Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 31, 2008

There has been quite the flurry of articles about Comcast's recent policy change regarding bandwidth. Some hail it as the greatest thing since sliced bread while others condemn it as just another way for the company to force their customers to use less bandwidth. Some are asking if 250 gigs a month is enough.

Comcast says that 99% of their customers use the internet well under this limit. Personally I dispute that unvalidated statement. When my families Internet was terminated for 12 months we started asking around and noticed two others in our neighborhood ALSO were terminated within a couple months. Those are odds I'd love to take to Vegas.

Will this be a good thing for Comcast customers? Time will tell. I have several questions which I haven't found answers to. Perhaps someone here can answer them.

First, Will this limit include Comcast traffic as well as Internet traffic?

Second, Will Comcast customers be able to validate they are using that much traffic when they get "The Call"?

Third, if more than 250 Gigs per month are consumed, is there a higher tier available with more bandwidth?

Fourth, In the event of a mistake, what process is in place to challenge Comcast's findings. Is there an escalation process basically?

Fifth, how much really is too much bandwidth?

Unless Comcast answers these questions I don't see how much has changed other than the bandwidth limit is now stated like all other ISP's. Also, in today's age of Internet Innovation, we see full HD movies coming to the web browser. That's right, Internet providers don't have just P2P and downloads to worry about. From what I'm hearing, P2P has leveled off last year and HTTP traffic is the growing problem.

I decided to check and was stunned to learn TV shows such as Heroes, South Park and other's are all available online. And this was from companies such as NBC.COM, South Park Studios and so on.

Internet bandwidth usage will ONLY increase in the coming years.

Speaking of which, I was pleased to hear our Government is beginning to realize just how badly America is in need of a national broadband strategy. I haven't heard much from the Republican side regarding what they plan on doing however the Democrats seem to be coming around to the idea that it should be treated like Infrastructure.

The Democrats' position on broadband is to treat it more like critical infrastructure--like roads, bridges and the water supply. From the Party Platform: "We will implement a national broadband strategy, especially in rural areas, that enables every American household, school, library and hospital to connect to a world-class communications infrastructure."

It continues: "In an increasingly technology-rich, knowledge-based economy, connectivity is a key part of the solution to many of our most important challenges: job creation, economic growth, energy, health care and education."

At the current rate, we won't catch up to Japan for about 100 years without help.

"We need high-speed Internet for our homes, schools, hospitals, and workplaces," the authors of the report recommend. "Speed defines what is possible on the Internet. It determines whether we will have the 21st century networks we need to create the jobs of the future, develop our economy, and support innovations in telemedicine, education, public safety, and public services to improve our lives and communities."

I recall a speech by President Bill Clinton regarding NAFTA. He mentioned we will be transitioning to a technology economy in the years to come. That was over a decade ago! Without the infrastructure in place, I wonder how we can expect to complete that move? BTW, I've been searching for a reference for that statement. If anyone has found one please share :-)

One more comment about broadband. It seems Comcast isn't alone with the 250 Gig monthly limit. Seems Qwest 'may' also have set limits as well.

We’ve wrote before that ISPs are looking for new ways to manage their network by introducing bandwidth caps and metered plans. Although we’re not in favor of it, we have to applaud Comcast for being open about it. Most other ISPs have similar policies, limiting their unlimited services, but they seem to get away with it. One of these ISPs is Qwest, one of the larger Internet providers in the western United States, who forces customers to accept an invisible 250 GB cap.

Indeed, as we have said before, ISPs should think ahead. To most “normal” customers 250 GB may sound as a lot of bandwidth, but this might be totally different in the future. Making an online backup of your harddrive is pretty much impossible with a bandwidth cap like this, so will HD-streaming. It hinders innovation while it’s ignoring the real problem. ISPs should invest in their network instead, but I guess it’s not only the entertainment industry that finds it hard to adapt to technological change.

So we have a new (capped) future before us. Seems Internet Providers are deciding to limit innovation rather than build out their Infrastructure. I have yet to hear what happened to the NII money from 1994. So after a brief search of tools to monitor usage, I came across this article. Some of the tools looks decent enough.

Personally I like vnstat for linux. It was nice to see Ubuntu had the package already available. After a minute of setup I can see hourly, weekly, and monthly totals. It even gives a 'guess' of what my total consumption of the month may be. I recommend vnstat. And especially if you want a GUI there is PHPvnstat. Creates a nice web page with some nice graphs.

Speaking of Ubuntu. I was surprised to hear of Comcast giving the cold shoulder when a customer mentioned they were running Linux. I'm glad they are running ok now but the response was inappropriate.

the support agent refused to give her the case number, restating the fact that Comcast does not support Linux. He even went as far to say that the company supports Windows, Mac OSX, and even Unix (note that both Linux and OSX are a form of Unix), but not Linux. Needless to say, Mrs. Gorman was not pleased with this response. I would not want to have been the Comcast employee during the resulting conversation. For the next several minutes, she chastised the employee about the evils of discriminating against a customer due to their choice in operating system. Once thoroughly chastised, the employee was more forthcoming with the case number.

I was amused at least. You have to go higher up the food chain until you found someone who understood how lame that statement was. For the record, I ran Linux on the Comcast network for years without issue.

Speaking of which, I've been running Ubuntu on my new computer for the last few weeks without issue. The P180 Antec case, Artic Cooler CPU fan and 120 mm case fans make this computer whisper quiet and yet it's very powerful. I'm running several programs in WINE including Counterstrike Source, Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4. All run just great on my Nvidia 9800 GTX with their proprietary driver. The ONLY problem I've had is chatting in my steam friends list. I'll have to work on that. Otherwise I highly recommend scrapping Windows and moving to Ubuntu.

One more note. I had to share this article with you :-)

It's funny to see Comcast's numbers have changed.

* Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
* Download 62,500 4 MB songs (at 4 MB/song)
* Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
* Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)

What I want to know is how many gigs is that in DAT cartridges ;-)

Ok I'm kidding. Still it's unrealistic. Standard definition video's isn't the future boys. Everybody is going high def. And 2 Gigs a movie is low from what I'm seeing.