Online shopping increases

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2000

bring slower web pages


Managing Editor

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A new wave of shoppers has hit the stores of America in higher numbers this year and most of these shoppers have never set foot inside the stores they are patronizing.

Troy, like most other cities in America this season, is seeing a surge of Internet activity as people discover the phenomenon of online holiday shopping.

"We have seen a huge increase in traffic recently," said Tim Catrett, support technician for Troy Cablevision, a local Internet service provider that specializes in cable modems, a souped-up version of standard telephone ISPs that use fiber-optic cable line instead of phone lines to carry their signals. "As Christmas gets closer, usage seems to go up every day. In fact, Santa has been working overtime here lately hooking up new accounts and pre-ordering service for Christmas."

Just as usage in Troy has increased, Catrett said it is likely that Internet traffic has increased throughout the country, resulting in some slow load times for certain web pages.

"This has less to do with the modems and the traffic through the modems and signal lines and more to do with the capacity and speed of many of the servers out there that host some of the more popular websites," Catrett said. "You can only get the page in your computer as fast as the server can send it."

What this means is that faster Internet connections, while important, may not be solely responsible for the load time of some of the connections.

"Although there is a lot of usage, this doesn’t mean the lines are getting clogged," Catrett said. "What it does mean is that some of the servers for websites are being slowed as they cope with high traffic this time of year."

High traffic times this time of year isn’t necessarily limited to specific times of the day, but Catrett noted that after school and work, particularly after 4 p.m., usage is particularly high.

"It’s heavy until about 8:30 at night, and then it begins to slowly taper off," Catrett said. "But you still have some of those late-night surfers online until midnight and after."

Slower times to be online, obviously, are early morning hours until around 6:30, when, Catrett said, "A lot of people get online after they wake up and check their e-mail."

Catrett said he doesn’t anticipate the high traffic to subside until well after the holidays, and he’s not sure that even then there will be any substantial decline in Internet use.

"A lot of people will be getting computers around Christmas, and they will be getting online, so it’s hard to say when this will end or where it will lead," Catrett said.

Ranked as one of the most sophisticated cities in the state when it comes availability of top-notch communications systems, there’s no doubt that more people locally are getting online. Troy offers users such technologies as the cable modem service provided by Troy Cablevision and BellSouth’s new Internet service that promises home users speeds comparable to cable modems at consumer prices, in addition to telephone services from other ISPs including PC Net and Mindspring.

And as more people here and elsewhere get online, those servers in cyberspace that house web pages that people like to use will have to get faster in order to keep up with the high traffic.

Now that new users are logging on everyday and customers are getting more comfortable with the concept of online ordering of products, traffic is likely to continue through the end of the holiday season and, perhaps, beyond.

"One thing is for sure," Catrett said. "The Internet is growing everyday as more people get online."