If I were ever to build a last mile ISP

Posted by Thomas Fri, 28 Sep 2007 01:02:24 +0000

Another post that’s been lingering in the drafts for too long…

If I were ever to build a last mile ISP, this is what I’d do:

  • QOS things like I would QOS my own network, relegating bulk services to the bottom of the heap, giving sensible priorities to everything else. No odd net-neutrality biases, just being fair or unfair equally to everyone, just to keep base services snappy so you don’t notice that your neighbor is hogging all the bandwidth. Buy a decent size pipe, but set expectations that everybody will be sharing it and to be good stewards of a communal resource.
  • Allow multicast. I don’t know how this would work, but nobody else is doing it, and I would imagine it would help a bunch. Ideally this would cut down on transit bandwidth, with the added plus of just being really cool.
  • Allow/maybe even facilitate file sharing across the local network. Intra-network bandwidth should be cheap. Let people share all they want on the local lan. Give some guidance so that people know what they’re sharing, how that will affect their bandwidth and their personal computer’s performance, and what liabilities they might incur by sharing.
  • Pursue aggressively cached content. Start with http, but cache as much as possible, even videos or whatever. Maybe even try to work with the big content providers to see what we can work out to be mutually beneficial. But, don’t sacrifice bandwidth for latency. Always make sure that the cached content is as snappy (if not more so) as the original.
  • Give little to no professional technical support. Other cheap ISPs have done this. I would too.
  • Use a good system to mitigate virus traffic and segment offenders from the network. I think that there are a couple of implementations in the wild doing this. Re-checks must be quick and efficient, so as to not punish people unduly.
  • Don’t provide any email or web hosting. Less complexity, less to support, and less to break. Point them to nice email hosting like Gmail or Google Apps.

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Net Neutrality Part II

Posted by Thomas Wed, 26 Sep 2007 00:54:32 +0000

This post probably isn’t quite baked all the way, but you get the drift and I get it out of my draft blog posts…

I wrote Part I quite a long time ago, but recently, the Justice department released an opinion coming out in favor of allowing market forces to determine whether or not an ISP can offer non-net-neutrality tiered services. And the I’d-rather-see-less-legislation-than-more-legislation side of me can see their argument. But I’m not really sure here that free market forces would truly be able to outweigh the telco’s greed and desire to get in on a piece of the proverbial pie. We’re talking about a service that every day comes closer and closer to being less like a luxury and more like a necessity (almost as much as electricity, water, etc.).

So, they cite the Post Office, charging differently for different types and sizes of parcels, expediency requirements, and safety requirements. That’s fine. That’s the market at work responding to people’s willingness to pay more for more services, while a perfectly reasonable form of sending a package will always exist at an acceptably low cost. But, this does not directly correspond to what I think has been proposed. What has been proposed is that someone would pay not based on the size or type of parcel, but what the parcel contains. I suppose the Postal Service analogy does make its way through, in that the sender (the website you’re trying to reach) would have to cough up the extra change. But there the parallel breaks down because then you don’t really have control if the website you want to go to has paid extortion money to your ISP to actually allow them onto their network.

So, in this parcel analogy, let’s say there is no other option but FedEx Express Shipping. Shipping is cheap, and everybody’s parcel is equal, and things get around the country pretty quickly. Let’s say you just bought a book from Amazon. They ship it, it goes into shipping first come, first served, and you get your book. In this new world though, Amazon has to pay for your package just to eventually arrive at your house. I suppose they could even do tiers and say you have to pay us to even allow your package through FedEx shipping, pay even more to get the old level of service, and can pay even more for Extra-Express Shipping, which will bump you to the front of the line in the FedEx shipping world. Now that may be fine if I choose exactly how quickly I want my book to get here, but it’s not ok if the shipper extorts money from the big shippers like Amazon and plays favorites with some other book seller.

Shouldn’t market forces drive the cost down and the quality of service (no pun intended) up? Doesn’t Amazon sign a deal with FedEx that’s mutually beneficial to both of them, and the consumer.

I think there’s also a lot to be said about how people don’t really have a choice when buying high speed internet. I ran across a comparison of provider choice in the US versus the UK and it was mind boggling. They had something like 50 providers to choose from where we have 2. Doubtful that the market can work itself out with odds like that.

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Bros before hos

Posted by Thomas Mon, 24 Sep 2007 00:48:50 +0000

It’s been quite a dry spell, here at the ol’ blog. What juicy bits can I dig up to tell…

I was in California for 2 weeks, from August 27 through September 9. Looking back, it was a perfectly fine trip. But I felt pretty odd about it just before and during. I really just didn’t want to go in the first place. I never really understood why, but I put off packing as late as humanly possible (I started packing at like 1am the night before I left). My heart just wasn’t in it. Then I had this string of a couple of bad days. And then I guess for whatever reason I started feeling better, and at the end of the 2 weeks, I didn’t want to leave. Which seems altogether odd to me, but perhaps it’s the change that I shy away from and not really the actual trip or the destination.

Upon my arrival back to Atlanta, my car promptly didn’t start. No lights, no nothing. The guy who picked me up from the airport was finally able to jump start me. I let it sit for a bit and eventually headed towards home. I drove around for a bit, picked up dinner, and searched for an open auto parts store, only to find none. Once I got home I let it sit and charge for a bit. I then turned it off so I could test to see if I would be stranded again in the morning. It immediately returned to a no lights, no nothing state. The next morning I managed to get someone to jump me off again and headed to the Napa store. They checked the battery, found it dead, so we replaced it. I guess while it was pretty straightforward, it was still a pain.

My car still needs new tires. I continue to put it off. I have no real idea how many tires I really need and I will eventually have to get new tires before I head up to the East Coast Wesleyite thing. I definitely don’t trust them enough now to go all the way there and back.

My video card started being very flaky on me. X would freeze, and start using 100% cpu. You could still move the mouse, but not click on anything, and the keyboard wouldn’t work. You could still ssh into it and restart. What was worse is that eventually it got so bad that it would do this 5 minutes after boot. A 5 minute usable window isn’t that usable. I got another video card from a friend, but it’s not dual headed, so it’s not too much fun.

Also, I thought it would be nifty to run a self-test on my ups. Not a good idea. Now it says I need to get the battery replaced (Emergency! Batteries have failed on UPS argento. Change them NOW). Not a good sign. I guess it’s had a good run, but I’d rather not spend money on stuff like that. I’ve been needing a second one anyway, so if I got one, I’d really need to get two.

And, since I was having all these issues with argento, I’m thinking that now might be a good time to buy new guts for it.

Well, I did manage to read Freakonomics while I was gone (actually I read a bunch of it on the way back on the plane).

I will be signing a 3 month lease, so my rent is going up to the “market rate” of $730. I continue to have this looming question of how soon I should go to California. This decision has been especially hard for me. I really don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t think I ever mentioned it here, but I got a new manager way back when at the first of July. It means I’m officially doing different stuff than I was before and working for a group based out of Mountain View. All in all a very good thing.

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Net Neutrality Part I

Posted by Thomas Thu, 06 Sep 2007 18:21:05 +0000

There has been a whole lot of buzz around net neutrality, so I’m going to take a crack at it from my perspective. There are a lot of people out there commenting on this, such as here and here and even at Ask A Ninja. I’m in the middle of reading some of the commentary over here at the moment. I’m in the middle of a 65 page position paper that I’m not sure quite gets the gist of the real network neutrality debate. Which is especially hard to do now, because none of the telcos have actually yet disturbed network neutrality. So, that means that everyone is commenting on pure speculation as to what the telcos might do in the future. And, unless you have some inside information as to what that might really turn out to be, you’re sort of tilting at windmills. From what I can gather, the telcos would extort money from website owner. Telcos would penalize those who didn’t pay up, making their websites slower or even unreachable. And in today’s “Web 2.0″ atmosphere, latency is king, which is why I can imagine many websites would pony up to gain yet another advantage. Some say that it would akin to freeways

If you think of this in terms of freeways, what if the rich people were allowed to go faster than the poor people simply because they paid more taxes?1

Which I don’t think is quite right, because I don’t think that the telcos would make us pay, but rather I think they would find more money getting websites to pay. This document (that I’m not done reading yet) speaks to congestion economics, which I can only imagine are really talking about user of streaming video, peer to peer (P2P), and Bittorent traffic squeezing out other users. Which I also don’t think is quite right. I would imagine that most people would be happy to have those general file transfer protocols QOS’ed heavily to make room for the latency sensitive traffic such as http, voip, ssh, streaming video, etc. (Streaming video is both high bandwidth and latency sensitive…) I think he misses the point and the likely way that this will be turned against internet-goers. As always, companies will pass the buck. If they have to pay extra to get better latency to their customers, but ultimately the cost will simply be passed on to the customer as higher priced goods and services. So the telcos might squeeze the website owners in the beginning, but we’ll get squeezed in the end. So not only do I think that he missed the way that net neutrality will be used against us, I imagine that he also missed many of the technical aspects of how hard it really would be to really reduce peer to peer traffic. Not only will people turn to obfuscation, encryption, and anonymization, but QOS’ing bittorrent traffic might actually have the exact opposite effect, being more detrimental to an ISP’s bandwidth2. Now whether or not this is true needs more study, but it is interesting none the less. Also, if telcos were to implement what I have outlined here, I am curious if they then become liable for the content being transmitted over their network. Up until now, I don’t think that the telcos are in any way liable or responsible for anything illegal done via their phones or via their backbones. I think they’ve been immune to such lawsuits, but I’m curious if they start filtering on the application level, if they will then be sued so that they have to filter for illegal music or movie downloads, child pornography, spam, viruses, etc.

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