Unlimited but slow?

This is not really a dig at BT this time, honest. More about the whole perception of "internet speed" that the public, and clearly advertisers, have...

The advert is a halloween party where they are trying to download music (presumably legally) but the internet is "unlimited, but slow". They are unable to play *any* music for the party, having apparently spent ages preparing the play list.

Apart from the fact you would have downloading said "play list" when preparing it, and so not be relying on the Internet, what puzzles me is that even a high data rate audio file is around 300Kbps, which would be incredibly slow for an internet connection. Under half a percent of the BT based broadband lines we operate run at 250Kbps or less, which is enough for a more normal MP3 file, which can be played as soon as you start downloading it. Indeed, the BRAS rate below that, 135K, which is still just about fast enough, is considered to be a fault.

So what sort of "unlimited, but slow" internet connection is it that they are referring to?

Is there really any UK commercial Internet service too slow to download an MP3 faster than you can play it? Apart from dialup?

What am I missing here?


  1. More to the point, is there an Internet service running that slow that could possibly by speeded up by taking service with some other ISP? Other than by said ISP fixing the fault that is clearly on the line, I mean.

    1. Absolutely it could. When I swapped from BTW (AAISP) to BE, my download rate went from 1 mbps to 2 mbps. Different DSLAM, different config. DYHNT

  2. You're missing the fact that not all ISPs are competent.

    A couple of years ago I was with O2 for broadband on their Access package (which is all they could offer me as there was no spare LLU capacity at my exchange), and regularly in evenings the speed dropped from the 5-6Mbps I should have been getting to nearer 200-300Kbps (from what I remember). Overnight the speed was much better - around 5Mbps - but in the evenings it was just unusable.

    Obviously they'd been overselling it without investing enough in capacity, although I get the impression it's improved dramatically now as they've moved more people to LLU services. Still, it was very inconvenient at the time, and all they did about it was promise things would get better every few months.

    Eventually I got fed up and filed a complaint to them via the ISPA, about both the speeds and some other issues - they were throttling .torrent files (the file with information about the torrent, not the torrent data itself) to 5kb/s for no obvious reason. I was still in a contract and according to posts on their own forum, they let people out of the contract if they complained that way about the issues I was seeing.

    I doubt they actually read the complaint, and caved in on their first response to me, so I switched to a better ISP who try not to be the bottleneck (no prizes for guessing who) and got the speeds the line was actually capable of.

    So yes, some ISPs don't know how to run a network, meaning customers don't have a usable internet connection all the time.

  3. I agree, that advert makes me cringe, - it reminds me of the refrain in the office that the "network is slow" - causes include anti-virus sweeps, badly set up windows domain "stuff", paging to disk because the laptop has 1 gig of ram, but unlikely to actually be congestion on the 1gig to the desk/20 gig backbone campus network......

    Talking of "more complete" internet, as you did in a previous post.... any chance of supporting IP multicast (first standardised in 1986 according to wikipedia!)

    - if not, and if you can spare the time, could you share what the significant issues in adoption of the technology you might face are.. (it seems to me the technology suffers from the same barriers to entry that IPv6 does)

    1. Multicast is a tricky one. Apart from being questionably useful in the first place, the way the L2TP works over the likes of BT means it does not help. To be honest, in my opinion, multicast beyond usage on a LAN segment will not really get very far apart from experimental. I may be wrong, obviously, but at the moment it would be a lot of work for very little demand and no actual benefit. I may do a separate post on it. I really don't see it remotely like IPv6, either in the technical issues (of which there are many) or the need and benefits.

    2. With respect to multicast, the need (as I see it) with more and more broadcast content being delivered over the net, it _could_ be a game changer, I could see it being useful in a peer to peer game model - e.g. all users send current state to a group, I'm kinda convinced that _if_ the service was more widely available then the uses would come, I think the underlying routing technologies for multicast are relatively mature (if a little clunky/odd in places (but clunky protocols are hardly new in networking)), but applications which can make best use of it are yet to be. the parallels with IPv6: well I know the technical issues are different, but the adoption (lack of) - leading to more (lack of) adoption is what I was thinking of. With respect to the case for AAISP, I was drawn to you guys as the geeky ones who get it right, and when everyone else (eventually) catches up - what will be (other than great service) your edge then.....

      .... with respect to IPv6 -the maturity argument could be played here too, I work with high end equipment from Cisco (not soho routers!) and whilst IPv6 support is in the box and has been for years, dig deeper and there is a world of pain in the details, - like ensuring your IPv6 address can be significantly truncated so that ACLs (which can inspect 128 bits in hardware) can get the port numbers into the inspection!!

      I get what you are saying with regards to L2TP - hub and spoke tunnelling across BTs national network - kinda takes most of the benefit out of multicast for the ISP - but there would be a small benefit in peering bandwidth. At the same time, its no worse than unicast downstream for you...

      Anyway, thanks for the blog - whether its wrestling with OSPF or the latest vacation of the orc its always an entertaining read :-)

  4. Sounds like ground for an ASA complaint to me...

  5. I suspect it's talking about a service like Spotify, where you can prepare a playlist in advance, and it doesn't buffer particularly well, so you do need a pretty good connection for it to work.

    Still, you don't need *that* good a connection, so any ADSL should be fine.

  6. I think it could be a dig at Virgin Media, take a look here:

    Virgin Media are also currently having issues with Youtube, they employ proxy servers in order to reduce bandwidth, however the proxy servers can't cope, sigh.

    1. Really?

      I am on 100Mb connection and I always have problems streaming youtube!

      Any posts about this you are aware of?

    2. Hi Andrew,

      Take a look at this thread...

  7. I have a Virgin Cable 120Mb service which is completely crap and slow as hell.
    However I have an aaisp l2tp tunnel over it which is superb :-)
    although no speed tester is consistent i think this says it all
    same machine same time of day
    l2tp > http://www.speedtest.net/result/2290593255.png
    direct > http://www.speedtest.net/result/2290600874.png

    1. That's weird, I have completely the opposite problem, over Virgin I get 100Mb consistently, but over the L2TP tunnel it's awful, about 10-15Mb to the extent that I have a bunch of routing setup so I can download things from my colo natted through VM but still use A&A for when I need the real ip addresses


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