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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reality check - what BEREC can't tell you

Here's a refreshing burst of reality from the UK's only fibre-coax ISP - the fastest UK ISP has provisioning nightmares and has cheated customers out of a Spotify upgrade through its own incompetence, thus also shooting itself in the foot. Oh, did I mention this is about the best ISP in Europe on QoS...

Totally distorted European internal market for QoS

You might recall that the Article 22 QoS requirements were put in back in 2008 to a large extent to avoid a distorted marke in which European SMEs and home-workers in one market had an entirely different Internet experience than fellow citizens in another.
Well, the most interesting outcome from the BEREC snapshot (full report next EC Implementation Report, to actuually fulfill their legal requirement from 2010?), is that Europe is torn down the middle, with 40% of broadband and 57% of mobile consumers subject to restrictions, and about 10% subject to continuous restrictions. Is this not fragmenting the Internal Market?

Neelie: the market's not working, consumers don't read - so let's give them even more info they won't read...

You couldn't make it up: " in nearly all Member States, most if not all ISPs offer fixed and mobile Internet access services that are not subject to such restrictions. According to the BEREC figures 85% of all fixed ISPs and 76% of all mobile ISPs propose at least one unrestricted offer. So the market is generally providing choice, but in some countries the choices are quite limited in some EU countries.
But are customers really empowered to choose well? Do they realise what they are signing up for? I didn’t read all the pages in my mobile contract and I bet you didn’t either! I believe we all need more transparent information." This is extraordinary dereliction, given pretty clear BEREC evidence which is at leats honest that is was supplying an anonymous snapshot of ISP-supplied data (Q: 'Are you guilty or not?' Defendant: 'Not guilty, you honour'). Let them eat small print...
That said, some of the small print will be useful, not to stop ISPs blocking Skype and monkeying around with P2P, but to force enough information out that the Commission will have to act in 2-3 years, when Neelie is no longer Commissioner (on this, I miss Reding):
1. Clear information on actual, real-life broadband speeds [1] at peak times; [2] upload as well as the download speed [3] minimum speed, if applicable [4] speed of Internet when also using a premium “managed” service.
2. Clear, quantified data ceilings NOT vague “fair use” policies that leave too much discretion to ISPs, which she ambitiously believes "incentivise ISPs to price data volumes in ways that reflect costs, and so support investment in modernising networks as traditional voice revenues decline." Good luck with that.
3. "consumers also need to know if they are getting Champagne or lesser sparkling wine. If it is not full Internet, it shouldn’t be marketed as such; perhaps it shouldn’t be marketed as “Internet” at all, at least not without any upfront qualification." Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...meanwhile, hard consumer evidence on smartphone blocking and sales practices helps the dossier?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Open Internet Advisory Committee membership announced

Excellent company - and with Clark, Cooper and Greenstein supporting our esteemed chair this is a very impressive group. Of course, one hopes what they really do is not reflected in the back-slapping Press Release. Judge them by their deeds...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Translations of key Dutch internet freedom provisions

Via the excellent Axel Arnbak: Translations of key Dutch internet freedom provisions « Bits of Freedom: "Article 7.4a Telecommunications Act (unofficial translation)
1. Providers of public electronic communication networks which deliver internet access services and providers of internet access services do not hinder or slow down applications and services on the internet, unless and to the extent that the measure in question with which applications or services are being hindered or slowed down is necessary:
a. to minimize the effects of congestion, whereby equal types of traffic should be treated equally;
b. to preserve the integrity and security of the network and service of the provider in question or the terminal of the enduser;
c. to restrict the transmission to an enduser of unsolicited communication as refered to in Article 11.7, first paragraph, provided that the enduser has given its prior consent;
d. to give effect to a legislative provision or court order." There's more - and an explanatory memorandum.
'via Blog this'

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's official! Dutch 3-strikes/DPI/net neutrality law

"New legislation in the Netherlands makes it the first country in Europe to establish a legal framework supporting net neutrality. In addition to the net neutrality provisions, the law contains language that restricts when ISPs can wiretap their users, and limits the circumstances under which ISPs can cut off a subscriber’s Internet access altogether. The anti-wiretapping section of the new law specifies that ISPs may not use technologies like deep packet inspection (DPI), except under limited circumstances, or with explicit consent from the ISP’s customer, or to comply with a court order or other legislative provisions."
Frankly Section 7.4 of the Telecommunications Act (Dutch blog readers, am I correct in citation?) is more important for what it misses on neutrality (i.e. all providers decided to stop selling data-only mobile to avoid WhatsApp cannibalising them), but very interesting precedent on consumer protections against DPI and 3-strikes. The first pro-consumer No Disconnect law?
There's a very useful cut-out-and-keep guide to the law by E.M. Lokke Moerel here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FCC election year issue? Observing traffic prioritization in Comcast’s network

berg'd: Bryan Berg's tumblr — Observing traffic prioritization in Comcast’s network: "What I’ve concluded is that Comcast is using separate DOCSIS service flows to prioritize the traffic to the Xfinity Xbox app (so that I’m using consistent terminology, I’m going to call this traffic “Xfinity traffic” in the rest of the post). This separation allows them to exempt that traffic from both bandwidth cap accounting and download speed limits. It’s still plain-old HTTP delivering MP4-encoded video files, just like the other streaming services use, but additional priority is granted to the Xfinity traffic at the DOCSIS level. I still believe that DSCP values I observed in the packet headers of Xfinity traffic is the method by which Comcast signals that traffic is to be prioritized, both in their backbone and regional networks and their DOCSIS network." 'via Blog this'

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ofcom: broadband speed code fail

Ofcom | Call for broadband providers to improve speeds information: "some sales agents had to be prompted by mystery shoppers to provide speed estimates, despite the Code requiring that this information should be volunteered as early as possible in the sales process. Overall, speed estimates were provided without prompting from the mystery shoppers in 59 per cent of all calls. Providers who were most likely to give callers an estimated speed without prompting were Sky (72 per cent of cases), Karoo (76 per cent) and Plusnet (67 per cent).
TalkTalk (47 per cent of cases) and BT Total Broadband (48 per cent) were significantly less likely to provide a speed estimate without prompting from the caller.  Following discussions with Ofcom, both BT and TalkTalk have agreed to address this issue by amending their staff training and sales processes."

Ofcom has taken action to further improve broadband speeds information for consumers, including:

  1. having ongoing discussions with ISPs about the information that their telephone sales agents provide to consumers and how this could be improved;
  2. making clear to ISPs that the Code’s requirement of providing information on speeds as early as possible in the call should be adhered to by ensuring that sales agents offer a speed estimate early in the conversation; and
  3. updating consumer guides on choosing a broadband provider and broadband speeds to help consumers ask the right questions before signing up to a new service or switching provider.

The Code was last updated in 2011 and Ofcom will carry out a further review over the next year to ensure that it is still appropriate (whhhaaaatttt???!!!) for consumers’ needs.

'via Blog this'

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wallsten: Data caps aren’t perfect, but that’s OK

Opinion: Data caps aren’t perfect, but that’s OK | Ars Technica: "just because price discrimination can be good for consumers does not mean that it always is good for consumers. Any price discrimination requires some degree of market power, but firms with sufficient market power can use price discrimination to segment markets in ways that leave consumers worse off. For example, a firm may be able to set prices in ways that increase profits but not output if switching costs are too high, entry too difficult, or pricing models unfairly benefit the firm’s downstream products at the expense of a competitor. It is not possible to conclude based on theory or conjecture alone whether a given pricing scheme, including those involving data caps, will ultimately harm or benefit consumers overall, but the test for determining the net effect of pricing schemes is, in principle, simple: do they increase output?" No prizes for guessing that measurement will be different in different regions of the world -  so that mobile broadband will be accepted as a substitute for fixed in the US (I know, I know, they are terrible substitutes as Noam and Economides have pointed out, but US antitrust is irrationally skewed towards incumbents), while in the UK consumers know that DSL-based broadband is no substitute for fibre-based cable...yet cable is still considered untouchable by regulators (except in Denmark) - 'via Blog this'

Friday, May 11, 2012

Virgin Media - never taking another email-free holiday...?

Have bitten the bullet and signed up to Virgin: £12/month for first 6 months plus free installation - but that means a regular price of £37/month for phone line (what's that?)/30MB broadband/75 TV channels - specifically 24 BBC Olympic channels. But I can never take another sabbatical on a desert island:
Customer news: "3.4. Users are expected and required to review email messages in their primary Virgin Media mailbox provided as part of the services or the preferred email address registered with Virgin Media on a regular basis. This is to enable us to advise you of any significant issues that may affect your use of the services. We recommend that you check your primary Virgin Media mailbox or preferred email address at least every 3 days. We normally notify customers of AUP-related issues prior to suspension/disconnection of services and it is important that you read these emails.
3.5. In the event that your use of our services is under investigation by relevant authorities, we reserve the right to suspend the services for the duration of the investigation." Guilty til proven innocent... 'via Blog this'

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Netherlands first country in Europe with net neutrality - once the law is corrected 15 May?

Netherlands first country in Europe with net neutrality « Bits of Freedom: "Due to a voting error in the second chamber of the Dutch parliament, an exception to the principle of net neutrality was introduced which allowed for a specific, narrow restriction of services and websites on ideological grounds. The provision allowed to restrict services (unofficial translation): “e. to grant an explicit request of the subscriber to restrict services or applications on the basis of ideological motives specified by the subscriber, if the provider does not offer the subscriber any monetary or other advantage and the provider already offered the possibility to grant such a request before 1 June 2011.”" The first chamber now adopted the first act (which included the voting error), but will only vote on the second act (which corrected the voting error) on the 15th of May. If this error remains in place, there is a theoretic possibility of this provision being abused by providers (blocking Skype for ideological purposes), but we hope that there is a majority in favor of correction. Hope this is clear: it is not very simple..." 'via Blog this'

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Creation with extreme sales restraint: Promoting Liberty and Rivalry in Innovation

I can't review this book due to a delicious irony for a book promoting international competition -  it costs under $40 in the US but over $85 in the UK-Luxembourgeois (sic)! Creation without Restraint: Promoting Liberty and Rivalry in Innovation (9780199738830): Christina Bohannan, Herbert Hovenkamp: Books: "In Creation without Restraint: Promoting Liberty and Rivalry in Innovation, Christina Bohannan and Herbert Hovenkamp analyze the current state of competition (antitrust) and intellectual property laws, and propose realistic reforms that will encourage innovation... considers how antitrust and IP law should engage practices that restrain rather than promote innovation, and covers the troubled topic of IP "misuse," which the authors suggest needs a broader reach but narrower remedies. "
'via Blog this'

Standards and the Open Internet

From the White House blog May 2: "Over the last year, we have heard from numerous Internet stakeholders regarding their concerns about the future of the Internet.  Most recently we heard from a number of constituencies at a White House meeting that the three of us hosted on Monday as part of our ongoing effort in this domain... We have heard from civil society organizations calling for greater participation of advocacy groups in Internet governance policy to supplement voices representing commercial and technical perspectives. We have also heard from several of the technical bodies that set engineering standards and oversee the day-to-day operations of the Internet.  These groups have stressed that technical decisions regarding the Internet must be made free from political intrusion.  If that separation does not exist, politics may take precedence over technical decisions, leaving Internet users with unreliable technology that does not reflect the best thinking of computer scientists and engineers. Members of the business community have expressed concern that some national governments seek to balkanize the Internet by establishing barriers to the free flow of information under the pretext of protecting cybersecurity, social stability, or local economies.  This is contrary to President Obama's vision of an Internet that is interoperable the world over, and the United States will vigorously oppose such barriers.  Further, these regulatory actions would create a confusing array of “local Internets,” establishing different rules for different places.  Firms may cease to offer services outside the country in which they are based if a variety of domestic regulations makes it too complicated or too costly. For these reasons the United States is actively engaged with our global partners in a variety of international settings and remains committed to working with all Internet stakeholders to defend and strengthen the open, interoperable, and innovative Internet."
This marries well with the European Commissioner's recent comments: "this year we will engage with European standardisation bodies and the industry [wot, no consumers?] to determine the best way forward. For standards that means content providers and operators can get a uniform service offering, avoid duplicate charges, and exploit economies of scale. We also need to preserve openness of access to Internet services: what some call net neutrality."
Neither take full account of the shenanigans now ongoing to curtail net neutrality at the ITU's WCIT negotiations which are (sigh) closed to outsiders in both deed (no multistakeholders) and word (blocked entry to negotiating texts) and therefore fall far short of decent IT standard -setting. Judge them by their deeds, not their words...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

At last: May 8, net neutrality debate in the Dutch Senate

At last: May 8, net neutrality debate in the Senate «Bits of Freedom: [Google translate -not great on my mobile BB] "We hope the Senate will be as convinced of the need for net neutrality as the House last year. So keep an eye on our twitter feed for our live coverage of the debate from the Senate.Update: Tuesday, May 8 net neutrality will be debated . Before the vote (and the winner is ...) we need a little patience. Which is scheduled for May 15" 'via Blog this'

Friday, May 04, 2012

Deep Packet Inspection - up in Canada and UK...

From Milton Mueller's NSF project (nice background story on UK DPI from Wired here):
"The data show that in the U.S., DPI use did not increase after an April 10 2010 court ruling that invalidated the FCC's Comcast decision. Whereas ISPs in the USA, Eastern Europe and Latin America seem to be turning away from DPI-based throttling or blocking, major ISPs in Canada and Great Britain increased its use in 2011 and early 2012. 
Bell Canada increased DPI use in late 2010 and 2011, despite a 2009 CRTC decision regulating Internet Traffic Management Practices and despite a notice to its wholesale customers that its wholesale service "may not be subject"
to such throttling after November 2011. High levels of BitTorrent throttling by Rogers Cable also remained unchanged by the 2009 CRTC regulations. Bell Canada and Rogers were both among the world's top 10 throttlers in 2011 and 2012. Canaca, TekSavvy and Primus also show increases in 2011. Rogers has promised that 50% of its customers would
be free of DPI-based throttling by July 2012 and that they will end it entirely by the end of the year. As of the 1st of March 2012, however, there is no sign of any change.
The UK is another one of the few countries where BitTorrent manipulation appears to be on the rise. DPI measurements for the BT Group in particular increased progressively throughout the 3-year period. Virgin Media seems to have altered its policy and increased DPI-based intervention in the 4th quarter of 2010. The academic network JANET (not shown on the chart) aggressively blocks BitTorrent. 
Taiwan is another country that shows extensive use of DPI-based manipulation of P2P protocols. Taiwan has one or two of the world's top throttlers every year, including its nationwide academic networkSony Network, alone among Taiwan's providers, seems to have reduced or eliminated the practice since late 2009.
The project website, at, contains a list of the world's top throttlers in 2009, 2010, 2011 and the first two months of 2012."

Speech by ITU Secretary-General - how WCIT threatens net neutrality (not governance)

Speech by ITU Secretary-General - Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association Wireless Antenna Sitting Forum : Closing Keynote Speech: "Everyone wants mobile broadband and the benefits it will bring. But few seem willing to pay for it – including both the over-the-top players, who are generating vast new demand through their applications, and consumers, who have become accustomed to unlimited packages. This is putting tremendous pressure on mobile operators, who need to invest in high-capacity broadband networks in order to maintain quality of service as demand rises." So? "If we get it wrong, we are likely to see declining quality of service and even network outages, as demand for applications outstrips our capacity to roll out network infrastructure. But if we get it right, we will find a fair way to finance the broadband..." In other words, the intention is to create a mobile charging environment!
'via Blog this'

Thursday, May 03, 2012

TeleFrieden: Reintermediation—How Cable Incumbents Close Ranks with New Media

TeleFrieden: Reintermediation—How Cable Incumbents Close Ranks with New Media: "it should not come as too great a surprise that content providers are abandoning advertiser-supported Internet-delivered television, such as Hulu, no doubt encouraged by their incumbent cable partners.  I call this reintermediation where an existing distribution channel gets regenerated and re-entrenched, despite the potential for technological innovations to render the channel unnecessary." Re-intermediation will be an incumbent-consultant buzzword to come...
'via Blog this'