Low broadband transfer limits may lead to net neutrality worries

I can’t move for hearing about the new xbox/PC game ‘Bioshock’, and was going to download the demo just now. Unfortunately, it’s almost 2gb. That’s a serious chunk of my 12gb monthly limit, which I usually skirt anyway, so I’m thinking twice.

I’m sure this problem won’t exist for much longer. It can’t: transfer limits are increasingly out-of-sync with average need. It’s been all about speed for a few years, but transfer limits must surely be the next battleground.

Most broadband customers have 2gb monthly limits. 2gb/month is only 67mb/day, which on my connection takes about ten minutes to download. Surely there must be a lot of people already getting charged more / cut off? Even if you’re not BitTorrent-ing (and a lot of people are), chances are you’re watching movie trailers, emailing photos and downloading music. And with high-quality video streamers like the BBC iPlayer just around the corner, 67mb a day is quickly going to look pitiful.

I don’t know how cynical to be about the responses of BT etc.. Chances are there’ll be a period where they just charge everybody more, then somebody will take the ‘revolutionary’ stand of offering higher transfer limits and everybody else will quickly catch up. The worry is they’ll use the issue as a chance to demand money from websites, as they’re currently threatening in the US.

Not content with already getting paid by everybody, telecommunications companies want to instigate a tiered-system by which Google etc. will have to pay more for their data to be transferred at higher speeds. It’s not a big step from there1 to demanding money for basic accessibility, which completely breaks the democratic nature of the web. Currently, the smallest startup can compete with Google: if they’re successful enough, they’ll be able to find investors to help with bandwidth costs. But having to pay for basic accessibility would prevent them getting off the ground. There’s no reason for telecommunications companies to care, so it’s up to governments to regulate.

The counter-reaction of the “Net Neutrality” movement is vocal, but it’s not hard to make a convincing-sounding case for the other side using words like ‘government interference’, ‘freedom’ and ‘free market’2. I don’t think it’s yet clear which way governments will go on this issue.

  1. yeah, I know slippery slopes are logical fallacies, but remember that BT tried to demand money after claiming they owned copyright on the hyperlink – I don’t think this is beyond their capitalist brief []
  2. I wonder how libertarians deal with this particular issue. Democratic internet = yay, but regulation = bad. Probably the latter – hatred of government tends to trump all other considerations, in my experience []

Silly Netgear naming conventions

I recently told somebody to pick up a Netgear DG834G router to set up their wireless network. They duly went into PC World, asked and were given a DG834, then couldn’t get the wireless working. I was helping them over the phone and couldn’t understand why the settings didn’t exist, then discovered that the G-less DG834 is non-wireless. What a dumb naming convention. I wish I’d known that beforehand.

Annoyances

I’m getting frequent broadband disconnections – more time offline than on, actually – and the phone line is crackly. I reported the fault via BT’s website and requested SMS updates. I wonder whether this is as efficient as actually calling them up…Update: they just called me back, so I guess it is.

A Giant Wasp of Pointy Death tried to kill me. Really.

I received an email warning saying 90% of my webhosting space has been used. This amounts to 900mb. I have no clue how this is possible. Email accounts are empty, my website takes up maybe 80mb, I can’t imagine the mysql database is that big. Confused.

Apologies, router

Dear Broadband Provider,

I am very happy with my broadband service. I have had no problems since signing up with you three months ago. Indeed, I have recommended your service to others. I’d like to make one small suggestion, however.

If my payment method fails for any reason (let’s say, I changed bank and forgot to update the card details in your system) it would be pleasant if you could let me know before disconnecting the service. An email, a phone call, or perhaps a couple of days leeway would be appreciated. This would spare the feelings of a poor innocent router, who was on the receiving end of a number of insults this afternoon.

I note that your notification email does state I’ll have 14 days to fix the problem, so I imagine this whole thing was due to a glitch rather than actual policy. Please, though, think of the routers.

Andrew

Juggling

Busy busy busy.

  • The sofa is being delivered tomorrow! This is great news, except that I may be sitting in an empty flat all day as they could only say ‘sometime between 0900 and 1800’. I’ll load up the car with as much as I can, make a start on building whatever furniture I can carry and give the place a good clean. I don’t want to start painting without somebody else around, as I haven’t done any before. Must remember to take a radio, kettle, food, £50 in cash for the delivery driver(!)
  • I phoned BT at 1800 yesterday, and the phone line was enabled at 0600 this morning. The number showed up in broadband compatability databases at the same time. This is worryingly efficient for BT…I’m waiting for that to fall apart somehow.
  • I’ve signed up with Metronet for broadband. Their 1mb service is £19.99 monthly with a 45gb limit, and they have extremely good ratings from the folks at adslguide.org.uk. I was considering Virgin, Newnet and Freedom2Surf, but discovered that podcasts alone have amounted to 5gb over the past couple of weeks, which puts me over their bandwidth limits. I could ditch the podcasts, but when my phone line doesn’t support 2mb1 there’s little point paying for a 2mb service when 1mb would do fine, and I can get the higher cap. Should I go over 45gb, I’ll be charged per mb up to a maximum of just under £30, although I plan for this never to happen! Metronet are also nicely geeky, and contribute to the forums regularly.
  • Just to make things even more complex, I’ve opened a new bank account at Smile. They operate entirely online, and you pay cheques in via mail or at the post office. This should be much easier to manage than my current HSBC account, the online features of which are a little lacklustre. The interest rate is 3.3%, which while not the highest on the market is far more than the 0.000000004% at HSBC2. There’s also the added attraction of parent company The Co-op’s ethical policy. For example, they won’t invest in any business or government “which fails to uphold basic human rights within its sphere of influence”, or anything to do with the tobacco industry. I think they’re too paranoid about genetically modified foods, but I find everything else entirely reasonable.

Tomorrow evening is my dance group’s christmas party, then on Friday I need to pack up everything I own. Painting and moving will hopefully take place on Saturday and Sunday. I plan to sleep for all of next week…

Although busy, this isn’t too stressful. I can’t imagine fitting all of this around a full-time job and one day to move completely!

  1. too far from the exchange anyway []
  2. this may be a slight exaggeration []