Thursday, January 07, 2010

Comcast, DOCSIS 3.0, and Extreme 50Mb

I upgraded to Comcast's "Extreme 50Mb" service over this holiday break. It's been a bit of a learning experience.

Scenario: I previously had Comcast's 16Mb cable internet service, running on a circa-2005 Linksys BEFCMU10 ver. 3 modem. I had a wireless-G Linksys WRT54GS ver. 4 router running Tomato firmware instead of the Linksys firmware. I was happy with this setup; I consistently achieved 24Mb download bursts with PowerBoost, and my connection was rock solid. However, it was admittedly an outdated setup, as all of my wireless devices were capable of supporting the 802.11n standard.

When Comcast rolled out its speed upgrades in the Chicago area mid-2009, somehow I missed the bus. Had I heard about the DOCSIS 3.o rollout and the higher speed tiers available, you know I would have jumped - me and my speed-obsessed self. (In my own self defense, I do quite a bit of work from home that requires a solid and fast internet connection in order for me to work most efficiently).

I stumbled across the news of this DOCSIS 3.0 rollout a bit late, when my guild leader in Ultima Online mentioned it in the guild's daily update. I poked around the intarwebs a bit, and sure enough - the new Extreme 50Mb connection was available in my area.

I called Comcast and verified that I could upgrade to the service. The woman advised me to replace my old modem with a DOCSIS 3.0 compliant one, and let me know that Comcast employees were available in most Best Buy stores to handle account modifications on-site. Well, alrighty then! Sounds like a nice business partnership for Comcast...

Best Buy carried one model of DOCSIS 3.0 compliant modems: the Motorola SURFBoard Extreme SB6120. It was listed on the Comcast Approved Modem list, and marked by Comcast as a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. It cost me $99. (Of course now, a week later, it's on sale for $85 - pshaw).

It took ages to get a Best Buy employee to acknowledge me, but after half an hour or so (they really need to have people take numbers, because the idiot children working at the store I was at were absolutely awful at addressing customers in the order they arrived), I finally got a rep. I asked him about upgrading my Comcast account. He said that the Comcast guy was on his lunch break. (Well, I'd already been waiting a half hour - he couldn't be gone much longer, right?) So, I asked if my existing router would be capable of these 50Mb speeds. I told him the model number, and he said, "Oh, sure, it'll be fine." I waited a while for the Comcast guy to return, and when he did, he brought me over to his Comcast lair and upgraded my account, badabing, badaboom, just like that.

I went home and set up the new modem. Surprisingly, my internet connection was still working. (I guess I was expecting the Comcast guy at Best Buy to screw up my account). I got on the online chat with Comcast to give them the MAC address of the new modem so they could provision my router and hook me up to the new speeds. 10 minutes later, I was ready to rock.

Time to run a speed test! I ran the test and....

Waa waaaaaaa. 30Mb or so. Well hell. That wasn't much faster than I'd had before! Suddenly, I became suspect of the advice I received from the Best Buy kiddie. I unplugged my computer from the router and plugged the cable modem directly into the computer.

BAZINGA! 67Mb down (affected by the PowerBoost, or whatever Comcast calls it, of course).

Well, hell again. Looked like my router was impeding my speeds. A little more googling and I discovered that at least for the wireless portion of things, the 802.11g routers topped out around 24Mb throughput. I would need a new router to take advantage of the 50Mb speeds.

I ran back to Best Buy, but they were closed (at 8:13pm on a Friday!! Well, it was New Year's Day, but still!) So I sucked up my pride and hit the local Walmart (and was quite surprised that they stocked routers from all of the major brand players. Maybe I shouldn't be so fast to dismiss ol' Wally World).

The Linksys WRT320N came home with me that night. It claims up to 300Mb/sec throughput, which should future-proof me for a little while, as my modem only goes up to 150Mb/sec and, well, Comcast is only at 50Mb (though the Comcast guy at Best Buy did say that they're working on 100Mb service and he wouldn't be surprised to see it available by the end of 2010 - though he told me not to quote him).

After some more cable-jostling, the new router was installed, and once again: Bazinga! No more speed impediment.

I was a happy camper.

The only thing I'm noticing is that the router seems to need to be power cycled occasionally to maintain the full speeds. After a couple days, I drop down to 30Mb. I was ready to call Comcast in a fit and revert back to my old service, but I tried once again connecting the modem to the computer, and full speeds were in place. Power cycling the router does the trick, but it's kind of a nuisance (and I'm really not so happy if I have to keep testing my speeds every couple days). We'll see how it goes.


Ninjuh said...

Haha, how cool i'm going through exactly the same thing in Dallas, Tx with Time Warner

Heard about DOCSYS 3.0 a little too late, so I am hustling to get this thing in business.

I noticed the same thing, looks like the Belkin N+ makes me loose about 10MB down.

I spent half a work day with TW support. They couldn't get my speed above 30Down / .5 up ... so after exhausting the tiers of support, they're sending a guy to my house to see what's up.

:( so that's all i got till Saturday.

BTW, Nice to see a blog like mine! Mine never comes up on a google search.

- Gabe

Shelly said...

Hey Gabe! I added your blog to my RSS feed reader. I saw your post about a food blog too - LOL! I have one too at! But your link isn't working so I can't get to it. Repost the link and I'll queue that one up too :)

Ninjuh said...

Hi Shelly! I'm actually trying to get rid of that one, I have plenty to say about food, but not enough time to actually put it in writing :)

With that said, do you know how to delete a blog? I'm sure it's painfully obvious, but having a hard time seeing it!

Ninjuh said...

Scratch that last one, i figured it out : -) Maybe when i'm strictly working i'll give blogging about food another shot.

gowshika said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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kumari said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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