The quest for internet speed

It seems that since Internet access first appeared, I’ve always been on a quest for higher access speeds. I currently have a Comcast “Blast” package that’s supposed to deliver 105 Mbps (Megabit per second) download speeds, but my actual speeds were somewhere in the vicinity of about 28 - 29 Mbps. Not good. After doing some research on my network using Wi-Fi Explorer, I found out that the culprit was my old Apple AirPort Extreme — one of the flat, rectangular 802.11n models. Since I’m an Apple snob, I decided to replace it with a new AirPort Extreme instead of going with another brand.

The new device is, of course, 802.11ac capable and is a vertical tower about 4 inches on a side and about 7 inches tall. Before I installed the new AirPort Extreme, I decided to run some speed tests using the website. For both my existing 3-year-old iMac and iPhone 6s Plus, I ran 10 tests, then calculated an average. The results were dismal, with 28.39 Mbps average download speeds and even worse 9.77 Mbps average upload speeds. 

After plugging in the new AirPort Extreme and using the incredibly fast setup through my iPhone, I ran the same tests. This time, download speeds were well beyond what Comcast promised, with an average 122.88 Mbps speed. That’s 4.32 times as fast as the old unit. However, the upload speeds only improved to 12.21 Mbps, only 1.25 times as fast.

That just seemed too odd, so I even tried resetting the Comcast cable modem. The results remained about the same. Since most of my work requires fast downloads rather than speedy uploads, this doesn’t upset me too much. 

In this world of streaming video we’re pretty tied to our download speeds, and it seems that’s what internet service providers like Comcast are most interested in advertising. Our area (Denver) is supposed to get Comcast’s pricy new 2-gigabit “Gigabit Pro” service sometime this year, which is a symmetrical 2 Gbps service over fiber. That service will be available to “customers … within close proximity to our fiber network”. But the company is also planning on rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 next year, hopefully bringing 1 Gbps service to everyone on its network.

For me, the perfect situation would be symmetrical 2 Gbps service; uploads being as fast as downloads. But that looks like it’s going to be prohibitively expensive, if I can even get it. I’ll just be happy with 1 Gbps service with DOCSIS 3.1 when it finally rolls out here and hope that the upload speeds — which could make more streaming video from AWT possible — improve.

How about you? How slow or fast is your internet connection? Is it the bottleneck in your service, or is your router the culprit? Let us know in the comments.