Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Two speed internet

Sorry, but WTF.

Quotes from BBC "It paves the way for an end to "net neutrality" - with heavy bandwidth users like Google and the BBC likely to face a bill for the pipes they use." make no sense.

I, as an ISP, can, right now, go to the BBC or google and say "we will not pass your packets to our customers unless you pay us". I believe ISPs have tried this before.

I, as an ISP, can, right now, go to the BBC or google and say "if you pay us some money we'll make sure your packets get priority over our network to our customers".

This has always been the case. It is a simple commercial decision.

It is also a simple commercial decision that the likes of BBC and google say "no problem, we'll stop sending packets to you". As an ISP it is simply not sensible for me to try and offer a service to my customers that does not have the BBC or google. They know that. I know that. So simple commerce works and we don't get paid by BBC or google.

Equally, if the likes of BBC or google came to us offering us money for priority access to customers, we could consider it. TBH, the way we run the network it would not help as we aim to have uncongested links, and so "priority access" for be the same as they get now - but that does not mean I would not take their money and mark the packets accordingly.

They say "It paves the way for an end to "net neutrality"", but I am not aware of anything that provides "net neutrality" now? So what is ending?

We already have people that pay money to join peering points, or pay money for direct links to us, and cases where we pay money for direct links to other people, so as to provide a better service for our customers. A prime example is direct links to VoIP providers as we sell VoIP to our customers and want that to work well. Someone doing VoIP with some other provider does not have the benefit of that direct link and so inherently gets a worse link (though not that it matters as we aim not to run any links full).

They say "In the US, President Barack Obama has backed net neutrality - treating all traffic equally - and regulators have threatened possible legal action against ISPs that block or restrict access to sites.". They say "Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are supposed to treat all web traffic equally". But I am not aware of any UK laws which insist on this. It would be interesting if there are such laws, after all, almost all ISPs are "blocking" accesses to all IPv6 only "sites" at present, and if laws say that is not allowed then we have legislation for IPv6! If such laws exist then the IWF would be outlawed for a start!

Maybe I have missed something - I am sure someone will post a reference.


  1. It's only really an issue when combined with an effective monopoly on services, which doesn't exist in the UK.

    If I were to find out that A&A were taking money from the BBC and google (for example) to prioritise their packets, and my access to other sites was slow or unreliable then I'd simply take my business elsewhere to get a more suitable service. It would simply be a commerical decision from A&A if they wished to trade money from some web site for a possible loss of dissatisfied customers.

    Some customers might well be happy with this arangement as it gives them good access to the sites the might want, and possibly means their subscription will be cheaper as the ISP has money from other sources. it's the free market in action and undoubtedly a good thing

    However if I were unable to make my business elsewhere if I was unhappy then I would not be happy with this situation. In the UK ISPs don't really have a monopoly, there are usually several different physical access suppliers and hundreds of ISPS, but in the USA I'm lead to believe that many people only have access through a single cable supplier for example.

    Clearly it's *that* situation that's the real issue here, but also I can see that a law for network neutrality seems much more sensible in that case, as you simply can't take your business elsewhere.

  2. Like John says, the big issue is nothing to do with 'neutrality', it's just about making sure there's plenty of choice of ISP.

    Much of the net-neutrality noise comes from people who feel that all interactions between human beings can be improved by the interposition of some branch of government. A few years ago the same sort of people thought that the future of Internet provision was in city-run WiFi networks. They can safely be ignored.

  3. Of course once the "blunt" end of the market get going on this, they'll start charging their users addons to get priority and all sorts of other crap - but do nothing in the background. The sheeple will merely look at the bottom line and decide if it's cheap enough or not. No looking at performance, reliability or any of the things that professionals and those who care look at.

  4. As I understand it, part of the issue is Telco X prioritising their movie streaming service over competing services, which is clearly anticompetitive behaviour. They would be unfairly leveraging their position as an ISP to shut out innovation and competition.

  5. OK, but AFAIK telco X do not even have to route packets to/from competing services at all. One *can* sell an internet type service which is a closed "walled garden" of services and not connect to some or all of the external internet, and certainly not do so at the same speed/priority.

    At present we have almost all (not us) UK ISPs not connecting to chunks of the internet (IPv6).

    At present we have something like 95% (not us) of UK ISPs deliberately blocking parts of the internet (IWF).

    I expect that nearly 100% of ISPs running an email service have those email servers preferentially connected to their customers (by virtue of the servers being physically on their network). This is even though there are competing email services available to their internet customers.

    All of this is seen as perfectly acceptable.

    What makes this not anti-competitive is they do not have to by our internet service in the first place.

    What I don't understand is why the fact ISPs can do this, and do do this, is seen as "news". I don't understand the "news" aspect. This is not new...

  6. If it's not new and this isn't going to be an issue, why the speech by Ed Vaizey?

    ...I'm cynical, so I would suspect it's because the bigger players would like to head in this direction, and have lobbied government to ensure they're not going to run into any problems further down the line.

  7. If the BBC or Steam or $data_hungry service wanted to pay you to colocated a mirror in one of your racks I'm all for that, in fact it would probably be a selling point.

    One of the things people look for in ISPs (domestic or otherwise) is peering and connectivity arrangements and that will always be un-equal for someone who happens to have located their datacentre(s) somewhere unfavourable for a given provider.

    I may have "neutral" access to servers in Scotland and London, but there's a damn good reason why I favour London based services for games!

    Given that talk-talk recently announced plans to place VOD mirrors in unbundled exchanges (clearly not neutral, but it is quite innovative and a USP in the UK market) this sounds like a nod of consent. Got to be quite worrying for someone like LoveFilm though.

    The "google ipv6 trial" is another good example of something (fairly sensible? that is open to debate I guess) that is clearly not neutral, either in the US or the UK.

  8. When a company's PR spinner comes out with "news" of this kind a motive is always present. If they are "helpfully drawing our attention to a situation", you can be certain that they are trying to stir up a reaction to that. The situation does not have to be real, or new, or related to the reaction they want in a logical way; they simply say whatever they think will get the reaction they want.

    In this case, I believe that the BBC is afraid that a certain large pay-TV provider is going to (a) become an ISP and bundle their own TV service while downgrading BBC services to the point of uselessness, (b) cut deals with some other ISPs to do the same.

    So, they are angling for outcry and legislation that would prevent that scenario. I don't fancy their chances when aforementioned pay-TV company is related to popular news media outlets that are powerful manipulators of the "truth".

    Scenario (a) is already in motion, but I think there's a long way to go before it works as intended. It's probably (b) that has them most worried right now.

    I think the UK is looking forward to a situation where pay-TV starts trying to cut deals with ISPs to deliver VoD services preferentially, ideally offering packages to customers where data service and TV are bundled together with apparent savings.

    They will encourage ISPs to join in with this scheme with financial sweeteners, but they will also provide free PR to prominent partners who get on board early because that's a lot cheaper than handing them a decent share of their VoD revenue.

  9. Indeed, but it is going to be impossible to legislate cleanly to stop such things. I mean if you offer some technical means to access your TV station (whether cable, satellite or IP) surely that is fine. So an IP based streamed TV that is totally walled garden or private IPs on legacy IPv4 as a TV service is fine, surely. And then insisting such a service not also allow internet access (i.e. allowing access to BBC as well)? That is crazy.

  10. Is this the link you were expecting somebody to post? :)

    Net Neutrality Article on The Register

    Obviously not, because it was written after your post, but it does show how the other half think about this.

  11. Isn't the issue mostly to do with BT?

    Huge chunks of ADSL provision use BT's equipment even if I'm using a better ISP or different ISP.

    What if BT Broadband paid BT Infrastructure some notes to prioritise ALL traffic from their customers at the expense of everyone else?

    What if "FuzzyCat's Wonderful Video Service" really takes off and Google decide they really need to encourage people back to YouTube. Let's say they pay off BT, Virgin etc to prioritise YouTube video over FWVS - it's not about denying access to google or the bbc it's about squashing start up competition and the innovations they bring.

    Perhaps I'm blinded by my paranoia or just missing something obvious.


  12. Oh, just one other point.

    I was wondering. If ISP's start tagging packets isn't that akin to editing thus changing the position of the ISP in terms of responsibility as to the content that passes through them?


  13. AFAIK there is nothing really to stop that now, other that there being nothing in the terms we have with BT for the links we use that would allow them to cripple our usage. Having said that they do *not* guarantee uncongested links now, so they could do it.

    My point is that this could happen and AFAIK is perfectly allowed now, so what makes this "news"? The headline is an end to net neutrality, but we don't have that now.

    Of course, if BT did that, we would look to moving something like 70% of our lines to Be. So it is a commercial decision at the end of the day.

  14. I doubt tagging packets does - it is not editorial control - it does not decide if something is published or not.