Monday, December 05, 2005

Bigger Straw, Please

by Tom Bozzo

Cementing my view that free public wireless internet would be a good idea, I recently fiddled around with my telephone service, incorporating an upgrade to the 768Kbps DSL we've had since shortly after John's arrival.

The performance range for the improved DSL service was reported as 1-4Mbps down by my CLEC's non-ironically friendly customer service representative. We seem to be getting in the ballpark of 1.3 Mbps down (net of overheads) and 600Kbps up, which at least is both within the quoted range and a material speedup for the likes of big software updates and the RSS aggregation feature in Safari. Plus, 802.11g is now evidently cheap enough that the new DSL modem has an unadvertised 802.11g access point built in. Security paranoia and a technical Mac networking issue keep the second wireless router disabled most of the time, but if there's ever a blogger dinner over here again, it does give me the option of activating it to provide an open access point to guests w/o having to mess around with the security settings on the primary router.

Still, I can't help but be disappointed as I'm an urban dweller a mile from the campus of a Large Research University and a good bit less than a mile from the remote terminal that helped bring DSL to our old and new neighborhoods.

One might just think that cable internet service (which our lack of a cable TV subscription makes less financially appealing per Mbps) puts insufficient competitive pressure on the telcos to deliver decent broadband service at a low price. For would-be free marketers, consider that the city can almost surely deliver wireless at lower cost than low-quality wireline services, sending the signal that incumbent wireline carriers had better put some frickin' fiber in the loop to deliver a material service quality improvement that isn't otherwise easy to provide, or else.
My parents, belying their luddite tendencies, got dsl because it turned out to be cheaper than paying for a second phone line (which was used to dial into the free UW server). They now have faster internet than I have at school, so I can't complain. But this is because of a very low reference point, not that it's actually good.
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