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UtterlyBoring.com is produced by Jake Ortman (e-mail, resume), a 30-something-year-old dad, percussionist, sysadmin, Web developer, IT consultant and jack-of-all-trades geek, living in Bend, Oregon. He created this so that his expensive journalism and technology degree isn't getting totally wasted. In addition to editing this site in his free time, he is the communications manager at Weston Technologies. He has LinkedIn and Facebook profiles if you're trying to stalk him. He will not be posting on Twitter.
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This site is powered by Movable Type and is hosted by orty.com. Since December 1st, 2002, there have been 6475 entries. Visitors to this blog have posted 21321 comments.
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BendBroadband Bandwidth Cap Update
If you haven't been following the drama and the outcry surrounding BendBroadband's latest pricing changes, let me sum up what's been going on the last few weeks:It's been a week or so since this thing hit the wire on a larger scale, and my sources at BendBroadband say they are watching the conversations here and are listening. They will not say, however, if anything will change, but they are listening (still waiting for the new business plans to come out, folks).
One of my original gripes (one that was putting my bandwidth consumption over the edge of some of the tiers) was that middle-of-the-night consumption shouldn't count the same. But something that was pointed out to me privately was a point I didn't think of that makes a bit of sense: The Net Neutrality advocates say that it's basically an all-or-nothing thing when it comes to bandwidth counting -- you can't consider nighttime data from daytime data (even though that's what the power company does). So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.
A couple protest sites have been created since this all started brewing. One is FixBBB.com, which has been trying to organize a public protest and get more media attention to this cap. They also make a suggestion as to who you can switch to, but I'd recommend avoiding Clearwire and use somebody like Yellowknife or Webformix instead if you're looking for wireless rural Internet. BendTel also provides DSL, but primarily to Business customers.
Another protest site has hit the wire, being run off a BendBroadband home connection (which is bound to push usage up a bit, considering the site's received a few diggs). According to the site, the guy had 214GB of data transfer last month and 15GB between April 10 and 15. Even if he was on the platinum plan, he'd owe nearly $240 last month.
Since I don't have the foggiest idea if BendBroadband will shut his site down for terms-of-service violations, here's the screenshot off his site:
So it all comes down to this: Knowing what you know, if you're using a BendBroadband connection, what are your plans? Are you moving or are you staying? If you're moving, where to? I'm still exploring my options, and will reveal my decision at a later date, but I wanted to see what everybody else was doing as well.
Update on 4/17: Welcome Bulletin readers. All the relevant posts with all the discussions are linked above. I haven't had time to read the article yet, but will comment here when I have a chance to do so.
BendBroadband Cap Protest Planned from UtterlyBoring.com on 06/03/08 @ 03:45 PM:
(If you have no idea what folks would be protesting, read up here) The folks at FixBBB are planning to protest the BendBroadband bandwidth caps this weekend. Right now, I'm... (Read More)
I'm Back -- What Did I miss? from UtterlyBoring.com on 08/25/08 @ 10:05 AM:
So I haven't gotten online once since last Wednesday after a small trip to the coast for the weekend to help build a deck at my grandma's beach house. Among... (Read More)
FCC Opens Investigation Into Pricing at Cable Companies -- Including BendBroadband from UtterlyBoring.com on 11/05/08 @ 04:25 PM:
This was in the Bulletin's business section, but I couldn't find it on their web site (I think it was a wire story -- don't have the paper in front... (Read More)
BendBroadband Launches Stupidly Fast Internet, Odd Logo, Still Caps Bandwidth from UtterlyBoring.com on 09/23/09 @ 04:57 PM:
You can read the full press release here, but long story short, BBB is taking advantage of DOCSIS 3.0 to push up to 60mbs download. I would assume you will... (Read More)
Reading Material from UtterlyBoring.com on 02/01/11 @ 04:14 PM:
I'm looking more into virtualizing a bit more to consolidate some old but still (unfortunately) necessary servers here at the office (still need the hardware to do it, but that's... (Read More)
Jon's wife said on 04/16/08 @ 11:54 AM:
We're stuck on 0.1 gb since last Friday.
Nice system :P
fooinbend said on 04/16/08 @ 09:14 PM:
not moving ... my usage fits at the top of bronze ... i never got the speeds with DSL ... i'll keep an eye on it but the speeds meet my needs. i do serious pc and console gaming, have the lates game trials (about a gig a piece) and have downloaded iTunes video stuff and even watched journeyman off of the nbc site with some flight of the conchords for flash streams .... i'm just fine at 10GB with an extra buck now and then
i'm not going to pick up the bill for the top users (ahem P2P kings driving costs). whoever though internet was free needs to go with capt kirk and mr spock to the star trek universe
whats up with my entitlement generation?
if I need more then I'll get the next plan if the difference is too much
also, how are the small wireless folks going to handle taking the top users ... ya'll are going to be hogs there
pay your bill and get off of my back (and the otther huge majority of folks
Joel said on 04/17/08 @ 06:54 AM:
I think I'll be using the sliver plan, but I need to investigate.
Just an FYI, a co-worker uses YellowKnife and hates it. They frequently rate-limit their connection when bandwidth consumption goes over a certain threshold. Unfortunately it is the only alternative short of Satellite that he has at his location.
Anonymous Girl said on 04/17/08 @ 09:58 AM:
How do I know they're accurate? With electricity at least I can go outside and read the meter to monitor their accuracy. My usage shows a steady increase each month, yet I can't recall any changes in our usage pattern. Is there a way to check their information?
Frank said on 04/17/08 @ 11:21 AM:
Anon G (not Ali G?),
That is a good question. We are sticklers for accuracy. Because of this we are using IPDR (IP Data Records) which is in design as accurate as CDR (call detail records). CDRs are used by the industry to manage your call minutes.
The IPDR records go through a mediation/ rating architecture that is the same mediation/rating architecture that is certified for our voice product.
We are reviewing more options for data presentation to customers and are continually run statistical analysis on records to ensure accuracy.
Frank said on 04/17/08 @ 11:22 AM:
We have the same idea ... you have a 'total' that you can track for the month to review usage growth. Power, water and other sundries are presented as monthly history and total. You can check out your meter daily to see usage.
Our current presentation is similar but online.
Nameless One said on 04/17/08 @ 06:26 PM:
WE have all there services, so when we leave bendbroadband there not only losing an internet customer, they will be losing a phone and tv customer as well. Along with being double billed this past month, this has just made our decision an easy one.
Frank said on 04/17/08 @ 09:49 PM:
Bend Broadband I hope you are listening/reading the comments on this page and on fixbbb. You truly stand to lose alot of your accounts, due to your unfair price increase. I already spoke to other isp providers in the area ready jump in and offer their services. I havent decided what do yet, Ill be watching and listening and posting u may want to watch CL too. I hope BBB makes the right chioce for their customers and for their company. Times are tough I may just drop everything . :(
Frank said on 04/17/08 @ 10:10 PM:
This is a tough decision but a fair one.
- 92% don't get any extra billling ... which means that the majority doesn't subsidize a small minority consumption.
- 8.5% can move tiers to match usage with an approximate $30 monthly differential tops if you use 250 times more than the average customer.
- .5% really need to pick up the check.
.5% of our customer base is a few hundred vocal net users but not a fair representation of majority opinion.
Frank said on 04/17/08 @ 11:30 PM:
Great article describing the 'crux' of the issue from Richard Bennet ... is guy designed the twisted-pair cabling system for Ethernet and key portions of Wi-Fi.
In neutrality debate, carriers get blamed for Net's weaknesses
By Richard Bennett
The circus is coming to Stanford University. The network neutrality circus, that is, which makes cable companies the whipping boys for underlying flaws in the design of the Internet.
The Federal Communications Commission is investigating petitions from consumer groups and a local start-up, Vuze, against Comcast. The cable broadband giant is accused of disrupting video traffic uploaded by users of the BitTorrent peer-to-peer network. But Comcast says its network management practices are legitimate, needed to ensure that other broadband subscribers aren't starved by bandwidth hogs.
The commission already held one public hearing in February on network management practices at Harvard University, and is holding the follow-up today at Stanford.
Little light came from the Harvard hearing, where FCC Chairman Kevin Martin badgered Comcast's solitary witness with loaded questions and failed to display any insight into broadband carriers' management challenges.
What's more, Martin and the broadband critics have failed to acknowledge an underlying truth about the Internet: It was originally designed for the polite society of network engineering professors and students, not our rough-and-tumble world of large-scale copyright theft and video file-sharing. And it has design defects - bugs - that make it vulnerable to overload and abuse.
Peer-to-peer applications are designed to consume a disproportionate share of network bandwidth, so carriers have to limit their traffic to provide good service to most of their other users. Japan, with the fastest residential broadband in the world, applies similar practices, having learned that adding capacity isn't enough. Peer-to-peer consumes the largest share of the pipe, no matter how big the pipe is.
The Internet has long had growing pains. Researchers encountered "Internet meltdown" in the mid-1980s, and the World Wide Web became a "World Wide Wait" in the late 1990s. The solution to these problems was re-engineering both applications and network protocols, but that's a dicey proposition now that more than 1.3 billion people use the Internet.
Broadband carriers struggle to balance cost, performance and fairness, all the while hectored by well-meaning activists oblivious to the Internet's real technical underpinnings.
The public is unlikely to benefit from the FCC's protracted hearing process unless there's a change of emphasis. Comcast has already announced upgrades to its network that will make it more application-agnostic, so the basis of the complaints is already moot.
The commission should use the Stanford hearing to explore how the Internet is unique among networks and to improve disclosure so consumers can better evaluate competing Internet services. Consumers should understand that unlike the telephone system, residential Internet is a variable-delay system, with advertised caps on download and upload speeds that are often confused with guaranteed minimums. Consumers need to know what averages rates they can expect at different times of the day, and to have additional tools to control their own traffic.
What the FCC shouldn't do is impose new network management rules on broadband providers. Industry, in collaboration with responsible consumer groups, is already working on disclosure and management
Zmidponk said on 04/18/08 @ 04:10 PM:
My own view on things like this is purely as a home customer. I want an internet connection that is available 24/7, which I can use as I like. Indeed, when I originally moved from dial-up to broadband, the supposed advantages of broadband was an 'always on' connection and the ability to download more due to a faster speed. Now, many ISPs are turning around and limiting what we can download, and either charging us or simply turning off our connection if we hit that limit.
Sorry, but that is just nuts.
Now, I am actually in the UK, and quite a few ISPs over here have done a relatively fair thing - instead of having hard caps, they have what is most commonly termed a 'Fair Usage Policy'. What happens is that, as part of your contract, you sign an agreement that, if you use your connection to an excessive degree, the ISP has the right to limit your connection speed during peak hours without cutting you off completely. Now, I still have some concerns in that the language is typically left a bit vague, instead of having a fixed figure for this to come into effect, but it is far less effective at negating the supposed advantages of broadband than the 'hard cap' system does, and most ISPs who use it seem to think it works, so is there any reason an American ISP (such as Bendbroadband) can't do the same?
Frank said on 04/18/08 @ 04:42 PM:
Zmidponk ... problem is that in the US this is not viable at the current time from an implementable perspective. Review what transpired with Comcast and Verizon (wireless) as they implemented their Fair Usage Policies. Ouch.
Also, this is not a 'hard cap' ... this is designed to charge by GB after each tier is reached. Also (I'm in broken record mode here) this will continually be modelled to not effect the majorty of customers (90+%).
Frank said on 04/18/08 @ 04:47 PM:
Folks, one more for discussion ... who is going to fund the tier1 and last mile expansion for innovation? where is the business model to meet this innovation ... I don't see the government pickup up an architecture overhaul.
AT&T: Internet to hit full capacity by 2010
By Andrew Donoghue
April 18, 2008 U.S. telecommunications giant AT&T has claimed that, without investment, the Internet's current network architecture will reach the limits of its capacity by 2010. Speaking at a Westminster eForum on Web 2.0 this week in London, Jim Cicconi, vice president of legislative affairs for AT&T, warned that the current systems that constitute the Internet will not be able to cope with the increasing amounts of video and user-generated content being uploaded.
"The surge in online content is at the center of the most dramatic changes affecting the Internet today," he said. "In three years' time, 20 typical households will generate more traffic than the entire Internet today."
Cicconi, who was speaking at the event as part of a wider series of meetings with U.K. government officials, said that at least $55 billion worth of investment was needed in new infrastructure in the next three years in the U.S. alone, with the figure rising to $130 billion to improve the network worldwide. "We are going to be butting up against the physical capacity of the Internet by 2010," he said.
He claimed that the "unprecedented new wave of broadband traffic" would increase 50-fold by 2015 and that AT&T is investing $19 billion to maintain its network and upgrade its backbone network.
Cicconi added that more demand for high-definition video will put an increasing strain on the Internet infrastructure. "Eight hours of video is loaded onto YouTube every minute. Everything will become HD very soon, and HD is 7 to 10 times more bandwidth-hungry than typical video today. Video will be 80 percent of all traffic by 2010, up from 30 percent today," he said.
The AT&T executive pointed out that the Internet exists, thanks to the infrastructure provided by a group of mostly private companies. "There is nothing magic or ethereal about the Internet--it is no more ethereal than the highway system. It is not created by an act of God, but upgraded and maintained by private investors," he said.
Although Cicconi's speech did not explicitly refer to the term "Net neutrality," some audience members tackled him on the issue in a question-and-answer session, asking whether the subtext of his speech was really around prioritizing some kinds of traffic. Cicconi responded by saying he believed government intervention in the Internet was fundamentally wrong.
"I think people agree why the Internet is successful. My personal view is that government has widely chosen to...keep a light touch and let innovators develop it," he said. "The reason I resist using the term 'Net neutrality' is that I don't think government intervention is the right way to do this kind of thing. I don't think government can anticipate these kinds of technical problems. Right now, I think Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem."
Net neutrality refers to an ongoing campaign calling for governments to legislate to prevent Internet service providers from charging content providers for prioritization of their traffic. The debate is more heated in the United States than in the United Kingdom because there is less competition between ISPs in the States.
Content creators argue that Net neutrality should be legislated in order to protect consumers and keep all Internet traffic equal. Network operators and service providers argue that the Internet is already unequal, and certain types of traffic--VoIP, for example--require prioritization by default.
"However well-intentioned, regulatory restraints can inefficiently skew investment, delay innovation, and diminish consumer welfare, and there is reason to believe that the kinds of broad marketplace restrictions proposed in the name of 'neutrality' would do just that, with respect to the Internet," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement last year.
The BBC has come under fire from service providers such as Tiscali, which claim that its iPlayer online-TV service is becoming a major drain on network bandwidth.
In a recent posting on his BBC blog, Ashley Highfield, the corporation's director of future media and technology, defended the iPlayer: "I would not suggest that ISPs start to try and charge content providers. They are already charging their customers for broadband to receive any content they want
Justin said on 04/18/08 @ 10:12 PM:
".5% of our customer base is a few hundred vocal net users but not a fair representation of majority opinion."
Isn't this another way of saying, "we don't care what you think?" If the 0.5% is loud enough to get 20-50% hear that they are loosing a service, even if they don't use it, they will complain. Nobody likes having something taken away.
Robin W said on 04/19/08 @ 07:02 PM:
Just heard your excuse for charging more for bandwidth on OPB's website:
Dude. You're comparing GASOLINE to BANDWIDTH? That's not exactly a fair analogy. According to a Department of Energy website, over 50% of the cost of gasoline comes from the crude oil. Then, to use your own numbers, 2% of your customers are high usage. If 98% of those customers are extremely low, then the supply is obviously greater than the demand, which brings me back to gas: more and more people drive big gas guzzling SUVs and trucks every day which increases the demand while supply dwindles.
So, to make another analogy, if your oil is getting cheaper and the supply is plentiful, why are you charging us more for gas?
Frank said on 04/20/08 @ 03:10 PM:
Robin ... welcome to media :}. A thirty minute discussion is reduced to a soundbite. This is the difference between market economics, opinion and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
It's a simple business model. The model for residential broadband is breaking, and breaking fast, due to the consumption the top percentage of users increasing at a exponential rate compared to the vast majority. The margin is even tighter for rural broadband until we don't pay a 'rural tax' for transport from the wet side (PDX or SEA) or from way east (Salt Lake).
Facts (not soundbites) that effect the short term and break the residential broadband model:
1) Bandwidth from Tier1 folks have not declined significantly for $/bit over the last few years. I am hoping that a push to a 10Gbs core and DWDM (spectral multiplexing) will provide a reduction in the price/bit.
2) We must pay a up to a 40% backhaul fee to bring the Gbs to Central Oregon. There is not enough economies of scale for the big Tier 1 folks to create a VPOP (virtual POP) in which mileage is no longer a factor.
3) Consumption of the top percentage (5% use 50% now) is growing exponentially.
The short term decision is to:
- Raise the price for over 90% to fund the consumption trends of a minority.
- Create tiers to match value to have those who consume more fund the difference.
We are a market economy ... when business models break then there is change to bring the business back in line. Residential broadband, to put it simply, is in trouble as it doesn't provide a business model to meet the Internet revolution coming up.
We can argue on metaphysics and opinion ... but the business model tells the tale.
If the desire was to keep broadband away from a business model then the government should have kept it with DARPA ... but this is not how America works as DARPA released the EDU and COM space in the late 1980's.
Short term we have the same question as you ... who will pick up the check? The top few percent should. That is business.
In the long term the question is larger as we feel the consumption habits will grow. Hopefully, Tier1 prices move back down (as they did before the .com crash) and new last mile technologies reduce cost for last mile bandwidth (DOCSIS 3.0).
Frank said on 04/20/08 @ 03:20 PM:
Justin ... it is not that 'we don't care' ... but that we don't feel it is fair to have the majority of residential users subsidize the consumption habits of a very small minority.
Read the write for Robin above ... my fingers are frozen from being frozen with todays snow so pardon the typing errosmistakes.
We are on the same page that I am VERY concerned on getting the business model to pencil to keep up with the pace of innovation.
Short term is simple ... it doesn't pencil. I cannot find another business in which we ask for above 90% to pick up the check for the upper percentile. Can you?
Long term you are entirely correct ... how can we make the model pencil to keep the innovation of the Internet alive in the last mile and Tier 1 feeds.
There is a reason that the rest of the world and now the majory DSL and Cable folks in North America are moving here.
Good business is the balance between serving customers while making enough profit to FUND innovation.
Take care and keep up the good work! You need to be pushing your concerns into a national Internet referendum as this is an issue that must be met with the customer, tier1 folks and the last mile folks. You need to expand your vision as it is a complex tactical and strategic ecosystem).
Take care and keep up the word as the solution must be found ... but I honestly feel that we have to look beyond rhetoric and look at the future with joint answers.
Frank said on 04/20/08 @ 03:23 PM:
Robin one last point ... in order to LOWER the price of with creation of lower tiers we have to RAISE the price of the higher tiers in line with their consumption.
Based on the hullaballo I think that would fly worse than a Led Zepplin ... but a Ded Led Zepplin.
Frank said on 04/20/08 @ 04:03 PM:
Correction from above ... my fingers still are frozen ..
The short term decision is to either:
- Raise the price for over 90% to fund the consumption trends of a minority.
- Create tiers to match value to have those who consume more fund the difference
UndeadBeav said on 04/20/08 @ 06:08 PM:
From BendBroadband's online usage summary page:
"Please be aware that we have discovered a software bug in the bandwidth usage calculation. We are working with the vendor to resolve this issue which is affecting a small percentage of usage records. In order to provide customers with the maximum amount of time to monitor their usage, we are leaving the tool up during this time. Usage billing will not commence until July 1. Please be assured that we will not proceed with actual usage billing until we are 100% confident that the measurement is accurate. "
This just keeps getting better and better...
Frank said on 04/20/08 @ 08:31 PM:
We discovered a specific condition that was not correctly handled by the IPDR vendor. Even though this condition is a very, very rare event ... that just is not good enough as records need to be correct.
We were able to emulate this condition for root cause and escalated to our vendor last Friday and will not launch usage billing until it is accurate and veriable.
Frank said on 04/21/08 @ 09:41 AM:
Avoiding Net traffic tie-ups could cost you in future
By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY
Back in the days of dial-up, Internet users were content to watch text download onto screens, one excruciating line at a time.
Nowadays, people get annoyed if they have to wait more than a few seconds for downloads to their PCs, laptops or mobile devices. They also want Hollywood-quality video feeds for everything from TV shows and blogs to breaking news.
"People's expectations of the Internet have changed significantly," says Imran Shah, co-founder and managing partner of IBB Consulting in Boston. "As soon as they click, they expect video to be a seamless experience."
The good news for consumers is that the Web is awash with cool new applications — such as high-definition video — that tap into the power and reach of the Internet. The bad news: Net obsession in the future could cost you.
AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) have spent more than $70 billion in the past two years to expand capacity and fortify their networks with optical technology and other capacity-enhancing gear. Consumers will ultimately foot the bill. Trying to get broadband costs and revenue in line, some carriers are eyeing Internet service plans that charge by the megabyte. That could set the stage, eventually, for the end of Web plans that are priced on speed instead of actual consumption, which is now the case.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Washington | Oklahoma | Boston | Canada | PCs | Verizon Wireless | Consumers Union | Cisco | Gene Kimmelman | Web-enabled | Michael Lee | Encyclopedia Britannica | Rogers Communications | Internet-access | IBB Consulting | Hollywood-quality | Internet Innovation Alliance
The basic problem: Consumers are becoming enamored with applications such as streaming high-definition video that eat up a lot of bandwidth. It was OK so long as those applications were on the fringe, with few users. But pressure on broadband networks ratchets up significantly once millions of people start engaging in bandwidth-intensive activities simultaneously, says Suraj Shetty, a senior director at Cisco, the big equipment maker.
Pushing the trend along, he says, is the explosion of digital cameras and other Web-enabled devices. Peer-to-peer services, which give users a cheap way to share, steal and borrow files from computers worldwide, are another a factor, he says. More than 60% of Web traffic is generated by peer-to-peer computing. "These are the challenges of the 21st century," Shetty says.
Paying for what you use
By 2010, the average household will be using 1.1 terabytes (roughly equal to 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica) of bandwidth a month, according to an estimate by the Internet Innovation Alliance in Washington, D.C. At that level, it says, 20 homes would generate more traffic than the entire Internet did in 1995.
Larry Irving, co-chair of the alliance, which supports the spread of broadband, says it's only fair for consumers to pay for the bandwidth they use. "If you use more electricity, you pay for more electricity," he says. "This is no different." Right now, most Internet-access plans are priced by speed — faster plans cost more; slower ones are cheaper.
Consumer advocate Gene Kimmelman, public policy director of Consumers Union, says the issue isn't whether consumers should pay more, it's how carriers manage their bandwidth. Some carriers "could double or triple their Internet capacity if they cut down on their video-on-demand" offerings, he says.
That debate aside, Internet providers are starting to dabble with consumption-based subscription plans as consumers increasingly want access to the Web anytime, from any location.
Bracing for that reality, Verizon Wireless last month unveiled two monthly plans that charge by the megabyte for mobile broadband access — $39.99 for 50 megabytes and $59.99 for 5 gigabytes. Verizon says the plans offer ample bandwidth for most users. The 50-MB monthly plan is enough to handle 17,000 e-mails; the other can cover 1.7 million e-mails. The service is popular among business travelers; customers purchase a special modem that snaps into a laptop for an on-the-go Internet connection.
Customers who opt for the lower-price bucket will pay $1 for each additional megabyte; customers in the other plan pay 50 cents. Verizon says it has no plans to reprice its DSL services, which are used by 6.7 million residential and small-business customers.
Richard Lynch, Verizon's chief technology officer, says the new approach was designed with high-bandwidth users in mind. "It essentially lets you have all (the bandwidth) you want, as long as you help pay for it." The plans, he says, are also Verizon's way of putting bandwidth hogs on notice. "If a couple of guys are hogging the entirety of the network, we think they should pay."
You'll get no argument from Rogers Communications, which provides high-speed data services to 1.5 million customers in Canada. A few years ago, Rogers instituted bandwidth caps for high-speed customers. Caps are generous — 95 gigabytes for the most expensive plan, which costs $99.95 a month. The cheapest offers 2 gigabytes of bandwidth a month for $24.99.
Rogers recently started charging fees to those who exceed their monthly allotments. It also offers an online tool that customers can use to see how much bandwidth they're using. Strategy chief Michael Lee says Rogers is trying to sensitize customers to the fact that broadband capacity isn't unlimited, or free.
Peer-to-peer computing presents a special challenge, he says. "You can never put in enough capacity to satisfy the behavior."
Consumer addiction to the Internet is a double-edge sword for carriers. They stand to reap billions from additional data revenue. But they must spend heavily to add new capacity to stay ahead of demand.
In the rarefied world of high-speed networks, nothing is ever simple or cheap. Add too much capacity in the wrong place, and it will sit idle, with no hope of recovering its costs. Add too little, and a network will surely crash at the first hint of congestion, angering customers and regulators.
To avoid slowdowns, carriers have to manage their networks carefully, says Philippe Morin, a division president at Nortel, (NT) the big Canadian equipment maker. Otherwise, he says, "The user experience could go back to what we had with dial-up."
As for prioritizing traffic — a basic tool used by carriers for decades to maximize network efficiency — that's turned into a political sinkhole.
Under the banner of "net neutrality," Internet players such as Google (GOOG) argue that all digital bits are created equal and should be treated the same. In other words, transmission of a medical file to an emergency room doctor should be treated the same as, say, a Web search for Italian restaurants.
Morin says "net neutrality" has no meaning in the context of broadband networks, which are huge and exceedingly complex. Such networks, he says, are engineered to make optimum use of existing capacity — traffic is prioritized and shifted constantly to maintain smooth traffic flows. "Networks are managed," Morin says. "This concept of an unmanaged network, it's much more of a theory."
Video is the biggest driver of bandwidth consumption, by far. Online video-viewing soared 66% in the USA in February from a year earlier, according to market tracker ComScore.
Video site YouTube reflects the trend. It fields 100 million video downloads and 65 million video uploads daily. And a high-definition video-streaming option is on the way. Once that happens, high-definition video will go mainstream, Morin predicts.
The problem: High-definition video is the Humvee of broadband, guzzling five times as much capacity as regular video. Once high-definition video takes off, bandwidth consumption, now at a record high, could blow into the stratosphere, Morin says.
"We're into a new world now," he says. "Bandwidth planning for the peak of Mother's Day (calling) just doesn't work any more."
Caught off guard?
Vint Cerf, chief Internet evangelist for Google — that's his real title — says capacity constraints are just an excuse for carriers to squeeze customers.
Cerf's solution: a cap on speed, not usage. He says it makes more sense for consumers to pay for a maximum rate of transmission. As for the peer-to-peer problem, Cerf doesn't disagree that it eats up a lot of broadband capacity — maybe too much.
"It needs better engineering," says Cerf, one of the original architects of the technical protocols that led to the formation of the Internet. Cerf says the computing protocols that drive peer-to-peer services could easily be altered to make them more bandwidth-efficient.
But network capacity is the real issue, he says. Cerf thinks a lot of carriers were simply caught off guard by the explosion in Web usage, which is why they're running so hard now to catch up.
"Doubling (capacity) isn't enough," he says, not with bandwidth-sapping applications such as high-definition video headed their way. "These various attempts to constrain consumer demand … are a reflection of limited capacity and oversubscription."
Easy for Google to say, says Sprint's network chief, Kathy Walker. The Web giant doesn't have to plan, install, finance and maintain high-speed broadband networks that support millions of users. Nor does it have to worry about "the individual subscriber experience."
To ensure that consumers have a good Web experience, she says Sprint spends an awful lot of time on issues such as security, privacy and, yes, network capacity — making sure there's plenty for all the bandwidth-crunching applications that are gaining popularity. That said, "We have a finite amount of capital to deploy. It's a constant balancing act."
Scott said on 04/23/08 @ 11:32 AM:
I'm confused by something.
Is the issue with the cost from the Tier1 carriers or the last mile issue? I see both used in BBB's discussion. Someone elsewhere asked the question, What is the last mile cost difference to BBB for a grandma just checking her email and a uber user using 200G?
Keith said on 05/01/08 @ 10:37 AM:
you know I could run my TV all day long and not pay any more for it. And thats a LOT of HD video.
Derek said on 07/26/08 @ 07:49 PM:
So the bandwidth cap is in full swing and i couldn't be more upset. I have a three computer network with wireless, xbox 360, and a ps3. not to mention that my girlfriend likes to watch streaming HD re-runs of Lost. I pay a premium for my service and in the last three months i've averaged almost 110 gigs. BBB tells me that im i a three percentile of people that use more than 100 gigs. Needless to say i am looking at Bendtel more than ever.
Nameless One said on 09/10/08 @ 05:57 PM:
"Facts (not soundbites) that effect the short term and break the residential broadband model:
1) Bandwidth from Tier1 folks have not declined significantly for $/bit over the last few years. I am hoping that a push to a 10Gbs core and DWDM (spectral multiplexing) will provide a reduction in the price/bit."
Bulls--t, Frank. I can buy 1000Mbps of Bandwidth for $6000/month from Cogent. Or $10000/month from Level 3. Oh yeah, the same Level 3 pop that you have fiber into.
"2) We must pay a up to a 40% backhaul fee to bring the Gbs to Central Oregon. There is not enough economies of scale for the big Tier 1 folks to create a VPOP (virtual POP) in which mileage is no longer a factor."
Blah, blah, blah. Bandwidth is SO EXPENSIVE!!!!
NOT!!! Ok, so to haul from a large POP to Bend, you might spend another $6000 or $8000 per month per gigabit link. Big deal. You are f--king BEND BROADBAND. Don't you guys make any money?
"3) Consumption of the top percentage (5% use 50% now) is growing exponentially."
In other words, people are using bandwidth in NEW WAYS. This is the SAME thing that has been happening since the general public started getting real broadband in the mid to late 90s. It's simply technological evolution.
Don't let Frank's subtle attitude convince you that he's right. He's full of s--t. Bandwidth is cheap as dirt for Bend Broadband. At the capacity that Bend Broadband buys in, multiple gigabit links with redundant bandwidth might cost the company a total of $20000 or $30000 per month. Notice that Frank gives you percentages and not actual dollar amounts. The ACTUAL dollar amounts are less than 1% of Bend Broadband's revenue from Broadband products.
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