Search TQA Weekly
Log into your TQA Weekly

The Internet, Bloated

Why is my Internet connection so slow?

An explanation into why the internet seems to be slowing down, and some unintended consequences related to memory upgrades.

Episode #4-11 released on November 24, 2013

The answer is related to several current technologies, and new advancements in networking and traffic routing that allow for higher bandwidth, or more throughput.

Let's first talk about latency, it is the measure of time it takes for a packet of information to travel in single direction or round trip, the longer it takes to go to its destination, and in some cases, return a response, the longer the data transfer will take. This phenomenon, is standard, and is not necessarily possible to reduce. It can, however, be cumulative in networks as distance, and number of switches do play an important role in how latency duration is affected. Knowing about latency, the internet was designed in such a way that packets will normally attempt to find the fastest route through the internet. Packet loss, and latency help shape the way you connect to a multitude of servers all over the world. This kind of real latency can be beneficial to your experience of the internet, because of the way the internet was meant to function.

Now, the bandwidth you pay for is a function of how many packets you could theoretically consume with your connection, and how fast you could have them travel through the internet. This is not a good way of calculating the true speed you will encounter over the internet. There is nothing about the internet that allows your faster connection to be faster than your neighbors, especially when you are connecting through the same networks, and same servers. You effective speed is determined by your ISP's artificially limited maximum allocated bandwidth cap on your speed, which is your upper limit, and the latency experienced by your connection. Your connection could probably be faster, but your ISP is happy charging you a fortune for something they didn't invent.

Furthermore, most internet packages offered have faster download speeds, and unusually slow upload rates. Since, the majority of the internet is copper or fiber optics, and there is no difference in how upload and download is treated over the internet, we can safely presume that we are all being artificially slowed down, because of the simple fact, that the faster the return response can make it to the origin, the more data can be sent.

And, if we refer to the ways that routing technology is supposed to work, we can also determine that our internet connections are in fact being slowed down due to bandwidth bloat.

What is bandwidth bloat, and why is my internet slow?

Routers. Artificial limits. Greedy business men and women. And, Moore's Law. Technology is dirt cheap compared to the humble beginnings of the Internet. Ram, used to be extremely expensive and hard to make. Router's had limited ram, so packet loss was higher, allowing for stable connection rates. Increasing the amount of Ram in routers, made the buffers in them bigger, reducing packet loss, but slowing connections down. Slow upload speeds made available to various routers, also, slows down the number of packets that can be sent to their destination. The end result is a set of routers that can neither send packets in a timely matter increasing latency, and bigger buffers that create network traffic congestion. We basically created the digital version of a traffic jam.

And this is why your high speed internet connection is slower than announced. The solution is yet to be found.

Fact, the electrons your network packets are made of, can only travel at 66% (197,863,022 m/s) the speed of light in a coaxial cable. Data can pass through an optical cable in theory at 200,000,000 m/s. A packet leaving New York, and going to Sydney would take approximately 80 milliseconds to reach its destination or a 1/12th of a second. Double that for a return trip packet received confirmation. Anything longer is being affected by bandwidth bloat, or major disruptions in normal internet traffic.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

Sources & Resources