Many of us have grappled with slow Internet speeds at one time or another. Maybe you’ve even called your Internet provider about it. But you probably haven’t gone to the lengths that this Comcast subscriber has.
A Washington, D.C.-based reddit user going by the name AlekseyP was so frustrated with his download speeds that he set up a Twitter bot that tweets at Comcast every time his Internet service drops below a certain threshold. How does he do it? With a Raspberry Pi — a small, low-power computer beloved by hobbyists — that continuously monitors his home bandwidth.
AlekseyP pays for 150 Mbps download speeds. But, he said, he often gets just 10 to 30 Mbps — a fraction of the advertised speed. So whenever his download rate drops below 50 Mbps, AlekseyP’s Raspberry Pi sends a message prodding Comcast about it.
— AComcast User (@A_Comcast_User) February 1, 2016
The Twitter bot dates back to last October, but it’s only been recently that it began tweeting its speed statistics at Comcast. Since Sunday, AlekseyP’s reddit post has gotten thousands of upvotes, and many people have been asking him how to set up something similar for themselves.
The post clearly taps into a latent well of discontent among many frustrated consumers. Comcast has offered to look into the problem, but AlekseyP said that he doesn’t want to be “singled out” and that all of Comcast customers deserve to receive their advertised speeds.
Studies by federal regulators show that Comcast actually tends to deliver the speeds it promises. About 90 percent of Comcast customers wind up getting their advertised speeds or very close to it, compared to around 75 percent of Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications customers, according to a recent report.
“Customers of Cablevision, Comcast, or Verizon Fiber (FiOS) experienced actual download speeds that are very consistent,” reads the report by the Federal Communications Commission. Still, the FCC said, there are some customers for each Internet provider in the study “for whom actual download speed falls significantly short of the advertised download speed.”
Your geography, home networking equipment and Internet usage habits can all affect the speeds that you ultimately experience. Still, AlekseyP says he did his best to give Comcast the benefit of the doubt. For instance, he admits that processing limits on the Raspberry Pi make it hard to determine when the network is functioning at peak performance. It can’t measure when the download speed exceeds 100 Mbps — so AlekseyP counts any measurement above 90 Mbps as a point in Comcast’s favor. His machine only auto-tweets when the service dips considerably below what he should be getting.
He also acknowledges that his own Internet habits may be interfering with the Raspberry Pi’s results. But, he said, he still noticed drops in service “during hours when we were not home or everyone was asleep” — times when hardly anything would have been affecting the test.
Comcast declined to comment for this story. But a top Comcast engineer, Jason Livingood, reached out to AlekseyP on reddit and Twitter, offering to lend his personal assistance. Livingood also critiqued AlekseyP’s test, speculating that his cable modem may not support the fastest speeds.
AlekseyP says his speeds have improved lately. But he still believes that any slowdowns he’s experiencing are not his fault.
“I am able to download steam games or stream Netflix at 1080p and still have the speedtest registers its near its maximum of ~90mbps down,” he wrote, “so when we gets speeds on the order of 10mpbs down and we are not heavily using the internet we know the problem is not on our end.”