On net neutrality

Recently we’ve seen a resurgence in the risks to net neutrality regulation in the US.  I’ve been spending some time thinking about the possible outcomes of a loss of net neutrality and how it may not turn out quite so well for the ISPs as they might hope.

Currently a content provider has no reason to limit access to their content based on the traffic source (a Comcast customer vs a AT&T customer) but if the net neutrality rules change, not only would the ISPs be able to create “cable 2.0” to charge their customers based on “channels” of content accessed but the content providers such as Netflix, or Amazon, or heck, even my own little website could set up a similar agreements with ISPs.  An example might be that Netflix may throttle or block any Comcast customer traffic because they feel the deal they have with Comcast isn’t good enough or their AT&T agreement exclusively keeps Comcast from having any access at all.  Or the reverse could be true; for net neutrality reasons Netflix could choose to block altogether any ISP that segments internet access into bundles. Although the ISPs may feel that the power is in their hands as the last mile of the communication, in the end the Internet is not broadcasting and this can technologically be blocked, throttled, or gate kept, by all involved.

The decision on net neutrality will have far ranging implications on communication, news, and political information (and misinformation), but the financial motivation to control the flows of information may not work out exactly as those lobbying for it may believe.


2017 Singapore Grand Prix

I’ve spent the last few days in a haze.

I’m a fan of Sebastian Vettel. His driving, candid and funny interviews, his normal guy persona, and his amazing emoting when he succeeds, all combine to keep me a supporter.

The race on Sunday was not ideal. The rain came and the race started with most cars on intermediate wet tires like Seb. With a weak start, in the first few seconds, Sebastian sabotaged his own race by driving Verstappen into a Ferrari sandwich that led straight to the inevitable collisions.

I think I understand what Sebastian was doing; he was trying to keep from having a lunging Verstappen on the inside of turn 1 but that didn’t work as expected. Instead Vettel’s move caused him, Verstappen, Raikkonen, and Alonso, to all suffer catastrophic issues ending their respective races.

I don’t think Vettel would have made the same move on Hamilton because I think he would have kept to the outside of turn 1 trusting that Hamilton wouldn’t come up the inside as aggressively as Verstappen has been proven to do. This is not a knock on Verstappen; he is successful at his maneuvers far more frequently than a failure at them and is different enough in style and skill from other drivers to inspire alternate tactics during the race.

In the end it did not matter what Seb was trying to do, the result was a failure. DNF for him and others.

I remember being in denial, that the race might restart but of course that would not happen.

My hopes for a Sebastian Vettel victory on Sunday were dashed mere seconds after the start and my growing anticipation for another Sebastian Vettel World Driver title subsided.  This made me sad for a few days until I remembered where Sebastian was after Singapore in 2010 during his first driver title.  He was almost as far behind then as he is now.

After Signapore 2010, with only 4 races remaining Seb was in third place in the title hunt behind his teammate Mark Webber by 21 points, and behind Fernando Alonso by 25 points.  Seb won 3 of the last 4 races and eked out a 4 point lead to capture his first of 4 consecutive titles!

I may have spent the last few days in a haze but I’m out of it now and I’m expecting that Sebastian will put his disastrous performance in Singapore behind him and I look forward to watching Seb defeat Hamilton’s 28 point lead over the next 6 races.  Buona fortuna, Seb!


Episode IV: A new host

I decided to set up again today on a different host.

The site is virtually empty.  Enjoy the simple splendour of this popular WordPress template (Zerif Lite).


Usage Based Billing: Do you know what you’ll need in 10 years?

Originally posted February 2011; html links not included in this version re-published in 2017.

The fight about usage based billing has been raging for years , but, has only recently garnered significant attention. The Prime Minister has commented on this issue as have the opposition parties. Although the issue has reached these levels, we must remain vigilant in ensuring that, as a country, we are not short sighted in our adoption of technology.

Why does this matter to me? I use around 1GB per month to read my email.

Although many Internet users have little or no idea how much network traffic they have in a month. There is a common belief that since they are currently well below the 25GB cap, that they will remain below the current cap for years (or forever). Internet traffic should not be confused with “usage” or even user driven activity.

If you asked me in 1991 how much bandwidth I would require a month, I might have guessed (on the very high side) somewhere around 0.4GB/month (based on a 2400baud modem being on and continuously transferring data 12 hours a day). Would I have used 0.4GB/month?Highly unlikely, given that most information on the internet was text based and streams of information, or dynamic sources of information were less common. Making the same rough (and arbitrary) calculation using a 6MBPS DSL modem connection today, the very rough number would work out to a staggering 1000GB/month (over 2000 times the amount from 1991!) Although I would have been hard pressed to find 0.4GB a month to transfer in 1991, it wouldn’t be too difficult to find 1000GB/month of legal content to transfer (or even generate!) on the Internet today.

If we assume “power internet users” today and in 1991 use roughly 5% of their total available network connection, that would mean a 2400baud “power internet user” would have used 0.04GB/month and a 6MBPS DSL “power internet user” would use 100GB/month today. So, to keep this in perspective, if you are using 1GB/month today, you are using the equivalent of 25 “power internet users” from 1991 (or more!). If “power internet users” are using 100GB today, how much Internet will you be using in 10 years? 20 years? Given geometric trends in data transfer and increases in dynamic content, it is hard to say, but, “more than today” is a fairly certain bet. The 25GB/month usage based cap may seem high today. but for how long?

If the proposed usage based billing changes go through, we will be living with these changes for a very long time. This implicit throttling of access to information will turn Canada into an Internet back-water, unable to keep pace with progress, Canada will no longer be a place to effectively do business, foster innovation or provide world-class facilities for education.

How can I help?

If you live in Canada, please go to today and sign the petition! If you live elsewhere please be vigilant; don’t let your regulators, politicians and ISPs do to your country what the CRTC and the major ISPs are trying to do in Canada!

Update 2017/07/07:

At the time of original publishing I was using around 20-25GB/month of data (Nov,2010-Jan,2011). In Jun,2017 I used over 100GB of data!!  In other words if we had been stuck with a 25GB legislated cap I would currently be 4 times that cap (and paying exorbitant additional usage fees!).  The good news is that I’ve secured an unlimited plan (still through TekSavvy after all these years!).

Update 2021/04/15:

Another few years and a giant leap in usage; since my usage in the month of February 2021 was …. a little bit higher than 25GB caps proposed a decade ago …

As citizens, be sure to remind your legislators to avoid codifying an industries’ prices and feel free to use this example for whatever the next “Usage Based Billing” attempt is in your area!