asked me to hold. I waited, curious. About 90 seconds later, she came back with an offer: they would cut the cost of the cable modem by 50% for 12 months, and knock $30 off the cable TV service for 6 months. No commitment required, no hassle, no supervisor. Just with one call, of less than 5 minutes, I saved over $500 for the year.

A cable company that offers to reduce my price without hassle, and a phone company that sends me new upgraded equipment, just for asking. As a longtime hater of telcoms, I am floored. Perhaps there still is hope yet!

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