[extropy-chat] META: Cable Speeds and delays [was: related to SecondLife]

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Tue Dec 12 14:53:50 UTC 2006

One thing I have started to notice lately on our Comcast Cable with the
Digital Box (as vs. the analog feeds for channels 2-99) is that it is taking
*much* longer to change TV channels (it is easy to skip through 5 channels
and have to wait 5-10 seconds for the box to catch up).  The digital cable
box output is also delayed N seconds (~30?) relative to the analog
broadcasts (on the *same* channel over the same cable).

Now Comcast (and presumably the other cable companies) are adding more and
more internet & voice connections (there advertising in this area is very
aggressive) to their existing cable base.  I am beginning to wonder whether
the delays observed in channel switching and/or broadcast channel
presentation are in part due to them starting to hit the limits of the data
capacity on the cables themselves.  I also wonder if they aren't turning a
necessity (the cable bandwidth limitations) into a marketing selling point
(their "SpeedBoost"(?) claims where you get faster than your "paid for"
bandwidth).  By shoving more data to single customers in shorter periods one
frees up the cable bandwidth to feed more data to other customers.

But I have to wonder if taking on the internet & voice customers (voice
particularly has to have "real time" response) is not ultimately going to
result in the degradation of "normal" cable service (as seems to be the case
with channel switching delays).  They've got 999 channels worth of bandwidth
(maybe) but they don't have 1 channel of full time bandwidth to 9999
customers [1].  There are ways to handle this (higher speed fiber to local
cable distribution "hubs") but that isn't infrastructure that the CableCos
typically have installed.  So I'm wondering if the customer is going to get
screwed in their efforts to milk the consumer of more $$$?

If anyone really understands how cable "data" really works or has some good
references on it I'd like to know about them [2].


1. I'd have to go do some research but I think the data requirements for 1
TV channel are ~= 1-5 Mbit data service (particularly if one is opting for
HDTV cable on some channels).

2. Sitting in a town using DSL surrounded by towns that have FIOS (fiber)
availability. :-(
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