Is DSL enough for Cord-cutting in a two-person household?
December 7, 2017 6:36 AM   Subscribe

We're going to cut the DircecTV cord and want to know whether our present broadband capacity will be sufficient for watching two TV's at once.

We've got Netflix, Hulu, Playstation Vue, Amazon Prime, etc. We've got a mix of streaming devices including Roku, Fire TV stick, and Chromecast to choose from.

All devices would be on wifi, using an ASUS RT-N66U router (802.11 a/b/g/n).

We have Verizon DSL and tells me we have 2.65 Mbps download speed.

We want to be able to watch two different things on two separate TVs at once, with decent picture quality and minimal "buffering" interruptions. Is this going to work? Do we have enough bandwidth or do we have to get off DSL? I believe Comcast is our only other broadband option where we are. If DSL isn't good enough, would Comcast solve the problem?

Other ideas to optimize our network performance? Access points? Better router? Wire the house for RJ-45?
posted by Right On Red to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would guess no, not fast enough. But now I wonder: Does it work well enough with a single device? (I would have guessed it wouldn’t be enough to support that.) I’d start streaming something while keeping an eye on your download speed (Activity Monitor on a Mac, eg) and compare that to your measured capacity.

The WiFi is probably not going to ever be your bottleneck, but if you can transfer a big file between computers over the local network you can do the same thing to get a sense of the bandwidth there.
posted by supercres at 6:45 AM on December 7, 2017 can sometimes be gamed by the ISPs.

Netflix has their own speed test which tests connection speed to their servers. It might be able to give you another data point.

But, as an FYI, Netflix has content servers located inside ISPs so seeing good results here may not apply to the other streaming services. But at least you'll know how you fare with Netflix.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:01 AM on December 7, 2017

Is there some reason you can't just.... try out the double streaming BEFORE you cut the cord and see if it's tolerable?

We have powerline Ethernet to feed some of the gadgets and the rest run off WiFi, and as long as we checked to make sure all the gadgets have similar ratings and we weren't accidentally bottlenecking the speed internally, we have done basically fine - but we have AT&T fiber, which is a lot faster. DSL for us was iffy just for watching YouTube.
posted by oblique red at 7:31 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In short, no.

5 Mbps is a good rule of thumb for video streaming speed. That's about what a high quality 1080p broadcast takes. The Netflix recommendations are worth a look. I used to watch Youtube on a 1Mbps connection and it sort of worked but just barely, and at that only for 360p video (ie: low def). Two people watching different things at the same time is just about 2x the requirements.

2.65Mbps is very slow for US broadband and you should ask Verizon if that's the best they can do. If you're in an underserved area a long way from their CO, it might be. But look for alternatives; Comcast may well be better, or a fixed wireless provider (WISP) if you're in a rural area. I'd look for at least 25 Mbps.

If you want to test more carefully, plug your computer directly into the DSL modem; no router at all. If it still tests at < 3 Mbps then the DSL link is the problem.
posted by Nelson at 7:38 AM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Your set up sounds similar to ours. The only time we seem to have trouble is if one of us is trying to watch Netflix in the room farthest from the router, and the other person (practically sitting on top of the router) is watching Youtube. The constant loading of new YT videos causes buffering issues in the farther room. (I'm not the person to ask for a tech solution to that though, maybe someone else has a helpful suggestion). Doesn't really happen if it's Netflix in one room and Amazon Prime in the other room. If person in farther room gives up and goes to read Metafilter for instance, no trouble with loading speeds.
posted by vignettist at 7:43 AM on December 7, 2017

Response by poster: OK, looks like I need faster service and I'll talk to Verizon about it first. I really hate the idea of going to Comcast, which I have some past experience with for cable, but it is what it is.

Here are some answers to questions you've asked:

Yes, streaming to one device works fine now. We get good, uninterrupted PQ on Netflix for example.

No, there is no reason "we can't just.... try out the double streaming BEFORE...". Of course we have done that, and the results are what prompted me to write this question. It looked like a problem and I am starting to work on debugging it. Asking here is part of that process.

Interestingly, the Netflix proprietary speed test actually shows 1.9 Mbps, while still shows 2.65.
posted by Right On Red at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2017

If 2.65 Mbps is representative of your normal speed you aren't going to happy trying to live with streaming. I just researched this last month to determine if 50 Mbps FIOS (which in reality is usually more like 25ish) would be sufficient. It's fine, but my research suggested the streaming video providers need about 4 Mbps for HD streaming. So if you have a couple of services going...

Laughably, Verizon tried to upsell me by claiming 50 Mbps wouldn't support Netflix.
posted by COD at 8:14 AM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, no. You might eke by if you limit yourself to standard-def streams, but it's not going to be pleasant. I'd personally recommend trying for at least 10 Mbps service at the bare minimum, and preferably something closer to 25-50 Mbps for what I'd consider comfortable speeds.
posted by Aleyn at 11:45 PM on December 7, 2017

« Older Stir-crazy, broke, and isolated   |   Punk rock Anti-Christmas Song? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.