Residential Internet

I live in the Seattle area.  Furthermore, I live in an apartment building.  Recently there was a flyer in the elevator that said “Condo Internet.  The fastest residential internet available”.  It promised speeds of 100Mbps (megabits per second), for only $60/mo, and even gigabit if you’re willing to pay $120/month.

I had Comcast, and that was giving me a super duper 12Mbps/download, 5mbps/upload, at roughly $85/mo.  Being college educated, I did the math and figured going with Condo Internet was worth a shot.

They were in our building one night, doing sign ups, so I had them do their thing and install stuff.  It turns out there is a wiring closet in the apartment, and a single ethernet wire comes into there.  That wire goes down to a closet a couple floors below ours, and I guess they installed some nice router hardware in that closet, bringing the 100Mbps into our apartment.

It worked right off the bat.  I put our older netgear router in the wiring closet, and that seemed to work.  But, the netgear, being a few years old, was not really up to the task of handling 100Mbps, let alone multiple attached gigabit connections.  Wanting to get full spectrum out of my new deal, I replaced the router in the closet with a simple switch.

First thing, I purchased a Netgear ProSAFE 8-port Gigabit Desktop Switch (GS108NA).  If you work at some company that has offices, you might have one of these sitting under your desk.  This has gigabit connections all the way through.  So, the single blue wire from the closet gets connected to this device.  Then 4 other blue ethernet wires get connected to this switch.  Those wires terminate at RJ45 connectors which are in each of the major rooms in the apartment.  Good bit of forward thinking on the apartment builder’s part.  The only way it could have been better is if there were multiple lines coming into the apartment.

Alright, at this point, I’ve got 4 hard wired gigabit connections to the closet, and each of those will get whatever speed Condo Internet so happens to be giving us.

Great!  and I speed tested while they were in the apartment, and I was in fact seeing roughly 85Mbps, through the older Netgear router (RangeMax Duo WNDR3300).

Great!  I’m all set.  Super fast internet access is now at my disposal… Or is it?

When they did the hookup, I had taken everything off the local home LAN.  So, I started putting things back together.  Since I had replaced the NetGear router with a gigabit switch, I figured I’d upgrade the wireless router as well.  So, I purchased an ASUS RTN66U.  I had actually already purchased it for another project, but I figured I’d put it to use at home.  The Condo Internet people recommended the Apple AirPort Extreme, because it seems to have superior wireless, but, not wanting to spend the extra $180, I just stuck with the ASUS, which is no slouch, and was second on their list anyway.

These things are supposed to be able to give you 300Mbps speeds on wireless.  I certainly never saw anything like that with the NetGear.

I also have Vonage for internet phone.  The setup in the past has been, Vonage, first in the chain, then the router plugs into the Vonage box.  So, I did that again.  Then, hard wired to the router are: XBox, Blue-Ray Player, Ethernet over Power Line (for those places where I don’t have RJ45 or wireless).

It all seemed to work fine.  But, I’m paying for 100Mbps, so I run the SpeedTest thing. Well, low and behold, I wasn’t getting anywhere near the speeds I was seeing before! What the heck?  Was I just pinked?  Doing a bit of debugging, I went back and plugged the hard wire into the different RJ45 jacks around the house, and I was getting full 100Mbps.  But, not with anything connected to the router, including wireless.

Hmmm, what a mystery.  Well, how about I start from basics.  Remove the Vonage from the loop and see what happens.  Pow!!  That was it.  With the Vonage in the loop, best download speeds were sucking along at a paltry 5Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload!!  Hah, I was probably getting that even with ComCast.  Basically, rate limiting my own internet access because I was using this dumb Vonage hardware.

Once the Vonage was out of the loop, things looked like this:


Device            PING        Download      Upload
iPad II           9ms           39            21
Surface           0ms           40            32
Dell Latitude     4ms          101           149
Macbook Pro       3ms           96           207

Dell Latitude     2ms          101           345
Desktop (AC)      4ms           30            32

The Download/Upload numbers are in megabits per second. A couple of things of note. The Dell Latitude laptop, when plugged into the ASUS router, got speeds way above advertised. At 345Mbps, that’s much better than what I’ve ever seen in any work environment I’ve ever been in. Certainly it’s better than anything I’ve ever seen with Comcast.

The Windows Surface performs roughly the same as an iPad 2. I don’t have a 3 or 4 to test with, so that’s that.

The Dell and MacBook Pro perform roughly the same on downloads, but the MacBook edges out the Dell for uploads.

The Desktop machine is a sad story. Right now I’m using these Netgear ethernet over AC adapters, to connect the gigabit ethernet port on the desktop machine to the rest of the network. Unfortunately, there was not an RJ45 in the room where this machine is. As the paltry numbers indicate, I’d be better off just getting a nice fast wireless adapter for that machine, and call it a day.

All in all, for $60/month, I am very pleased with my Condo Internet connection. It’s funny when you consider the state of most business internet connections. I’ve seen ads for 45Mbps internet for $200/month, and more. For that price, I could be getting gigabit speeds at home.

The other lesson I learned here is that sometimes it’s worthing throwing out some ancient technology (very old home networking equipment) to take advantage of new stuff.

This gives me another though. Through my newfound ISP, I can also get a static IP address, and they fully support IPV6 all the way through. Given that, and equipment like the synology box, I wonder if the internet of things is just around the corner in our house…

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