Thursday, February 18, 2010

A quiet broadband new year so far...

The blog's been quiet as of late because not too much has been going on. Our broadband "experiment" in Lawrence continues to be status quo - Sunflower Broadband cable (via our Tivo and a ClearQAM PC tuner) has continued to handle our boob tube needs (can an LCD screen still be called a 'boob tube?')

Internet-wise, U-Verse continues to be quietly reliable, with no downtime since November and reliable speed, both up and down. The only fly in the otherwise perfect ointment has been some random and minor packet loss, in the real of .1% or so. This doesn't rise to the level of causing any issues whatsoever (at least so far), but is still detected by my testing, and from a pure technical standpoint, ANY packet loss over time is not supposed to happen.

That's where we are at, but what has changed in the Lawrence-area broadband scene in general since last Fall?

In a nutshell, Sunflower has been busy upgrading their internet offerings, catching up to U-verse in several areas, surpassing them in others, and still trailing in one important area.

No bones about it, Sunflower has improved their internet offering quite a bit. The speeds are much faster, and anecdotally, I have heard that the network congestion and evening slowdowns are much less frequent on the DOCSIS 3 network then on the older DOCSIS 2 network. Furthermore, they have raised their bandwidth caps to 250 GB per month for the Gold plan, which is in line with other cable providers like Comcast.

If I were doing the U-Verse vs Sunflower internet comparison today, it would be much, much closer. The one area where Sunflower still lags is upload speed, which even on the high-end plan is still limited to 1 megabit. This seems puzzling, and the 50 down to 1 up ratio is greater then any other DOCSIS 3 cable company I was able to find, and makes it difficult to use services like photo and movie uploading, file sharing and online backup services. If Sunflower ever raises their upload speeds, they might just be able to lure this former customer back into the fold!

Sunflower has also added a comparison page similar to the ones I did for TV and internet, of course focusing on the areas where they have the advantage. With TV especially, the equation changes based on the number of rooms and specific needs of each TV. Internet is more static in comparison; but notably Sunflower didn't note the one area where they remain slower then U-Verse, upload speed.

In the mean time, AT&T U-verse has made little change to their internet offering. They are testing a slightly faster service providing 24 megabits down (up from 18) and 2 megabits up (up from 1.5), but it is only available in three test cities (not in Lawrence).

By the way, as an aside, looks like TiVo is announcing something in a few weeks, perhaps a new DVR or maybe a new OS?