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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Greed bites.....

The telcos seem to have won an own goal and can now force you to submit to UBB (Usage Based Billing). Whilst logic and basic maths (plus hard evidence from areas where fat pipes are all the rage) implies that abundance rather than scarcity will always see a business prosper, the telcos can't get over their own 100 year old scarcity model. Sadly, it seems the regulators are equally as dim.

This blog post can be read at

Canada has fallen for UBB this week. There is no round of applause from here and a huge sadness that Canada, who led the way for so long in fibre, next gen and true broadband, has so completely lost the way. (Apart from with the Inuits, who seem to be making the most of the infrastructure in the far north, far beyond the focus of the gummint). And long may it remain so.

It looks as though Cumbria is about to fall into the same pit, believing telcos over common sense. I wish I knew more about the other BDUK projects but I'm fairly sure there is at least one that will overcome all issues and endeavour to be the guiding light. Scotland.

1 out of 5 ain't bad.

Is it? {cough}.

As I said some time ago, 4 bed house in Cumbria for sale, I'm moving north, south, anywhere to escape this ridiculous approach to comms.

Imagine if during the stone age, they had restricted access to hides and bones, except for hunting or access to the tribal elders? There would have been no drums to communicate danger, no chance of developing language, and
zero chance of music becoming what it is today?


wireless pacman said...

I really have to admit to not understanding the rant in this blog post! We have always used products with "usage based billing" (in the sense of monthly allowances) and as a small non-adsl reseller based isp we have no option.

Indeed one might argue that "all you can eat" lies at the heart of many of our broadband woes here in Blighty. Why should I pay a very large amount of money to get a large internet feed into a (rural) location just to have it all eaten up by a few bandwidth huggers who constantly download goodness knows what but will only pay pittence per month??

Somerset said...

Is Canada leading the way? The Teksavvy link has 2 packages, up to 640k and up to 5M.

And why are you moving?

MB94128 said...

" | Engage, Educate, Empower"

A proper connection to the Internet is unmetered. A usage cap is a form of censorship and a confession of nonfeasance on the part of the telco imposing it. The handwriting has been on the wall for decades - provide better communications tools (semaphore, telegraph, telephone, etc.) and people will use them. Failing to provide an adequate backbone means that a telco is not only failing to serve its customers but also its shareholders.

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

chris said...

Totally agree, the obsolete business practice of catering for the scarcity model is protecting the incumbent.
If the infrastructure was in place there would be an abundance, bringing a digital revolution and putting the countries who build the fibre networks with sufficient capacity at the forefront. The countries who cling to the old phone lines are getting left behind. I think Cumbria has enough champions now to make sure the county council don't fall for the BT hype and just do cabinets, but I worry about Lancashire, who already have access to public funds and are in grave danger of handing it over for a copper solution.
Let us just hope that someone can make them see sense, or at least direct them to this blog where you have been saying it for years.
Only fibre to every home can deliver a next generation access network that is fit for purpose now, and fit for the future. Copper is just a stop gap, bringing income for openreach and wholesale. ISPs renting the backhaul are being screwed. Just like joe public.
The golden goose that laid such golden eggs and brought prosperity is dying. The industrial revolution is over, we need a real digital revolution and a thriving digital economy to survive.

wireless pacman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wireless pacman said...

[Why won't this thing let me edit a comment with a typo! :-)]

I'm sorry but this is just plain rubbish. If you want true unmetered access to the internet then you have to be prepared to pay for a true 1:1 uncontended link to it. Any other model just exploits the light users to subsidise the bandwidth hogs.

Somerset said...

Chris, Canada looks like it's behind the UK.

Your BT fixation is sad, look at requirements and solutions and put together a 100% sound business case.

Copper brings income to TalkTalk, Sky, O2 etc. so you are not telling the whole story.

So why is electricity metered?

So why is there not a 'digital revolution' (unexplained buzz words) where people have 100M VM available?

Cybersavvy UK said...

@somerset back at the beginning of the century and at the end of last century (doesn't time fly?!), Canada were making plans that made many of the British efforts and ideas seem pitiful. In fact, there is still some astoundingly good thinking which comes from Canada eg Bill St Arnaud etc but some of the 'putting it all into practice' seems to have slipped, due to both Govt and telcos, hence my comment.

@wireless pacman - the point is, surely, that certain companies are still operating on a scarcity model. So, if I want a 2Mbps dedicated connection here, it would cost me in the region of £28k, which is not what it costs the provider, and it certainly isn't what its value is. Up that to 100Mbps or 1Gbps and I may as well just file for bankrupcy now. And this strange obsession about bandwidth hogs comes from pursuit of the scarcity model alone. I've got a great article on it somewhere.....I'll get looking!

MB94128 said...

@ "wireless pacman" - Please provide a link to an un-biased article that proves there really are bandwidth hogs.

Here are a couple of countervailing articles :
"On Bandwidth, Hogs, and Congestion" (Blog post at, 6 Dec.'09)
"20% of All Peak Traffic Due to 3.5M Netflix Data Hogs?" (Blog post at, 17 Dec.'10)[The comments are well worth reading on this one.]

What the telco shills fail to say in their bleatings about "bandwidth hogs" is that they, the telcos, are failing to deliver the service level the customer has contracted for. A service level that usually costs a pretty penny. In many parts of the world that would be considered fraud.

P.S. The jumbo telcos are caught in a something of a nutcracker. The regulators in the U.K. are looking into limiting the "up to ..." ads. And the technology exists for inexpensive, roll-your-own, bypasses of the once almighty telco. That technology (mesh Wi-Fi a la Meraki or OLPC, directional wireless commo, and house-to-house fiber legs) is reasonably priced TODAY and keeps getting cheaper.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Article 1

Erol's analogy re bandwidth hogs and contention

Article 2
The Middle Mile / IP Commons by Erol Ziya

Cybersavvy UK said...

Thank you MB, Benoit's experiment was next to find!

Somerset said...

Cybersavvy - 2M from where to where, and what does it really cost? Is that installation or rental?

Cybersavvy UK said...

@somerset - that was my last quote from BT. I didn't stay on the phone long enough to get permission to run tracert on it. ;o) That was annual rental, the install was marginally less painful, just.

If we adopted solutions such as Barry Forde's and DVP's in each community (which was actually what the original Project Access proposed), my IP Transit would be around £2/Meg/month. That, I would say, is the TRUE cost to the telcos. And if BT let me keep the piece of mangled copper that I pay them a fortune for currently, I could make my teapot - it's probably long enough for a trivet as well!

MB94128 said...

@ Cybersavvy UK - Your second link got mangled somewhere along the line. Perhaps you were trying to point to this :
"Light that Fibre! – effecting change in the UK"(Access to Broadband Campaign, March 2004)

Somerset said...

'my IP Transit would be around £2/Meg/month.'

Please explain more.

MB94128 said...

@ Somerset - I believe Cybersavvy UK thinks that a fair price for USC-class service would be around £4 per month. So £20 (twenty pounds) per month would get at least 10 Mbps (straight) and perhaps up to 20 Mbps (log.).

One of the problems with the telcos is that they do not want to wait ten years for a router to be paid off. Instead they want the unit to be paid for in three to five years AND be able to charge the customer all over again for the initial cost. That inflates the monthly service charges for an ordinary landline (POTS, ISDN, or USC). And it makes faster speeds downright Shylockian.

wireless pacman said...

@MB. I know from personal experience of operating a rural wisp business all about bandwidth hogs. I also know that there is a huge disparity in usage between customers. I also know that it does actually cost money to connect my customers to the Internet, and the more they use it the more it costs me. So please do not try to tell me it is not so.

I am a "telco" in your eyes and I deliver what I am contracted to deliver. I do NOT offer silly unlimited tariffs. They are for the "pile it high, sell it cheap, could not care less" brigade.

Suggesting that mesh wifi will provide unlimited, unfettered Internet capacity to everyone is just nonsense.

@ cybersavvy. The point is that, like it or not, there are real bottlenecks out there. True the "jumbo telcos" as MB puts it might not be as affected by these, but every other telco (eg us) IS affected. Having large telcos offer "unlimited" tariffs hides this picture from the end customer and makes it harder for us small guys to compete with "like for like" tariffs.

MB94128 said...

"Ottawa to reverse CRTC Internet billing decision" ( article, 3 Feb.'11)

MB94128 said...

@ wireless pacman
The people you consider to be "bandwidth hogs" on your network are actually doing you a favor. Their heavy usage is exposing the choke points in your network that need to be upgraded.

Now if by "wisp" you mean "Wireless ISP" there are some ceilings (attenuation and contention) that one does slam into fairly quickly. I've been blocked from accessing the network at the library by contention. And non-directional Wi-Fi is a short-ranged beast (I've sat on a bench just outside a branch library and still got random interference).

But the real problem lies in the way the jumbo telcos rig the game. You probably only have one (maybe two) backhaul options and they are speed limited by your provider's high prices. Those jumbo's have discouraged the other copper user - the power company - in the market from running their own backbone. A couple of cases here in the U.S. have shown that a power company would be a decent alternative (see Lafayette, LA and Bristol, VA) to either a traditional telco or a cableco.

Home page for "Community Broadband Networks"

P.S. How much sideways thinking have you been doing ? Have you looked into doing some sort of village-to-village link to gain access to cheaper backhaul ? I'm under the impression that prices go up faster than the bit-rate on most single-point connections. You, a smaller provider, have a degree of nimbleness that the jumbos lack. I suggest you use it.

Somerset said...

...doing you a favor. Their heavy usage is exposing the choke points...

That's a daft comment! So a service provider should spend unlimited amounts of money?

MB94128 said...

@ Somerset - I'm an engineer who loathes stove-piped thinking. Blaming one's capacity problems on the heavy users is a cop-out. A more honest approach is to be up front about why a particular network has capacity problems (designing for basic phones instead of smart phones; financing issues; obsolete equipment; no room for growth in remote node; etc.) and then find cost effective ways of fixing them.

My ancestry is Scots-Viking. I was raised to appreciate hard work, making the proverbial buffalo squeal (an American version of pinching pennies), and making do. The institutional mindset of firms like Ma Bell and BT blinds them to simple fixes like running a directional wireless link from a stressed node to an unstressed node several cell sites away as a short-term backhaul supplement. Our host has posted an entry on how BT sent several trucks to fix a simple problem when a tech on a trike would have been enough.

I'm well aware that telcos have to make a profit to survive. But trying to run 21st century services over a network designed to 20th century practices is a recipe for a flaming disaster. My position is that those of us in a support role should use every tool at our disposal even if it seems bloody daft.* That's part of why I carry an assortment of tools (small screwdrivers, basic Swiss army knife, and a bottle opener) with me at all times. My co-workers in the past have thought that I was a nut for carrying so much junk around with me until some part of it was needed.** But is it really crazy to be practical and think outside of the box when necessary ?

* Remember MacGyver and his fondness for duct tape ?
** Some versions of "Swiss Family Robinson" had Mrs. Robinson reaching into a tote bag and pulling out some small necessity right when it was needed.

Somerset said...

What is this 20th century network telcos are using and how does the design change to be 21st?

Your example about cell sites is about the cellular operator decided to do, not the telco.

MB94128 said...

@ Somerset - Thou art a veritable plank. The major hold-over from the 20th century is the custom by telcos (which includes cablecos) to assume that there is a scarcity of network capacity and that there aren't any alternatives. The reality is that there is plenty of dark fiber and poorly lit fiber (obsolete driver modules) out there. Part of their maintenance budget should be going into rolling upgrades of the fiber network.

Also, they do NOT want their fallacious pricing models challenged. Various community fiber projects have demonstrated that [a] they can compete on price and make a profit and [b] that the telcos have pricing elasticity due in part to their gouging in sole-provider markets.

In numerous markets one of the cellular telcos is also the dominant landline telco. My example of a wireless backhaul was to illustrate that it might be both faster and cheaper to have a temporary air-bridge. A traditional telco might not consider that as an option due to a fixation on landline backhauls.

Somerset said...

Just seeking more details for the benefit of everyone!

Cybersavvy UK said...

@somerset this blog is not for people who don't know what the current telephone network is!! There are EU regulators, CEOs of telcos, FTTH Council members etc here.

And a cellular operator IS a telco. Telco stands for telecommunications operator......or does a mobile phone not provide telephony?!

Somerset said...

MB - some exchanges round here have microwave dishes pointing at each other so it's not unheard of in the UK.

Is anyone assuming there is a scarcity of capacity? If anyone wants a link from A to B, a telco will provide it surely, at a price. IDnet now selling 1G point to point

If you mean paying for the customer router over 10 years, then that's a non-starter here as it's relatively easy to change ISP which could mean not getting income for it.

Teksavvy add the cost of the router to the installation cost, $99. Would a UK residential ISP dare try that?

wireless pacman said...

@MB You might be an engineer, but you seem to have little grasp of the economics involved in running a business.

You are stating that I should spend endless amounts of money upgrading my network whilst getting zero additional revenue to offset the costs.

It is usage based tariffs that allow me to develop and grow my business, not spending thousands of pounds a month on backhaul just to serve a few customers paying me £10 to £15 per month.

Indeed, one of our marketing messages is that we do not let the bandwidth hogs loose on our network so people can rest assured that they are indeed getting what they are paying for.

Also, just for your interest, we are currently upgrading our existing 100Mbps backhaul bearer up to 1Gbps which will largely remove that as a constraint to our short/medium term growth - unless of course we follow your sage advice and allow our £10 per month customers unfettered access to it.