Why Do Broadband Providers Always Sound Like Gangsters Selling Protection?

from the kneecappings-for-bittorrent-users-are-next dept

Canadian broandband provider Shaw has hit back at Vonage's complaint earlier this week about the "tax" Shaw levies at susbcribers who choose to use anybody's VoIP service but its own. The company says it merely offers users the optional "opportunity" to get better quality of service for their VoIP calls. While the fee may be optional, the language Shaw uses to describe it sounds exactly like a movie gangster trying to sell protection, saying "You know, it would be a real shame, if some of your packets were to get, you know, dropped..." It's the same type of rhetoric we've heard from other providers about competing VoIP services, as well as the claims from telcos that all they want to do is offer paying content subscribers a smoother ride to end users. Of course, others are more upfront about how they want to extort money from content providers. At least those people are honest about how they want to squeeze the dollars out.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 12:45pm

    Uhmm... Basic concept of IP traffic eluding you?

    IP packets are randomly dropped, re-ordered, delayed and/or mangled in transit.
    Deal with it.
    The reason that VoIP sucks is easy to sum up, in one word: codecs.
    If you want to build a VoIP system that operates well within the constraints of a consumer-grade IP network, you have to use a codec that implements "loss encoding" (transmit M blocks of data, any N (N less than M) of which will suffice to recover the original data), and "bandwidth scaling" (if you receive only L packets (L less than N), you can reliably recover a lower quality representation of the original signal)
    So far, the codecs most typically used for VoIP (uLaw, ilbc) are completely unresilient to packet loss or delay. Cellular codecs (gsm) work better, and you can even do better at a cost (g729). However, none of them were really designed with severe "jitter" in mind.
    So, to use the available lame codecs over consumer grade IP (which works just fine for viewing web pages!), you'll have to purchase optional QoS improvements. You call it extortion? I call it the laws of physics.

     

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  2.  
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    Moogle, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Uhmm... Basic concept of IP traffic eluding

    The concepts aren't eluding anyone. The point is not that VoIP sucks, but that the ISP will intentionally degrade the connection, which would otherwise be good enough, to the point at which VoIP becomes unusable. It doesn't matter how good your VoIP software is if you're getting 50% less throughput than is necessary, no matter how little that may be.

    The article is simply drawing lines between the ISP's behavior and having random thugs break stuff to the point you can't run a business if you don't pay some other guy money. He's right, it's sleaze. This isn't a technical issue.

     

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  3.  
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    Rod, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Uhmm... Basic concept of IP traffic eluding


    This is a technical Issue as well as a business issue. The bottom line is that ISP's scale their network to handle typical user traffic. Today, the typical user does not require jitter-free packet clasification. The need for this alters the scaling of the network and therefore costs money.
    If you want first class service to make sure voice works, pay for it.

     

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  4.  
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    icepick314, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 1:24pm

    VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    I don't know why ISP should "prioritize" certain data packet over others...especially for VOIP....after you talk into the microphone, it's just another data packet like any normal internet traffic....

    If VOIP is based on PCM encoding, which takes analog signal, ie voice, to data, it should only take 64kbps bi-directional....voice frequency sampled at 8000 per second then encoded to 8 bit word....8000 x 8 = 64k....

    it doesn't take all that much....

    ISP should work on their network bandwidth and reliability instead of working on prioritization...it's just stupid....

    that's why I love Japanese NTT fiber optic DSL....upto 100mbps network...at the installation, tested at 80mbps from NTT to the modem.....Korean and Japanese ISP are some of the fastest offered to home users....no need to "prioritize" data packets....and they don't have VOIP taxes eventhough ISP offers VOIP on their own....

     

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  5.  
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    Rod, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 1:35pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    Lets go over VoIP 101 for everyone that is confused.

    Yes, it is only 64kb/s + overhead, but, that is not the issue. The issue is that it is usually about 50 to 100 packets per second. Now that is a considerable amount. In addition, VoIP, unlike web traffic, is sensitive to jitter. What is jitter? Well, jitter means that packets do not always arrive at their destination in the same order they left. This is NOT a problem for many web apps, but, I'm sure you can see how this would be a problem for a real-time protocol like VoIP. Not much time to reorder packets :-)

    So, do you want/need jitter free, constant packet delivery? Well, PAY FOR IT. This type of service requires great expense at the ISP level. Now, we can say, hey, they should make their networks able to handle it anyway. Ok, sounds good, now everyone's bill can go up to support a minority group....

    I hope this helps folks understand that VoIP is NOT just another data stream.

     

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  6.  
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    W.B. McNamara, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 1:57pm

    It's not just VOIP that we're talking about...

    Sure, VOIP can be viewed as a (slightly) special case, but broadband providers appear to be interested in shaking down anyone that they possibly can. An article discussing BellSouth's moves in this direction noted that...

    "BellSouth has discussed its idea with MovieLink, a film-download service. [Bill Smith, BellSouth CTO] called MovieLink an example of the kind of company that wants customers to have a good experience and would view costs incurred in the strengthening of BellSouth's Internet capacity as worthwhile."

    The original artivle is linked from my blog post (the protection racket link below); I think that we can probably agree that movie downloads are a more straightforward case. The service provider is paying for bandwidth to connect them to the internet at or near a certain speed, as is the end user...why should either of those parties pay anything more if their bandwidth usage stays within the throughput/volume that they've already agreed to?

    My belief is that if I've paid for 3Mbit/sec down and the server that I'm connecting to can support passing data to me at that rate, then my ISP has no right to throttle that connection based on what I'm using the bandwidth for.

    Incidentally, the quote above brought exactly the protection racket image that you mentioned into my head.

     

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  7.  
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    doubleNegative, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 2:05pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    Um....Rod
    I pay $40 buck a month for my cable ISP.
    I am home for ~12hrs a day, and ~8hrs are spent sleeping. The remaining 8 hours are split between all other activites which means I spend about 1hr a day actually using my internet connection and that includes my VoIP calls.

    With that said, Rod, I think I already am PAYING FOR IT.

     

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  8.  
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    Rod, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 2:21pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    You are NOT paying for packet classification. BTW, keep in mind, no matter how little you think you use that connectivity, I bet you use it at the same time of night that most do 8pm to 11pm. So, ISP's need to scale for peak... Your lack of use during the day does not save the ISP money in any way.

    I completely agree that you pay for a level of service that allows you to browse the web and even download files. But, until you have worked around VoIP as I have, you will not understand how tight a network must be to support it. It requires a whole different level of service to work correctly all the time. This costs ISP's money and therefore, they must charge for it.

     

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  9.  
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    Aaron Friel, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 2:39pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    They ARE charging for it. The problem is they seem to quite enjoy charging more than once for the same service and then, if the article is to be believed, decrease your quality of service if you choose not to pay extra. Once the company develops a good system for transmitting those 64kbps, it doesn't matter how many subscribers you have, because it's fairly easy to apply rules to traffic, or build standards compliant software when the standard is all layed out. But the problem is, these companies would be extorting extra money and intentionally degrading the connection not because of any development costs (clearly, the high quality signal users are evidence of decent VOIP management) but because telcos are simply being GREEDY.<br><br>Sounds like a theme.<br><br>If they don't have a good VOIP system, they should be up front about it, and clearly state that when you pay extra, you are paying for a higher bandwidth service. This would make sense, as you have more packets A and more blocks X and a higher signal to noise ratio &#926;. Look, I can use algebra to prove arbitrary discussion points too! As Mike makes it sound, they aren't discussing this at all, and aren't offering higher bandwidth, merely, they are saying "Eh, you, you want a better signal? We'll do it under the counter yah?" The end user merely gets a different encoding on their VOIP, or the ISP intentionally alters the priority or handling of traffic for those who don't pay. Isn't the intentional deterioration of one service to promote a more expensive to the consumer but less expensive to the company (read: more profitable) service against some trade laws? This is akin to Microsoft selling Microsoft Windows, telling you that it comes with all the latest and greatest features associated with the Windows brand name, but then asking you for your credit card to active Internet Explorer, various drivers to allow you to <EM>use</EM> the computer, and other features that you thought were associated with the basic service. It's extortionary, and misleading business practices. And I'm almost certain that these practices are illegal in most, if not all, of the United States and likely Canda as well.

     

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  10.  
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    Nowandever29, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 3:18pm

    VOIP is easy to get right - overencode

    VOIP services that are unreliable over IP networks are dealing with two issues; sensitivities of real-time data, and packet loss or delay. Real time sensitivities are NOT going to go away, but packet loss and packet delay CAN.

    For years now, people have posted binary files on newsgroups, knowing that some portions will be lost, making the file unusable for downloaders. The solution is simple - PAR volumes, which send additional information, such that some of the original files can be missing, and you can still recover and use 100% of the original file.

    Once VOIP providers realize that they can do the same thing with the right Codecs, a great deal of the quality problems will disappear - the underlying network is NOT BETTER than before, but the software is smart enough to deal with it.

     

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  11.  
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    adachan, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Uhmm... Basic concept of IP traffic eluding

    Hmm. Think about this. Shaw and Telus both boast of being able to shape packets (or some similar term) Basically this means that even if you have the PERFECT codec they are going to "shape" half your packet to the bin if its a protocol they don't like. This has nothing to do with better codecs at all, this has to do with ISPs filtering what we are doing with our internet connection. They say they do it to limit P2P traffic, but since they are offering a nice digital phone service, dont you think its in their interest to drop a whole bunch of pakets if they sniff you are using skype?

     

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  12.  
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    Professor HighBrow, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 4:04pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD???

    I hope this helps folks understand that VoIP is NOT just another data stream.

    On the contrary. First of all, your math makes no sense. X kbits/sec already includes data over time, idiot. This is what is referred to as BANDWIDTH.

    A minority Group??? So, I suppose you must think that the web is for html or ftp only, right?

    Besides, what about your flameworthy arguement over "jitter." Does this include online gaming as well? After all, if the packets don't arrive in order [jitter?] then multiplayer gaming would never work.

    You are misinformed; clearly; since you don't even understand what bandwidth is. Go Jitter yourself.

    -Professor HighBrow

     

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  13.  
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    Posterlogo, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 4:48pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    Rod says:

    "I hope this helps folks understand that VoIP is NOT just another data stream."


    Dear Rod:


    VoIP is just another data stream. PERIOD. I was using PGPfone back in 1997 when I was in college to chat with my gf (full duplex) for free over the internet. We were tied to our respective computers (and maybe our universities offered far more reliable connections than today's public offerings), but make no mistake, VoIP is EASY. It is just another data stream, and it has worked quite well when implemented properly at the software level. And no I will NOT "PAY FOR IT" Mr. Brainiac -- it costs the ISPs nothing to just NOT prioritize it for anyone. If THEY want their service to be at a certain higher quality, then they should be billing THEIR users the higher rate. Fucking Telcos.

     

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  14.  
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    Professor HighBrow, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 6:47pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    And no I will NOT "PAY FOR IT" Mr. Brainiac

    Thank you for taking the D**k out of Rod.

    I wonder if "Rod" posted just to get a rise out of fellow readers...


    --Prof. Hi B

     

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  15.  
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    bigpicture, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 7:14pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    I have been using VOIP for over 5 years, since it was an Actiontec card inside the computer. The carrier companies did not offer it then, nor did they subscribe much to the technology.
    The quality back then was not great, the echo was so bad you did not know if your were listening to yourself or the other party. The hardware and software has improved a lot since then, and they have developed technical solutions to improve all of this. But I don't think that Shaw or any of the Tel-cos participated in this improvement, in fact when I asked Shaw if they would consider providing VOIP back then they didn't believe VOIP was a viable business, just a novelty.
    I guess it is viable now if they can somehow suck money out of it.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 9th, 2006 @ 10:04pm

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    All this FUD about Voip packets being "special" or "more demanding" is just that.
    Voip isn't half as sensitive to random delays & packet loss as online gaming software and MILLIONS of Counterstrike players have NO TROUBLE sending more data, faster than Voip demands.

    And Gee, ISP's aren't trying to FUD more money out of online gamers...

    I'd ascribe 90% of the problems with Voip to the codecs.

     

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  17.  
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    PsuedoDragon (profile), Mar 10th, 2006 @ 12:26am

    i have voip and dont have any voice quality probs

    as i said i have voip and dont have any voice quality probs and im not paying any extra fee iv already checked and re-checked my bill and im not paying any extra fee. at one point i was experienceing dropped packets on all my calls then i upgraded my cable modem and now the choppy call are gone.

     

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  18.  
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    eeBs, Mar 10th, 2006 @ 3:44am

    Re: VOIP is just another data stream....PERIOD

    Um, My ity bity Cellphone uses A gsm codec to transmit voice data at a high quality rate the most VoIP Providers. Yet my GSRM up/down speed is around 3kbps. The fact that anyone implies that it takes MORE then avg bandwidth for VoIP is an idiot, and for an ISP to claim that is a joke. Our Intranet here in the US is 9th in the world... 9th. All because the ISP's are doing half ass upgrades to save money, then implying they are doing there job and demand a higher bill. Everyone else in the world pays the same OR LESS for internet then us Americans, and they get 10x better shit. Rob is a misled sheep. Nuff Said

     

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  19.  
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    NOCcer, Mar 13th, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    I don't know how it all works, but having some some VOIP consulting for a single building I've seen this:

    An ISP pays for X bandwidth for a city. In peak times for that city, Y mbits of bandwidth are used and the ISP has to rent a pipe for that much bandwidth. That pipe is not full at all times, sure. However, the ISP has to account for the worst and make due accordingly. Now, lets add VOIP. The circuit was as close to max beforehand. After all, too much excess would be a waste of money. You are adding another load of packets to that pipe, and those packets will not deal with travelling the countryside out of order too well. Codec issues or not, people want a phone conversation to be as smooth as ever, if not more so. That means a lot of bandwidth has to be available for phone calls at any time, and that's going to mean more money for a bigger pipe.

    Even 3kbps for only 1000 customers at any given time might be the difference between a a single DS3 and dual DS3s. Add the hassle of load balancing... What about 10,000 customers? OC3's are pricey I will guess.

    And as far as quality, so you have GSRM and 3kbps up/down...have you ever dropped a call? Ever had static or a break up of the voice clairty? At least once, and customers may accept that with cellular being "new," but people pick up a phone and do not tolerate such interruptions -- if you spent enough on advertising and technical support to get them to add it.

     

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  20.  
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    BoBo, Mar 19th, 2006 @ 10:56am

    VOIP

    You pay FedEx extra when your package has to absolutely positively be there overnight. Phone Company wants same premium when packets absolutely positively has to be there in less then 150 Msec.

    Think about it.

     

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  21.  
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    Telecom Expert, Jun 20th, 2006 @ 8:16am

    Retarded folks...

    There sure are some morons here.

    First, VoIP uses a lot more traffic than the bitrate would imply. The IP overhead can be several times what the actual bitrate is, so you could easily be using 200kbps with a 15kbps codec. This is because the packets you send have to be extremely short -- more than a few ms of latency produces a very noticeable delay. You can't buffer up 5 seconds of data, and you can't use error correction for anything, since the overhead is too high. Obviously, you have to send lots of packets every second, and a small hiccup once in a while will totally ruin your call.

    As far as online gaming is concerned: it's not nearly as sensitive to delay or jitter. Games predict motion quite well, and a few lost packets are not too noticeable. A phone call is much more difficult for the network to handle.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2006 @ 7:51pm

    VOIP sucks, simple!

     

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  23.  
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    kereama, May 20th, 2007 @ 4:05pm

    gangster

    my name is kereama i live in tauranga

     

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