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Net Neutrality Never Really Existed? 157

Posted by kdawson
from the cry-me-no-tiers dept.
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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Net Neutrality Never Really Existed?

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  • by omnipotus (214689) <jason.lunn@gmail.com> on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:19AM (#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?
    • by jrumney (197329) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:35AM (#18718201) Homepage

      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.

      • 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?
    • by msauve (701917) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:46AM (#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].
      • by jgs (245596)
        On the other hand, in the real world fax-over-Vonage typically works fine (at least for me and many of the others who've posted to this thread).

        "The difference between theory and practice is always greater in practice than in theory."
        • by msauve (701917)
          and Vonage supports G.711 and, I think recently, T.38 Fax relay. Vonage allows the user to change the codec setting (I think they call it "Bandwidth Saver," and allow you to force G.711 by dialing *99 before the E.164 number).

          T.38 will work in the presence of network issues (latency, jitter, packet loss) which will cause a G.711 fax call to croak. G.729 and G.721 codecs will very likely prevent any fax transmission - they use perceptual coding based on human speech to do compression. That does not work wel
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Code Master (164951)

      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 b

    • it's the codecs (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mungtor (306258)
      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.
      • AT&T CallVantage VoIP comes configured for voice by default, but if you want to support a fax machine you can tick a box on your Web-based control panel. Mind you: Nowhere have I seen any documentation that says why you wouldn't want to do this all the time, if it's possible. I've checked the box and voice quality sounds pretty much the same. And I haven't actually tried sending a fax, BTW.
    • 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 :)
    • 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
    • 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.
    • Er, it rather depends on the codec you use. Of course you can do FAX over VoIP. Hell, the public telephone network has been almost entirely digital for over a decade now. The only real difference between PSTN and VoIP is that VoIP data travels over the Internet rather than a network explicitly built for voice communications. Since both are similar, much of the technology is also similar, including compression algorithms.
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:19AM (#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).
    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:27AM (#18718115) Journal
      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.
      • by saforrest (184929)
        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 re
        • 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.
        • by joto (134244)

          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 Vo

          • by saforrest (184929)
            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!).

            At the risk of grossly being immodest, I will suggest that I have a minimal level of technical insight. Whether or not fax over VOIP is a good idea, the point is that lots of people will want to use it, and many hidebound stuck-in-the-eighties services still require it.

            There's no way p
            • by joto (134244)

              Yup. Fax over IP is a good idea. Fax over Voice over IP is a bad idea. Fax was never intended to be over a voice line anyway, it's just that at the time fax was invented, most homes and businesses didn't have a connection to the Internet.

              Oh, and the fact that many people wants to use something because it's cheap, doesn't change the fact that it's a bad idea to use it because it sucks. Personally I find polystyrene to be a cheap building material, and would like to build my house entirely from polystyrene.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:21AM (#18718019) Journal
    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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Paulrothrock (685079)

      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.

      • *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?
        • by joto (134244)

          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

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • I'm sorry, I should have said "a lot harder to spoof untraceably". Do you think faxing from your computer (via modem) is any less traceable than faxing from a fax machine?
            • I was thinking more along the lines of "forging the document." Sure, you can forge the headers, but you can also block the caller id on your phone, or fax it from just about anywhere with an open RJ11 jack if you really wanted to spoof your number.

      • by simm1701 (835424)
        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.
      • 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 th

      • by Stevecrox (962208)
        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 pri
      • but why they don't accept encrypted PDFs is beyond me. It's just as secure as a fax.

        From the technological standpoint, yes. From the legal standpoint, no. Faxes have special exceptions to many duplication-of-signature laws long in place, which have not been applied to computer standards. When that changes, you will see companies racing to implement PDF transfer, which from a technical standpoint is far safer, and which from a customer service standpoint is far more convenient. Believe it or not, compa
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:36AM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

        by The_Quinn (748261)

        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 inn

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

        Er. You do know that that has been common practice since the switched circuit days, right? What you bought is phone service. Nowhere in the contract does it say "we're not going to QoS rate the other side according to their payout." That's why cellular calls within a network generally sound so much better than cellular calls across networks. Make a Verizon to Verizon
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moeinvt (851793)
      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.
      • I don't agree that it's acceptable ever. (Well.. maybe if I had individual control over how my traffic is handled.) I pay my ISP to convey my data from point A to point B. I never specified that I want some types of data to be conveyed faster than others.

        Service providers naturally oversubscribe their lines. Traffic shaping just enables them to choke protocols that you won't readily notice being choked so customers don't complain that they don't have enough bandwidth. Why that's acceptable to you I don't kn
    • 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 "obso
    • by @madeus (24818)

      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 connect

      • by Hatta (162192)
        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
        • by Syberghost (10557)
          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.
          • by Hatta (162192)
            Right. So generic internet access is not available to the general public. We need to make it available. No one is willing to provide it now, because tiered access is more profitable. The free market is but a means to an end, when it fails to provide that end(in this case neutral net access), other means(such as legislation) may be necessary.
            • by @madeus (24818)

              So generic internet access is not available to the general public. We need to make it available

              The thing is, there is no single "internet backbone" you are guaranteed access to. You have access to your providers network and by their grace other networks they also connect to (and / or what ever your contract might stipulate) that's all you get. You don't get acess to "all the networks on earth" magically, just because you pay a few bucks a month to some telco. You get what access people choose to allow you. If you want access to a specific network, set up a peering arrangement with them like anyone e

              • by Hatta (162192)
                It's not as if providers are dicking with us and withholding better access just to make more money by selling it as a value add

                They're not? If they're not withholding anything, why are consumer connections in the US so much slower than those in korea, etc? If they're not trying to sell it back to us as a value add, why are faster connections so much more expensive? I think that's exactly what they're doing. They have refused to invest in technologies that would vastly benefit the consumer because it woul
    • by mc6809e (214243)
      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
  • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:26AM (#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.

    • by xoyoyo (949672)
      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.
  • Fax over VoIP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jallen02 (124384) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:26AM (#18718099) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by uradu (10768)
      That's exactly right, set the fax to the 9600 rate and leave it there. Additionally, some VoIP providers let you configure the sound quality, which affects the compression rate. Use the highest quality available, and faxing should work. There's a lot of crap floating in this thread about modems/faxes and some inherent incompatibility with VoIP. VoIP has generally been designed to emulate at least traditional POTS quality, which has a bandwidth of about 3000 Hz. Modems and faxes were made to work through thi
  • by jfengel (409917) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:31AM (#18718165) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by JFMulder (59706)
      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.
      • by jfengel (409917)
        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
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by massysett (910130)
        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 7
        • by LilGuy (150110)
          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 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:44AM (#18718331) Homepage
    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 ;)
    • by geekoid (135745)
      "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.
      • LOL... have you actually tried to have an intelligent coversation with many "old money" men who've "run their own companies"? Most of them only know how to do one thing; delegate. :)
    • by iangoldby (552781)

      Net Neutrality isn't really about prioritization... it's about money. ISPs QoS the traffic, they just don't (yet) charge for certain tiers.

      True, but it is a little more than that. The interests who are opposed to net neutrality are mainly concerned with being able to prioritise the traffic from partner sites and networks - regardless of the type of traffic. So their own streaming video, or streaming video from a partner will get a much higher priority than the same streaming video if it is coming from a sm

  • by JimDog (443171) on Friday April 13, 2007 @10:47AM (#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.
  • 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,
  • by cfulmer (3166) on Friday April 13, 2007 @11:00AM (#18718551) Homepage Journal
    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.

    • 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.
      • by cfulmer (3166)
        So, if you have VoIP at home, you might be able to recognize this issue and deal with it. The bigger problem comes in when carriers replace their long-haul circuit-switched networks with private packet-switched networks. Then, your customer doesn't even know, or care, that their data is going over VoIP. And, as a result, you might end up customers trying to send regular modem traffic over your VoIP network. And, worse, it's harder to catch than it would if you had VoIP to the home, since you can't just
        • As long as the compression and packetization process is reversible, it won't be a problem. Naturally, that digitization will have to be such that the reconstructed waveform is within tolerance for fax machines. If the big telcos start doing a bunch of lossy compression on lines their customers expect to be clean, expect riots.
  • Yes and No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Friday April 13, 2007 @11:13AM (#18718751) Journal
    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.
  • Truth is, nobody knows much about most things, until you try to demand money for it. Then the shazbot hits the air circulator.
  • 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

  • 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
  • by Randolpho (628485) on Friday April 13, 2007 @12:23PM (#18719789) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 packe
  • by wonkavader (605434) on Friday April 13, 2007 @02:48PM (#18722369)
    Cringley's getting screwed, as are we all. The technical aspects of how we're getting screwed are important and we need transparency in our ISPs to help resolve that. Then we could go to an ISP that shapes in the way we want.

    But look at who we're talking about. We're talking about ILECs and Cable companies. To some small extent we're talking about mom and pop ISPs, but they'll follow the big leaders (or die).

    The ILECs were asked about fiber to the home. They said "give us 200 billion dollars, and we'll take care of it." The US government gave them $200,000,000,000 in various forms. (Look at all those zeros.) And what did they deliver? Squat. What do they say they delivered? DSL! That's basically fiber! Did they deliver it everywhere? No. But they delivered it to everyone rich, so that basically everyone!

    I feel like Inigo Montoya in the Princess Bride:

    Inigo Montoya: Offer me everything I ask for.
    Count [ILEC]: Anything you want.
    Inigo Montoya: I want my [$200,000,000,000] back you son of a bitch.
  • Net neutrality (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveHowe (51510) on Friday April 13, 2007 @03:18PM (#18722919)
    well, one obvious advantage to maintaining at least the illusion of net neutrality is "common carrier status" - this is what stops an isp being sued when its naughty customers use p2p to share the latest britney spears hit.

    All that (and the legal shield it provides) goes away if the isp *does* look at what the packets are and asserts control over them.

  • ...although this isn't why.

    This is something that I think got missed in a lot of the hullabaloo about net neutrality: people weren't translating from Corporate Executive Speak to Engineer Speak. Instead of thinking about "tiers of service," think about "packet priority" -- giving some packets on the network higher priority and reliability than others. What does this sound like? That's right. We're talking about packet shaping, and the ability to do it has been out there for a long time.

    And arguably, some pa
  • I read Cram's column with quite a bit of amusement. What's interesting is I ran across exactly the same deal but over a different medium: telephone service over cable. A cable equipment company called me in when their customers reported they were unable to send faxes over the telephony-over-cable product. When I visted the test lab of this company (named withheld to protect the guilty) they demonstrated the failure. Interestingly, the faxing worked when they first started up the testbed, and then it go

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