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Comment: Re: Invisible hand (Score 1) 536

You're right. I did ignore a lot of those things, though presumably you as an individual would incur most of those same costs. The point was to demonstrate the costs that you would pay, but Comcast wouldn't. I suppose I didn't quite do that as well as I had hoped. Mea culpa.

Of course, in most places, the utility companies are required to mark the lines at the landowner's request, at no charge, so that's not a cost; it's just a "to do". (Amusingly, that's probably one of the few costs that Comcast would incur that the landowner wouldn't.)

Either way, there's some profit margin built into any contracting company's fees, and a company big enough to have their own custom cable and conduit manufacturing is also probably big enough to hire their own employees, thus cutting out that portion of the cost. Whether they choose to do so or not is another question, of course.

Comment: Re: Invisible hand (Score 3, Informative) 536

They were independent contractors hired by Comcast with a Contract requirement that they badge their trucks and wear Comcast shirts. Comcast supplies the materials, there is an advantage to labeled conduit in that people digging utility test holes can easily identify the owner.

Maybe so, but if so, they're playing a very dangerous game. The legal term that comes to mind here is "agency by estoppel." Briefly put, that term means that if a company authorizes you to act on their behalf, and if they allow you to look and act like an agent of a company, then the company can be held liable for your actions.

As long as Comcast's name is on those trucks, if they screw up, Comcast is almost guaranteed to be held liable in court, regardless of whether the workers are employees or independent contractors. That legal risk is the reason that most contracts these days contain clauses that forbid you from representing yourself as being a partner of or an agent of that company.

The only communication utility that has direct buried cables (no conduit) that I'm even aware of is very old installations of telephone wires. I have run into some of the older fiber optic cables that were not in conduits but they were in armored cables with flowable fill. Such cables aren't used for anything that's not very very important. Anything installed within about the last 30 years when cheap PVC conduit became cheap is now in conduits.

Admittedly, I've only seen cables being buried for cable companies in rural areas, but they were A. coax, and B. not in any sort of conduit whatsoever. That was only a few years ago, and I doubt that practice has changed much except in areas that have gone to fiber. Mind you, that practice does vary widely from place to place, so if you live in a city (or even within twenty or thirty miles of a large city), I can understand why you would not have seen it. That doesn't mean it isn't common practice in truly rural areas.

So rural is easier, but then it's about the same cost?

It's easier, but the distance is also longer. The cost is higher in rural areas, because fewer houses can be served by a single line or set of lines. However, it isn't as much higher as the distance implies, because you don't have to bore under a driveway or sidewalk every fifty feet (and/or dig up and re-build sidewalks and driveways). Building the infrastructure while you're putting in a neighborhood is much cheaper than building it later for the same reason. The less crap you have to work around, the less it costs to put lines in. That statement is amazingly straightforward, and I would challenge you do prove it wrong.

You might find this hard to believe because you don't know what you are talking about but the cost to install the cable to this one house could be a million dollars. He could be on the outer limit of the amplification limits such that it would require them to install an entire fiber hut and amplification system. He could be on the other side of a protected refuge or there could be major utilities between him and the closest connection. In fact there could hundreds of reasons that only Comcast knows about why they can't afford to service that house. There is little point is speculating about what those reasons are unless you want to pay the $5K it would cost for an engineering and locate study to check the feasibility of the installation.

I'm not speculating. The person in question did the installation. There were no boosters, no multi-million-dollar fiber huts. The person paid to have someone trench and run a cable. The cable company lit the cable. End of story. Therefore, I do know that none of those things were necessary, and none of the things you're talking about are even slightly relevant in this case. Clearly the cost was not a million dollars. In fact, it was about $3,000. It is safe to say that if it were going to cost Comcast a million bucks to light up the cable, they would not have agreed to do so in exchange for the original poster spending a mere $3k to run the cable him/herself.

The facts seem pretty clear here, and the fact is that it cost $3k for a random individual to hire a contractor, who in turn got all the necessary permits and permissions and ran the line. Therefore in the absolute worst case, it would have cost Comcast... $3k to run the line. And that's naïvely assuming that they don't get better deals from the contractors by buying in bulk (both in terms of the materials costs and the labor costs). That's also assuming that the cable company doesn't already have agreements in place that make it easier for them to access the right-of-way than a contractor working on behalf of some random landowner. And so on.

Comment: Re: Invisible hand (Score 3, Informative) 536

First, all Comcast construction is done by contractors for liability reasons. This isn't negotiable for a large company, a single improper process for a contractor digging a utility in could bankrupt even a company of Comcast's size if their employee's were directly involved in the right incident.

The folks digging up our street were Comcast employees (or at least contractors working for Comcast, not some installer company). They drove Comcast trucks. They ran underground pipes that were manufactured specifically for Comcast, with their name printed every few inches all the way down the length of the tubing. Maybe you don't realize just how big a company we're talking about here.

As for liability, there's a little thing called liability insurance. Companies doing that sort of work have to have it, and if they hire a company to do the work, the company they hire has to have it. It is usually required by law. Whether Comcast pays that cost directly or indirectly is irrelevant; they're still paying the cost of that insurance. Comcast chooses to use contractors in some places because they don't have enough work to keep full-time staff occupied, and/or because it confers tax advantages to use contractors instead of employees. The liability claim is just something they tell contractors so they don't realize how badly they're getting screwed.

Second, though it may only cost $200 a day to rent it's rather irrelevant because Comcast pays the going Contract rate for installations.

Think about this: You're a contracting company that specializes in pulling cables. You have two options:

  1. Work hard to find a bunch of small jobs, knowing that if you can keep your schedule full all day, you'll make n dollars, but realistically knowing that some days you'll barely make n/4 dollars.
  2. Take a contract with Comcast that pays .5n dollars, knowing that they're going to keep sending you work on an ongoing basis.

Which one would you choose? Most contracting companies would choose B, knowing that they'll still be able to pay their employees the same wages, but the company as a whole will be more immune to market fluctuations.

Third, if you think digging the cable in is the only cost you have no concept. There is the planning and engineering costs, the utility mapping, the right-of-way access, the coordination with the local city and the compliance with the local building codes, the insurance costs, the contract management costs, the inspection costs, the quality control and quality assurance. Pulling and splicing cables through the conduits, power and other interconnection costs, splicing the cables, testing and validation, and plant hookup.

Maybe you didn't read the original post. This was about a rural installation. In my experience, that usually means bare coax cables in the ground (no conduit, and probably not fiber), minimal utility mapping (relatively few houses with taps from the power and phone lines), minimal planning and engineering. I mean yes, you do have to do utility mapping, but it's a whole lot easier to map a rural street with a straight wire that parallels the road than it is to map a suburban street that has wires going in random directions from transformers to houses every fifty or one hundred feet.

The cable company would have to comply with the local building codes no matter what. I doubt there's a huge difference there between a rural install and an urban install. If anything, the rural install is probably more laid back, less rigorous, and has lower overall compliance cost. A building code inspector isn't likely to inspect the entire length of wire, but rather the termini, so that cost should be about the same for a 1,000-foot run as for a 50-foot run, assuming it doesn't require them to install any boosters along the way (and if it did, he/she wouldn't have gotten satisfactory results by running the line himself/herself, so we can safely assume that it did not). Similarly, they had to hook it up to their network whether he was thirty feet from the street or a thousand feet, so that cost is also irrelevant. The only relevant factor that makes this house different from any other is the cost of running a thousand feet of cable in a slit in the ground.

Verizon's pass cost (the cost to put a cable in front of the house) was about $1500 per house in a typical suburban environment. It probably costs about another $500-$1000 to dig the cable to the house install the ONT and pull the cable to the jack.

The pass cost was very nearly paid by having service in the street just 1,000 feet away. Remember that, the cost of running a cable in the suburbs is typically much higher than the cost of doing so in a rural area, because you have to deal with a lot more sidewalks, roads, and driveways. Mind you, the extra distance makes up for a lot of that, but 1,000 feet really shouldn't be a big deal, assuming they don't have to dig up any roads (extra permission) or put up any poles (extra cost and probably extra permission).

Comment: Re: Invisible hand (Score 1) 536

We're talking about the lines that they put in the ground, not the in-home installers. And I'd expect most independent contractors to be glorified employees, just under month-to-month contracts.

But even if they contract other companies to do the digging work, they're still paying a lot less for them than you would be as an individual, because those companies know that you are a one-time job, and they need to get as much as they can out of you, whereas the Comcasts of the world are repeat customers that will keep sending you business.

Comment: Re: Invisible hand (Score 3, Informative) 536

It's only expensive because you were paying for it. The cable companies employ people to run cables, which makes those employees basically a sunk cost. They have to have those people to do repairs on an ongoing basis. When they aren't doing repairs, it costs the cable nothing to have them run lines to new houses, beyond the cost of the wire, which I suspect is somewhere between a third and a sixth of what you paid. (Over the long term, this isn't true, but when it comes to short-term variation, it is.)

Moreover, it costs $200 to rent a trenching machine for a day, and probably less than that to hire someone for a day to run the thing. So basically, even by the most conservative estimate, you overpaid for your installation by about $1,600, all of which went into the pockets of middlemen. Cable companies don't pay middlemen; they pay workers. So even in the worst case scenario, where all their workers were fully booked so that they had to hire new people to handle running your cable, they'd still pay less than half what you paid.

So at your price, it would have been about an 8-year payoff. At half that price, it would be a 4-year payoff. In the telecom world, a four-year payoff is amazingly quick, from what I've read. Your cable company just couldn't be bothered. It had nothing to do with cost, or if it did have something to do with cost, it was only because they were pushing the high up-front cost onto you as a means of ensuring that you could actually afford the service. Either that or they are nearly bankrupt and couldn't afford the $3,000, in which case you probably just wasted your money. Hard to say which.

Comment: What's the exploit vector here? (Score 4, Interesting) 42

None of the pages about this bug—not the article, not the CVE, and not the Adobe explanation—tell what the actual attack vector is. They just say that they're vulnerable to XSS. Does that mean that the Flash code can be used on somebody else's domain? Does it mean that the Flash code can in some way be tricked into loading content from the wrong domain on behalf of page JavaScript? If so, and if Flash code uses only non-hardcoded URLs, does that mitigate the problem?

The thing is, even if you got rid of all the insecure Flash applets out there, a malicious person could still host one somewhere. So depending on the nature of the attack, the only real way to fix it might be for Flash to deliberately break every Flash applet linked against the old SDK. If the attack is dependent upon the flash being hosted from the same domain as the content you're trying to steal (e.g. cookies), then the right way to fix it is for web developers to eradicate Flash from their websites.

Comment: Re:Not GoDaddy. (Score 1) 295

by dgatwood (#49302645) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Domain Name Registration?

And today, after almost six years of reasonably reliable service, I'm starting to have my doubts about Dreamhost. Two nights in a row, I made minor changes to the configuration for my domains through their Web Panel, and the Apache server on their west coast shared hosting box died and never came back on its own. The first outage was 2.5 hours. This outage is ten hours and counting.

Anybody know a good shared hosting provider with better reliability? This latest failure brings them down to barely two nines YTD, not including scheduled maintenance.

Comment: Re:Not GoDaddy. (Score 1) 295

by dgatwood (#49289605) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Domain Name Registration?

I'm also using GANDI as my registrar. I'm reluctantly letting DreamHost provide DNS for one domain, and deferring part of another domain to their nameserver, but otherwise I've always preferred to keep my DNS servers in-house (literally), for maximum control. My primary is a Mac Mini, and my secondary is a Raspberry Pi.

Comment: Re:Not GoDaddy. (Score 1) 295

by dgatwood (#49289529) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Domain Name Registration?

I was using their shared hosting to serve images associated with my domain, with the HTML served from my home server over DSL—basically as a poor-man's Akamai. Unfortunately, what I found was that their site would randomly take the better part of a minute to respond to a request. That meant that sporadically it would take longer for them to serve an image than for me to do so from my home DSL connection, and pretty much the entire transfer time was spent waiting to get the first byte back from their server.

At some point, I decided to gather statistics on the problem by using a machine at work (typically approaching or reaching gigabit speeds) to make a very short request to the server every couple of minutes. I forget what percentage of those requests took more than half a minute to come back, but I'm pretty sure it was in the double digits.

Obviously, I got a terrible server that was badly configured and/or massively overloaded. Obviously that won't happen to everybody. The reason I left is that even after proving definitively that the server sucked, and requesting that my content be migrated to a server that wasn't overloaded, they refused to fix the problem. Every server provider will have problems now and again. What matters is how you handle them when they happen, or in this case, whether you handle them when they happen. GoDaddy didn't, and that makes them a terrible provider even if only a tiny percentage of their customers have problems, because you never know when you're going to find yourself in that tiny percentage.

Comment: Not GoDaddy. (Score 5, Interesting) 295

by dgatwood (#49281195) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Advice For Domain Name Registration?

Besides that, you're probably fine with any of them. My GoDaddy experience can best be summed up as:

  • On their hosting service, they limited all processes run by your user account (not just CGI) to a certain number of seconds. This made it almost impossible to upload large files, because they invariably timed out before the upload could finish.
  • Despite that limit, the service was still unusably slow because of all the WordPress and PHPBB instances whose full-text searches stink on ice. Requests to move my (purely static) content to a server that wasn't so bogged down were denied.
  • Then, I tried to buy a cert from them. After I made the purchase, but before it actually became available for me to retrieve, they cancelled the purchase and told me that they no longer offered the number of years that I'd bought, despite the fact that I bought it using publicly available links on their website.

Let's just say I ditched them within the first month, and we'll leave it at that. I switched to DreamHost, and haven't looked back. Their service isn't perfect performance-wise, but it is so much better than GD that it isn't even funny. (Yes, I know you're just asking about domain registration, but lots of folks do one, then the other, so....)

And whatever you do, don't get your hosting from the same company that provides your domain names. There are far too many horror stories of hosting-related disputes leading to frozen domain names.

CCI Power 6/40: one board, a megabyte of cache, and an attitude...