I’m Pondering Bridged Internet Access

Speed. There aren’t many Internet users who wouldn’t want Web sites to load faster, files to download quicker, and email messages with large attachments to get sent faster. Upload speed in particular hasn’t kept pace with download speeds – over the past five years I’ve seen my cable modem downstream speeds double from 5mbps to 10mbps, but the upstream speeds have inched up to only 1mbps. Having 1mbps of upstream bandwidth is more than enough for regular email, even with some hefty attachments, but once you start looking at uploading 500 MB worth of photos or a 100 MB video to YouTube, upstream bandwidth starts to become the bottleneck. There’s also the issue of network stability – it doesn’t matter how fast your connection is if it’s down.

So in light of that, I started to look at hardware that allows you to bond together multiple cable modems or DSL modems, giving you a faster connection. I remember systems similar to this back in the 56K modem days – they called it “shotgunning” back then if memory serves. There’s relatively cheap hardware from D-Link ($179 USD), and there’s a solution from Linksys that’s roughly double the price. In addition to the faster upload speed, which I desperately want, there’s the issue of external network stability and speed. Sometimes I’ll find that the connections that Shaw (my local cable modem provider) peers out to are bogged down, and I often wonder if I had Telus DSL (the “other guys”) I’d be seeing better overall performance.

There are some catches with this approach however: in my research thus far I’ve found that each “connection” can only be attached to one external modem. So if I’m doing an upload to YouTube, it will go out via one of the modems, not giving me a combined upload speed of two modems. If an uploader is multi-threaded (say, a photo uploader) then each thread can run on each of the modems, giving a much faster experience. But quite often the things I’d want more upload speed on are things like big FTP uploads, which if it’s a single file, is only going to use one modem.

So while I started out quite excited about the idea of bridged Internet access over two high-speed modems, it seems the reality of the situation makes it a bit less appealing. Anyone out there doing this have any thoughts?