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Net Neutrality Never Really Existed?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the cry-me-no-tiers dept.

The Internet 157

dido writes "In his most recent column, Robert X. Cringely observes that network neutrality may have never really existed at all. It appears that some, perhaps all, of the major broadband ISPs have been implementing tiered service levels for a long time. From the article: 'What turns out to be the case is that some ISPs have all along given priorities to different packet types. What AT&T, Comcast and the others were trying to do was to find a way to be paid for priority access — priority access that had long existed but hadn't yet been converted into a revenue stream.'" Cringely comes to this conclusion after being unable to get a fax line working. His assumption that the (Vonage) line's failure to support faxing is due to Comcast packet prioritizing is not really supported or proved. But his main point about the longstanding existence of service tiering will come as no surprise to this community.

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Nice Logic... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18717979)

I didn't RTFA, but the mans comes to the conclusion that the big companies are out to get him on the basis that his fax won't work? Astounding logic! We should have been able to figure this out by assuming the companies are trying to increase profits.

Re:Nice Logic... (1)

Brew Bird (59050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718013)

Give us a break.

Maybe it was really UFOs from area 51 that were causing his fax not to work?

Carriers have always prioritized packets on their backbones. but not Internet packets. those are all best effort.

Re:Nice Logic... (4, Interesting)

CogDissident (951207) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718179)

Back about 10 years ago when I was a kid hanging out at my dad's office after school or on weekends(usually playing Doom1, the only good computers were at his office and he worked insane hours), he was across the hall from his ISP, and they were a friendly lot so we'd stop over and say hi and go to lunch together and stuff like that.

They would always be telling me about problems, finding people who are using way too much bandwidth, significantly more than usual, and how they'd institute an upper cap on those people to make sure they wern't running their own ISP off of the line that they were provided (back in the day people used to buy T1 lines, and turn their homes into little dial-up ISP services).

So theres always been prioritizing of traffic, even if it wasn't always an automatic process. But, I would like to point out, that this guy sounds more like the crazy dishevled homeless guy on the corner "OMGZORZ, MY FAX NO WORK! CONSPIRACY AND RANTYNESS" than really newsworthy

Re:Nice Logic... (5, Insightful)

Brew Bird (59050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718349)

Man, that takes me back.

Of course, what you are pointing out is the basic flaw with the whole 'net neutrality' argument. It's not a public network, per se. It's owned and opperated by someone. They have the right and privledge to impose what ever restrictions they want on people.

When I first got into the ISP business about 14 years ago, there were a few basic rules that we insisted people follow as terms of their service

1) Dont do anything illegal. We will rat you out.
2) If you want to run an ISP, thats fine, we have special rates for heavy users
3) If your usage for your web host exceedes a reasonable percentage of our available bandwidth, we reserve the right to raise your rate.

No one seemed to have any issues with these simple rules.

Cringly is even getting bitchslaped for being an ignorant dumbass over this on his own website. Serves him right.

Re:Nice Logic... (3, Informative)

mikeisme77 (938209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718633)

That's still a neutral network though as all the data packets have equal chance of reaching their destination. It would only be a problem if you were prioritizing your own VoIP service and/or penalizing data packets for Google Talk/Gizmo/Vonage voice data packets. Or in some other way prioritizing data packets from the Internet that effects all of your customers (not just those abusing your ToS).

Re:Nice Logic... (5, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719151)

Of course, what you are pointing out is the basic flaw with the whole 'net neutrality' argument. It's not a public network, per se. It's owned and opperated by someone. They have the right and privledge to impose what ever restrictions they want on people.

This is a non sequitur. Just because it is an owned network does not mean they have the right to restrict people however they want. I may own a private road, but that does not automatically grant me the right to deny passage to the people that own the mineral rights to that same land. I may own a flower shop, but that does not grant me the right to deny service to blacks, without repercussions.

These privately owned networks were funded largely with our tax dollars, hundreds of billions of them the government provided in subsidies. Many of these privately owned networks run on public right of ways to which the government has granted them an exclusive monopoly. Further, those same private businesses are being granted exemption from obeying the law, namely copyright laws, libel laws, pornography laws, free trade laws, conspiracy laws, etc. Those exemptions from obeying the law are granted under "common carrier" statutes that say impartial carriers goods and information are not held liable for what they carry provided they impartially carry everything. I say it is just fine for these private businesses to decide not to be impartial and to slow down or block traffic from some people to gain a competitive advantage. What I object to is them doing that, and being exempted from punishment for the laws. Common carriers are a public service and that is the only reason they are protected. If you're not serving the common good and are just making money for yourself without benefiting society, why should you be given special privileges?

When I first got into the ISP business about 14 years ago, there were a few basic rules that we insisted people follow as terms of their service

So here's the problem... the rules you list have nothing to do with net neutrality. Net neutrality is simply about treating some traffic differently than others not based upon the type, nor the traffic levels, but based upon the person or location from which the traffic is being generated. You can block all users that send more than a gig a day. What you can't do is block just the black users that send more than a gig a day, or just the republican users that use more than a gig a day, or even the users that do business with your competitor and use more than a gig a day... if you still want to be given all the special privileges that are given to common carriers.

Re:Nice Logic... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719751)

I may own a flower shop, but that does not grant me the right to deny service to blacks, without repercussions.
We don't want no stinking flowers man, the only percussion you gonna get is when we's pounding yo puny white ass.

Yours sincerely,
      All the niggors.

Re:Nice Logic... (5, Funny)

skia (100784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719817)

I may own a flower shop, but that does not grant me the right to deny service to blacks

I'm confused. Could you rephrase in the form of a car analogy?

Re:Nice Logic... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18720489)

I'm confused. Could you rephrase in the form of a car analogy?


I'll try. To quote Henry Ford, you can have any colour car you like, as long as it's black.

Err ... no, that's not it ...

Net Neutrality Isn't About The Next Hop (1)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719569)

What you're describing is perfectly reasonable and what everyone has subscribed to all along. If your downstream clients are hogging more of your bandwidth, you charge them more. If you hog more of your upstream provider's bandwidth, they charge you more. What Net Neutrality is about, though, is when your clients hog more of your bandwidth because they're going to Google, or to YouTube (oh, wait, that's Google...), or to Amazon, or to eBay, or to Wikipedia you charge *those* people in addition to your clients, even though there are several networks between you and, say, Google.

When you start charging people to whom you are providing no direct service is greedy and twisted. The net works because it distributes the economic power and burden across all links in the chain. Why mess with that to give a few large corporations more revenue streams? They already have locality-based monopolies.

Re:Nice Logic... (3, Informative)

Brew Bird (59050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718157)

let me restate.

For non-network important 'stuff', it's all pretty much best effort.

Things that are important to the day to day opperation of the network (route updates, SNMP/Managment traffic) have to have priority over 'customer' traffic. But so what. That is such a tiny amount of bandwidth compared to the multi-meg service people get...

A real question for vonage : Why dont you have a bandwidth tester on your network that your customers can hit? Better yet, something that produces latency and jitter stats?

That would settle this whole argument once and for all. the closest I could find on their site was this:

http://www.vonage.com/help.php?article=497&categor y=46&nav=102 [vonage.com]

which is weak. It shows my 10M ethernet internet access with a D/L speed of 2.74M and and upload speed of 4.76 Mbs...

Re:Nice Logic... (3, Informative)

ironicsky (569792) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718485)

The problem is if they put a bandwidth tester on the website it is not going to make a difference. ISP's generally wont intefere with web traffic on port 80 or 443 or any other HTTP based protocol. But when you start using SIP protocol on Ports 5060, 5061, and in vonages case 10000-20000 the ISP and network providers degrade those services. So your bandwidth tester on the web will show you have a steller connection, especially on Comcast which has the PowerBoost for the first 10Mb of a file(15Mb on Speed Tier) you will show nice speeds which doesn't reflect your poor SIP protocol performance. Unfortunately there is no easy way to test a SIP connection speeds or performance.

Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compression (5, Insightful)

omnipotus (214689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18717987)

The last time I tried to setup something similar, I came to a dead end, find several sources via Google that indicated that the compression used by fax machines was incompatible with the compression used by VOIP. Has the stat of the improved, or is Bob on a goose chase here?

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (1)

macpulse (823760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718065)

Same here, I've never been able to get a fax to work on our VOIP lines here at work, and this is with a Cisco VOIP network, internal.

Works for me - fax ncompatible with VOIP compress (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718127)

I have only VOIP at home through my cable provider, and I use a normal, stand-alone fax machine all the time to send faxes.

Re:Works for me - fax ncompatible with VOIP compre (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718299)

What baudrate is your fax transmitting at, and what bitrate and compression algorithm are you using for the VOIP connection? G.711 could probably do it, because that is what the trunk lines of POTS will be using, and maybe some of the wideband encodings like AMR-WB/G.722, but most VOIP encodings will be too lossy to use for data.

Re:Works for me - fax ncompatible with VOIP compre (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18720723)

It works for him because its not really VoIP. It's PacketCable [wikipedia.org]

What's really important to note is that PacketCable on Comcast (probably others) for "digital voice" is actually given a full 64K channel on a data network separate from normal Cable Modem service. Therefore, compression should not be necessary, I don't know if it's using G.711 or one of the wideband encodings though.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (4, Informative)

jrumney (197329) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718201)

VOIP uses lossy compression that is heavily tuned for voice. Of course it is going to be lousy for lossless data transmission. If you wound the baudrate down low enough (say 2400baud), you might have some success, but I wouldn't guarantee it.

Yea... (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719779)

VOIP uses lossy compression that is heavily tuned for voice.
That is why you don't plug the fax into the voice line...
Doesn't your VOIP box have a separate plug for the fax machine?

Re:Yea... (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720631)

Mine doesn't. Using an Arris TM502G Cable/Telephony modem with Videotron VOIP.

That's generally correct... (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718357)

other than G.711 (uncompressed PCM), voice codecs will not handle fax or modem calls. The standard method of handling fax calls over IP is T.38 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (3, Insightful)

Code Master (164951) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718427)

As someone who works on this for a living, I can tell you that most VoIP vocoders are not compatible with most high speed voice band modems and Faxes.

Most vocoders, such as GSM AMR NB, G.729 AB, G.723.1, are ACELP based (Algebraic Code Excited Linear Prediction) which basically parameterizes speech at the encoder and resysnthesises it at the decoder. These are specifically made for speech processing (and don't usually do well with music) and provide great compression with good quality (depending on the bit rate chosen).

Other compression, such as G.726, uses ADPCM (Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation) which still works well for most modems and Faxes, but don't provide the best compression rates.

In the case where an ACELP vocoder is used on a line that is to support Fax or Modem connections, a Fax/Modem relay is used. In this case, your local VoIP box will have a Fax machine in it, as will the remote side of the link. You local Fax machine connects a fax session with the VoIP box, the decoded Fax data and signals are sent digitally using T.38 or other protocol to the remote VoIP, where it is connected to the remote Fax machine. These Fax relays often use specific network protocols (RTP instead of TCP) to reduce delay time (hence, lack of equal packet speeds (which is not the same lack of net neautrality that we are all resisting). Also, depending on the bit rate of the vocoder, this type of Fax/modem link may not support the highest standard connection rates.

Code Master

it's the codecs (2, Interesting)

mungtor (306258) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718433)

The basic problem with Fax over VoIP is that it's _V_oIP. Not FoIP. The codecs that are generally in use have been optimized for use in the frequency ranges of the human voice, not the ranges used by fax machines.

Of course, faxing over VoIP has always seemed a bit backwards to me anyway.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (2, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718685)

I don't fax frequently, and when I do it is just through my iBook's modem. However, I have never had a problem faxing through my Vonage line. I have no idea what speed I'm getting... it just works :)

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719043)

Spoken like a true Mac user!

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (1)

mark3748 (1002268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719127)

I had used vonage many times for Faxing, and it's even possible to get a dedicated fax line with Vonage. I have been using an old HP fax that was being tossed at work, brought it home, hooked it up to my router, worked flawlessly. Used it probably 100 times without a hitch on my standard voice line.

I have since switched to Verizon Voicewing (I figure they won't sue themselves...) and haven't tried to fax with it yet, but I don't expect any problems.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719197)

As a former Vonage tech support rep, I can assure you that it is possible to get a fax line to work over a VoIP line.

I've only done it once with a baud rating over 4800, a few dozen times at or below 4800. Unfortunately, most faxes can't drop that low, even using the hidden system menus most have.

A single dropped packet often ends up as an unrecoverable error. Very few ISPs provide a stable enough connection to lose no data.

Latency is also an issue. VoIP lines have a much higher latency than POTS. People notice this as an echo, fax machines don't replay the signal but could easily time out waiting.

Also, at the time that I worked there, some of the techs were working on compiling a list of affinities that different model faxes had for different codecs. Higher bandwidth did not always get a fax working, seemingly arbitrary mid-range settings worked as often as low- or high-bandwidth codecs.

Net neutrality aside, don't expect a fax to work over a VoIP line.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (1)

tomblag (1060876) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719249)

I am using vonage right now , in the process of switching to broadvoice tho (hate indian tech support among other things....), and I have no problems using a second line as a fax only line.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719333)

Vonage doesn't outsource to India (or didn't last time I worked there), although there are a fair number of Indian-Americans in the New Jersey call center.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719307)

Vonage sucks for a lot of reasons, but I fax over my Vonage line and it works just fine.

They solved this for cellular: CSD. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719867)

Yes, that's about the crux of it.

Fax machines were designed for POTS lines, and minimal amounts of digitization (basically a 64kbit/s DS0, 8kHz samples at 8 bits/sample), or compression that retains equivalent bandwidth.

The compression used by VOIP, in contrast, is usually psychoacoustic, similar to MP3 or other modern audio codecs. It's optimized specifically for pushing human speech through at a minimum bitrate. There's a lot more aggressive clipping and rolloff, and it's not uncommon to compress a voice channel down to 10-13 kbit/s, sometimes even lower.

When you try to use a digital device which expects the full POTS bandwidth on a VOIP circuit, it's going to either fail completely or work at a very, very reduced speed.

This isn't just a VOIP thing, either -- if you try to send an analog fax or make an analog modem connection over a modern digital cellphone, it won't work very well, either. I've tried using my GSM phone as an analog device and using it to dial in through, and it's very, very painful. 9600 baud, painful (and I remember when that was fast, too, but sadly the Internet has moved on and bloated up a lot since then).

It's not as if the people who designed cellphone and VOIP systems didn't realize this. It's a tradeoff. The bandwidth saved by using modern compression is more than enough of a savings to justify inconveniencing a few people who still want to use analog devices.

What the VOIP providers need to do, is create something for their systems that's similar to the CSD [e-words.us] (Circuit Switched Data) connections available on cellphones. (It's almost never used anymore, but basically it's like ISDN for a cellphone; it gives you a direct digital connection into the POTS network that you can push data through, without ever converting down to analog.)

But then again, providing a special "digital mode" that would let you push data into a voice channel, that's running on top of a digital data network (the Internet) does seem like a lot of redundancy. Maybe it's just time for telephone-based fax systems to die. They were a pretty cool hack while they lasted, but there are better ways of moving data around then converting it into whistles and sending it over a voice communications network.

Re:Fax compression incompatible with VOIP compress (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719883)

It must have improved (and Cringely must be right). I troubleshooted a client's Vonage problems a couple of years ago (turned out his router was the problem). Anyway, once I was done fixing and tweaking, he was faxing to his heart's content.

However, this was (at least at the time, don't know now) a "straight" ISP: "here's your bandwith, pay your bill on time, laters.", which leads me to conclude that Cringely is spot on.

Perhaps the fax issue is more technical (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18717991)

I don't know anything about Vonage , but if its like other VOIP systems it'll used lossy compression. Which is death for most kinds of digital to analogue systems running over a phone like using systems such as QAM or PSK since important information will be stripped out. This is why you can't use dial up modems over most (all?) VOIP services (why you'd want to anyway is another matter).

Re:Perhaps the fax issue is more technical (4, Insightful)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718115)

Indeed, he seems to set up a huge conspiracy theory for what could be a faulty digital to analog conversion. I'm sure that there is at least some wrongful packet prioritization, but I doubt you would ever see the effect to the extent that a fax wouldn't work.

Re:Perhaps the fax issue is more technical (2)

saforrest (184929) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718353)

Indeed, he seems to set up a huge conspiracy theory for what could be a faulty digital to analog conversion

Perhaps, though he quote a reader who had worked for Road Runner and claimed that their internal operating procedure was to prioritize packets based on content. So his conclusion may well stand even if the personal anecdote that inspired it is faulty.

Also, another poster here claims to have gotten faxes to work with Vonage, which suggests that it is at least possible. Given that Vonage's goal is a replacement of phones with VOIP "under the hood", their customer base probably includes a lot of people who don't want to know or care about the details of VOIP, many of whom are the same sort of people still using faxes in 2007.

So I would expect that faxing is actually a big part of their business. It shouldn't be hard to do it over VOIP: just force the customer to specify somehow that this is a fax, and use a different encoding.

Re:Perhaps the fax issue is more technical (2)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718497)

Fax is still quite useful in the print industry. Admittedly it's still replaceable, but when it just works, there's very little motivation to upgrade to a more advanced system. However, something like "Switching to Vonage", for cheap VOIP instead of some standard extortionate rate, would get switched. So I can imagine there's a more than a few people having fun with Fax vs. Lossy VOIP.

Re:Perhaps the fax issue is more technical (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719269)

Perhaps, though he quote a reader who had worked for Road Runner and claimed that their internal operating procedure was to prioritize packets based on content.

And the only example he gives thereof, is prioritizing DNS. Which is something any sane person would want anyway, as it benefits everyone and is so low-bandwidth that nobody suffers. It's once you start prioritizing all the other stuff (e.g. Disney Channel, Fax over Voice over IP, etc...), that everything else starts to suffer.

Oh, and Fax over Voice over IP is a bad idea anyway. As anybody with a minimum of technical insight would be able to tell you. If you want prioritized fax packets, buy a dedicated line (see! we already have tiered services!).

There's nothing wrong with prioritizing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718997)

based on content. The problem comes when Verizon's VOIP packets are given a 1 priority because they pay $100,000 a month, and Vonage's VOIP packets get a 5 priority because they won't pay the extortion fees.

What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718019)

There's a difference between giving priority to different kinds of packets (QoS), and giving priority to packets from different sources, which is what Net Neutrality is all about. QoS is ok, it's encouraged so long as every packet of the same type gets treated the same way. The problem comes when your VoIP packet gets preferential treatment over my VoIP packet.

P.S. Fax is obsolete. Scan and email.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (2, Informative)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718139)

P.S. Fax is obsolete. Scan and email.

Tell that to my credit union or any of my insurers. Even though I have a scanner and can send them encrypted PDFs, they insist that I fax them various bits of information for "security purposes." This isn't much of a problem since my computer has a built-in fax modem, but why they don't accept encrypted PDFs is beyond me. It's just as secure as a fax.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718277)

*As* secure as a fax? Wouldn't a PGP-encrypted email be *more* secure than a fax? Or do faxes use a kind of private key as well?

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719419)

I didn't notice that the parent poster mentioned PGP-encrypted email. From what I could see, he mentioned encrypted PDF. And encrypted PDF is as secure as fax. In other words, not very secure.

Oh, and PGP encrypted email is not very secure either. It's only secure if you trust the sender. E.g. it would be no problem claiming that your signature was forged, by compromising your private key. Of course, on paper you can write "Donald Duck" with your left hand as signature. And that's why some legal documents needs witnesses.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

wperry1 (982543) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718575)

I ran into the same problem with my Sunrocket VOIP on Comcast. That's what services like eFax and Trustfax are all about. Analog data transfer over phone phone lines is a legacy technology anyway.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718835)

Even though I have a scanner and can send them encrypted PDFs, they insist that I fax them various bits of information for "security purposes."
It's not about security of the data being sent, it's about their own legal security.

A fax gives them a better paper trail -- it is theoretically harder to spoof, since it has the outbound and inbound telephone numbers logged on the receiver's end.

Also, banks and insurance companies are slow to accept alternate means of communication -- it increases risk of fraud. Never mind the heavy regulation they undergo, which slows down adoption even further.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720037)

Yeah, a lot harder to spoof. I'd have to print out a document that I forged before faxing it. Or edit the document in any one of a myriad image editing programs and fax it from my computer anyway.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718925)

its just that half the pdfs the receive are scan the wrong way, and while a 3 day training course they were on taught them how to turn upside down faxes the right way round, they found the same methods don't work for PDFs. One the monitor is turned upside down it tends to wobble and creates a health and safety hazard.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719173)

Even though I have a scanner and can send them encrypted PDFs, they insist that I fax them various bits of information for "security purposes." This isn't much of a problem since my computer has a built-in fax modem, but why they don't accept encrypted PDFs is beyond me. It's just as secure as a fax.


Its not as secure, in at least one potentially important sense, as a fax if the printers on which they can print the encrypted PDF are shared and not in a location that is locked 24/7 with limited access, but the fax machine they have you send it to is.

It may be equally or more secure in transmission, but that may not be their concern.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720289)

I have had the same problem as the this poster, I moved house and forgot to update my credit card accounts address. I ordered something from overclockers.co.uk and got the order flagged. They refused to send the order unless I provided proof through mail or fax including some billing statement and passport. I suggested a email with my passport and a billing statement and it was rejected because of the ease in which such documents could be altered. I suggested I could have manipulated such things already printed them out and then faxed them if I did things their way this made the woman 'uncomfortable' and I got to speak to a boss his reasoning was the company's needed some form of hard proof emails don't cut it and yet faxes do, its a strange world.

Solution cancel the order, change my banking details, wait until the online bank details are changed (20 mins later) then remake the order.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718159)

I, for one, would be extremely pissed off if my WoW packets suddenly started taking a back seat to Grandma's dancing Jesus GIF

Aikon-

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

mc6809e (214243) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720349)

I, for one, would be extremely pissed off if my WoW packets suddenly started taking a back seat to Grandma's dancing Jesus GIF

They already do. You just don't notice because because there's plenty of bandwidth available.

But if grandma starts sending 300 dpi 8.5"x11" scans of her dog you probably will notice.

And with network neutrality laws in place, there's nothing you or your ISP can do about it.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718235)

Net neutrality is also about giving the customer what they paid for. The customer paid for the internet, not for a subset comcastnet, verizonnet, or any other connection. They didn't pay for the company to double dip on both sides.

It be like paying for phone service and getting only good connections to people who paid that also paid that specific phone company off.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (2, Informative)

The_Quinn (748261) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719609)

The customer paid for the internet
What do you mean that the customer 'paid for the internet'? What the customer paid for was access to a long chain of telecom equipment provided by businesses who engineered, deployed, and marketed their services.

Tiered services are a part of many industries, including Customer Service, Shipping, Transportation (first class anyone?), and many others.

Forcing businesses into government-mandated business models is wrong. It only stifles the creation of new business and innovation, while increasing the control of politicians over citizens lives.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719793)

Do those other tiered services spell out that they are doing such and how they are doing it?

ISPs should have to.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (2, Insightful)

moeinvt (851793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718945)

Prioritization based on data "type" is clearly much different than prioritization based on source/destination.

While I generally agree that the former is acceptable, I think the VoIP providers would have a legitimate gripe if a big telecom company slowed VoIP packets to a crawl in order to protect their competing telecommunication services.

Sure fax is obsolete, if you get paid hourly (1, Interesting)

kiddailey (165202) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719213)

Obsolete? It may be, but it's sure *hell* more efficient than scanning and email more often than not in my experience!
  1. Turn on the scanner
  2. Wait for it to warm up
  3. Wait for preview scan
  4. Wait for scan
  5. Realize you forgot to sign and date the document
  6. Re-preview scan, rescan document
  7. Save image to disk
  8. Resample image in image editor so it's small enough to email
  9. Receive reply from recipient who says their SMTP server filters out attachments
  10. Scream in frustration after realizing how much time you wasted
  11. Decide to use "obsolete" faxing instead
    ...
  12. Put original paper on fax machine
  13. Dial recipient's fax number
  14. Hit send

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

@madeus (24818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719329)

There's a difference between giving priority to different kinds of packets (QoS), and giving priority to packets from different sources, which is what Net Neutrality is all about
There is? Cringuely, like most headline seeking authors, writes a lot of daft stuff, however this none of this is news to me and he's right that carriers and telco's have been doing this for years. The best part of 10 years ago I was working for a international carrier developing a system to charge / limit our customers (national telco's, smaller carriers private firms doing significant data transfer and large isp's) based on packet type (technically, by port).

Let's say a European company buys it's connectivity from a datacenter company buys and resells wholesale traffic from a carrier, and the carrier gets traffic from a pan-European carrier, who has an agreement with a US carrier, who peers an exchange, which your provider connects to (and you have traffic that goes through that chain to the origional company in Europe).

Now it's all but certain some traffic shaping is going on there, and it's increasingly likely (as the technology to support it becomes increasingly avalible, better and cheaper) that different QoS's will be applied based on a number of factors - like the immediately preceeding source and the next hop in the chain. There are going to be agreements between each of the two companies (or with a third party, like the exchange) but you don't controll all of them, none of the guys in the middle care about you or the guy you are talking to they only care about their customers.

Companies sign agreements to do this kind of stuff because it works out cheaper for them to do so. It's a bit silly, as it's expensive even just to measure and limit it (you need more sophisticated hardware and software just to treat it differently) but it has valid uses, like rate limiting P2P traffic (which nearly every provider does these days - because otherwise it would add a whack to their bill, and yours, and reduce the network speed to a crawl).

I find the idea of forbidding two companies from entering into private peering arrangements that suit them abhorrent. They are not necessarily obliged to let your traffic go over their network at all.

There have been some really famous examples of global jackasses that have upset people so much that carriers and telco's have stopped routing traffic to them altogether (a carrier I used to work at did this to services run by Alan Brown of ORBS infamy - a 'blacklist' provider who where always putting the wrong companies in their blacklist and making wild, incorrect and unfounded allegations because he hadn't done his homework), eventually driving them out of business.

IIRC, above.net went one step further and *advertised* traffic for his company's IP netblock, then null routed it (it's owners had a stake in a competing commercial service, MAPS, so they found it particularly amusing I assume).

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 7 years ago | (#18721309)

I find the idea of forbidding two companies from entering into private peering arrangements that suit them abhorrent. They are not necessarily obliged to let your traffic go over their network at all.

If someone pays for internet access, they should get just that. Access to the whole internet. How else do you propose to ensure that they get what they paid for? Remember, providing the general public with quality internet access is our priority, it may be less profitable for the companies involved, but their profit does not trump our need for this utility.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 7 years ago | (#18721477)

If someone pays for internet access, they should get just that.

But you didn't pay for that; you paid for a company to hold up its end of a contract you signed, in return for you holding up yours. Depending on what that contract says, you might very well have agreed to tiered service. If so, no fair bitching about it now; RTFC next time.

Re:What exactly is neutral in net neutralit. (1)

mc6809e (214243) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719619)

QoS is ok, it's encouraged so long as every packet of the same type gets treated the same way. The problem comes when your VoIP packet gets preferential treatment over my VoIP packet.

But there are situations where such prioritization might be exactly what you want.

Maybe you WANT to buy cheap, surplus bandwidth for VoIP. Perhaps you have a teenager that's on the phone all day and are unwilling to pay for 27/7 guaranteed service. Instead you pay $5/month for surplus bandwidth for VoIP. What's wrong with that?

And what about avoiding congestive collapse [wikipedia.org] ? If bandwidth available will support only 100 VoIP calls then what do you do with the packets from the 101st call? Adding just 1 or 2 more calls can make the entire 100+ current calls unusable. Such a thing has already happened on the internet, except instead of VoIP connections, the problem was with TCP.

To avoid congetion collapse you may want to allow your connection to be (temporarily) refused now so that later when you try again, you will be able to get a usable connection when others' connections are refused.

Allowing some to connet while refusing others is called admission control and it's a technique that's been used for years to handle POTS calls. And it's necessary to make the system usable.

Some net neutrality legislation specifically outlaws admission control.

Here's why this is a dumb idea (4, Informative)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718097)

Most transport streams that deliver audio use UDP - it doesn't matter if you lose a few packets here and there because the human hear hears a reasonably good approximation of the original sound. There's no point trying to redeliver packets that get lost, because they will be late anyway by the time you get them there. This scheme will just plain not work with digital data, fax or whatever, if you're losing bits of it here and there. I suppose you could re-implement a reliable TCP-like protocol on top of the unreliable transport stream, but it would be so much easier to take a scan or a photo and email it.

Re:Here's why this is a dumb idea (1)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719153)

Except that's exactly what faxes do, as they use modem technology underneath. There might be an irreconcilable difference between the tendency of UDP to drop packets and the V series' ability to error-correct (rather like the extreme degradation TCP can suffer on narrowband high-latency networks like mobile phones) but in theory the fax shouldn't notice the loss of packets as the sample rate of the VoIP will be much higher than the modem's. It's all just voiceband whistling after all.

Re:Here's why this is a dumb idea (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719415)

Fair enough. But a lot of error-correcting schemes become unusable above a certain noise threshold (even TCP sucks on a really lossy network), so I guess the question is, is the line too lossy/noisy for the fax error correction to sort out the transmission in a reasonable length of time?

Re:Here's why this is a dumb idea (2, Informative)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719653)

I should have done my Googling before I posted... turns out this ground has been covered extensively elsewhere and a> yes, Vonage's voice codec is reputedly so bad that faxes are known to have a problem with it but, b> you can sometimes get fax to work by switching you fax into the slowest most error-correcting mode it has available. It is almost exactly the same as TCP over a really lossy network. On a lossy network like narrowband wireless TCP goes into ultra pedantic error correction and fragments packets to atoms to ensure delivery. The end result is that at the application layer (say a Web browser on a phone) the service becomes effectively unusable: I suspect much the same is happening here.

Re:Here's why this is a dumb idea (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719777)

Well, if it makes you feel better, I didn't check up either and just assumed fax wouldn't correct :)

Re:Here's why this is a dumb idea (1)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719899)

I'm deliberately trying not to google things instantly these days, just to make sure my memory is up to scratch...

Fax over VoIP (4, Insightful)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718099)

I use Bellsouth (now ATT). I had some serious issues sending faxes as well. One of the key ways to resolving this problem was to set the error correction levels on my Fax to the highest and to set the fax machine rate to the slowest possible speed. Doing this I was able to send and receive faxes with no trouble. The same worked for Comcast as well. This was also with Vonage. I used it with Comcast and VoIP some time ago, though. Perhaps things have changed in the last year or so.

Evangelist warning :-) (0)

guysmilee (720583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718109)

You see the problem is that we are just miss-informed ... we just need to be educated. This guy sounds like a spin doctor of the worst kind. I hate people that try to convince me that I am miss-informed when I disagree with them.

What a waste (0, Redundant)

CowTipperGore (1081903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718117)

Cringely comes to this conclusion after being unable to get a fax line working. His assumption that the (Vonage) line's failure to support faxing is due to Comcast packet prioritizing is not really supported or proved. But his main point about the longstanding existence of service tiering will come as no surprise to this community.
But his main point about tiered service is not really supported or proved.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect the answer may well lie in an extension of last week's column about net neutrality.

Readers claim that some -- who knows, maybe ALL -- big broadband ISPs are ALREADY running tiered services.

Well, there are no Net Neutrality rules/laws in place (yet). Correct? So, they can do anything they want, right?

So instead of a true "best effort" network upon which some ISPs want to impose tiered services, what most of us probably have are already tiered services

What a waste of a real estate on the Slashdot front page.

VOIP has it's limits (1, Redundant)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718153)

Since VOIP uses data compression I suspect that it is lossy. Voice can have lossy compression and still sound good to the ear. Even music can work. Since FAX is data that is embedded in higher audio frequency, I would expect it to not work becuase of lossy compression. POTS is analog all the way and has very little loss (except for analog filtering).

Anyone else know about this?

Re:VOIP has it's limits (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718289)

I remember back in the early to mid-90s, before VoIP was even really thought about, that modems (and faxes by definition) would have problems if there were too many DACs between the demarc and the dialed destination.

Digital is great for many things. It increases bandwidth significantly, but it will always be limited compared to the potential of analog (specifically irrational numbers). Digital has a limited precision compared to the infinite precision of analog.

Re:VOIP has it's limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718981)

"POTS is analog all the way".

What backward place do you live in?

Re:VOIP has it's limits (1)

xoyoyo (949672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719263)

POTS is most definitely not analogue all the way unless you're running two yoghurt pots with a piece of string between your house and the house opposite. Once you've moved out of the local exchange your call will be digitised and funnelled into a big fat fibre pipe as bits. And POTS is automatically lossy to begin with as it only uses frequencies between 300 and 3400 Hz; the question is whether the psychoacoustic model used in VoIP affects the fax's ability to error correct more than the simple high and low band filters used ion the normal phone system.

Cringely is a very valuable indicator (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718165)

I don't really know anything about the subject, but it's Cringely, so I'm going to assume that the opposite of whatever he said was true.

Re:Cringely is a very valuable indicator (2)

JFMulder (59706) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718565)

I'd show the man more respect if I were you. He often makes bold comments that might be true or not, but when it comes to predicting changes in the industry, he is more often right than wrong. Just look at his track record for his predictions.

Re:Cringely is a very valuable indicator (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719061)

I was actually speaking mostly to be funny; I have no idea why anybody would mod me "insightful".

I don't read his column. I only know it from Slashdot, which tends to post only his most outlandish stuff, usually about Apple. In fact in this case I really do agree with him; nobody ever guaranteed you "net neutrality" in the first place. And I am extremely doubtful that any law Congress passes on the subject would do more harm than good, even if they meant well by it.

Nonetheless, I saw an opportunity for a joke, and I took it.

Re:Cringely is a very valuable indicator (2, Insightful)

massysett (910130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719079)

Okay, let's say that I close my eyes, think really hard, and say "It will rain in Seattle tomorrow." Let's say that I do this every day, some days I say it will rain, and that when I say it will rain, I am right 75% of the time.

Does this mean I KNEW it will rain? No. Does it mean that I PREDICTED it will rain? Again, no. Maybe it just means that it rains 75% of the time in Seattle. To KNOW it will rain tomorrow or even to predict it, I have to have a basis for my prediction. Sheer odds, such as it raining 75% of the time, is not basis for my "prediction" that it will rain TOMORROW.

So it is with Cringely. He has demonstrated time and again that he has zero knowledge of technical issues. Just because he says something and it comes true doesn't mean he PREDICTED it. He needs some sort of basis in fact to have a "prediction". Seeing as his statements in this column are grounded in nothing more than a false belief that fax should work over his lossy VoIP line, he has shown yet again that he is shooting straight in the dark. He cannot "predict" based on his faulty knowledge, and he deserves no credit if his faulty "predictions" turn out to be right.

Re:Cringely is a very valuable indicator (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719399)

For once a worthy analogy. I get tired of all the car analogies.

I AM NOT A GREASE MONKEY.

Thank you.

Meh... this is FUD (3, Interesting)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718331)

Prioritization and QoS is good... and expected. It doesn't mean that net neutrality doesn't exist.

Does this guy actually have any technical smarts at all? Does he not realize that in order to do business, there's a certain level of "oversubscription" that is inevitable? ISP's have limits... they can only afford so much backbone to the Internet. This means that in order to prevent multiple broadband users from taking down the entire ISP, they HAVE to QoS the traffic in order that grandma with her PC can get on and send emails to little Johnny in California while torrents flood the network.

Net Neutrality isn't really about prioritization... it's about money. ISPs QoS the traffic, they just don't (yet) charge for certain tiers. I hope they don't... it would be the death of the Internet as we know it... and probably the birth of another more neutral network.

And for reference, I've worked for several ISPs in my career... and the company I work for today is also an ISP... so yes, I can speak somewhat intelligently on this ;)

Re:Meh... this is FUD (1)

Bigg Matt (1087565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718737)

"Net Neutrality isn't really about prioritization... it's about money. ISPs QoS the traffic, they just don't (yet) charge for certain tiers. I hope they don't... it would be the death of the Internet as we know it... and probably the birth of another more neutral network." aol has been doing it for years

Re:Meh... this is FUD (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719305)

"And for reference, I've worked for several ISPs in my career... and the company I work for today is also an ISP... so yes, I can speak somewhat intelligently on this ;)"

Just as a reminder: President Bush ran several companies... ;)

Almost too easy.

T.38 for fax over VoIP (4, Interesting)

JimDog (443171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718377)

If you get a VoIP adapter and provider that support T.38, you'll have much better luck with faxing over VoIP. As I understand it, T.38 allows your VoIP adapter to emulate G3 fax audio signals of the remote fax machine, and conversely, your service provider emulates your fax machine at the interface with the PSTN.

I use a Linksys SPA-2102 VoIP ATA with Gafachi as my service provider, both of which support T.38. I can report that I haven't had a single problem sending or receiving a fax.

Level 3 marks Class of Service (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718389)

I know for a fact Broadwing now Level 3 Communications does service tagging. Our corporation bought a DS3 and were only to get single session rates of like 300K. We could fill up the entire 45Mb but it took a ridiculous number of sessions to do so. After much troubleshooting with them we found out our traffic was getting tagged as Bronze. They removed the tags and now we're smooth sailing with rates up to 1Mb per session. Still not the best but it is better. So just goes to show yes they are already tagging traffic.

As long as fair competition holds... (1)

EmbeddedHack (448369) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718395)

Neutrality will hold as long as competition is fair. Internet culture is too long steeped in egalitarianism. If net providers start acting as tollgates, people will move around them. I doubt that 'premium' services can work without some sort of collusion among providers otherwise tit-for-tat throttling will occur. I not so sure it can work in the US, at least, now that the Republicans are on the way out.

cringely is an idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718403)

cringely's point is horribly inaccurate, and has nothing whatsoever to do with net neutrality. prioritizing packets based on their type is wholly different from prioritizing packets based on whether or not the server they originated from has paid what amounts to a blackmail fee. i don't know how this guy still has a job- incompetent boobs like this give geeks a bad name.

YOU FAiL IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718419)

QoS has has been here for a while (2, Interesting)

ironicsky (569792) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718421)

QoS(Quality of Service) has been around for a while. Cable Broadband companies, like Comcast give packet priority to their own products, such as Comcast Digital Voice or network access to their own sites. But they previously let competitor products like Vonage suffer by giving it a lower package priority.

My ISP, Shaw Cable, offers users the ability to pay $10 per month to give their third party VoIP services a higher priority on the network by bumping their SIP protocol to a different QoS. While this works, Vonage @ $19.99 + Shaw's QoS @ $10.00 is already more expensive then Shaw's base Digital Phone service.

Probably Jitter issues (3, Informative)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718551)

First of all, everybody should recognize that most Fax-over-IP use a different codec (typical T.38, if I recall) for encoding the fax signal. If you just plug your fax machine into a plain-old VoIP port, there's a good chance that your gateway will do some lossy audio compression that isn't noticable for speech, but destroys a fax signal. That's one of the reasons that Vonage sells fax as a separate type of line.

Second, IIRC, the initial part of a fax call does some measurement and negotiation -- this is where the two endpoints determine how fast they'll communicate, exactly which protocol they'll use, what capabilities each other have and (most importantly here) test their connection, including round-trip time. But, this negotiation assumes a circuit-switched network, not a packet-switched network.

One of the core things about IP is that the round-trip time can change. Normally, each side would put in a buffer to balance it out, but if the delay changes, the buffer may need to be increased. For people, that's not a big deal -- add an additional 10ms delay midway though a call, and we don't even notice. But, that increase will kill a fax machine.

Think about what you're doing with fax: you are scanning an image, converting into data, then encoding that data as analog, which then gets re-encoded as data for transmission over IP. On the other end, just the reverse happens. Why not skip the extra steps by getting a scanner and emailing it? Or, subscribe to efax, which does it for you.

But, since a lot of people still have fax machines, a better technological solution might be to have your gateway decode the fax signal to get to the underlying image data, and then just transmit THAT to the other end. This is approximately what the T.37 fax standard does (again, IIRC). Unfortunately, it's not particularly well supported anywhere yet.

Re:Probably Jitter issues (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720637)

No way - you're telling me that doing a Digital-Analog-Digital-Compress-Uncompress-Analog- Digital cycle might have deleterious effects? Whodathunk it! I mean come on - you can't take a digital signal running on an analog carrier, digitize it using another service, *compress* it with huge loss, and expect it to come out looking even reasonably coherent. You'd have to be an idiot to have any expectation that would work.

Yes and No (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718751)

Back in the 80's, the net was carried by the CLECs. They did not give a hoot. Heck, we had not real security. I was able to connect to the modem at the univeristy with NO password and later my work modem pool at US West had just simple shared password. After all, it was local and long distance that carried the money.

When Clinton commercialized it, at ISPs were created, the CLECs still did not mess with packets other than that ALL Internet packets had the lowest of low packets on the ATM.

By 2000, qwest (old uswest) had packet shaping but I understood that it was only being used it to make sure that their employee packets got through.

2 years ago, Now, I have heard from a friend of mine that is there and they do shape based on other criteria, including who the packet goes to. In particular, qwest had a battle with cogent and SLOWED down the dns to them until they agreed to pay them more connect money. Basically, it has been turned into a weapon of sorts to have the big clecs control the small upstarts. Obviously, it will by used against end customes as well.

Shutup Until NerdTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718821)

I think Cringely needs to shutup until he starts releasing the second season of NerdTV. I've been waiting for that for way too long.

Unofficial favoritism (1)

br0d (765028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18718877)

Regardless of technical favoritism I think a lot of people here have probably worked at an ISP or other business where the change requesting and troubleshooting needs of larger customers was routinely given higher priority than the needs of smaller customers, regardless of the fact that the "priority levels" of both issues being the same...

What do I know? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18718931)

All this stuff about compression and packet prioritixation is nice, but the fact is I've had Vonage for about 3 years now, along with Comcast -- and I've never had a problem sending or receiving dozens of faxes.

T.38 with Sunrocket's Telco gismo fax works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18719063)

Yes, the answer to many FoIP problems is a way to hack your VoIP gateway adapter in order to enable T.38. That will let you fax in/out with no problems and with lower QoS.
I had to login into my Telco gismo with admin account, which let you change all of those settings.

Vonage.. shag them in their back port... Sunrocket is the one you want.

salute

Truth is... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719217)

Truth is, nobody knows much about most things, until you try to demand money for it. Then the shazbot hits the air circulator.

404 can we get a real link (1)

splatter (39844) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719467)

please.... All I get is a 404 error. It has either been yanked due to /. effect or someone screwed the pooch on the link.

TIA

Real time open network QoS monitoring (4, Interesting)

bradbury (33372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719625)

Last weekend Verizon took my Boston suburb DSL line out of service several times (Friday night through Sunday). Its too much of coincidence that it started around 11:30 PM Friday night, came back early Saturday morning, then a similar situation Saturday night. Verizon support claimed cluelessness as to the cause (their support technicians admitted to running Windows XP and being able to ping a Verizon router a couple of hops upstream from my local town office -- though they didn't know how to run a TRACERT to the IP address that the Verizon DNS allocators handed out each time I rebooted the in-home Linksys & DSL modem). [I had to check and TRACERT is a standard XP command, presumably they don't educate support technicians how to do anything more than PING.]

At any rate after this outage, I notice that my Google search requrests seem to be taking significantly longer than they used to. Hmmmm.... Now Verizon is in the process of implementing FIOS in many surrounding communities so my suspicions are (a) priority routing may be going to the FIOS customers or (b) requests to google are being down prioritized (in the hopes of being able to extort $$$ for priority routing). I also notice that for several months digital channels on my Comcast Cable TV service it seems to be taking much longer for the TV signal to start after changing channels than it once did.

So my impression is that the local ISPs (Verizon & Comcast) are most likely moving in the direction of prioritization of routing so as to maximize revenue. (In contrast to models like TV where costs are advertiser supported or monopoly telephone companies where a minimal level of service was required.)

I think the only solution to this will be to revisit these issues at the political level (Congress) and/or develop public solutions that eliminate the monopolies. If people are familiar with high speed internet service in countries like Germany, Japan, Korea, etc. it appears that the U.S. is getting a lot less and paying a lot more due to the duopoly positions of companies like Verizon & Comcast.

Towards "taking back the internet", I would argue that we need 2 things.

First, an open source project to use P2P routing statistics to provide an online *free* analysis of where network congestion (or more importantly specific provider) problems may be occurring. I would love to have been able to say to the Verizon support tech, "Well I just used 10 minutes of my "free" AOL service to confirm using www.opennetstats.org that Verizon DSL services in the following communities north of Boston are all down! If the "public" at large can diagnose your network problems then why can't your own support staff do so [1]? I, and I suspect many Linux users, would be happy to run a server which contributed "peer" statistics to a cloud. This could also be used to determine whether services are being degraded to specific providers. If I consistently get high speed access to Stanford's FTP servers but low speed access to Google's servers (Boston to the Bay area) then something is going to be very suspicious in terms of the QoS the middle-cos are providing [2].

Second, communities need to seriously looking at WiMax based public "town" networks based on cheap Linux routers (the poles may belong to the companies but the airwaves belong to *us*). For people who aren't interested in TV on demand (e.g. people whose internet use is still largely base on *reading* and *writing*) there should be a standard high level quality of service which is dictated by the upstream provider (e.g. how many server farms Google wants to build) and not the money sucking, promise you the world and deliver nearly zippo at a decent cost, telcos and cablecos.

So why can't we at /. start at least the opennetstats.org part of this?
Perhaps people familiar with small community open WiMax type projects can post URLs for those as well.

1. The primary problem here appears to be that the data side of the telephone companies rarely if ever communicate anything to the technical support people. They rarely, if ever, inform front line support when routers are down, being upgraded, reconfigured, etc.
2. All of this makes the rumors that Google has a lock on a lot of dark fiber very interesting since it would seem they have foreseen the middle-co's plan and have strategies in place to combat them. Perhaps Google should change its motto to "Do no evil, and keep others from doing so as well."

Anecdotal Evidence, but they missed the point (4, Insightful)

Randolpho (628485) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719789)

ISPs *have* been prioritizing traffic [wikipedia.org] for years -- usually based on packet content-type. I helped install a "packet shaper" when I worked at a mom-and-pop dialup shop in the early 2000s. The thing is, TFA missed a key point about Net Neutrality: proponents aren't fighting QoS type prioritization, they're fighting prioritization based on origin and destination. QoS services organize packets based on their content type -- if you wanted to cut down on illegal downloading but still provide a decent web experience, you would throttle down P2P type packets, but let http packets through. What big ISPs are trying to do is go to major websites and say "hey, we'll give you priority for $x/month. Oh, your competitors? We'll just throttle their bandwidth to nothing. But if they pay the big bucks and you don't, you're screwed." What TFA is complaining about (ignoring the VoIP/Fax compression issue already pointed out) is old-skool QoS, something we've had for years. Net Neutrality is about unfairly shutting out the competition.

VoIPoVoIP... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18719847)

Why would you think that fax over voice over IP would even work? I mean, yeah it might be convenient, so give it a shot, but I cannot fathom the thought process that would lead to the expectation that it would work.

I suppose next someone will be complaining that, after hooking a modem up to their vonage phone, they can't get skype to work.

Vonage & Comcast never worked for me (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720035)

But I don't think it was a nefarious plot; I just thought the bandwidth from my house back to Comcast was so slow that it didn't support VOIP very well. When I switched to FIOS it worked very well, except when I'm downloading a lot of stuff and the bandwidth gets saturated very quickly.

Comcast may be a lot of things, but I don't think they're smoothly run enough to support a conspiracy like this. And even if you accept Comcast is lowering the priority of Vonage packets, Vonage should disguise their packets better so it's harder for Comcast to spot the app running.

Net transparency, not net neutrality (1)

fizzbin (110016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18720803)

As long as we've had broadband ISPs we've had net non-neutrality, called "tiers of service". Cringely already knows this, since he pays for commercial grade service. You pay more money, you get (at least in theory) a better grade of service.

What we don't know is exactly *how* the ISPs implement it. Bandwidth speeds alone don't tell the story, since they're theoretical in any case.

For any given grade of service, the ISPs should disclose any and all filtering, prioritization, "shaping" etc -- any treatment of packets that is different from the norm. If your ISP gives priority to its VoIP service, commercial customers, etc, that needs to be disclosed. Any filters intended to slow down P2P or Vonage, that should be disclosed. If they give preferential treatment traffic originating from certain sites for a fee or for any reason (Yahoo gets better access than Google because Yahoo pays), that absolutely should be disclosed.

Somewhere on their websites, referenced from their terms of service and available to the public, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner et al need to fully disclose all their shaping. This should be achievable with much less regulatory effort than trying to define "net neutrality" which never really existed. Then consumers could make informed choices between providers.

And then Cringely can stop whining about his fax :-)
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