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Consolidated response Re: Will on-line backup be evil, too?
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2009 14:25:04 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: Brett Glass <brett () lariat net>
Date: March 27, 2009 1:47:22 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net, "ip" <ip () v2 listbox com>
Subject: Consolidated response Re: Will on-line backup be evil, too?
[Dave: Here's a consolidated response to two related messages, to save
traffic on the list. -Brett]
At 11:11 AM 3/27/2009, Ronald J. Riley wrote:
While I am not completely unsympathetic about the situation that
small ISP providers are in I do think that at least some of their
problems are do to excessive sales hype.
What aspect of our literature do you believe to be "sales hype?"
The fact is that our ISP is very explicit and accurate about both the
levels of service we provide and the limitations on each class of
service -- so much so that we sometimes lose business to providers,
such as the telephone and cable companies, which make inflated or
misleading claims about their service. (We refer to this as the
"megahertz problem," since it is reminiscent of the way that consumers
used to evaluate computers based on the clock speeds of their CPUs.
Intel reacted to this by creating the Pentium IV, a superscalar
processor which had less processing power than the Pentium III at the
same clock speed but could be clocked faster. It thus could mislead
consumers into buying a processor that had a higher clock speed but
worse performance than an equivalent AMD Athlon.) But unlike our
competitors, we can refer customers to a third party "speed test" site
and tell them that if they ever do not get the minimum guaranteed
throughput, they should call us because something is broken.
The truth is that buying internet connectivity is a lot like buying
airline tickets. In both cases the sellers play games about what
they are delivering.
We and other ethical ISPs do not do that. The customer may not have a
technical understanding of the terms (though we try our best to
explain them), but we really do deliver what we say we will.
Both oversell and then wonder why customers who come up short are mad.
Oversale is not a deceptive tactic, nor is it "sales hype." In fact,
due to the very nature of packet switched networks and the high price
of backbone bandwidth in rural areas, it is a necessary practice to
maximize the value that consumers can get for their dollars.
The fact is that bandwidth costs money -- and upstream bandwidth is
especially precious. Backbone bandwidth in our area costs $100 per
Mbps per month -- and some of our colleagues pay $325 or more per Mbps
per month. If we did not oversell, a 1 Mbps residential connection
would cost substantially more than $100. But by exploiting the natural
statistical properties of packet switched networks, and by basing our
rates on duty cycle as well as raw throughput in our pricing, we are
able to make broadband more affordable than that. This is good for
Currently, our ISP has P2P mostly under control but is being
challenged by the fact that our users are maxing out our bandwidth
during Internet "rush hours" (particularly from 5 to 7 PM, when users
come home and attempt to stream television programs). We are working
to find the most economical way to buy more. Yet, in these hard
economic times, consumers don't want to pay more and our suppliers are
seeking to raise -- not reduce -- their prices. In fact, the ILECs,
encouraged by their recent victory in AT&T v. LinkLine, are seeking to
drive competition out of business by raising the price of wholesale
services ABOVE retail. While Congress and the Obama administration are
wasting time and breath on Internet regulation ("network neutrality"),
this is the situation they really SHOULD be addressing.
At 11:05 AM 3/27/2009, Geoff Kuenning wrote:
This reminds me of the 80's, when people started making heavy use of
dialup modems. That played havoc with the the phone companies'
statistical assumptions about how long phone calls lasted. They tried
various ways of punishing customers who stayed online for long
but eventually recognized that another approach was needed and
technologies like ISDN and DSL.
In the long term, Comcast and everybody else, including our very vocal
Brett Glass, will be forced to reevaluate their hardware needs.
The message above reflects a misunderstanding of the problem.
The issue is not, as some of the lobbyists are claiming, "hardware
needs." I am an Electrical Engineer and have overdesigned our hardware
so that it is more than equal
to the challenges of increased demand. However, users will have to
expect to pay more to use such services, because the cost per Mbps of
backbone bandwdth is increasing, not decreasing, due to
anticompetitive practices and market concentration.
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- Consolidated response Re: Will on-line backup be evil, too? David Farber (Mar 27)