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Will Providers Provide Equally? 237

theodp writes "Imagine the chaos if your power company could take money from Sony so that its appliances got a higher quality of juice - and thus worked a tad better - than those of Mitsubishi. The power system wasn't built that way, but ISPs have that very capability. It may seem like a dodgy competitive tactic, but Yankee Group analysts envision that broadband network providers could give precedence to their own revenue-generating services, possibly leading to the demise of the biggest VoIP player today, Vonage."
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Will Providers Provide Equally?

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  • Getting around it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PacketCollision ( 633042 ) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:45PM (#9271286) Homepage

    It seems to me that all one would have to do to get around this is to use SSL. ISPs wouldn't be able to lower the priority of such communications without affecting many other applications, such as VPNs. They could still do it based on IP, but not if the providers of a service used some large provider like Akamai [].

    Anyway, regardless of whether it could be circumvented, and at what cost, the implication is still a further push away from the original spirit of the internet towards a network that is solely a means of extracting as much revenue from consumers as possible. I just wish it were more realisitc to create an ad-hoc network with all my friends...and their friends, etc. I think some day that is what the tech community will be forced to turn to someday, in order to retain the usability we have come to cherish.

    Of couse keeping this theoretical peer network free and uncommercial would be very tough, if it got popular. Call me paranoid, but I'm looking into affordable methods of connecting my friends directly together, using wireless technology and encryption.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      They could do it based on MAC address, different manufacturers have different allocations of MAC addresses.
      • by xerph ( 229015 )
        They could do it based on MAC address, different manufacturers have different allocations of MAC addresses.

        Although many devices (Linksys cable/dsl routers for example) provide an option where you can manually set a mac address to replace the default manufacturer provided one. If this practice went into effect it probably wouldn't be too long before we saw a much more widespread use of this feature where people could change the address to something in the range of a "preferred product"
        • We can thank DEC for this almost ubiquotous feature on almost any network card. I believe it had to do with MAC addresses needing to be specifiable for the hardware, thus you had to be able to set the MAC address when swapping out a card, otherwise much pain ensued. (Or something like that, the memory recesses this came from are a bit rusty after all that time ;)
          • Didn't decnet compute the MAC address as a function of the decnet address? My memory of decnet is getting fuzzy.
      • by PacketCollision ( 633042 ) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:15PM (#9271601) Homepage

        While MAC addresses would provide a way for ISPs to uniquely ID servers, it wouldn't prove was using the service. All the manufacturer ID would tell them is for example, that the server was using an Intel network card. Certain MAC addresses could be given lower priority, but if a large infrastructure company were providing the connectivity on a round-robin system, there is no gaurentee that such action wouldn't also downgrade a bunch of unrelated sites/services. Also, the overhead required to do this could quite quickly become cost prohibitive. Think how many more resources it would take to inspect each packet for several different criteria and prioritize it differently based on the results than just letting most things through unchecked, and perhaps lowering the priority of things that are easily flagged.

        Some priority checking is already in wide use; I use it on the LAN I run to raise the priority of email and DNS queries over web traffic/FTP-data, and SSH/Telnet/FTP-control over both. This type of prioritizing is actually a Good Thing, because it makes letency-sensitive services run better without noticably hurting other traffic. But that's a far cry from deliberately making your competitors's services run badly.

        Of course, the best way to keep companies from doing this is to speak with our money. But the truth of the matter is that the average user won't know enough to realize why their fancy new VoIP isn't working well. They'll just write it off as another failed internet idea that only the nerds will use. Hopefully VoIP will become popular enough before this type of thing is implimented that people will expect good service, but it seems like people are much more willing to accept shoddy service and bad reliability with technology than with just about anything else that is so pervasive in daily life.

        • raise the priority of email and DNS queries

          Huh? I'd do almost the exact opposite, and raise the priority of SSH and lower email. email is not time sensitive, and a lower priority means it will arrive 10 seconds later than it would normally.
          • I should have specified that I raise POP, because we have very limited bandwidth, and when it gets maxed out, the users get much more angry about having their email say it cannot find the server than anything else being a bit slower. Mail coming and going to/from the mail server has lowish priority, but extenal POP and SMTP have higher because dropped email connections was the bigest complaint by far.
        • OK first off MAC addresses are not seen outside your local segment unless a braindead protocal inserts them in the data portion of the packet. Corp envirnments can do QoS based upon mac they can even do vlan based upon mac but thats only because people dont have routers sitting in there cube to protect them from there corperate network in general. Your ISP cant and shouldent be able to look past your firewall and thats a good thing.
    • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#9271511)
      the "original spirit" of the internet was milirary defense and government funded research.
      if you looking for idealism, look elsewhere.
    • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:07PM (#9271523) Journal
      The issue is them raising their own priorities, not lowering anyone elses.

      So vonage over ssl would be the same as vonage over nothing (well +performance hit).

      I'd have no problem with this so long as they guaranteed internet as it is.

      Ie; Comcast gives me about 3mbit down now, if they had their own content on local servers (movies, game downloads, VOIP etc) that I could access at 10mbit or higher, I'd probably pay for it - so long as my 3mbit pipe to the rest of the 'net isn't affected.

      Reliability is a big hurdle for VOIP as it is, if comcast had their own route that guaranteed the service, and it was still cheaper than Ma Bell, and didn't interfere with regular internet service, I think that'd be cool.
    • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:12PM (#9271573)
      Masking VOIP inside IPSEC or SSL would ultimately be pointless. In addition to the added latency of software encryption/decryption, you'd lose some functionality of VOIP, like the ability to transfer a call.

      Lots of people use H.323 and SIP and proprietary codecs and signalling. What is Comcast gonna do, hunt it all down and throw it in a low queue? With Teamspeak, you can just switch port numbers, foiling that.

      I see no legal difference between taking a competitors traffic and putting in a low queue, and simply blocking Vonage's entire IP range for the PSTN gateways totally. Poof, end of competition. The effect is the same, why not just be explicit and target individuals?
      • "I see no legal difference"

        You make a sound point. I would point out, though, that there is also no legal difference between beating someone to death with a baseball bat in a crowded room and quietly dropping some slow-acting poison into their water line.

        They end up dead both ways, but in the latter case, it's a lot less obvious that a murder was committed, and it's certainly harder to prove you did anything wrong.
      • I see no legal difference between taking a competitors traffic and putting in a low queue, and simply blocking Vonage's entire IP range for the PSTN gateways totally. Poof, end of competition. The effect is the same, why not just be explicit and target individuals?

        I do. It's a lot easier to prove that someone is blocking your service than it is to demonstrate that they are degrading data transfers to/from you, especially since it would only result in intermittent outages under load, which the company cou

    • by Mr.Zuka ( 166632 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:53PM (#9271911)
      I hate to break it to everyone but this is already happening. Here in California SBC is getting sued by EarthLink for DSL customers getting a message that all lines are full when they tried to sign up on the EarthLink web page then getting a call back from a SBC rep trying to sign them up with SBC instead.(EarthLink had to connect to telco computers to check for available trunk lines.)
      No amount of encryption is going to get around the telcos giving priority to their own traffic and having a high enough lag for other companies that when reviewers test their service they will say that the telco service had less problems.
    • To be most effective VOIP needs low latency, small packets, and low packet loss. It works best when you use QOS to to help the traffic have a higher priority.

      If comcast uses QOS for there own VOIP service then they will already have an advantage over anyone else on that same network. Calls will sound better, have less dead air and less echo. Using QOS also means you can still run your bittorrent session or ftp download and your voice packets arent going to be dropped.
  • Comcat... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rick Zeman ( 15628 )
    ...would NEVER do that.

    Besides, if they do try that, their competitors won't.
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:47PM (#9271311) Journal
    Encryption! and P2P!

    Decentralise everything, encrypt everything. Your ISP will just see random packets going to random IPs with random data inside them - distributed filesharing, voip etc etc and on the plus side the pigs cant track you either.
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:48PM (#9271314)
    They'll never do this. As much money is dangled in front of them, there's a bigger trap door.

    Right now, ISPs stay out of the RIAA/MPAA lawsuit fights because they are common carriers. The moment they stop being able to claim that by giving disadvantages to those who they choose to spite, the RIAA/MPAA will demand that the P2P client of the week be spited as well...

    That's just too much of a headache for them. They don't want to become liable for their user's usage. They'd rather that users keep using without them being bothered. They're not going to open themselves up to such exposure.
    • Somebody, sometime, is going to offer an ISP a boatload of money to do this, and the ISP is going to calculate that the probable cost of interfering in connection usage (P2P monitoring or whatever it is) is dwarfed by the amount of revenue they're getting for a sweetheart deal like this.

      If the ISP is a major nationwide network, the monitoring could be a huge burden, but the cash rewards could be just as huge.

      At least it'll create a few hundred IT jobs.

    • But can you prove that your ISP is using such methods of traffic shaping? Can you even see it clearly?
      • You buy some stock in them, which then makes you an owner and entitles you to look over all their financial and operational information. Be easy then to find out.
    • ISPs do not get their protection from common carrier status. They get it from the Safe Harbor [] provisions of the DMCA. This protects ISP from copyright violations committed by their customers, as long as the ISP follows the required procedures. The first is to register with the government as an ISP. Favoring their own services would not affect their Safe Harbor rights.
    • by Detritus ( 11846 )
      Most ISPs would not qualify as common carriers. Part of being a common carrier is offering a service to the public in a non-discriminatory manner. That means that you can't say "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone". If the New Hitler Youth for Nuking Gay Whales orders service, you have to give it to them. You can't disconnect them for being controversial, as long as they pay their bills and do not violate the law.
  • by Jaywalk ( 94910 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:48PM (#9271316) Homepage
    Yankee Group analyst Lindsay Schroth considers that reasonable. Why shouldn't the companies that built and run the Internet pipes feeding the home be able to capitalize on their investments?
    Uh, maybe because I'm paying for their services? I'm not paying them to mess with my connection to their own advantage. If they started doing this I'd be on my way to another provider in a heartbeat.

    Of course, this is the Yankee Group we're talking about, so logical analysis is not to be expected. This is the same bunch of boneheads that has Didio doing their "analysis" of the SCO lawsuits.

    • by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:10PM (#9271557) Homepage
      I'm not paying them to mess with my connection to their own advantage. If they started doing this I'd be on my way to another provider in a heartbeat.

      Really? Well, go read Norton's "The Art of Peering - The Peering Playbook" [] to see how providers mess with your connection to their advantage on a pretty regular basis.

      Good luck finding a provider that doesn't either a.) play this game themselves or b.) purchase wholesale bandwidth from an upstream who plays
      • Norton's paper is on financial and reciprocal negotiation strategies on ISP backbone peering. It doesn't say anything about queuing mechanisms at those peering points. The words "queue" and "qos" don't appear anywhere in there.

        I think what he meant by "mess with" (I'm guessing) is adjusting traffic priorities based on application data.
    • Uh, maybe because I'm paying for their services? I'm not paying them to mess with my connection to their own advantage. If they started doing this I'd be on my way to another provider in a heartbeat.

      Yes, because most of us live in an area with more than one (1) broadband provider. That way we always have the option of switching to a competitor if the current company shafts us.

      Seriously, for most people it is a case of putting up with whatever nonsense their current broadband provider decides to shove t
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:17PM (#9271611) Homepage
      Of course, this is the Yankee Group we're talking about, so logical analysis is not to be expected. This is the same bunch of boneheads that has Didio doing their "analysis" of the SCO lawsuits.
      As soon as I saw Yankee Group, the article lost all credibility due to Didio's view on SCO. I was wondering how long it would be until I saw a comment just like yours.
  • by Elpacoloco ( 69306 ) <elpacoloco@dslextr[ ].com ['eme' in gap]> on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:48PM (#9271323) Journal
    It seems like everything these days is self serving and dishonest.

    So sad, so sad.
    • by Patrik_AKA_RedX ( 624423 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#9271518) Journal
      What we need is a labour union for geeks.
      On our own we can't do anything about this, but we are numerous, together we do have the power to make companies behave themselfs. It's time we bring together this power and use it to get all the wrong do-ers back in line.
      We won't accept no DMCAs anymore, we won't bow down for DRM, MS shall not control us. RIAA will not lead us quitely into the night.
      Geeks of the world, now it's time to rise up and tell them "no" in one strong, united voice.

      Geek power!
    • It seems like everything these days is self serving and dishonest.

      Of course everyone is self-serving. That's a fact of life.

      The problem is that people don't realize dishonesty, in the long run, isn't really self-serving.

      It all comes back to you eventually. It's hard to see and indirect, but it will come back to you.

  • A Simple Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by haute_sauce ( 745863 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:48PM (#9271328)
    Would be to declare ISP (and the internet) as an 'essential service' or utility. And as such the ISP would have rules governing thier behavior, including anti-trust laws.
    • Considering the size of the consumer lobby for electronic services, I won't hold my breath.

      Not that many people understand the issues enough(except those who are paid to lobby for companies) and that kind of numerical disadvantage can only help those slimey companies out to make a quick buck.

      Until the clueful gain more control over what gets bought, those out to exploit the clueless will win.

      (But the fact that the clueless hate the clueful's gut helps noone, least of all the clueless.)
    • Declaring a service as 'essential' or 'utility' tends to lead to a local (and in the case of AT&T national) monopoly. That will only remove the likely-hood of competing ISPs for certain areas, assuming you could even craft a scenario where one ISP could be declared a utility. Do you use a dial-up, dsl, cable based, or fiber optic only as a basis for the service? Nor does this offer any sort of grantee that you prevent utility from favoring their own products, in fact you encourage the opposite by way of
  • Double-Edged Sword (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 )
    Wouldn't such tactic actually drive customers away?
    • Wouldn't such tactic actually drive customers away?

      Not if they were only customers for the VoIP service--then they wouldn't care what the hardware requirements were. Look at cell phones: you can only get certain ones for certain networks, and most people don't much care so long as they work.

      • by krem81 ( 578167 )
        For what it's worth, I would switch providers in a hurry if they limited my ability to use Vonage. So, it may not matter to all customers, but some care. Though, I agree with your overall point: as long as the providers stand to make more money than they would lose, they'll do it. But they DO have to be careful about their choices.
  • Face it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tvh2k ( 738947 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:49PM (#9271340)
    ...companies are looking for a profit, not to make you there best friend. As long as they can keep the profits coming, they could care less what you think of them.
    • Re:Face it... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by riptide_dot ( 759229 )
      ...companies are looking for a profit, not to make you there best friend. As long as they can keep the profits coming, they could care less what you think of them.

      If profits are all they care about, then losing customers would show up on their collective "radar" screens pretty darn fast. So, they really DO care what you think of them if it means you could be switching to another provider...

      Oh, and P.S. - Of course they could care less - you can ALWAYS care less - the correct way to make that point w
      • Re:Face it... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by xerph ( 229015 ) <andrewmhunt AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:06PM (#9271510) Homepage
        So, they really DO care what you think of them if it means you could be switching to another provider...

        I'd say its more a case of "they care about finding the cheapest way to keep you and prevent you from switching to another provider, with what you actually think of them being secondary"

        ie: a company can sometimes get away with having horrible customer support as long as the service is outstanding. Likewise, they may be able to get away with "features" which would generally alienate its customers as long as it has something else up its sleeve that puts it ahead of its competators in terms of the overall value to the customer.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:50PM (#9271351) Homepage Journal
    Unless Vonage pays fees to the network provider, there is no reason the operator should not make the service a lower priority on the network.

    Oh yeah, no reason at all -- except that if they do that, it's not the internet any more. And if they call themselves "internet providers," they're lying.
    • I don't suppose that you can back this up with a reference to a definition of the internet that says this, can you?

      It may decrease the internet's utility, but claiming that it makes it "not the internet" is utter nonsense.
      • Think back to the Neolithic -- say, 1991 or so -- when most people who were online used one of the big online services (which at that time were, in descending order of size, IIRC, Compuserve, AOL, Prodigy, GEnie, and Delphi. I could be off here; it's been a while.) You could sometimes, by jumping through all sorts of arcane hoops, exchange e-mails between the services. There was no reason for it to be this hard, of course -- they all had TCP/IP communications going, and could quite easily have used POP a
    • how is this any different than providers blocking inbound traffic for 80, 21->25, etc? It's not. They are deciding what traffic gets to your machine and back out.
    • In other words, Vonage would have to pay "protection money" to the ISP in order for their service to work properly...which naturally gets passed down to the customer. In other words, you have to pay your ISP *more* money (albeit indirectly) in order to get the level of service originally promised at a lower price. This wreaks of outright FRAUD.

      It would be like having a furniture set delivered to your house and furniture company having to pay the delivery company a fee to make sure your upholstery doesn't
  • A perfect Example (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tanveer1979 ( 530624 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:51PM (#9271364) Homepage Journal
    Is WiFi. Certain access points, claiming to be "g" compliant work better with cards of certain manufacturers. The reason, in the race to be the first g player companies released Access points and Wifi cards and access points which were as per the IEEE temporary draft. The final spec was quite different, so the end result is that some "g" cards work as "a" cards with "g" access points. I hope "h" does not go this way!

    Apart from poor bandwiths such pseudo "g" cards work only with propietary windows drivers. I tried using some Br chipset cards with linux and they did not work! It was the early days when g just came out.

    • so the end result is that some "g" cards work as "a" cards with "g" access points.

      You probably meant act as "b" cards, since "a" is in a completely different RF band.

      IIRC, networks cannot handle full-speed "g" rates if any "b" cards are connected to that network.

      But ya, companies were producing "g" cards before the draft was finalized, but most, if not all, of those cards can be reflashed to be compliant.
    • I'm assuming that's a typo. I can see how a g card would work as an a as they operate on different frequencies. Operating as a b card would make sense as that's compatible fall back.
  • In her view, Internet service providers will begin to provide add-on services, such as higher speed movie downloads, or enhanced online gaming, for additional fees paid by consumers.

    Aha, the expert is talking.

    My 'provider' (hansenet) does this already.

  • by vijayiyer ( 728590 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:56PM (#9271423)
    As time passes, I'm thinking about just switching to commercial DSL service. Current broadband offerings for the most part are targeted to the uneducated masses, and are cheap for that reason. My ISP had the nerve to tell me that my connection was "For entertainment purposes only" when I asked why the windows file sharing port was blocked (I have a static IP and I needed to share some files with some non-Mac friends of mine). So instead of bitching, the easier solution seems to be to pay for quality. The same applies to every other consumer product out there.
  • It sucks, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:58PM (#9271432)

    How is this any different than mega supermarkets that give shelf space preference to various brands with respect to location and quantity?
    • Shelfspace is one thing, this is more like store employees carrying the item for you all the way to your house VS lining it with lead weights that you couldn't remove till you got home.
    • Um, in several cases supermarkets were brought to court many times for product placement tactics. So far, they've settled or won. And, no, this isn't different.

      It is an anti-trust issue, but it generally stays under the radar because they always have the explanation that they have to place things according to some pattern, due to the reality of, well, shelving, and just putting things in at random is unnacceptable. However, ISPs can make no such claim; it is easier for an ISP to not be biased, so they woul
    • How is this any different than mega supermarkets that give shelf space preference to various brands with respect to location and quantity?

      Because you aren't paying a single supermarket to act as a go-between for all of your direct product requests. Any time you want something from a store you go to whatever one you feel like and pay for exactly what you want. A better (but still warped) comparison would be a music subscription service that put it's highest-margin songs on the front page and served from
    • This is 100% different because supermarkets buy the products they put on their shelves. They're not being paid to put them there. In some cases there is a third party which comes in and stocks the shelves, usually this is baked goods or chips, and sometimes beverage cases. But, generally speaking the store will contract with someone to put the unit there, and they get a certain percentage of sales.
  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @04:58PM (#9271436)
    I choose to use a small ISP []. They have their own problems, but this kind of behaviour isn't one of them. I can almost do what the hell I like with my connection and it's only their peer connections and BGP issues that ever screw me up. I have a choice of other ISPs too who also don't behave like this. Thank goodness for competition!
  • by telemonster ( 605238 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:00PM (#9271457) Homepage
    Here in Southeastern Virginia / Hampton Roads Cox run's a portal that competes with the local paper's portal. Cox has a captive audience, setting the homepage of all the cable modem customers to their local portal.

    It has always been a fight for the homepage. The local paper used to have an ISP tied to it ( that ran dialup and hosting services for 100+ newspapers across the country ( was owned by Landmark, Gannet and Knight-Ridder). Supposidly the big push from the papers wasn't that the ISP functions were really profitable, they just wanted their content on the homepage.

    It is a bit monopolistic in a way, but I think everyone understands. More viewers, the more you can charge for banner ads.

    The downside is none of the community sites are really innovative. In the case of Cox's, it is identical to every market they are in. Cookie cutter crap.

    AOL probably has the biggest advantage, as normal netziens cannot access the content on their network. This is a major selling point for some of the AOL subscribers, even.

  • removing the ISPs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thayner ( 130464 )
    I'm thinking before too long, ISPs will try to force one too many onerous terms and people will respond by dropping their ISPs and freeing their wireless hubs forming a decentralized network. This will be the real Internet2.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:02PM (#9271472)
    Vonage's device they send you doesn't adjust the TOS value in the IP packet. I checked with a hub and ethereal. I have the Cisco device, newer customers are getting the Motorola. Don't know about that.

    So, it's at the class of service level of everything else. Which doesn't have any packet loss and has low latency. In order to give themselves competitive advantage, Comcast could only trust the TOS and DSCP values in VOIP flows coming from their equipment, but the ENTIRE CONCEPT OF QOS is predicated on the idea of congestion!

    Now, if they deliberately threw competing VOIP flows into a low queue and INDUCED loss, well - that's actionable as anti-competitive behavior. And in the standard IANAL disclaimer, I have no idea what the remedies available are.

    Also, as another posted that got modded up pointed out, Vonage could use VPN or otherwise mask the RTSP stream. But that's silly. It's also counter productive long term.

    I think the parent article is kind of a troll to get legislation by the FCC and others regarding QOS. It's a tactic to cause dissention because of the pass the FCC took on regulating companies like Vonage.
  • by thedillybar ( 677116 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:02PM (#9271473)
    Would Internet service providers exercise that control?

    You're damn right they will. They've already started blocking port 25 outbound (one thing that I might be okay with) along with a variety of inbound ports. They've taken complaints again and again. They respond with a resounding "We don't care."

    And why should they? Joe Schmoe customer doesn't care. He doesn't know if it's his ISP that broke it or the client or somebody else. If he calls someone for support, it's almost certainly not going to be his ISP. After all, he's using someone elses services. His VoIP connection is slow? Why would he blame his ISP? Everything else is fast.

    Will they lose a few customers (i.e. the Slashdot crowd)? Yes, but they don't care. Our money isn't worth that much to them. And since we're the only crowd opposed, there's not enough business to start-up competitive ISPs.

    • by garcia ( 6573 ) *
      Will they lose a few customers (i.e. the Slashdot crowd)? Yes, but they don't care. Our money isn't worth that much to them. And since we're the only crowd opposed, there's not enough business to start-up competitive ISPs.

      Unfortunately, you're 100% correct. The customers that they might lose are the ones that they WANT to lose. Why would they want to lose these people? Because that > 1% of their userbase is using more bandwith than 50% of the rest.

      ISPs want users that just use the service to check
      • by HeghmoH ( 13204 )
        If what you say is true, why do companies like Speakeasy exist?

        The slashdot/IT-clueful crowd may not be that large, but if I could get one in a thousand slashdot UIDs to buy one of my products, I'd be extremely happy with that increase. But I'm just one man. However, we are a large-ish, influential group. When our less clueful friends and family come to us with advice, we will try to point them in the right direction. That kind of grassroots advocacy is something that companies love to have. Some ISPs may
    • They will care in the end because it endangers their status as common carrier. Losing that is bound to cause them a lot more headaches and money.
    • by GPLDAN ( 732269 )
      They've already started blocking port 25 outbound (one thing that I might be okay with)

      I'm glad you are okay with it. Some of us aren't. And we're not spammers. SMTP has not been given any special status by the ISP, as a protocol. It's being singled out because of abuse. But what if I have a home device, say a fire alarm, that I want to use SMTP to page me if it goes off? Should I, as a Comcast customer, be prevented from using that protocol? I have to switch or tunnel it in SSL, or ask my paging provide
  • by Moooo Cow ( 79655 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:02PM (#9271474)
    "Imagine the chaos if your power company could take money from Sony so that its appliances got a higher quality of juice - and thus worked a tad better - than those of Mitsubishi"

    Actually, our local utility, BC Hydro does this already []. They have lower rate schedules if you are a customer willing to be interruptible during peak demand. So, some commercial and industrial customers here do indeed have a "higher quality of juice" than others.

  • by CharlieHedlin ( 102121 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:08PM (#9271532)
    What is likely is that the cable companies phone service will work better anyways.

    While their phone service is going to be IP based, it isn't going to be Internet based.

    I live in an area where it is being beta tested, and I understand they are using an ATA with an integrated cable modem that installs at the phone box. This would allow them to tie into your wiring, provide real 911 service (the box isn't portable enought that you are likely to take it anywhere) etc.. It will use a diferent private addressing scheem and QOS end to end on their own gateway. Chances are it will use bandwith allocated seperately from the actual cable modems, so there should be no impact to other services such as Vonage or Broadvoice.

    For them not to do this would be crazy. They are going to be trying to take on the Bells, and while Vonage is great for geeks, I can cause it to break up with heavy file transfers.

    On the other side, the cable companies service which is currently being advertised is somewhere well in between the Vonage and SBC pricing.
  • by Raindeer ( 104129 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:08PM (#9271539) Homepage Journal
    You really belief this wouldn't happen. Well guess what, it already happens. In the Netherlands we had a case where an ISP didn't want to stream the data they got from a radio station. So they blocked it. They wanted to get paid. Their argument was that the data would take up too much bandwidth. Fact is that the internet business model is build on the fact that everybody pays his end of the network. A simple peering would have helped them alot.
  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:09PM (#9271546) Homepage Journal
    that Da ISH is built from, and there will be more classifications. you want higher priority, you pay more. there are multiple names for service priority, MPLS on ethernet, CBR/VBR/VBRnt on ATM, service levels on frame relay if a carrier implements them -- but it's real.

    ISPs buy what they want, and if it's not a dedicated point-to-point circuit, they are usually buying traffic-interruptable service like VBRnt or frame. remember, the Internet is best-attempt by definition already, and YOUR software has to deal with anything other than sequential packets sent at a constant rate of speed. you don't like that, stay on POTS, or upgrade your software.

    if you want PRIORITY service, with MPLS on the switching/routing end and higher classes of service like CBR availiable for a sub-circuit of an ISP's T3 to an upline, for instance, that can become possible quite easily. it gets more complicated if you want it beyond an ISP's reach, but it can be done sometime as soon as agreements are reached to allow it.

    the Bells are offering or tarriffing to offer such priority VoIP services now. for the Internet to offer it, you will need to have a protocol approved by IETF for it. propose or lobby against over there.
    • This is discussing carriers doing it on segments they own, which to me is perfectly reasonable. Don't like the way your traffic is being processed? Switch ISPs. It seems like it would be a bad idea for backbones but fine for everything else. I know in many places there is only one reasonable option for broadband, I can't get any kind of DSL, I can only get comcast, satellite, gprs, or dialup - but this is changing.

      Anyway it doesn't take any protocol, you just use queueing algorithms to prioritize traffic.

  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:11PM (#9271560) Homepage
    I live in the US, so my long-range wireless network alternatives are pretty slim. I currently am getting unlimited GPRS bandwidth through T-Mobile for $20/month. The only problem (other than the meager 2.5kBps) is the consistent 1000ms ping. Does anybody else with GPRS have latency this bad?

    1000ms all by itself would effectively kill most use of VoIP, as the noticable delays for some reason causes really annoying conversations... you don't know whether to start respond to what the other person just said, or whether they're going to follow it up with something else, causing you to accidentally start talking over them. Latency is so important to voice calls that the International Telecommunications Union recommends latency no greater than 150ms [].

    So is this just my conspiracy theory that T-Mobile GPRS provides way worse than 150ms for data, while providing better than 150ms latency for the voice side of things?

  • This already happens (Score:4, Interesting)

    by j. andrew rogers ( 774820 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:15PM (#9271597)
    The problem is that the VOIP providers like Vonage want to use the network but don't want to be responsible for it, and then bitch about the SLAs and agreements made between the parties that actually do run the networks. If they want specific terms and conditions from the network providers, they can pay for them like everyone. And the VOIP customers have to understand as well that if they choose an ISP that has a poor SLA for VOIP, they'll have poor VOIP service.

    That said, I find it generally unlikely that ISPs would do any type of overt targeted network shaping. They make their money by moving packets, and for more and more contracts these days, the more packets you move the more money you make.

    The benefit of ISPs getting into the VOIP, streaming, and other services where network properties matter is that those are exactly the kind of people who can optimize their networks to give the customer the best experience. ISPs want to displace Vonage because Vonage isn't their customer, but they have to deal with all the network issues generated by customers that use Vonage. It is cheaper to offer an optimized solution designed and tested to work beautifully on your network for free or nearly free than to support the problems caused when people use whatever random VOIP software suits their fancy.

    Not all networks are created equal, and this really starts to become apparent when using QoS sensitive services. It is cheaper and generally gives better results for the ISP to integrate those services vertically, which ultimately will be a win for the customer.

  • And how is this different than what Microsoft does with Internet Exploder and IIS vs Apache and Mozilla? Or any other Microsoft product vs a comparable product?
  • Monopoly Privilege (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:19PM (#9271631) Homepage Journal
    The answer is easy. Power companies are monopolies. I don't have a choice with whom I do business. The reality is that you only get a choice of one power company, one local telephone service, and one local cable company, simply because there is only one set of lines coming into your home.

    Internet connections, at least in the US, or different. You have an extensive choice of providers. I live in a metropolitan area, and I have a choice of about two dozen providers. A friend who lives in a rural agricultural area still has a choice of four providers, two of which are high speed. You might have to pay a tiny surcharge to your local telco monopoly, but the choice is there.

    A provider that gives one person preferential treatment over another for the same fees is going to be at a competitive disadvantage.
  • by psoriac ( 81188 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:20PM (#9271650)
    Currently, the major backbone providers like Sprint et al are already providing QOS for VOIP services currently used by major corporations (i.e. Cisco) to communicate between offices. This hasn't propogated down to the ISP level yet but there's no reason it couldn't.

    Also, at the ISP level, Speakeasy already has a package that preferentially routes online game packets, providing better performance for subscribers. In fact Speakeasy toutes itself as the "gamer's ISP".

  • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:22PM (#9271664) Journal
    Apparently, comcast has been doing some Very Nasty Stuff with vonage, such as not resolving DNS addresses to vonage. A vonage tech commented that it looks like the only way this is going to get solved is through the courts.

    This has been an ongoing issue since comcast entered the voip market.

    Any vonage (or comcast) moles want to comment?
  • by linux11 ( 449315 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:26PM (#9271690)
    As an employee at an University that is restriction Internet through-put for P2P protocols, I would like to point out that such restrictions are only desirable when resources are tight. The restriction was placed because the cost of adding another T3 to the Internet was prohibitive in comparison of the cost involved in doing Quality of Service. For the University's connection to I2, the reverse is true. The cost of doing QoS on a gigabit connection is prohibitive and it is desirable to just allow the resource utilitization to more "naturally" handle itself.

    One thing that I believe would help third party companies provide several interesting services (pay-per-view over IP, party-line VoIP, etc.) would be multicast. It seems to me that there is a conflict of interest with most Cable/DSL providers in regards to providing multicast support on their networks since it benefits external companies more than themselves.
  • by Tmack ( 593755 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:38PM (#9271775) Homepage Journal
    CLEC's are already hampered by such practices, even though there are de-regulation laws prohibiting it. Basically, your CLEC orders a local loop from an ILEC. The ILEC has to provide it at the discount rate if idle facilities already exist without excessive new construction being required. The problem is, what "excessive new construction" actually entails is left somewhat to interpretation. What this leads to is that sometimes if the circuit orders that are refused due to "no facilities" or "requires new construction" are re-ordered a slightly different way (as retail), they are turned up in a short enough interval to prove that new construction/no facilities was in fact not a valid reason to reject the order. Circuit maintanence can fall into this category as well. If say, SBC has one of their customer's with a service affecting issue, they tend to be resolved quicker, with less hassle than if it is a CLEC circuit. They also like to play the game of "no trouble found, we will be billing you for this dispatch", after the circuit that was hard-down magically was restored about the same time their tech was out finding "nothing wrong".


  • IF history is any guide, we will see the cable companies totally abuse this until Uncle Sam is forced to make them play nice (after first letting them suck us dry in exchange for superior campaign contributions). Can anyone imagine Charles Dolan (Cablevision Systems) NOT taking advantage of something like this. Bon Vonage!
  • Yankee Group analysts envision that broadband network providers could give precedence to their own revenue-generating services, possibly leading to the demise of the biggest VoIP player today, Vonage

    Or the other way around. Vonage may have (and I think already has) such an agreement with certain ISPs that Vonage will have better bandwidth if your Internet was from that provider.

    Alternatively, Vonage will be the OEM provider of the ISP branded VoIP, like in case of Earthlink VoIP []. I am sure I don't nee

  • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:49PM (#9271883) Journal
    I have internet access through my local cable company.

    I've noticed some interesting things about my access:

    1. Their NNTP server is faster than any other NNTP server I can access.
    2. Their DNS server responds faster than any other DNS server I can point to.
    3. I get downloads from their website that are almost twice as fast as from other sites!


    ... or maybe just that I have a big fat pipe to those services because it's all on the same network.

    Why would we expect a cable companies VOIP be any different?

  • My ISP already do.

    They only provide technical support for Windoze and Mac. They will not answer any technical questions if you have a Linux box, even if the problem has nothing to do with the fact that it is a Linux box.

    Case in point: a while back they "upgraded" their DHCP server, so it suddenly refused to give my ADSL-connected Linux box an IP address. Rebooting as Windoze 98 (yeah, I know...) provided an IP address. I found, quickly, that there was an update to the Linux DHCP client that was only a c

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @07:30PM (#9272704) Homepage
    Either the FCC or the courts have to define the internet aspect of cable companies as common carriers.

    Currently phone companies are defined as such, and they have to carry all calls. They cannot exclude fax transmission, modem connections, or any voice connections. They must carry them all.

    Current the ISP side of the cable industry is NOT defined in that way. They have every legal right to block content.

  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @10:02PM (#9273773) Homepage
    All the major carriers are moving towards this model. The new requirements coming out of the DSL forum require equipment makers have the ability to do all kinds of fancy traffic shaping and quality of service.

    The company I work for makes equipment that does this. We set it up so an ISP can create a portal where a subscriber can select services and the network will automatically adjust the shaping and priority settings so the subscriber gets that service while allowing the provider to charge for it.

    If Jane Doe wants to watch a certain movie, our box will guarantee the bandwidth between the video server and her DSL line while still limiting other traffic to the normal rates. Or if John Smith wants to download a huge ISO and doesn't want to wait, he can click to up his bandwidth to download it and lower it back down when he's done and gets charged extra for the amount of time he has the higher bandwidth.

    Anyone can provide a pipe, but it's not real profitable for the providers. They want to make money off of things like pay-per-view or other special services.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle