Dear Virgin Media: if Net Neutrality is "bollocks" then you can get stuffed

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68 Responses to “Dear Virgin Media: if Net Neutrality is "bollocks" then you can get stuffed”

  1. Magpye says:

    @ Frenetic
    Well, where to start? Could I just say most of it was incorrect and keep this as a short post ?
    No? Pity.

    This “extra pipe” analogy is also an oversimplification of a complex concept. The point-to-point, packet-switched Internet, especially where commercial ISPs are concerned, doesn’t work like that.

    A customer upgrades their DSL from a 256k connection to an 8MB connection – that seems to be a fair few extra pipes to me, and probably to them too.
    Yes, I know there isn’t *actually* a little man frantically laying those pipes in earnest to the house, and that it is simply data throttled at the DSLAM in the exchange, but for most people they don’t care about that and yet, curiously, they still manage to live happy and fufilling lives.
    Yes, it is an oversimplification, but this is Boing Boing, not Telecommunication Engineers Digest, so what were you expecting ????
    You may be alarmed to find further oversimplifications in your day to day dealings. Terms such as ‘driving’, ‘Internet’ and ‘dating’ are also simplistic terms for complicated, complex and sometimes, not fully understood concepts.

    they can’t change how that wire works, because that would mean they are no longer really providing “Internet access”, in the strictest sense.

    Sorry to say, wrong again.
    If you’re technically inclined, then these terms may ring a bell. ADSL/HDSL/VDSL, data throughput, bandwidth shaping, Ethernet over Powerline.
    All those either change how the wire works, or affect the *perception* of how the wire works. I’m too tired at the moment to discuss it at length,
    but simply put, if I change your 8MB DSL line to a dial up account, it may be the same copper pair, but you sure ain’t getting the same service. And yet, I’m still providing you with Internet access. In the strictest sense.
    Amazing but true.

    An ISP in its capacity as a provider of that connection service, has little to do with the backbone,

    Generally speaking, yes.
    However, Virgin Media was the topical ISP in discussion, and they *do* have their own backbone, like most, if not all, of the Tier 1 ISP’s do.
    Granted, I’ll concede I assumed you were talking about VM, my bad.

    ISPs don’t care – indeed, have to make extra effort to even figure out – where your packets are coming from and going to.

    But ISP’s *do* care. They care about you, and they care about me.
    And they really care about small, cute furry animals. They’re a caring bunch ISP folk.
    And they especially care when they see a crap load of data heading off to unanticipated directions. Note I said unanticipated, not unexpected.
    For the few ISP’s I’ve worked for, running reports on net traffic is standard reporting, and not really seen as extra effort – you want to see and account for why you suddenly have a spike in international traffic to, say, the Czech Republic, because that costs you more money than national traffic. You’re also wanting to make sure that there’s enough bandwidth available to access Microsoft when they release a new SP.
    Normally Beijing wouldn’t warrant priority routing, but sometime later this year, you can expect to see a ton of data heading that way..
    So, yes, ISP’s do take notice of where *their* traffic is going, because unsurprisingly, it’s costing them money.

    None of them had the ambivalent attitude towards reporting you’re alluding to. Sorry, myth busted.

    So this idea ISPs have for finding and blackmailing the people their customers are trying to communicate with is a contrivance.

    This is so wrong, you must have used a map.

    For a start, they’re not blackmailing anyone, (unless there’s some juicy pics floating around I haven’t yet seen.)
    They’re simply using their position for unfair business advantage.
    Any customer who does not agree with that, can do what Cory is doing. They leave.
    I’m lacking in experience in this, but I’d always presumed that if you were to blackmail someone, you do not simply let them just walk away from you, never to return.
    Which is what VM’s clients will most likely do.
    So, blackmail ? No, not really.

    Or, put bluntly, a scam.
    Ah, well there’s something we can all agree on, it certainly IS a scam

  2. pork musket says:

    @19 – And that has exactly what to do with anything? Virgin Media != Virgin America.

  3. Takuan says:

    the virus may have died down

  4. zikzak says:

    Wait, so are y’all happy with your current internet speeds? You don’t care if broadband providers never increase your bandwidth?

    Because that’s what’s being suggested with this “add a new pipe” argument. ISPs constantly upgrade their infrastructure (maybe not fast enough, but nevertheless constantly) as more people come online and bandwidth demands increase. “Adding new pipes” isn’t a special occasion, it’s the norm.

    If we say “ok, you can add new non-neutral pipes as long as you keep the old ones free”, we’re dooming ourselves to two fates:

    1) The only increases in bandwidth we’ll ever see in the future will be to certain sites which have bribed the ISP

    2) All other sites will become gradually slower as more people become connected and traffic demands naturally increase

    I don’t know about y’all, but I want the internet to be faster – by which I mean the internet not just yahoo.com. If we tolerate “upgrades for those who pay”, we’re setting ourselves up for a slower overall internet. Speed increases will change from a routine infrastructure maintenance operation to a special privilege to be doled out only to those companies who can make deals with each ISP.

  5. C0nt1nu1ty says:

    From what I have herd from some quaters Virgin Media are trying to distance themselves to a degree from these comments and as of yet Branson has not made a comment on this issue though if the issue persists it would be in his interest to knock heads together in order to control damage to his own image.

    Regardless of this I am currently not a customer but will be as of July (as part of an all expenses paid rent agreement – a steal for a student house) so it would be difficult for me to get my landlady to change the contract because of an issue that quite frankly she wont understand, though I’m gonna try. Any recommendations of cheaper/better competitors to tempt said contract holder with?

  6. RyanH says:

    A comment on the second pipe discussion that I don’t see above. If I have missed it, I apologize.

    Let’s say the current pipe is 1X speed. They install a second pipe for priority traffic that is 2X speed. Sites and services that pay the protection money get delivered by the 2X pipe and everything else is 1X.

    My question is this: How is the connection advertised?

    If the connection that you have signed up for is advertised and delivered as a 1X connection, no problem. If some sites want to pay extra to be delivered at 2X speed to the 1X customers, I can’t see much problem there. That really is an added bonus. Regular sites aren’t being downgraded and customers get a little something extra. Classic value added with little room to complain.

    Call me cynical however because I can see these connections being sold to customers as being up-to-2X-speed services. That’s the problem.

  7. Keir says:

    I think this is going to be an issue simply because I don’t think any content provider, certainly not any popular one, is going to start paying ISPs for this.

  8. MarlboroTestMonkey7 says:

    Without getting into the deep technical aspects of traffic and bandwidth regulations, yes it is perfectly possible, there are a number of ways to do it in fact:
    1. Assign different traffic weights or routes to servers, hosts, clusters or domains (the last one is “better” because of generalization).
    2. Virtual LANS to segregate traffic.
    3. Treating visits or hits as hostile, meaning that filtering and bandwidth restriction can be enforced at switch, router or firewall side.

    There are many hops between you and your destination, it’s a matter of manipulating the “pipe flow” as needed.

  9. Gilbert Wham says:

    “I already have a DSL line from BT, which I’ll be keeping.”

    I put it to you, sir, that that statement marks you out as crazier than a shit-house rat. Seriously, don’t. Go with Entanet or Be. No traffic-shaping, no Phorm (I’m looking at you BT!), and no 12-month contract; instead, they keep you as a customer by not pissing you off! It’s a crazy concept, I know, but it seems to work for them…

  10. Shazbot says:

    Good luck Cory! Stick it to them! The little guy might get squashed by this, but I hope that they would respect you more.

  11. Anselm says:

    I think Zikzak raises a very good point: as soon as someone- anyone- is required to pay extra for a faster connection, then speed becomes synonymous with money.

    To a large degree, we already have that in that cable costs more than DSL. However, the difference with net neutrality would be that it’s “big money” being forced to pay. Now, instead of extra speed benefiting a company (as well as everyone else), extra speed for that company’s sites benefits a company, and lower speeds for a competing company also benefits them.

    In other words, it’s no longer a matter of benefiting only from higher speeds, but also from lower speeds. As soon as there is a reason to lower speeds, big money companies will jump on that, and that will lower the overall speed. And if not, it’ll lower the speed of those funky, fly-by-night Russian sites we all love so much and that really give the ‘net the depth of character we know and love.

  12. pepsi_max2k says:

    @ #22 – “. Any recommendations of cheaper/better competitors to tempt said contract holder with?”

    they’ve been mentioned on here before, and if you can get it in your area O2 are great. true (almost) unlimited access, ADSL2+ (8 Mb capped) for £12.50 a month (or £7.50 if you have a contract or payg mobile with them). BeThere are virtually the same, just a different pricing structure. the unlimited downloads would be perfect for a student house, afaik only people hitting over 100 GB pm have had issues, and that was a while ago on Be. Not long ago they were about the cheapest unlimited BB providers in the UK too, a couple of dodgy bt wholesale resellers were cheaper but probably not as fast.

  13. Antinous says:

    arguing from a 3-year-old status quo is just silly

    So I shouldn’t bother to reclaim any of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights that I’ve lost since Bush took office? Loss of habeas corpus is over three years old as is wire-tapping without judicial oversight. I don’t know which side of this issue you’re arguing, but that’s a bizarre argument either way.

  14. Hans says:

    pork musket: Although Virgin America is a separately run company, they are using the same brand name, licensed from Virgin Group. I think boycotting all Virgin Group holdings would be reasonable. If others in the Virgin Group will tolerate one company abusing their customers while maintaining their branded ties, then they all deserve to sink together.

  15. Jenn2D2 says:

    @Keir – I think the largest problem with the net neutrality issue is that some large content providers might be more than willing to pay for a larger section of the road. Companies serving up large files (multimedia downloads, streaming media), or those with a large overhead (operating system updates) might see a pretty good financial advantage to being first in line for internet traffic.

    Right now, I have equal access to all download sites. If corporations are able to buy preferential treatment, I might find that downloads from my provider of choice are significantly slower than a near competitor. If Apple pays the piper, and Amazon does not, then the Amazon music store may lose customers when people realize they’re not getting the fastest downloads. Content providers already pay for their ability to serve up material – I don’t think they should have to pay an extra TAX to an ISP to get that material better treatment.

  16. foobar says:

    Then the people who maintain the backbone, they charge the ISPs? Ah, it’s all so complicated, but thanks for your help.

    At that level they have peering agreements to manage passing data between large networks. All else being equal, whichever is exporting more data pays. There are other factors though, such as how valuable access to a certain network is to the other party, whether traffic is passed through to the other parties other peers (it usually is) and the relative values of those networks vs. the ones they provide.

  17. padster123 says:

    Great letter Cory. At some point I may change my ISP. Whether Virgin is anywhere on the list of possibles, depends on how they respond to you. If it’s not good enough, then bollocks to them.

  18. roboton says:

    I am a network engineer. (NAL)

    Everything today is going over an MPLS backbone at the big Tier 1 provider level. ALL of it, business traffic, internet traffic, home DSL traffic.

    Businesses today pay providers for thier WAN traffic to have some kind of SLA across these MPLS pipes. (though rarely are they peered with other major carriers…)

    ALL internet traffic *today* is tagged “BE” across these major pipes. BE stands for Best Effort. If the business class customers are clogging the pipes then the QoS terms kick in, and ALL, I repeat ALL network traffic is reprioritized to make way for the business customer WAN traffic.

    The above paragraph means that we already have QoS marking internet-based traffic as the least cared for, least reliable transport lane available for customers. To put it more bluntly, all internet traffic is treated equally crappy.

    So why, when these companies offer to major internet-facing businesses, a better deal than being treated as the worst crap on thier pipes, does everyone freak out as if thier much coveted “internet traffic” is going to somehow be negatively impacted, when it is already given the worst treatment available?

    Your internet-based traffic has NO SLA WHATSOEVER, and no one is under any obligation to reliably deliver it. And you people are complaining about getting better terms of service?

    It’s just goofy.

  19. tyler the perfect child says:

    Well, porn websites make lots of money right? so they’ll be able to pay for premium service, right? Everything other than porn that I look at on the net is text based and loads fast enough already, so i guess I’m cool with this.

    WAIT… How does this effect the illegal downloading of music and motion pictures captured on handycams in movie theatres? I may have more to say about this that I originally thought.

  20. Destructor says:

    Bravo, sir.

  21. Matthew Walton says:

    I’m with Virgin Media, although only because they’re the only fast internet I can get in my new place – at my old place I had Be and they’re FANTASTIC, but they don’t have LLU kit in my new exchange yet. Once my year is up, if they do, I will probably switch back because they’re that cool. Even though BT will charge me £130 to connect the phone line to run it down, as this house has only ever had cable phone and the BT stuff was never connected.

    So I’m watching this very carefully to see how it pans out. Generally so far I’ve been satisfied with Virgin Media’s service (I’m on the 20 megabit XL package and I get 17 megabits downstream off peak – some congestion at peak times though), but if they start mucking about with net non-neutrality I shall be most upset. It will be interesting to see how they react to Mr Doctorow’s letter, and whether this actually comes to anything. I hope Mr Branson is watching…

  22. Anonyman says:

    If the business class customers are clogging the pipes then the QoS terms kick in, and ALL, I repeat ALL network traffic is reprioritized to make way for the business customer WAN traffic.

    Surely business traffic still falls within “ALL network traffic”

    Your comment is a paradox.

  23. Keir says:

    @31 – I think it’s possible, but unlikely – more likely that only a desparate content provider would pay for this, rather than do nothing and let the ISP make itself uncompetitive.

  24. Anonyman says:

    Your internet-based traffic has NO SLA WHATSOEVER, and no one is under any obligation to reliably deliver it. And you people are complaining about getting better terms of service?

    It’s just goofy.

    So let me draw an analogy here.

    Our drinking water already contains 80% fecal matter, and you people have the audacity to complain about a 10% increase in fecal matter?

    It’s just goofy.

  25. error404 says:

    I read this when it happenend, and the same day cancelled my Virgin account.

    I went to ADSL24 but you do need a BT phone line to get ADSL.

    So who ever upthread was decrying Cory for being mad to have a BT line while advising him to go to an ADSL ISP provider would appear to be….wrong.

    Anyway, I hope all Virgin customers jump ship and leave that shower of Knuts high and dry.

  26. foobar says:

    @34:

    You should know that giving some internet traffic a higher QoS would not give *us* better terms of service. It would give iTunes and Hulu an Microsoft better terms of service, and lock out anyone that dared to compete with them.

  27. ripley says:

    Roboton, whatever it’s like now, AFAIK it wasn’t like that up until 2005, when ISPs were required by law to maintain neutral services as common carriers. It wasn’t until a court decision (and lotsa lobbying) relabeled internet service as “information” rather than “communication” that they were legally allowed to discriminate. that was only 3 years ago!

  28. coldspell says:

    @36 – Anonyman: “Reprioritized” does not necessarily mean “deprioritized”. Business customer WAN traffic would be reprioritized to a higher priority.

  29. Magpye says:

    @15
    Please, please stop making stuff up. People may believe what you’re saying and that’s just wrong.
    Go talk to #25 for a more accurate idea of how data communications work.

    As for Neil Berk(itt), keep watching.
    Let’s be honest, he’s not talking about Mum and Dad home DSL users, his comments were directly aimed at the big businesses (aka major clients), who already pay thousands per month in data fees.

    He may be feeling smug now, just a few days in the job, but when the big clients start churning from VM, you just know the National Sales Manager is going to storm into Neil’s office and give him a big, loving headbutt, and possibly a swift kick in the yam sack too.

    I mean seriously, the guy is a complete moron.
    Why (apart from threatening his own customer base) ?
    Because telcos already have a well established means of extorting extra cash out big clients for years, and the best part is, it sounds almost reasonable.
    It’s called CIR, or Committed Information Rate.

    Let me explain:
    You, as a large business, lease a xxMB ATM/Frame Relay/DSL connection off me, your friendly, but evil telco.
    Initially, all goes well, but you soon notice that although you are leasing a xxMB connection, there are times you get far less than that.
    Naturally, you call up your telco and complain, probably loudly and indignantly.

    “Ah yes,” I purr ” I did indeed lease you a connection of up to xxMB, and yes, I do charge you for all the data that you use” (and here’s the part that makes my horns tingle and tail curl in delight), “but I didn’t guarantee that you would always get xxMB connection, just simply up to that limit. For that, you need to upgrade to our competitively priced CIR package”

    See how I make it seem all the more reasonable, by calling it an upgrade, hmm ? We can’t just give guaranteed bandwidth to everyone, now can we ?
    And of course, CIR packages are competitively priced to gouge you without actually killing off the host, usually locking you in for x amount of years service.
    As the hapless IT manager, you now have to consider whether you want lose business from poor connectivity (and thus suffer the headbutting wrath of the National Sales Manager) or to spend even more of your meagre budget on data costs.

    Relocating to another telco, means redoing all the DNS/MX/CA records, scheduled outages, weeks without seeing your family, etc, etc.

    Should you still consider taking your business elsewhere, such impetuous thoughts are soon sobered up when you realise the next telco you go to will also have, er…competitively priced CIR packages.

    So, as you can see, telcos/ISP’s already have the means to not.too.subtlely enforce bus lanes, and I’ve seen 2MB Frame Relay connections drop(or be dropped) to 3.2kb throughput (think dial up speeds). Was the customer happy ? No. Did they pay for CIR ? Damn straight they did.

    So, if Mr.Ferkitt (pun intended) had actually done his homework, and kept his big mouth shut, he would have realised that ‘net neutrality’ always has been a load of b*ll*cks, it’s just one myth telcos have chosen not to dispel, for obvious commercial reasons..

    On the plus side, Cory, you’re doing yourself a big favour by leaving Virgin Media, as really, it’s just Telewest rebadged.
    For those who’ve just joined us, or are based outside of the UK, Telewest is known for it’s special brand of evilness, to employees and customers alike..

  30. george57l says:

    #50 / Magpye

    As nobody has acknowledged it yet – Bravo! A very enjoyable read.

    But I think you made one error – “…and he giggled UNTO himself”, surely.

  31. Antinous says:

    The tubes are already clogged. My download speeds are noticeably slower than two years ago. Has anyone else noticed that regulatory authorities are starting to talk about bandwidth like it’s a rare blood type that’s in short supply?

  32. Magpye says:

    So let me draw an analogy here.
    Our drinking water already contains 80% fecal matter, and you people have the audacity to complain about a 10% increase in fecal matter?

    Actually a more accurate analogy would be:
    We’ll try and provide you with water.
    Quality undetermined and you may have water between Mon-Sun. Or you may not.
    You, however will pay me for a full weeks service of water, irrespective of what you actually get.
    If you don’t like the service I offer, bugger off elsewhere.

    That’s more in line to the SLA and quality assurance you get from a telco as home user. Sad but true.

  33. Frenetic says:

    @#42: What part of my post do you think is fabricated? Don’t make accusations without backing them up.

    If you’re talking about the “long cat-5 cable” thing, I made it quite clear this was a gross simplification.

    The point was that ISPs (with the exception of things they host in their own datacenter) don’t actually have anything to do with the companies they intend to extort. But they are giving the impression the “other end” of their service is a connection to that company.

  34. Anonyman says:

    I completely agree, MAGPYE.

    I was simply attempting to point out the flaws in ROBOTON’s argument.

  35. roboton says:

    #40 — Yeah, neutrality means that everything gets treated equally. Your internet traffic is treated as equally crappy as everyone else’s.

    Carriers only carry internet traffic because they have to by law, not that they really want to.

    Seriously people, none of these carriers are any obligations whatsoever to provide you any reliability, and they don’t. If you want reliability, be prepared to pay more for it.

    If you think about it, the whole original point of the internet was survivability, not performance. That is the whole reason TCP/IP was designed – to overcome the gap between survivability and reliability.

    But whatever, this is for the politicians and academics to decide. I will continue to grouse that you people are hogging to much bandwidth…

  36. roboton says:

    @ 46 – My argument is that the large providers shunt all internet-based traffic off to the worst tier of service, and that providing internet-based businesses a way of getting out of that tier is a good thing.

    Tell me what is flawed?

  37. Frenetic says:

    Another thing I’d like to add is that I’d prefer if ISPs (and pro-ISP people) would stop trying to blur QoS based on “what it is” and QoS based on “where it’s going”. The former is generally okay (I don’t mind 50ms extra latency on port 80 if it means less laggy VoIP) while the latter is BS.

    And I don’t care if my consumer-grade connection is slow at peak or goes down once in a while. Five-nines uptime for YouTube-watching is overkill. What I care about is the ISP messing around with very specific parts of my traffic because somebody bribed them.

    And someone is going to have to do something about this crap. Most people have 1 or 2 ISPs to choose from, and where there isn’t a monopoly the players have long since agreed not to compete with each other to a significant extent. It’s not like a new, ethical ISP is going to come along and run their own wire into my apartment.

  38. Frenetic says:

    #58: Wow, you certainly made an effort to misinterpret my post.

    Man, I knew I was going to regret forgetting to put quotes around “blackmailing”. Yes, it’s not technically blackmail when Google and Flickr and everyone are told that unless they pay up they might start having a hard time reaching those customers unlucky enough to have a certain ISP…

    I’m sorry I confused you with my lack of punctuation, good job on jumping on that tiny bit of hyperbole.

    And by “change how the wire works” I was being speaking very generally (perhaps too vague)… I was more speaking in the sense that when I use my Internet connection I expect my packets to be, you know, routed, instead of run through a custom system that checks the headers to see if the recipient has paid their protection money. Or a system that, say, inspects each packet in order to garble the Skype protocol but leave certain other VoIP data alone. I mean, sure, a non-neutral ISP would still be using the Internet Protocol, just not using it as intended. They will be subverting the normal function of a network. Will the Internet see VM’s “de-prioritizations” as censorship, and route around them?

    Anyways, I could have used more technical terms, bigger words, longer sentences… but I was trying to be colloquial.

    We could argue semantics and nitpick all night. I just hope other people got more out of my post than you did.

  39. simonjp says:

    I think it’s pertinent that Virgin Media is a cable company first and foremost – it used to be NTL, renowned for its rubbish customer service.

    Cable TV companies are used to being paid twice for their pipes – once by the TV channel to be carried on their service, and again by the subscriber to get access to them. I suppose they’re just struggling to understand why they can’t use the same business model here – it’s the same wires, right? So why can’t they charge in the same fashion?

  40. Longboxes says:

    I cant wait to see how this one unfolds! Be sure to give us all the nitty gritty details Cory. Please? Thanks!

  41. Magpye says:

    So why, when these companies offer to major internet-facing businesses, a better deal than being treated as the worst crap on thier pipes, does everyone freak out as if thier much coveted “internet traffic” is going to somehow be negatively impacted, when it is already given the worst treatment available?

    Robotron, you speak words of wisdom, but verily, it is lost upon the masses, for they do not realise that their home DSL connection are but dust on the wings of the mighty telco, and the great Provider of internet service does but see them as a burden onto it’s offerings.

    They are truly blind to the fact that their $14.95 monthly uncapped plan does not actually bring revenue to thy Provider, and that he is vexed by their ever growing pleas for service, for when he casts his eye upon the data that flows before him, he doth see it contains mainly lustful images of flesh.

    The Provider doth turn away and seek solace with his flock, those who are special unto him, and doth pay him tithes of many thousands monthly, without forgetting or telling him untruths about how the car broke down and the dog got sick this month.
    For they are mighty, and the Provider doth whisper to them with a voice of sweet honey, and promise them many delights of data.
    And the mighty duly sup upon the flowing data, and pronounce it to be a splendoured thing, and that the many wonders of it could not be counted.
    And then proceeded to partake of admittedly better quality lustful images and the journal of questionable wonders -Youtube.
    For those in his flock that doth displease the great Provider, he shall cast upon them, the pestilence of CIR, and for those that forsake him, he shall smite their DNS records, and they shall become as dust.

    For the many who are small in tithes, but loud in voice, he summons forth demons to shepherd them. As they shall be known as Customer Service and Credit Collections, and they shall eagerly find new tortures for the pitiful masses, counting among them the IVR of Unedning Options and being cast into the everlasting torment of Your Call Is Important To Us.
    And the great Provider saw these things, and heard the wailings of his flock, and he giggled to himself..

  42. SamF says:

    I don’t quite understand what the whole brouhaha is with this. Isn’t this pretty much the way the internet already works? Companies can pay for various levels of service, all the way from residential quality (i.e. “You MAY get up to X MBps, but we don’t guarantee it) up to SLA-based managed pipes (i.e. “If you don’t get X MBps with 99.999% uptime, we owe you lots of money.”)

    Now, I understand that at some point in the pipe between me and Company Z, the pipe has no SLA on it. And it doesn’t really matter if it does or not, since Company Z is paying for their X MBps of data, and they’ll always have that. The ones who are not paying for a CIR circuit with an SLA on it always have the possibility of getting their pipe squeezed no matter where along the tube it happens. And you can bet that if their ISP is advertizing 10 MBps and they’re consistently getting only 2 MBps, they’ll go somewhere else (well, if it matters to them. Alot of companies oversubscribe, and never notice that they’re not getting their max data rate, but that’s another issue).

    Anyway, it is and always has been a fact that paying more money will get you better stuff, whether it’s an internet connection or eating in a restaurant (WAH! I only paid $2 for my QPC, and it doesn’t have top sirloin?!) It’s the way a free market works. If you try to change that, then ISPs will not be able to offer their premium services, and it’s those premium services which subsidize the addition of new tubes. You cut off the big ISPs ability to add new tubes, and then EVERYONE gets crappier service. Consumers have ALWAYS been basically paying for spare bandwidth left over on the circuits that have already been paid for by big business. Hell, the whole GEnie online service back in the 80s and 90s was run on spare cycles on GE’s servers.

  43. RyanH says:

    I think this whole thing was just an excuse to use “tawdry” in an actual communication :)

  44. jitrobug says:

    Roboton:

    Will the lowest tier packets be better or worse off if there is an increase in QoS packets?

  45. Angstrom says:

    In Neil Berkett’s statement he says any Internet service that failed to pay Virgin would be put into the “Internet bus lane” , but surely the bus lane is the preferential lane?

    Bus lanes were introduced so that Buses and Taxis travelled quicker than private vehicles, promoting public transport.

    Can it be that Neil Berkett is an idiot? Surely not.

  46. ME says:

    neat. so who are you considering as your new ISP?

  47. Cory Doctorow says:

    I already have a DSL line from BT, which I’ll be keeping.

  48. flamingphonebook says:

    “how do you prioritize one service’s packets without de-prioritizing other sites’ packets?”

    OK, I don’t understand everything about networks, so please tell me where I’m wrong here:

    If our “tube” that carries traffic currently runs at x pps, and we upgrade to a bigger tube that carries 2x pps, and all the de-prioritized packets are sent through at x pps, but all the prioritized packets get through the tube at 2x pps (or however much of the increased bandwidth we can get), doesn’t that prioritize without de-prioritizing?

  49. Thad E Ginataom says:

    Staying with BT, huh?

    Well, I’m not the first commenter to mention Phorm, but I’m surprised that everybody hasn’t.

    And I’m surprised that you are not already covering this, as it looks like one of the greatest commercial shafting exercises ever to be undertaken.

    Try one of UK’s small suppliers. I used to be with Wizards before I emigrated, still am for hosting and e-mail. First-name service if there’s a problem, and that’s because they know who I am, not because its in the script.

    But hey, Phorm — this is one bandwagon that needs jumping on. Join in the battle, give it some more publicity. Having your internet usage spied on is more serious than having it slowed down.

  50. Pyrosz says:

    Maybe other ISP’s should downgrade the service to sites hosted by Virgin Media as a lesson. Once they stop this nonsense then things can be returned to normal.

  51. mdhatter says:

    “but all the prioritized packets get through the tube at 2x pps (or however much of the increased bandwidth we can get), doesn’t that prioritize without de-prioritizing?”

    No. An open road is an open road. Would you like a BMW only lane on your local toll-road? How about a BMW only lane that expanded to take up the slower lanes when there were a lot of BMW’s on the road, causing you to drive on the shoulder?

  52. matthewbohrer says:

    #6: you ask whether you can ever prioritize X without de-prioritizing X’s peers.

    The answer is an issue of semantics. You suggest that if you simply add bandwidth to the pipe and devote that new bandwidth solely to X, then Y isn’t being de-prioritized because Y receives the same bandwidth after X’s expansion as Y received beforehand.

    I say this is semantics because it uses the connotative difference between positively benefiting X while not benefiting Y, vs. positively benefitting X at the cost of Y.

    You’re mistaken: if you increase the bandwidth, but only give access to the increased bandwidth to a subset of your users, then yes you have de-prioritized the other users. The only way to not be engaged in prioritizing/de-prioritizing when expanding your bandwidth is to ensure the same proportional access before/after the expansion.

    This is a zero-sum game: all benefits to one party come at the cost of another party.

  53. zymeck says:

    you lost me after Post #5

  54. flamingphonebook says:

    Would you like a BMW only lane on your local toll-road? How about a BMW only lane that expanded to take up the slower lanes when there were a lot of BMW’s on the road, causing you to drive on the shoulder?

    Well, the BMW-lane would be an add-on, right? So now I have the same number of lanes, but no BMWs, so I’ll go faster. And if the BMWs spilled over into my lanes, at worst I’ll be in the same situation I was when I started.

  55. Antinous says:

    I don’t quite understand what the whole brouhaha is with this. Isn’t this pretty much the way the internet already works?

    No. Here’s the analogy. You slip the maitre d’ a hundred. Your waiter knows that you always tip 30%. Your food still comes out late and cold. Why? Because the cook didn’t tip the waiter to bring it out hot and fast. Get it? Nothing that you do, no amount of money that you pay has any impact on the service that you get unless the person on the other end of the transaction pays a bribe.

  56. Anonyman says:

    @#10,

    Yes, that may very well be true, but the end result is that your taxpayer money (in that case) was used to build a lane that you can’t use because BMW paid off the head of the department of transportation.

  57. flamingphonebook says:

    I say this is semantics because it uses the connotative difference between positively benefiting X while not benefiting Y, vs. positively benefitting X at the cost of Y.

    You’re mistaken: if you increase the bandwidth, but only give access to the increased bandwidth to a subset of your users, then yes you have de-prioritized the other users.

    But it’s an add-on. It would be like saying that if I give everyone else a cookie, but not you, that it’s the same as taking a cookie from you. Those aren’t a semantic equivalent.

    I guess this is my unease on net non-neutrality: if it means forced downgrades to non-payers, I’m against it. If it means optional upgrades to payers, I’m for it. I’m trying to find out which it means. Saying the two are equivalent only obfuscates the issue.

  58. flamingphonebook says:

    Yes, that may very well be true, but the end result is that your taxpayer money (in that case) was used to build a lane that you can’t use because BMW paid off the head of the department of transportation.

    True, but that’s where the analogy breaks down. I can, if I choose, tell my ISP to go to hell and refuse to buy internet until a neutral net ISP arises. I cannot choose to stop paying taxes without dire consequences.

  59. Anonyman says:

    P.S. That’s not even the real issue at hand here, you’re getting caught up in the rhetoric.

    The problem with what Virgin is suggesting is thus:

    As a customer, I have paid my ISP for net access.

    The content provider (let’s say, Boing Boing), has also paid their respective provider for the ability to host their directory of wonderful things.

    Why should BoingBoing also have to pay my ISP to get a different type of access to me? All of Virgin’s incoming and outgoing traffic needs to be treated the same, because all of it has already been paid for at both ends.

    If you went to a restaurant, and were told that the time it takes you to get a table is inversely proportional to how much you plan on tipping the waiter, how would you react?

    Cory obviously just wants to go to a different restaurant, one that’s first come, first serve.

  60. Frenetic says:

    #6, #9, et al:

    This “extra pipe” analogy is also an oversimplification of a complex concept. The point-to-point, packet-switched Internet, especially where commercial ISPs are concerned, doesn’t work like that.

    Ultimately, all you get from your ISP is a single plug that is expected to connect you to the Internet backbone. If you really want to simplify: ISPs are just providing a long stretch of cat-5 to someone else’s router; they can’t change how that wire works, because that would mean they are no longer really providing “Internet access”, in the strictest sense.

    An ISP in its capacity as a provider of that connection service, has little to do with the backbone, and nothing to do with the millions of other subnetworks connected to it.

    ISPs don’t care – indeed, have to make extra effort to even figure out – where your packets are coming from and going to. This is because of the very design of the Internet itself: the location and physical identity of an Internet node is deliberately made inconsequential.

    So this idea ISPs have for finding and blackmailing the people their customers are trying to communicate with is a contrivance. Or, put bluntly, a scam.

  61. arkizzle says:

    FlamingPhoneBook

    Has Virgin stated anywhere that they are adding bandwidth to the benefit of ‘prioritized’ customers?

    I may have missed it, but not that I can see. All they have said, is that they are going to prioritize those extra-paying customers, and with that information, all that can mean, is “to the detriment of other services” running in the same bandwidth.

  62. flamingphonebook says:

    @frenetic

    An ISP in its capacity as a provider of that connection service, has little to do with the backbone, and nothing to do with the millions of other subnetworks connected to it.

    Then the people who maintain the backbone, they charge the ISPs? Ah, it’s all so complicated, but thanks for your help.

    I guess here’s what I’d do. I have cable internet. If they said one day that they’re going to give me DSL speeds on Boingboing and bit torrents and IM, but cable speed on Microsoft and YouTube, from which they’re collecting a fee, I’d leave and look for sattelite or something else. But if they said that they’re keeping cable speed on Boingboing et al, and giving me faster-than-cable speed on Microsoft et al, while collecting a fee from them, I’d say more power to them.

    I don’t think we need a law here; I think we need more ISP competition.

  63. Benoneya says:

    OMG, LOL. I just looked at your name. I downloaded your book last night. This just gets more synchy every day. I don’t believe in coincidence.

    I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m working on freeing up enough time to get to it.

    You give these jerks all kinds of crap! Make ‘em suffer if by nothing more than nuisance value:D
    The gold digging control freaks deserve whatever they get. Woot!

  64. ripley says:

    And once again

    “the way the internet already works” depends on whether you talking about the internet up until 2005, when it was governed by the “common carrier” rules that mandated equal service, or AFTER 2005, when the law was changed.

    make substantive arguments about what’s better about the different ways it has worked, but arguing from a 3-year-old status quo is just silly.

  65. SamF says:

    Nothing that you do, no amount of money that you pay has any impact on the service that you get unless the person on the other end of the transaction pays a bribe.

    Once again, isn’t this exactly the way the internet works right now? Company X pays a premium for faster service. Company Y does not. I buy my service from El Cheapo ISP. My service will be the same to either company.

    Even if Company X pays El Cheapo ISP to prioritize their traffic, unless they pay a fee to EVERYONE who touches their traffic, they’re never going to be able to guarantee that they’ll get a faster speed to each customer.

    What they’re doing by buing the better service in the first place is guaranteeing that if they have 10,000 people trying to get to their site, that any slowdowns along the way won’t be between them and their ISP. They’ll be someone else’s fault.

  66. jonathan_v says:

    Doesn’t VirginAmerica have a deal with showing BoingBoing tv , and haven’t you named one of their planes ?

  67. Frenetic says:

    #54 – Nothing that you do, no amount of money that you pay has any impact on the service that you get unless the person on the other end of the transaction pays a bribe.

    It gets better: The ISPs like Virgin Media want to extort other companies, companies that the ISP’s customers are patronizing. If those companies are forced to pay, they will have to pass those costs on to that same customer!

    Not only are they giving you partial service where they muck with packets going to destinations they don’t like, but they’re also sneakily extracting money from you by, in effect, raising the prices of other companies.

    This is incredibly dishonest business, and I’m with Cory: the sleazebags can get stuffed.

  68. Tim says:

    28 days have passed. Has there been any response?

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