Thursday, March 10, 2011

10M Connection . . .

Sometimes, it is an advantage to get your infrastructure put in late.

Those of us in the rural areas tend to be the last to get upgrades.  After all, it's just not cost-effective for the phone companies to update our wires on a regular basis.  As long as it is working, they leave it, and it can stay frustratingly working for a long time.  This means that all around us, people were getting their wiring updated, while we were stuck with the old stuff.

But as time went on, technology kept evolving and improving, even beyond the updated equipment the telephone company had used for everyone else.

It's a little more complicated than I'm saying here, but, basically, some months ago, the phone company realized they had to do something to attract the substantial business of a certain influential entity and the people associated with it.  They were offering phone, cable, and Internet services, and many people were not taking advantage of them, choosing to use cell phones and sign up for satellite TV, for example.  (The influential entity was using satellite TV in its facility, as well.)  Why should they use their business?  The infrastructure was too outdated to handle it well.  So they made an agreement with the influential entity that if they would run fiber to the doorstops of the area there, the entity would sign up for a substantial amount of business.

This is how we, in the sticks, managed to get fiber to our doorstops.  (I know people in large cities whose jaws drop and who start salivating when I tell them this fact.)  We have the best Internet connection in the southern half of our state, bar none.

Well, just recently (say, about two weeks ago) we learned they had increased the bandwidth available for purchase to 10M, for those of us with fiber.  Previously, the choices were 1.5M and 5M.  We, of course, were signed up for the 5M, but we were still experiencing some problems, primarily with streaming while gaming.

Here's the deal:  in our house, we have two desktops, three laptops, two iPod Touch devices, and two gaming consoles capable of streaming video through Netflix.  To be fair, it is not normal for us to have nine streams running at the same time, especially since there are only seven people in the family.  However, it is not unheard of for my husband to be streaming Netflix or watching news videos, my daughter to be streaming anime from Crunchyroll, and another daughter to be watching YouTube, all while I (and maybe another daughter as well) are trying to make our way through Azeroth.

With our 5M connection, if even one stream was active while I was raiding, I felt it.  (I am legendary for noticing the lag and calling out, "Who is streaming?!"  This started searches through the house . . . at which point we usually found it was my 16-yr-old lying down on her bed with her iPod Touch tuned to Crunchyroll.)  If my husband tried to sneak in an HD stream on a raid night, it absolutely crippled me.  But on the flip side, being unable to stream limited what my husband was able to do on raid nights.  He has no interest in WoW anymore, we do not subscribe to cable TV, and as the girls always want to watch him play his Gamefly console games (so they don't miss any of the stories) there is only so long he can play those on a given night, before kiddo bedtime.

We knew that if we could prioritize the packets in our router, it would most likely make the major problems go away, but our router could not be set in that fashion.  (Yea, we've had it a few years.)  So when we heard we could double our bandwidth for $10 more a month, we decided to jump on the opportunity.

Given it was a new service, and we were the first people in the area to request it, it took the company a little while to figure out how their network needed to be set, but yesterday, we finally speedtested a 10M download.

My husband tentatively started a stream while I was in the middle of raiding trash.  And nothing happened.  Not a bobble.  Not a Rejuventation was delayed.  My latency didn't budge.

Elated, he tested out an HD stream.  This one was ever-so-slightly noticeable, but only to the degree that it was my old latency before the upgrade.  (There were major happy dances going on in the living room.)

We're still looking at changing out our router (it's time), and we've chosen one that will actually permit us to dedicate a separate channel for streaming.  Still, it's nice to know there is a good chance the entire family will be content with this Internet connection, no matter what happens with the router.

After all, when you live in the sticks, there really isn't much else to do in the evening.

P.S.  Ok, I know there are still a lot of things to do:  astronomy (you should come see it here), writing, reading, playing the piano, doing crafts, baking, doing chores, playing board games, working on puzzles, discussing current events, cleaning guns, taking a bubble bath, working out a shopping list, planning my Sunday School lesson, belly-dancing, throwing away half the junk in my garage, or sitting on the back porch listening to the owls and the crickets.  But we actually like playing on the Internet.

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