Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unloading on uploading

If you live in Lawrence, Kansas, you have some decent competitive choice amongst broadband providers, at least compared to other areas of the state. We have Sunflower Broadband offering cable internet, AT&T offering both VDSL (U-Verse) and traditional ADSL, and Freenet for a wireless solution.

All of these services have one thing in common: their upload speeds absolutely suck. AT&T, Sunflower, and Freenet won't sell you a decent upload speed at any price.

According to recent reports from the FCC Broadband Speed Test, the average internet upload speed amongst all broadband customers in the Sunflower State is between 1.5 and 2.0 megabits per second. None of Lawrence's broadband ISPs can provide upload service within that range. By way of comparison, the average download speed in Kansas is between 7.9 and 10 megabits per second, which is exceeded by both Sunflower Broadband and AT&T's U-Verse.

The upload speeds offered in Lawrence are a joke. The maximum speed Freenet offers is only 512 kilobits. AT&T's maximum VDSL upload speed is only 768 kilobits, and Sunflower can only manage a meager 1 megabit, even on its brand-new DOCSIS 3 cable network. AT&T's VDSL service, U-Verse, manages 1.5 megabits, the very bottom of the state average...and that is their top-of-the line theoretical speed, generally not matched in actual deployment.

Freenet and AT&T ADSL get a bit of a pass, because technical reasons make fast speeds extremely difficult. However, U-Verse and Sunflower don't have any good excuse for their terrible upload speeds. U-Verse is capable of upload speeds in excess of 2 megabits, but AT&T chooses not to provision such a speed or offer it to most customers. Sunflower Broadband is even worse. Cable infrastructure is easily able to support upload speeds much greater then they offer; indeed most cable companies around America (and elsewhere in Kansas) offer 2 to 5 megabit upload speeds, even in their mid-range tiers. Why Sunflower refuses to offer acceptable upload speeds is a mystery.

Upload speed is important, nearly as important as download speed. A lot of the activities you do with your internet connection require a good upload speed to function properly. Uploading HD video to Youtube, sharing photos on Flickr, utilizing online backup services, and VPNs/remote offices all work much much better with decent upload speeds.

I don't know why the providers in Lawrence don't offer higher speeds, or why Lawrence lags behind the rest of our own state (not to mention the rest of America) in this aspect of broadband. I would guess it is a combination of factors. Perhaps the providers don't understand that the nature of the internet has been changing and that consumers utilize uploading a lot more frequently these days then 5 or 10 years ago, when the internet was less interactive and participatory. Hopefully AT&T or Sunflower will offer faster upload speeds in the future and give customers some additional choice.


  1. Here is a link to my current upload speed with Freenet. Please don't call it a joke without testing it.


    This was taken at 6:10 PM from a laptop connected from a vehichle at the intersection of 23rd St. and Wakarusa Drive.

    If you look at Freenet's bandwidth management policy, you'll see that upload speeds are actually unrestricted until you hit a per-session cap. i.e. it is unrestricted unless you abuse it using a protocol such as bittorrent.

    P.S. If you use speedtest.net to test Freenet, be sure to select "Kansas City" not Lawrence. The Kansas City server is actually closer to Freenet's POP than Sunflower.

  2. According to the Freenet service page, the fastest speed offered by Freenet is 512 kilobits up:


    Based on your speedtest, perhaps this page is out of date on the Freenet web site? Either way, 2 megabits up is a great speed, if that is representative of Freenet, you guys should shout it to the skies!

  3. Freenet operates on the concept of under-promise, over-deliver. The fastest advertised rate is 512Kbps, many people will get much faster connections.

    The fastest download rate is officially 7Mbps, many people will get faster connections (depending on your location relative to the Freenet network core). At 23rd and Harper, for example, you can get speeds of well over 10Mbps.

    In some areas of town (i.e. High Drive near campus) Freenet is now offering 100Mbps reflective service (i.e. 100Mbps download + 100Mbps upload)

    A complete disclosure of how Freenet manages bandwidth can be found here:


    On the business side........

    It is very hard to compete with organizations that are dishonest in their pricing and bandwidth management policies ( i.e. AT&T ). If AT&T advertises $14.95 for 6Mbps of service, even though they provide less than 1.5Mbps of service at the site and the total cost over the first 12 Mo of service is more like $30.00/Mo, how do you compete and still be honest with your members?

    Full Disclosure: I founded the Freenet project and am the one primarily responsible for developing the funds and technology to build the infrastructure.

  4. All three of the previous comments seem like they're written by Lawrence Freenet Employees. I'm using Freenet right now and am barely getting 6 k/b a second for download (uploading is barely 1 k/b a second). I would not recommend this service to anyone.