Not to Be Missed – Sam Pratt on FOIL

The omnipresent and frequently useful Sam Pratt has a great introduction to our New York state Freedom of Information Law. Don’t miss it it on his eponymous blog

I am going to try it out to get the current contract between the city and Mid-Hudson Cable. Got to get a head start on rousing people to the barricades before the city gives away the store again when the contract comes up for renewal.

Internet Access and Service Levels in Hudson and Columbia County

The Register Star featured an article today about internet service in the county, “County dials up broadband efforts: Working with local providers and developing a map of who can’t get high-speed Internet access among officials’ goals” By Nathan Mayberg. 

Counting the Number without Access Is Not Enough

It is good that our government officials are concerned with improving Internet access across the county. It is painfully obvious that Internet access is more important in our time than even rural electrification and telephone service was to earlier generations. Without Internet access people are increasingly cut off from an array of opportunities. They cannot participate fully in our culture and economy.

I want to focus on the quality of Internet access. Even in Hudson, the most densely populated part of the county, we barely have broadband service. Mid-Hudson Cable provides download speeds that are only marginally broadband. Despite their advertising campaigns proclaiming “blazing speeds” up to 5 MB/s (or for $5 extra per month – 10 MB/s) the actual service I have experienced, tested with easily available test sites on the Web, has averaged 3.7 MB/s over the last 2 years. Worse, the quality of this service is so bad that it has frequently made it difficult for me to conduct my business conferences over the Web. And, because cable Internet service is provided through a party line, when lots of people are online at the same time, the service becomes even slower and less responsive.

Some have said, “You live in Hudson, Get Verizon DSL.” Recently I have done just this. Now I get 5.2 MB/s download speeds and the service quality consistently allows for good video-conferencing. But this is as good as this service will ever get. DSL has its technical limitations. To be competitive in broadband access we need to reach for 20 MB/s and higher.

Use Next Contract to Leverage Services from Mid-Hudson Cable

What to do in the short term?

The contract between the city and Mid-Hudson is coming up for renewal next year. Our local government officials need to get involved.

  • Any new contract with Mid-Hudson must contain service level standards that are enforced by monetary means. 
  • We should expect Mid-Hudson to come to the table with a plan for enhancing Internet service in the future and this plan should be made part of the enforceable language of the contract. 
  • And, the contract should address a real economic barrier to access in Hudson. We need a three tier system. It might look like this: basic Internet with 5MB/s service for $20 per month; better Internet access with 10MB/s service for $35 per month and world class service with 20MB/s service for $60 per month. In all cases the service level agreement would guarantee that Mid-Hudson actually deliver these speeds not just their current “blazing speeds”. 

Hudson Takes the Lead –  County Benefits

If Hudson takes the lead on this, everyone in the Mid-Hudson Cable service area will benefit. We have the density and economic power to get Mid-Hudson to improve Internet access and service. Once we set the standard other communities in the county with less economic power can tag along.

Goodbye Mid-Hudson Cable – Verizon DSL and a Surprise

We pulled the plug on Mid-Hudson Cable (MHC) for our internet service a couple of weeks ago in favor of Verizon DSL service. I have written about MHC’s terrible service and misrepresentations earlier. Most recently here.

Being fortunate enough to live less than 17,000 ft1 from the Verizon office next to the Post Office, DSL is available to me. Through acquaintances I learned of their good luck with DSL. 

After the installation I ran a number of tests using the same test site, Speedtest.net,  that I have used to measure the bad performance of Mid-Hudson. This showed that Verizon is very consistently delivering 5.2 MB/sec download and 750KB/sec uploads with a ping of 50 millisecond. And, my continuing tests using Speedtest.net show that the service is consistent throughout the day. No more of the slow downs so common to the party line affair of cable internet services.

Though this is hardly world beating service2 the real surprise came from the impact of the fast ping speed.3

I use Skype videoconferencing for both business and family purposes. With MHC the ping regularly measured in the hundreds of milliseconds. This caused jittery or frozen video and chronic echoes in the audio. My first Skype conference with clients revealed great audio without echoes. I even abandoned by headset. Just using the microphone on the desktop gave me great sound and the frozen video are now a memory.4

  1. the current maximum distance from a switch office for DSL []
  2. the US is 13th in the world with South Korea at the top with an average 13.8MB/s download speed of []
  3. Ping is the time between the click of a mouse and the return of a packet of information from the host server to your web browser []
  4. Verizon logo used without permission []

Mid-Hudson Cable Continues To Be a Rip Off

Mid-Hudson Cable continues to provide substandard internet services here. I have written of this earlier. Last summer I suckered up for the “up to 10 MB/sec” service for an extra $5 per month. Recently I updated my test results over this time span. The average download speed (all results based on 130 tests from August 2011 through today) is 5.9 MB/sec; the average upload speed is .43 MB/sec. The ping time average is 160 milliseconds.

So, in the strange world of Mid-Hudson Cable 5.9 equals “up to 10 MB/sec”. One does not need a calculator to see that there is a 40% shortfall here.

You can download the spreadsheet here to check out the data

Internet Service in Hudson and the Surrounding Area – more about Mid-Hudson Cable

Mid Hudson Cable Internet OfferThis offer from Mid-Hudson Cable showed up today in a bank statement from The Bank of Greene County. Mid-Hudson always gets my attention but almost never for good reasons. This ad is a continuation of their finger in your eye approach to customers. Note that it offers “DOUBLE” and “TRIPLE” your speed for Internet service without ever mentioning what it is that they are doubling or tripling. This is simply a further progression in making it hard to find out what exactly you are paying for or even what it is they are promising to provide.

If you pop over to their website you can find this (my screen grab from today with added red arrow), that says that the regular residential service package provides “5 meg”. From other advertising I know that this is likely to mean 5 MegaBits/second (MB/sec) a meaningful identifier.

Here is the rub. In almost two years of experience with Mid-Hudson I have never experienced this level of service nor the 10 MB/s for which I am now paying in an effort to get my service level up to something useful. In fact, after hundreds of measurements over the last year, I can tell you with some assurance that “5 meg” really means 3.8 meg. And, if you use the Internet services during the peak hours of late afternoon and into the evening, the service level is significantly lower.

Mid-Hudson Cable screen grab 05232011

All of this has led me to think that Hudson and Columbia County needs an Internet Service Provider that is serious about both providing service to everyone and at world competitive levels of service. I had thought that perhaps when the contract between the City of Hudson and Mid-Hudson comes up for renewal that we could put some real teeth in a new contract. Yesterday CCSCoop published this story, “Mid-Hudson Cable Gets Icy Reception in Greenville” that included the following: “

The non-exclusive contract between the town and Mid-Hudson is for “video” service only, meaning for cable television and not internet service, explained Pat Johnson, senior municipal consultant with the state Public Service Commission (PSC).

“I think you are all here for the wrong reason,” Johnson told residents, emphasizing that by state law the cable agreement cannot include conditions for internet even though Mid-Hudson provides both.”

So this appears to leave us in a situation in which Mid-Hudson has a de facto monopoly on high speed internet service in the county (Verizon only offers DSL service which is, for technological reasons, limited to below 1 MB/sec service levels) without any regulatory or contractual leverage.

Internet Service, the New York Times and Choice in the World of Mono-Duo-poly Capitalism

What Planet is the Times Orbiting?

Today’s New York Times editorial page included a piece titled “How Fast Is Your Broadband?“. It provides a reasonable review of the sad performance of the Internet service providers in the US. It is widely known that Internet service providers like Comcast, Time-Warner and locally Mid-Hudson Cable chronically provide significantly less than their advertising claims. Here in Hudson, NY Mid-Hudson claims “blazing speeds” of 5 MB/sec (download). Repeated measurements, now numbering over 280 in the last six months prove that they provide speeds 30% less than this mark. Service technicians from M-H have acknowledged that this is the typical service they provide.

Worse is that the latency frequently reaches 2 seconds instead of being under the 100 milliseconds that is commonly accepted as OK latency on the Internet.. This means that after your click your mouse on a link in a browser, you can literally count “1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi” before you get any response to your query. This latency disables common communications tools like VOIP telephone services and audio and video services via Skype or Google. Continue reading