"whilst i'm on it - i never actually know what speed i've connected at using redhat's net-config. is there a way (command line or whatever) i could query that??"
Both kpp and wvdial show what speed that you have connected at. You could try one of them.
"the problem i have is that the connection is effectively hogged by each request. it doesn't matter where that request is coming from, ie. same machine (two browser requests) or different machines."
I have only one machine connected to the internet. I have never had the problem of one browser request's hogging the connection and not allowing other browser requests to interleave. I also have never used redhat's net-config tool. So perhaps you could try wvdial and/or kppp and see if that solves both problems.
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