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Slow Cable Modem

Friday, November 12th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals, Using The Internet

My cable company bragged about how much faster a cable modem was compared to dial-up, so I went with them. It was faster, at first, but sometimes it seems as slow as my old phone line connection. What gives?

Sure cable modems have the potential of reaching speeds of 3Mbps, but keep in mind that you share a wire buried underground with everyone in your neighborhood. Think of it this way: your car can do about 120-160 mph, but in rush hour traffic you probably end up doing about 30 mph. The more cars on the road, the slower you end up going. Similarly, as more people use cable modems in your area, the slower your connection gets during peak hours.

You are not guaranteed a certain amount of bandwidth for your personal use—you must compete with everyone else online at that time. Most cable internet providers allocate certain amounts of band width for different areas. If you live in an area with many cable modem users, then expect occasionally slow connections.

If it really gets bad, I guess you could get together with your neighbors and bug your cable company until they give you all extra capacity.


That would be a whole lot nicer than sneaking around at night cutting your neighbor’s cables (not that you’d ever do that 😉

Keep in mind that a major cause of slow access affects everybody whether cable, dial-up, or DSL: net congestion. We’re dealing with millions of servers all interconnected with different speed modems and bandwidth all communicating with each other—sometimes it’s amazing that it even works!

Another thing to do is call your cable company to make sure that all your settings are correct. In many cases, something isn’t set correctly.

~ David

PS: We aren’t saying that DSL is better than cable, but simply addressing a particular question from a reader about why their cable modem seems to be getting slower. You’ll find pundits and zealots in both lanes of the high-speed information superhighway. For our take on Cable vs. DSL , check out Steve’s Commentary…

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