As we were preparing to move into our home, the community’s building project manager mentioned we should get AT&T for internet. Because we’re in a brand new development, he told us, the entire subdivision is freshly wired for AT&T gigabit internet service. And sure enough: Installation day took about four hours instead of one. The technicians arrived promptly, but they had to actually finish running the wires along the block before they could flip the switch for us.
In our last place, downtown, we had 5Mbps service on a good day. Likewise our San Francisco apartment. So we decided to go with 100Mbps service — it cost the same as our previous service, and frankly we wouldn’t know what to do with a connection 200 times as fast as what we were used to.
But here we are, suddenly blessed with full-speed service. I guess the incipient arrival of Google Fiber lit a fire under AT&T. We haven’t even received our first bill and already our service has changed wildly for the better: They announced yesterday that they’re upgrading us from 100Mbps to gigabit for free. Well, not for free. They’re lowering our bill $15 per month.
This has created a bizarre situation in which, for the first time, the bottleneck in our home networking isn’t the crappy outside connection but rather our own devices. Our wi-fi routers struggle to break 30Mbps because of all the other networks our neighbors have running — one of the downsides to a townhouse, I guess. I use a wired connection in the office downstairs, but when I decided to test the speed this afternoon I was only hitting about 350Mbps. Which is impossibly luxurious, considering we’re used to Internet access feeling like trying to push a Concord grape through a twisty straw, but still! Why couldn’t I unlock the full potential, I wondered? Then I remembered that my Ethernet comes through a USB adapter running on a hub that two external hard drives share, and the USB controllers on both drives top out at 480Mbps. Were the drives limiting that USB port to their own max speeds? I moved the drives to the slower USB bus and let the Ethernet adapter sit alone on the ultra-high-speed bus and suddenly topped out at about 850Mbps. By my reckoning, that means, what, I can download 1GB in 10 seconds?
This is not a boast or a brag. I’m in legitimate awe, trending toward bafflement. I actually don’t know what to do with this kind of bandwidth. It’s so fast that I’m getting all kinds of errors on the web, because servers can’t keep up with it. That’s roughly the entirety of Star Trek, in HD, in less than an hour.
I guess I don’t have any excuse not to upload more HD video capture of Game Boy games, huh?