When high speed Internet access feels like low speed

Most of the noobies I talk to that have high speed Internet access love it. They don’t have to wait for dial-up or deal with busy signals. The Internet is just there. They don’t have to think about it. And, most importantly, it’s fast. That is until they try uploading files to the Internet.

You see, most of the time you spend on the Internet is spent downloading information. Surfing the web. Checking your e-mail. These are activities where you are requesting information, (ie, downloading) from the Internet. So when are you uploading? When you are sending e-mail or uploading files to the Internet. A perfect example of uploading files to the Internet is when you post your digital pictures to an online sharing site such as Flickr or a sharing and printing site such as Kodak Gallery.

So why did I mention that high speed Internet access sometimes feels like low speed? Most high speed or broadband Internet providers do something called metering. That is, they dedicate more of your available bandwidth to downloading than they do to uploading. This is because most of the time spent on the Internet is spent downloading information as described earlier. This is all fine and dandy until you decide to upload 300 six megapixel pictures from your recent vacation to a photo sharing site so you can share them with your friends. That’s when you’ll feel the pain.

I looked up the specifications on my own high-speed Internet connection. I have a cable modem and the service I pay for gets me 4 Mbps (that’s megabits per second) for downloading and 384 Kbps (that kilobits per second) for uploading. Without going into too much detail on these numbers, just know that this basically boils down to the fact that I can download over 10 times faster than I can upload! Read that again. 10 times faster.

So if downloading ten digital pictures takes two minutes, uploading them will take twenty minutes. If you download a big e-mail attachment that takes 30 seconds to receive, it will take five minutes to forward to your friend. And that, my friends, is when high speed Internet access feels like low speed.