You’ve had a long, tiring day. You’ve slugged your way through another shift at work. You finally made it to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk that you’ve been out of for two days. You shuttled the kids from practice to practice.
Now you’re finally at home, ready to sit down and relax. Ready to be done with the stressors of life – at least until tomorrow.
While some may watch television or curl up to read a good book, you like to unwind by sitting down with your computer to watch some funny YouTube videos, browse social media sites, and stream a movie on Netflix.
But you quickly find yourself fuming because the Internet is running pathetically slow. Some web sites don’t even load, causing you to get an error message on your screen.
“Why doesn’t this thing work?” you mutter to no one in particular.
After a fighting with it for 15 minutes, you give up and just go to bed.
You are not alone if you’ve recently been frustrated with horrendously slow Internet speeds.
The common assumption is that there’s either a problem with your computer (“stupid technology!”) or it’s lousy service by your Internet provider (“I pay them big bucks every month, yet can’t provide quality service!”).
The truth is most slow Internet speeds are due to intentional congestion by last mile Internet Service Providers (such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and AT&T) and by outdated equipment that handles worldwide Internet traffic.
Outdated Internet equipment
On August 12, the Internet came to a crawl in the early hours of the morning and lasted throughout the day. This had been predicted by Internet engineers as early as May. “We expect to see/hear of some bugs … not earlier than August and not later than October,” one wrote.
Cisco, a leading manufacturer of networking equipment, warned its customers about the problem and recommended upgrading the older equipment. Of course, many Internet Service Providers didn’t spend the money to do so at the time.
Now that the issues have surfaced, these companies will be forced to upgrade or replace the outdated Internet equipment. Once done, this part of the slow Internet problem will be fixed for good.
But as this equipment is replaced, you and I will periodically experience more slow Internet speeds.
The other reason you experience slow Internet speeds is because some Internet Service Providers, such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, AT&T and others, intentionally clog up the Internet. At least this is the accusation made by Mark Taylor, vice president of Level 3, which is a backbone Internet provider.
You can compare the worldwide Internet to the blood vessel system in your body. It is comprised of main arteries that carry large amounts of blood to the main parts of your body. Blood vessels and veins then carry that blood to the outlying parts of your body, such as your fingers, toes, lungs, etc.
Backbone Internet providers are the main arteries transmitting web content all over the world. They have thousands of miles of fiber and cable allowing for lightning fast speeds to dozens of last-mile Internet Service Providers.
Last-mile Internet Service Providers are the tinier vessels that connect to the arteries and deliver the web content to individual homes and businesses.
These last-mile providers, according to Taylor, are connecting to the backbone providers on connections that are heavily utilized and congested, causing the slow Internet speeds for users like you and me.
It means that streaming videos on Netflix or YouTube results in buffering, where the video stops and starts, stops and starts. It means that video calls on Skype and other voice over Internet calls may be choppy.
Taylor wrote, “Congestion that is permanent, has been in place for well over a year and where our peer refuses to augment capacity. They are deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers.”
The worst part is most of these ISPs causing the congestion have no incentive to change it. In many cases, only one Internet Service Provider serves a community, leaving consumers with no alternative or recourse.