Many years ago, when my wife and I were shopping for our first home, we did our fair share of due diligence. When considering a particular house that caught our eye, we’d investigate schools, traffic, proximity to mass transit, and the neighborhood in general before deciding whether or not to submit an offer.
Fast forward to the 21st century. There’s now an additional factor that prospective home owners are considering: broadband speed.
John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, was recently quoted as saying that the “Internet of Things,” a term used to describe machine-to-machine connections on a massive scale, will add $19 trillion – not billion, trillion – to worldwide economic growth over the next 10 years. It may be tempting to dismiss this figure as hyperbole. Rampant speculation a few years ago that everyone would soon have a smart refrigerator that orders milk and eggs on its own probably did more to dilute the machine-to-machine concept than to promote it.
But since the jokes about the toaster talking to the microwave died down, the “Internet of Things” has started to become a reality as the costs of sensors have dropped and broadband connections increased. The smart home, with remote-operated or pre-programmed webcams, lights, locks and thermostats, is increasingly common. And in rural areas, smart agriculture is spreading quickly, as irrigation, livestock monitoring, and checking fuel levels are among the tasks that are performed automatically and remotely with greater frequency. Read more
The Soft Underbelly of Net Neutrality: How the Comcast-Netflix Deal Shines a Much-Needed Spotlight on Why the Real Issue is Network Interconnection
When policymakers and press reports talk about net neutrality, there has been, until recently, an understandable tendency to focus exclusively on the end user impact: “If Carrier X or Cable Company Y would just stop mistreating its customers by throttling Internet traffic, all would be good in the world.”
This isn’t to say that the end user impact isn’t the ultimate concern – it is. But if you focus only on the symptoms, you can’t diagnose and cure the problem. And because net neutrality is so complex, and because the politics of power surrounding it are so thorny, it’s much easier to latch onto the symptoms, propose “consumer friendly” band-aids and avoid a more detailed analysis of the problems. But superficial steps won’t get us far in solving the real issues.
You can see this in how Netflix’s latest brushes with Verizon and Comcast are shaking out. What Verizon and Comcast have done is smart business and perfectly logical. Even as Verizon consumers in particular have reported problems streaming Netflix, neither Verizon nor Comcast appears, at least based upon current information, to have violated any law or rule or policy in dealing with Netflix. The key seems to be that Verizon and Comcast weren’t doing anything to Netflix; it seems that their beefs were instead with Netflix’s ISP. In other words, even though there was a consumer impact and it looked to some like a net neutrality battle, it wasn’t at all. Instead, this was a plain old interconnection dispute, the kind that used to get resolved relatively cleanly and clearly – even for the smallest carriers or consumers – back when we actually had rules governing how networks talked to one another. Read more
‘Coming Soon to Somewhere that Probably Isn’t Anywhere Near You’ – What Does the Google Fiber Experience Tell Us (or Not) About the Challenges of Nationwide Network Deployment?
There continues to be great interest in Google’s efforts to deploy fiber networks, and rightly so. Just in the past several days, the company announced its latest desire to expand Google Fiber to 34 cities in nine metropolitan areas across the country, leading to a new splash of press coverage and renewed praise from some policymakers regarding how Google Fiber’s efforts could serve as a potential model for delivering services to communities longing for better, cheaper broadband. Google’s initiative is noteworthy, and any effort to build fixed wireline networks is commendable in light of the work involved.
But to determine the real instructive value of this effort from a policy perspective, it’s worth taking a closer look at where Google is – and is not – choosing to deploy its fiber networks. Perhaps the most telling words in Google’s most recent announcement to expand fiber installments are “cities” and “metropolitan areas.” Let’s take a closer look at just the primary cities in these metropolitan areas, recognizing that the broader metropolitan areas have millions more in population (all estimates courtesy of Wikipedia): Read more
Of all the do-it-yourself (DIY) projects I’ll tackle in the house, electricity and plumbing are off the table. With regard to the former, I like electricity — a lot — but have a healthy respect for 120 volts and a rudimentary understanding of my own limits. Likewise, plumbing is something where the risk of error is exponentially greater than that I might encounter in, say, hanging a door. The worst I can do there is hang it out of plumb, which results mostly in shooting yet another afternoon trying to correct it. By contrast, even the most minor of a plumbing error can wreak untold (and, possibly, unnoticed-until-it’s-too-late) damage.
Home security might be a third one to add to the list. Now, to be sure, I have never attempted it, though I did work with my installer to devise an utterly ridiculously redundant system (at one point, he raised an eyebrow and said, “Mister, if someone wants to get you badly enough, there’s nothing I can do; we’re just trying to send the run-of-the-mill guys next door”). But, until recently, Verizon offered a service whereby users could pay a nominal fee and control their doors and windows and locks and lights remotely. Except now Verizon has discontinued the offering. Which of course begs the question, why I am writing about something that you can no longer buy? Read more
It was pretty much inevitable that in the wake of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down most of the FCC’s Open Internet (a.k.a. Net Neutrality) rules that accusations would begin flying around that broadband providers are throttling traffic. This week, the first accusation surfaced, which was vehemently disputed by the alleged perpetrator.
Specifically, a blogger claims that Verizon has been throttling Amazon Web Services (AWS, Amazon’s cloud services product) and Netflix. The accusation stemmed from the blogger (and his boss) experiencing a slowdown in their Verizon FiOS Internet service both at work and at home. You can read his blog linked above for more specifics on his allegations, and his speed and other tests conducted in connection with his accusation of traffic throttling. He also has a screenshot of an online chat with a Verizon customer service representative that he claims further supports the accusation that Verizon is limiting bandwidth to AWS and Netflix. As this article notes, however, this last piece of evidence is not necessarily reliable: it’s not as though a customer service representative is the person who will know whether Verizon has made such a serious decision as to throttle traffic and is authorized to let the world know about it via an online chat. Read more