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Re: New Short Video: "Network Neutrality in 30 Seconds" (Part 1)
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 12:52:55 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Barry Gold <bgold () matrix-consultants com>
Date: August 27, 2008 11:25:54 AM EDT
To: "Patrick W. Gilmore" <patrick () ianai net>
Cc: Dave Farber <dave () farber net>
Subject: Re: [IP] Re: New Short Video: "Network Neutrality in 30 Seconds" (Part 1)

Patrick W. Gilmore wrote:
I have a couple questions regarding your assumptions.
First, the ISP has to pay somebody else (a backbone provider) for a
"hose" (water main) to transmit their packets to the rest of the
internet. If their customers demand more bandwidth, they have to buy a
bigger water main.  And that needs to be paid for somehow: either by
raising rates for all their customers, by charging the heaviest users
extra, by imposing bandwidth "caps" to encourage the heaviest users to
buy a higher service tier, or some combination.
First, why does the broadband provider have to pay a "backbone"? Most of the filtering, capping, limiting, etc. is centered around the P2P debate. Cable-cos and DSL providers almost all have free peering with one another, and P2P is almost exclusively traffic between end users on these networks. Where did the "backbone" come in?

OK, having read the Wikipedia article on "Tier 1 networks," I'm inclined to agree with you. It appears that most large cable ISPs are probably "Tier 2" but peer with each other and hence don't pay transit/ settlement charges.

What that means for this discussion is that most large ISPs (cablecos and telcos) really don't have external charges as an excuse for limiting user traffic. There's still the other issue I raised, however.

Also, Verizon and SBC both own Tier One providers, who pay no one. They are what you would cll the "backbone". (Leaving aside how very wrong that word and its connotations are in this discussion.) And what do you think the chances are the large MSOs aren't thinking about buying a Tier One or becoming one themselves?

Yes. I was talking about cablecos, not telcos. I agree that Verizon & SBC/AT&T own their own "backbones" and, as such, any settlements are purely "funny money" (internal funds).

Second, the current system is asymmetric(4). The installed fiber/ wire base can carry multi-terabits downstream (CO to customer) but only a few gigabits upstream (customer to CO). This usually applies to the "hoses"
they buy from backbone providers too: a gigabyte of outgoing packets
costs significantly more than a gigabyte of incoming packets.
First, you admit DOCSIS 3.0 is symmetric, and you ignore the DSL providers.

Yes. I was specifically talking about cablecos. There is no asymmetry for telcos and other DSL providers, and _over the next few years_ the assymetry will disappear for cablecos as well. So my analysis applies only right now, not 2-3 years from now.

 But even granting the idea that upstream bandwidth is
limited, there is no cost associated with it. The "backbone" providers charge on the greater of in or out, not the sum of the two. Since you admit downstream capacity is greater than upstream, the cable-cos will not be charge for outgoing bits and realistically never will be.

Again, this is probably true of cablecos/telcos. Brett reports buying asymmetric connections from larger providers, and while I think he is biased, I have no reason to disbelieve his first-hand reports. Assuming Brett is telling the truth, it seems likely that most other small providers will do something similar: pay less for an asymmetric connection because it _costs_ significantly less than one that can carry the same bit rate in both directions.

Or maybe not. Perhaps Brett is in an unusual position, having to buy his connection "retail" from a cableco rather than directly from a Tier 1 or even Tier 2 provider. In which case, the problem affects only him and other similarly-placed (semi-)rural providers. In which case, regulators could (and IMHO should) make appropriate exceptions for smaller providers like Lariat and only apply NN rules to larger ones.

Remaining, however, is the congestion problem. If a cableco is currently running DOCSIS 2, they have a lot more bandwidth available for downloads than for uploads, and customers who make a more symmetric use, uploading nearly as much as they download, can cause a congestion problem for other users who share the same cable node. I think that is sufficient reason for them to "cap" or at least delay upward traffic for the heaviest users.

But, repeating what I said earlier: I think any such limits should be based on _quantity_, not on _protocol_. Just count the packets and the bits, and don't worry about what's inside them. (These aren't the bits you're looking for. They can go about their business. Move along...)

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