The Best and Worst ISPs

Upload in Slow Lane

In contrast, online data backup, video uploads, and other applications dependent on speedy upload connections aren't very popular. Three-fourths of home users polled, for instance, have never tried online backup, and about half told us that they haven't tried online file storage, free Web hosting, or entertainment services such as game, video, and music channels.

Why? Poky upload speeds. Faster speeds would likely make services such as online backup and two-way videoconferencing more appealing to users. Today's broadband networks were built asymmetrically--far faster downstream than up--which makes sense given the download-intensive nature of today's Web use. But to expand the Net's capabilities, that situation has to change.

"ISPs have got to do a better job in upstream traffic, and I think they know that," says IDC's Davis. "That's one of the things they're paying attention to when deciding what to do next."

A high-quality Net experience involves more than an uptick in bandwidth, however. Connection reliability, strong customer support, spam and virus blocking, bundled services, and, of course, a reasonable price all play a part. And when it comes to price, the overwhelming majority of survey respondents felt that they were best off getting a bundle of services.

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