A Rant About Upload Speeds and CBC’s Spark

Upload Speeds

Since Howard invited me to post on the front page last summer I’ve made it a point to be more thoughtful and measured in my personal opinions, to consider all sides of an issue or argument wherever I can.

Today is not one of those days.

Yesterday I had to endure Peter Nowak, a smart tech writer, dumb down the idea of broadband upload speeds for CBC’s Spark—a tech radio show and podcast. I’ll say that again: A tech podcast from Canada’s public broadcaster would have us all living in a parallel universe where the importance of upload speeds is some novel idea that no one has ever before considered. The discussion gets so ridiculous, so moronic that the host actually has Nowak pitching scenarios where upload speeds are important.

Here’s where I think upload speeds are important: always. And what does this have to do with mobile phones? Everything.

Again, I wouldn’t be so hard on the CBC here if this were some other show, but it’s a tech podcast. From the Spark About Page:

With an eye on the future, host Nora Young guides you through this dynamic era of technology-led change, and connects your life to the big ideas changing our world right now.

Big life-changing ideas like upload speeds, you mean?

The on-air example used to demonstrate this novel idea of upload speeds describes a funeral director who wants to stream HD video of a service for family and loved ones who can’t be there. Fair enough. Here’s an example that applies to everyone:

There’s this thing called latency which measures the performance of a network. It’s measured in milliseconds; the lower the number the better. You measure latency by “pinging” a remote server—you’re literally timing a signal from your device to the server and back. And guess what? If your upload speeds are bad, your latency goes up. In other words, bad upload speeds can adversely affect your connection to a network. Like, say… the Internet. Imagine that!

This is precisely what drove me away from WIND as a smartphone user in downtown Toronto. Download speeds of 2-5Mbps were acceptable; upload speeds that sometimes dipped below 100kbps were not.

Back to podcasts for a moment, Jesse Brown was talking about upload speeds five years ago. And it wasn’t some pat drivel to the effect of: “Hey guys, have you heard about this thing called upload speeds? Here’s an expert to break it all down…” Rather, it was a point of contention with big media that Canadians are content creators as well as consumers, uploading photos, videos and other content at least as often as we watch Rogers Anyplace TV.

Is CBC’s Spark targeted to idiots? I’m fairly certain that it’s not, but that’s honestly the impression that I get from this clip. That the host, producer, the entire creative team could okay a segment that makes them all look so blissfully ignorant is… well, I’m just completely baffled by it.

Upload speeds are a critical part of the speed equation for any Internet user, broadband or mobile. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but did anyone ever doubt this?