AT&T's 768kbps DSL is dreadful in 2020, but still the only option for some

Joe White

Posts: 69   +0
Staff
In brief: For many Americans, 768kbps DSL remains the only Internet offer on the table. And in case you had any doubt, this historic connection speed is incapable of coping with the Internet of 2020. As such, for these customers, working and learning from home has been nigh on impossible.

While many of us have the luxury of high-speed Internet, some aren't so lucky. Ars Technica puts the spotlight on Kathie McNamee of Raymond, Mississippi, who was told when she bought her home that her family could get U-verse Internet service of 5Mbps. Instead, because of old infrastructure, the McNamee family are stuck with 768kbps DSL -- a connection which, on most days, is rarely usable.

This makes even the simplest of tasks, like web browsing and email, impossible for the family. At the weekend, Kathy's husband often makes a 50-mile journey to his office in order to complete a few computer tasks. Her teenage sons will spend the day with their older sister, in Madison County, to complete and submit school assignments. And don't even mention streaming services like Netflix. The family instead pay some $250 per month for the AT&T-owned DirecTV's satellite video service.

Cellular hotspot sometimes works, allowing the family to tether to a smartphone's mobile data connection, but the conditions have to be just right. "It has to be crystal clear outside, no rain, no wind, no anything," Kathie explained.

Since 2015, AT&T has received more than $283 million from the FCC to improve home Internet connections in Mississippi, but mapping errors have resulted in some families -- Kathie's included -- not getting the service they'd hoped for. Although AT&T maps originally indicated that Kathie's home would qualify for faster Internet, these maps have since been changed.

On top of that, AT&T recently confirmed that it's no longer offering DSL to new customers. If Kathie sold her house, this could mean the buyers wouldn't be able to sign-up for Internet at all.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), a union which supports AT&T employees, and consumer-advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge are calling on the FCC to investigate AT&T's handling of legacy DSL networks. "Without further investigation by the Commission, it is impossible to know with certainty how many of these households will have no other fixed, terrestrial broadband connection once AT&T shuts off its DSL network," the group said in an October filing.

For now, families like Kathie's aren't sure what the future holds. The only thing worse than slow Internet is no Internet at all.

Permalink to story.

 

Adi6293

Posts: 822   +1,108
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband with 2 Tivo 6 boxes and top TV package for £74 a month, it is a promotional price but still the broadband it's excellent and they have faster packages if I wanted more speed
 

zamroni111

Posts: 190   +130
In 2004, my small branch only had 64 kbps for dozens of users.
I spent hours to successfully download 7MB windows patch as sasser worm force restarted many computers.
Since then, I never postpone windows security patches.
 
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VitalyT

Posts: 5,685   +5,508
I'm on 512MB/s, but still keeping my 56Kb/s US Robotics modem, in case of zombie apocalypse.

In fact, couple years ago, when we had a problem with the local fiber, I dug it out, checked for some live numbers through my mobile, and was able to connect, and do some basic Internet stuff. It was fun.
 

R00sT3R

Posts: 454   +1,252
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband with 2 Tivo 6 boxes and top TV package for £74 a month, it is a promotional price but still the broadband it's excellent and they have faster packages if I wanted more speed

Given the geographic size & population density of the UK, a 350Mbps connection in 2020, is a pretty poor showing compared to countries with similar conditions.

No, the one area in which US broadband truly sucks are the monthly data caps. That should not be a thing in 2020.
 

Adi6293

Posts: 822   +1,108
Given the geographic size & population density of the UK, a 350Mbps connection in 2020, is a pretty poor showing compared to countries with similar conditions.

No, the one area in which US broadband truly sucks are the monthly data caps. That should not be a thing in 2020.

Virgin Media sells faster speeds, I think 500 and 1000 are next but 350 it's more than enough for me, I'm actually thinking about dropping the speed to 200 and get rid of TV boxes all together next year when I'm re newing my contract, but yeah having caps in 2020......
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,719   +3,726
No, the one area in which US broadband truly sucks are the monthly data caps. That should not be a thing in 2020.
Yeah, data caps are silly but I've never had mine enforced by Comcast. I have their gigabit package and my cap is 450GB a month. I don't understand the point of offering internet speeds and then putting a cap on it that can be broken in a few hours.

That said, I'm frequently in the 5-6TB a month of data usage and haven't ever gotten a call or letter from Comcast about it.
 

treetops

Posts: 3,064   +784
Ah my old customers, if they tell you Area Of High Demand or Congestion. No one knows when and if ever it will be fixed. If you can switch!

They can't spend say 100k+ for your area and wait 20+ years for profit. Sadly they are renting out old telephone lines built since god knows win. If you can, use your cell phone internet gaming.
 

brucek

Posts: 811   +1,130
TechSpot Elite
My understanding is DSL degrades over distance and so was never going to be a good fit for rural areas where there are miles between every home. Hopefully we are nearing the point where there are more fit solutions from satellites and WiFi.

It was always possible to better serve rural homes via longer appropriate cables, it was just more expensive than those residents wished to pay. In my opinion that should have ended the matter, I'm not sure why the government should be subsidizing that extra cost any more than why it should subsidize the much, much higher apartment costs in say New York City.
 

R00sT3R

Posts: 454   +1,252
Virgin Media sells faster speeds, I think 500 and 1000 are next

Oh I know there are faster speeds available, I'm in the UK as well and we have just had CityFibre hook our street up to a Gigabit Fibre network, even though I'm personally not interested in it as my unlimited data 4G+ mobile hotspot gives me 70-100Mbit, which is more than fast enough for my needs.
 

opckieran

Posts: 29   +50
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband with 2 Tivo 6 boxes and top TV package for £74 a month, it is a promotional price but still the broadband it's excellent and they have faster packages if I wanted more speed

So tired of hearing this...

There’s approximately
94,000 sq mi of UK
and
3,800,000 sq mi of US.

Pipe down.
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 5,003   +5,608
I remember having Verizon DSL. It was fast for downloads but horrid for uploads. My ping in games was terrible.

Once I got FIOS, I never -ever complained again.

 

Starscream07

Posts: 15   +4
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband with 2 Tivo 6 boxes and top TV package for £74 a month, it is a promotional price but still the broadband it's excellent and they have faster packages if I wanted more speed
Very true. I'm moving to downtown Dayton which is by no means a town/village. And yet I am stuck with only one provider, Spectrum who has high speed. ATT there is dreadful at 5 Mbps and I have no other choice and that is frustrating cause Spectrum is a horrible company.
 

zamroni111

Posts: 190   +130
I'm on 512MB/s, but still keeping my 56Kb/s US Robotics modem, in case of zombie apocalypse.

In fact, couple years ago, when we had a problem with the local fiber, I dug it out, checked for some live numbers through my mobile, and was able to connect, and do some basic Internet stuff. It was fun.
That analog modem also needs analog modem infrastructure in the service provider side. I don't think they still have it
 

nismo91

Posts: 1,126   +165
Are there no 4G service in these areas? hardly a solution, but I'd rather have a 4G with say 60GB data caps than this sub-1Mbps crappy DSL speed anyday.

I personally have trouble with Zoom calls (with 9+ participants) when I'm connected to a wifi with 10-15Mbps speeds. In some cases I had to use 4G tethering from my phone which gave me much better 40+Mbps rate. honestly can't really imagine living with 1Mbps speed today sigh
 

MasterFig

Posts: 9   +10
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband with 2 Tivo 6 boxes and top TV package for £74 a month, it is a promotional price but still the broadband it's excellent and they have faster packages if I wanted more speed
The USA happens to be a bit more spread out than the UK making it a bit more difficult is rural areas. I have Google Fiber in my area which gives me full 1Gb internet for only $70 (£52).
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband ...for £74 a month...it's a promotional rate.
U.K. Population Density: 275 ppl/sq. km.
U.S. Population density: 35 ppl/sq. km.

Interestingly enough, gig speed internet in my area (3X the speed you're getting) costs only about 15% more than what you're paying there -- a far better deal ... and it's done without the 20% VAT that your government uses in part to help fund broadband there.
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,758   +2,083
Broadband providers in USA should be embarrassed, I live in UK and I get unlimited 350Mbps broadband with 2 Tivo 6 boxes and top TV package for £74 a month, it is a promotional price but still the broadband it's excellent and they have faster packages if I wanted more speed

You do realize, that the land area of the entire country of England, (England, not including Ireland or Scottland) would fit within the state of Missouri? You could put over 3 England's, within just the land area of the state of Texas. In other words, the United States is pretty spread out. If you go out into the great plains states, there are vast areas you can drive for miles without seeing any homes, then have a farm pop up and another one many miles from each other, and, many miles between any towns or cities. I'm not trying to "forgive" the cable/telcom companies...because in most cities, they have either a monopoly or duopoly which cuts down competition, but, with the vast land areas in the USA, it's pretty tough to spend the money, running fiber all over the place.
Perhaps something needs to be done, similar to the WPA projects of the 30's that allowed electricity to be able to reach pretty much the entire nation.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 630   +612
" The family instead pay some $250 per month for the AT&T-owned DirecTV's satellite video service."

And there you have it. AT&T has no incentive to do anything to provide faster and cheaper internet when then can price gouge / milk those customers from another AT&T owned business!

In my area, AT&T has really poor cell-phone coverage (we're just outside a very affluent city, and yet!) but they want to piggy back on my internet provider's WiFi and claim they have a good signal.....

And when my internet is down, AT&T phone coverage is as good as non existent!
 

veLa

Posts: 1,101   +722
I "only" have a 200Mbps DOCSIS connection, although I usually get around 220-230Mbps on speedtest. I could pay extra for a 1Gbps option, but really don't need it.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,148
U.K. Population Density: 275 ppl/sq. km.
U.S. Population density: 35 ppl/sq. km.

Interestingly enough, gig speed internet in my area (3X the speed you're getting) costs only about 15% more than what you're paying there -- a far better deal ... and it's done without the 20% VAT that your government uses in part to help fund broadband there.

1. US Citizens do pay an additional fee on their bill that is supposed to go to rural network expansion. Of which Verizon has gotten in trouble on with the New York state attorney general.

2. Many network expansions in the US are subsidized by taxpayer money. Just comparing on initial price is misleading, especially if you factor in the many other taxes you are charged and that, as internet is not a utility in the US, providers can and do perform deceptive billing practices.

4. The number of people per square km isn't a wholly translatable metric to the cost of broadband. Many of that area is the US is unpopulated or farmland. If you take the median population density of 62 per sq. km, that's roughly the same as Ukraine, which is a 3rd world country that is currently at war with Russia yet 1 Gb internet there is $15 USD.

Let's be honest here, for "the world's greatest nation", I'm awfully tired of people making excuses of why things can't be done. How about someone with the qualifications finally starts getting something done.
 
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