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Thread: Can't persuade ISP to address or acknowledge upload speed failure.

  1. #1

    Angry Can't persuade ISP to address or acknowledge upload speed failure.

    Good evening. I'm a Spectrum/Charter Communications customer. I have to resist typing Time Warner, of course, because in spite of their attempt at rebranding, I've had a long and negative history with this company dating back to that name that I'm not that interested in letting them escape their reputation.

    These days, I'm a hobbyist streamer on Twitch and make an extremely modest amount of income doing so. I pay for 100Mbps down/10Mbps up, and as a streamer, 10Mbps up is more than sufficient for streaming video to my viewers at 1080p60 (which takes approximately 6Mbps upload speed).

    The problem is that, on multiple occasions this year, my effective upload speed has plummeted to around 2Mbps, sometimes for more than a week at a time. I say "effective upload speed" because the rub is this: when running or Ookla speed tests, I still get a result of around 10Mbps. However, the speed test, as well as every one of Twitch's ingest servers (tested with this tool: returns that extremely low 2Mbps speed. Pretty much ruins my hobby.

    When contacting Time W... Spectrum about this issue, I was thoroughly unable to get through to anybody able to resolve the issue. I got run through the usual obstacle course: try restarting your modem. (I already had.) Don't use Wi-Fi. (I never use Wi-Fi.) Try plugging your computer directly into your modem and bypassing your router. (Had already tried that.) They then concluded, since it isn't on their end (not sure how they concluded that!), they needed to send a technician out to inspect our setup.

    The... "technician" went through the same flowchart (and checked the signal strength on the coaxial cables, which he said was fine), shrugged, and concluded "it must be a problem with the sites you're trying to connect to, and there must be something wrong with the Google speed test, too, you should use the Ookla one." At my wits end, and knowing this wasn't the case (if Twitch suddenly became unable to receive any HD video streams from anybody, oh, you'd hear about it!), I just nodded along and got him to leave.

    This entire issue would resolve itself with no input from me a few days afterward, but it's been happening again this past week. I'm not sure what to suspect any more. Am I being throttled in some way? Has the death of Net Neutrality rules permitted them to screw with upload speed that isn't going to specific speed test servers, so they can squeeze me on the bandwidth I pay for while maintaining a visage of delivering? Or is the node I'm on experiencing technical difficulties or congestion that nobody on a customer support line is even aware of enough to identify?

    What is someone to do in this situation? Have you ever been in something like it?

  2. #2
    Administrator Philip's Avatar
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    Situations like that are frustrating, it can be hard to impossible to get someone to understand and acknowledge the problem, let alone fix it. There are multiple possible causes of this.

    First, keep in mind that any residential broadband connection is shared and oversubscribed. Typical ISP capacity is oversubscribed by 20-25 times, assuming that subs will not use it all at the same time. This manifests itself in slowdowns in peak hours (5PM to midnight) when everyone is at home streaming UHD videos, or working from home. When downstream capacity is exhausted, it also affects upstream speeds. This depends a bit on QoS and routing algorithms, but it is generally true.

    It is likely that nodes close to you are over-congested at the times when you experience slowdowns, this could be your neighbors using the full capacity of their lines, or something else. This can be measured with traceroutes/pings, it would manifest itself as ping spikes or dropped packets at a hop near you.

    As to speed tests, Ookla defaults to a server near you, often provided by your ISP. This only measures the speed between those two points. Bandwidth between you and a remote server not owned by your ISP may be totally different, as it depends on your ISPs backbones and peering arrangements with other companies, this could be (and most likely is) much slower than the connection speed between you and your ISP. This could be measured by a speed test that uses a remote server, rather than something close to you geographically.

    Unfortunately there is little you can do, other than provide your ISP with evidence of the issue. Your best bet is increasing your speed tier to get a bigger share of the available upstream speed, change ISPs, etc.

    It is possible to change the ToS/QoS settings in your packets, but most ISPs will override those:
    The TCP Optimizer may help a bit in general with your broadband connection, but it will not fix the quality of the line your ISP provides.

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