Tag Archives: ISP

Cable provider truths

Jonelle Marte’s detailed article, 10 Things Cable Companies Won’t Tell You is an up-to-date summary of the cable TV industry. It’s worth reading if you are a cable customer or potential customer.

Cable companies can provide 3 services:

  1. middlemen between content owners and consumers;
  2. broadband Internet service providers;
  3. telephone access to the PSTN (public switched telephone network).

As I mentioned recently, they will be forced to unbundle their services. I expect that content from the Internet will force them to unbundle video content first. The only question is, when?

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Net neutrality in a bandwidth-limited Internet

The phrase “net neutrality’ was coined by Tim Wu, the author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, to describe a so-called open Internet in which all packets from all users are treated equally. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

I’ve managed corporate networks since 1987. When all clients were the same, treating their packets equally made sense. As videoconferencing and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) traffic joined these networks, latency caused frozen video frames and dropouts in VoIP telephone conversations — all verboten in a business environment. One cure is to implement QoS (Quality Of Service) across the enterprise. Packets that are time-sensitive are created with a QoS field that asks routers that these packets go to the front of the line when packets queue for routing. In private networks, where IT departments control which stations and apps create packets with high priority, implementing QoS works nicely.

MUSE QoS
MUSE QoS architecture
IGMP = Internet Group Management Protocol
ASP = Application service provider
NSP = Network service provider

The Internet is anything but private. If all Internet routers accommodate QoS, is it sensible to assign the same high priority to packets carrying real-time heart surgery, HD video of Rocky XXII, and people playing online games?

The Internet will never be a boundless resource, so from a technical point of view it’s sensible to implement QoS. Who will pay for priority handling? If Netflix were to pay a premium for preferential handling of its streaming video packets, it could hurt the cable TV providers, so the cable TV industry piously supports net neutrality. Any argument against enabling QoS is purely political, and opens a Pandora’s box that revolves around the question, “What IS the Internet?”, or “What do we wish the Internet to become?”

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Use two ISPs to improve speed and reliability

For mission critical applications, having two ISPs makes sense.  

Many of today’s cars are rolling computer networks
. The high performance, clean emissions, and good fuel mileage of modern cars are the result of electronic sensors, controls, and communication everywhere inside our cars. Add features such as active suspension, traction control, collision avoidance, navigation, and advanced entertainment, and today’s cars can be a handful to diagnose and repair when something breaks.

 

Car manufacturers want to ensure that each module (engine control, transmission control, passenger restraint, etc.) is up to date. For example, when replacing one module in a modern BMW, the car must be connected via the Internet to BMW in Germany. Then BMW Germany’s program scans the car, and if any module’s firmware is out of date, the program requires that all modules’ firmware be brought up to date, a process that may require hours to complete. BMW warns that neither DC power to the car nor its Internet connection may fail during the update process, or the (expensive) module may be killed by the aborted update process. (The computer industry calls this "bricking" a system, because it’s transformed into a . . . brick.)
 

 

Jason Athanas (pictured), president of Autobahn Performance of Oakland Park, needs a high-reliability full-time broadband Internet connection. His company, which is a leading independent automobile service shop, moved from DSL service to Cbeyond’s business grade T1 service, which has proven to be very reliable. Now they’ve added Comcast Cable as a second ISP (Internet Service Provider). Why a cable TV provider? Comcast’s cable plant is unlikely to follow the same route as the T1 line, so if one ISP’s cable fails, it’s unlikely that the other ISP will fail from the same cause.  This should pay off if/when a major storm blows through!
 
The ingredient that allows simultaneous load balancing between the two ISPs is the Cisco Small Business RV082 10/100Mbps 8-Port VPN Router.  It required hours on site to get this installation working smoothly; there are many variables to configure, and not all of them work as expected. I’m sure that the next installation will go more quickly, now that I’ve learned what doesn’t work. 

 

How well does it work? Testing reveals that Cbeyond’s T1 up- and down-load speeds are a consistent 1.4 Mbps (Megabits per second), while Comcast’s speeds are all over the map, from 3 Mbps to 14 Mbps (download). By checking the RV082’s system log, we’ve already seen daily brief interruptions in Comcast’s service. I’m impressed with the RV082’s performance so far: users benefit from the sum of the two ISP’s data rates, and they are unaware of Comcast’s service interruptions. It’s the best of both worlds.
 
The RV082 also includes a stateful packet inspection firewall, the ability to create VLANs (virtual LANs) and VPNs (virtual private networks), plus the usual NAT and DHCP functions. By using VLANs, we’ve created a secure Internet wireless access point for use by customers in the waiting room, and using VPNs, we allow secure remote access via the Internet, so that Jason and his staff may check the security cameras, work on orders, etc. . . . from anywhere that there’s an Internet connection.

This system upgrade is already paying for itself: it’s money well spent.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com