I work on the Internet. Having a fast Internet connection is an important part of my work environment. At home, I also use my Internet connection for entertainment and home automation. When my Internet connection is slow or isn't working, I notice.
For the last few months I've been a reluctant Comcast cable Internet customer, after technical and speed challenges with the local DSL provider I was using couldn't be resolved. I pay for a 25Mbps download speed service level with Comcast. But almost as soon as we had service turned on, I started noticing that from around 5 PM until around 10PM or later, our available speeds would significantly decrease - sometimes down to 1Mbps or lower.
I contacted Comcast about it. After all the usual ridiculousness where they try to sell me phone service, tell me I need a new cable modem, tell me it must be squirrels, etc, we got to the heart of the matter:
Me: Is our bandwidth shared with other users, or should it be protected even during peak times?
Comcast: It's not shared at all.
I didn't believe them, but I believed that they wouldn't admit to the bandwidth being shared. So I started collecting data to prove otherwise.
Using a command line tool to query the speedtest.net service, I set up a script that would run once every hour and record the currently available download and upload speeds, as well as ping time. I put all that in a spreadsheet. After two months, I graphed the average upload and download speed available at each hour of the day:
Clearly the available download speed drops off significantly starting after 4 PM (Eastern time), and increases again after 10 PM. This coincides perfectly with known peak times of home broadband Internet usage, as people come home and start streaming music, movies, TV shows and other data.
So I contacted Comcast again.
Me: Can you confirm that when other customer usage increases during the evening, our speeds are slower because we're sharing the available bandwidth?
Comcast: There a lot more customers using internet service during the evening. So, we can expect more connection traffic.
Me: Is it your understanding that we should be able to get the 25Mbps speeds even during peak times?
Comcast: Yes, even on the peak times, you should get the correct speed you signed up for.
They scheduled a technician to come out to "check my equipment." At first I had trouble getting them to schedule one to come during peak usage hours, so they could actually witness the issue, but they finally set an appointment for 5-7 PM.
Right before the appointment time, the technician called. When I re-explained the issue to him, he said "Yeah, we've been getting a lot of reports like that here. Basically it's a capacity issue where there are too many people using the same bandwidth. There's a node in town that needs to be upgraded, but Comcast won't do that."
When I asked him how I could prompt that process along, he said there were no known phone numbers to call or addresses to write to that would help with this. He said the only option was to keep contacting Comcast about it and that hopefully enough people would raise the issue over time so that Comcast would finally relent and expand capacity.
I don't normally blog about this kind of "first world problem." I have my health, my life is fine, this isn't a big deal in the scheme of things. But I find it pretty galling that Comcast would so blatantly deceive its customers about a known capacity issue, one it could address with relative ease - and one its own representatives say it should address.
So, there's the evidence. I have the full chat transcripts and spreadsheet data if anyone needs them.
Comcast, it's your turn to do the right thing. I won't hold my breath.