The Problem

The residents and businesses of northern Canberra are experiencing very poor Broadband Internet performance, I am one of these residents. I am going to use this site to document my experiences as I attempt to raise awareness and find a solution to our community’s problems with Internet performance.

Where am I?

Geographically I am located in the area known as Gungahlin in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). I own a residence in the suburb of Palmerston just to the south-west of the Gungahlin town centre. Latitude 35° 11′ 50″ South, Longitude 149° 07′ 05″ East.

From a Telecommunications perspective I am connected to Crace Exchange which is located at Mitchell in the ACT. I connect to Crace Exchange via an ADSL capable mini-CMUX (also incorrectly refered to as an ADSL capable RIM)

A great resource that provides information about Remote Integrated Multiplexers (RIM) and Pair Gain system can be found at the www.whirlpool.net.au website. Link

What are people like me experiencing?

During certain parts of every day the level performance experienced by residents decreases considerably. The time frames during which these degraded performance conditions exist coincide with the expected “peak” use times. In real terms the performance of Internet services quickly descends around 8:00pm each night until anywhere between midnight and 1:00am. Weekends are also affected with poor performance experienced during the day and into the evenings both Saturday and Sunday.

To be frank, this is not unexpected. It is reasonable for Internet usage to increase once students and office workers return home. What is not reasonable is the level of degradation experienced.

When outside of peak usage periods the connection to the Internet performs quite effectively. Download speeds are high, traffic latency is low and packet loss is non-existent. Typical speeds for my connection during this time are 4 megabits per second download speeds and latency of 30 milliseconds (0.03 of a second) to the infrastructure housed within Crace Exchange.

Once peak times start, typical speeds drop to 0.5 megabit per second or less and latency increases to over 600 milliseconds or greater to the same infrastructure at Crace Exchange.

Some perspective please?

I have descended in to numbers and metrics faster than I intended. In order to explain what these actually mean I will give these numbers some context.

I am going to compare my experiences with Crace Exchange against users connected to Civic Exchange. Civic Exchange is located in the suburb of Braddon in the ACT and provides services to areas like Hackett and Ainslie also located on the north side of Canberra. This comparison uses the same Internet Service Provider (ISP) for consistency.

During off-peak times I can send information from Palmerston via Crace Exchange to the West Coast of the USA and back in about 200 milliseconds, approximately a 24,000 km round trip.

During peak times I can send information from Hackett via Civic Exchange to the West Coast of the USA and back in about 200 milliseconds, approximately a 24,000 km round trip.

During peak times it takes residents in Palmerston 3 times longer (600 milliseconds) to get to Crace Exchange and back, approximately a 7 km round trip. At that point the information has not even left the ACT let alone the West Coast of the USA. By the time the traffic negotiates the complete trip the information has been in transit for over 5 times longer than a resident of Hackett or Ainslie.

Latency is not the only issue experienced by users connecting to Crace Exchange. The available bandwidth decreases significantly during the peak periods of the day. Download speeds decrease to 1/8th of off-peak speeds and below on a regular basis. This means a 4 megabit per second connection quite often delivers below 0.5 megabit per second. There has been times where I have experienced download speeds of 0.03 megabit per second speeds (30 kilobits per second). My Twitter picture is taken from a test I performed on one of these occasions.

Packet loss is also a significant issue for residents connecting via Crace Exchange. I can show that up to 15% of information sent from my residence is “lost” within Crace Exchange and does not reach its destination. At times 1 in 7 packets of data can go missing causing my computer to have to retransmit the same data again. This retransmit does not occur straight away but after a time out period, this further delays information delivery and prolongs my wait.

I have been gathering evidence of these network conditions for some time. I have the output from my investigations into these issues and will provide the raw data on this site.

What does this all mean?

Individually these three metrics may not seem to be much of an issue, the problem is these issues never occur in isolation. You need to consider the increases in latency, download speed degradation and packet loss issues together to understand the impact on the affected residents.

The problems I have raised here are all a symptom of the same issue – Congestion.

The issue of congestion has been verified by my ISP. See what I have done so far and the response from my ISP – What I have done so far…

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