NEW YORK — Do you think your Internet is slow? That’s nothing compared to what these folks are going through.
If you live in Chicago, and try to connect via AT&T from 4 p.m to 11 p.m., speeds for certain websites and Internet services are basically like dial-up in the 1990s.
There are a handful of other examples from researchers at M-Lab, which provides tools to assess Internet performance. In some cases, Internet speeds can be as slow as 0.5 Megabits per second.
Take Seattle, where CenturyLink customers trying to access particular sites from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. will have unbearably slow speeds. New York’s Time Warner Cable customers from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Verizon customers from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. speeds are so slow that they can’t access certain sites and services.
The same goes for Verizon customers in Washington trying to access particular sites at either 7 p.m. or 10 p.m.
Why is this happening?
Internet service providers (the companies we buy Internet access from) have interconnection deals with so-called tier-1 networks that serve the Internet’s content to the world. But when the broadband companies feel that the tier-1s are using up too much bandwidth, particularly during peak Internet usage hours, Internet service providers often ask tier-1 networks to pay a toll for all the traffic they’re sending.
When they’re unable to reach an agreement, broadband companies will often refuse to broaden the pipe for tier-1s, resulting in extremely slow speeds during peak hours.
None of the broadband companies or tier-1 networks offered a comment for this story.
The good news: it’s very isolated. The biggest problem seems to be with a tier-1 network called GTT. Though it’s unclear which sites and services GTT serves up, it’s just one of nearly a dozen similar companies — so it’s not happening for every site, in every city and on every broadband company.
And the Internet overall is actually getting faster for most Americans. The FCC found that in 2014, broadband companies provided even greater speeds than advertised on average during peak hours. That’s up from offering 97% of their advertised speeds during peak traffic times in 2013.