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In Praise of Relatively Dumb Pipes

Comcast's furtive and undisclosed traffic manipulation reminds me of a curious, red herring asserted by some incumbent carriers and their sponsored researchers: that without complete freedom to vertically and horizontally integrate the carriers would lose synergies, efficiencies and be relegated to operating "dumb pipes."... Constructing and operating the pipes instead of creating the stuff that traverses them gets a bad rap. It may not be sexy, but it probably has less risk. But of course with less risk comes less reward, and suddenly no one in the telecommunications business is content with that. So incumbent carriers assert that convergence and competitive necessity requires them to add "value" to the pipes. more

FCC Chairman Martin a Tireless Consumer Advocate - Who Knew?

In a counter-intuitive move for a Republican free marketeer, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has sought to impose substantial additional regulations on cable television. Chairman Martin ostensibly can retain his credentials by claiming that a 1984 law requires the FCC to act when cable television systems serve 70% or more of the U.S. population and 70% who can subscribe do so. more

Bandwidth Demands Exceeding Internet Infrastructure Investment

Nemertes Research has released a report on the future of the Internet infrastructure. The key finding from the report is that bandwidth demands are exceeding infrastructure investment, especially at the access layer. We noted in the project that users may begin to see the impact of degraded application performance as early as 2010. We also noted that the planned investments in Internet infrastructure are insufficient to meet growing demand. more

Unbridled Discretion and Prior Restraint: The Verizon and Comcast Stories

Let's say that providing communications infrastructure is an inherent function of a state. Most people think of the internet as a telephone system, and most people think the telephone companies aren't supposed to choose which calls will go through based on their content. People think that because they think internet access, like telephone access, is a utility -- like electricity conduit, water pipes, etc. -- that has something to do with the government, and the government isn't supposed to discriminate. more

How the Internet On Cable Became the Internet As Cable

When Rogers Communications began promoting its [email protected] high-speed Internet service nearly a decade ago, the company branded it "the Internet on Cable." Years later, their service, as well as those of their competitors, is gradually morphing into "the Internet as Cable" as broadcasters, Internet service providers, and cultural groups steadily move toward the delivery of content online that bears a striking resemblance to the conventional cable model. more

Comcast’s Wrong Approach

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to do a lot more than just provide a pipe from your residence to their facilities to assure that you have a good Internet experience. There is a raging debate, inextricable from the debate on Network Neutrality, both on what the proper responsibilities of an ISP are AND what methods are proper for carrying out those responsibilities. more

White Space in the Great White North

There is growing interest in the US for the FCC to look at White Space to enable more options for broadband wireless in rural areas. What is White Space? Last weekend, the Sunday NY Times published an article about wireless services that included this description: "In many areas, not all broadcast [television] channels are in use. The unused channels are "white spaces" of high-quality spectrum that could be made available to local Internet service providers. Unlike the much higher frequency of Wi-Fi, television broadcast frequencies can travel for miles and penetrate walls, providing a much broader range for Internet service." There is a coalition of eight technology companies driving the discussion in the US... more

A Packet of Lies

I've been reading the kerfuffle around Comcast's blocking of various random network protocols with interest. Whilst I remain convinced that blanket "network neutrality" legislation remains just a form of digital gripe water (cures colic for cybernauts), there's clearly a problem. As I previously alluded there's a definite consumer protection issue over what you buy when it says 'Internet' on the tin. So here's tuppence worth of additional input... more

Why a Net Neutrality Law is Not Enough

Once we decide that Network Neutrality is a good thing to (re)enshrine in law, then we need to ask how to do that effectively. One way would be to pass a law saying, "Thou shalt not discriminate." That's the current approach. But network operators will say that they must manage their network, and if, in the course of network management, they were to disadvantage some source, destination, application, service or content, they might be accused of violating the law. So any Network Neutrality law must have a Network Management Exception... more

The Myth of Infinite Bandwidth

Back in the late 1990s I was often asked what I thought would happen if Internet bandwidth was infinite -- what would that change about the Internet itself? Level 3's (LVLT) recent decision to slash prices on its content distribution network and rumors of new multi-terabit cables across the Pacific have me wondering if we are actually getting closer to having infinite bandwidth. But when replying to the infinite bandwidth question I was prone to posing a return question -- what does infinite bandwidth actually mean? more