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.
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
the current maximum distance from a switch office for DSL [↩]