Test Your VoIP Connection with OnSIP

OnSIP, the virtual PBX service that we use, has a web page that allows you to test your VoIP connection.

It simulates a voice conservation to OnSIP’s remotes, measuring packet loss and jitter or variation in transit times.

My performance over my information cable provided by Comcast here in NJ was pretty good: no packet loss and .9 ms in jitter. Continue reading

Comcast Responds to Bloomberg

The  200+ page response  to Bloomberg TV’s complaint that it had been exiled in Comcast’s lineup from the major players news neighborhoods —Fox, CNN, CNBC, etc.— has been submitted to the FCC.

The lawyers must have had loads of fun writing this thing.

The gist of Comcast’s argument is that it all depends on what you mean by news and a neighborhood. Continue reading

Back at the FCC: CableCARD Returns From the Dead

The FCC’s cableCARD initiative was supposed to crack open the proprietary set-top box provided by the cable operators and give consumers more box choices.

The idea was that you would purchase a PCMIA card for decrypting the cable signal and then have the luxury of inserting your CableCARD into a huge selection of third-party boxes, from the likes of TiVo, Roku, and zillion of others.Continue reading

Bloomberg Complaint Against Comcast: Not Neighborly?

When Comcast acquired NBC from General Electric, one of the conditions in the FCC order approving the acquisition was that this media conglomerate must carry in their existing news neighborhoods “all independent news and business news channels”—like, for example, Bloomberg’s upstart TV channel.

You knew Comcast wasn’t going to make this easy.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg filed a complaint with the FCC against Comcast in which it documented in excruciating detail how in the 35 most populous DMAs (designated market areas), Comcast effectively exiles Bloomberg’s content away from a key block of consecutive news channels.

The correspondence summarized in the complaint between Dan Doctoroff, President of Bloomberg, and Comcast’s Neil Smit is comical in a bureaucratic, miscommunication kind of way.

Continue reading

Jon Stewart on Meridith Baker’s Jump to Comcast

I didn’t think there was much to say about FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker’s bold decision to leave the FCC for NBC Universal.

Shocking? No really.

As we all know Baker voted to approve Comcast’s acquisition of NBC a few months ago. She’ll move her files, notes, and computer gear over to the cable company’s Washington lobbying offices after her resignation takes effect in June.

Her new position has the fancy title of senior vice president for governmental affairs.

Fortunately, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart has used Baker’s speedy exit as grist for his “Well, that was fast” segment.   Continue reading

Zoom Telephonics Tests Open Internet

Back in November 2010, Zoom Telephonics, makers of cable modems, filed a complaint with the FCC against Comcast.

The modem manufacturer cited anti-competitive practices in Comcast’s new Physical and Environment (P&E) acceptance testing of their modems. According to Zoom’s filing, “Comcast’s P&E testing regime contains a host of unreasonable, irrelevant, time-consuming, and costly requirements.”

Current statutes in the Communications Act (Title VI, section 629) allow cable operators to restrict the use of modems to those that do not cause network harm or enable service theft.  Zoom says that its modems are being excluded based on testing criteria involving, ahem, modem weight, labeling, and packaging.

With  the approval of the FCC’s new Open Internet rules in December, Zoom seems to have a new line of attack.  Continue reading

Netflix’s Favorite ISPs

Yesterday, Netflix released bandwidth data measuring how well leading ISPs do at transmitting its HD videos to subscribers. All the usual suspects were listed, but it’s interesting, although not altogether surprising, that cable companies grabbed the top spots over the traditional carriers.

The number one slot is owned by Charter communications, the 4th largerst cable operator in the US, which has achieved download speeds of over 262.6 Mbps. Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner can be found battling it out for the next three positions —though Comcast has an edge.

I can’t be much more accurate in my ratings since Netflix has presented the data as a timeline graph using jarringly psychedelic colors that are giving me a migraine.

What makes this data a pretty good test of an ISP’s network is that Netflix has positioned its video content within special content distribution networks or CDNs, which are essentially video caches that resides closer, network-wise, to the actual video subscribers.

So the collected data points factor out the backbone traversals that are normally made by vanilla bit traffic. Continue reading

Verizon’s Full Court Press

To everything there is a season. A time to propose Open Internet rules. A time to seek relief from these arbitrary and capricious rules in the courts, specifically the DC Court of Appeals.

Let’s say it’s not a complete surprise that a carrier, Verizon in this instance, has decided to challenge the FCC’s recent rules on the Open Internet. Continue reading

Snowed In with the FCC’s Open Internet Rules

After burning off my holiday calories shoveling out of Snowmageddon 2010, I was ready to settle down with a good book and a flagon of mulled cider. Perhaps I was still looking for more Sisyphean exercises, so instead of Harry Potter, I reached for my MacBook and downloaded the FCC’s complete Report and Order in the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet, otherwise known as the Net Neutrality rules.

Published on Friday, this 87-page document, excluding appendices and the commissioners’ separate statements, contains over 400 footnotes. A lot of work was expended, so kudos to the FCC’s paper-meisters.

Spoiler alert: the good part starts at Section IV ( paragraph 115, page 62), “The Commission’s Authority to Adopt Open Internet Rules.”

I am all for the Report’s net neutrality rules for transparency, no blocking, and no unreasonable discrimination. But after reviewing the FCC arguments in section IV, along with the usual relevant cases, I don’t think this dog will hunt.Continue reading

Meanwhile Back at the FCC

In case you weren’t at the Web 2.0 Summit earlier this month to hear FCC Chairman Genachowski, O’Reilly has published the interview on YouTube. My Google Reader had already bombarded me with excerpts of Genachowski’s remarks (“net neutrality will happen”) and his unhappiness with the Google-Verizon proposal.

Still curious about what he said, I decided to sit through most of the interview during my lunch hour. It was a typical Genachowksi performance that he gives to interviewers who are not entirely up to speed on the issues. He was gracious, jocular, and made sure to sprinkle his conversation with the right words: innovation, competitiveness, less government, openness, and market-based forces.

And then he took an indirect swipe at the carriers when he said : “…it’s the market and consumers picking winners and losers, not people who control access to the Internet.”  Followed by a right-jab when he called the Supreme Court’s Comcast decision “seriously incorrect.”

Somewhere in course of my viewing I started to stare at a map behind the Chairman. I first thought it was a map of the world, the kind you see in television newsrooms. It was actually a conceptual Web 2.0 geography that broke the Internet community into separate islands and land masses.

Continue reading

1 Gbps in Chattanooga

I practically did a spit take while drinking my coffee this morning and reading The New York Times story about a municipal broadband project in Tennessee.  I learned that  Chattanooga’s  community owned power provider, EPB, has plans to offer up to 1 Gigabit per second  to its fiber-to-the-home subscribers by the end of the year. True, that can cost you almost $350 per year (lower if you bundle in voice and video).

I checked some of the pricing of their various service bundles—a classic triple-play of voice, video, and data—on the EPB website, and the packages are quite competitive: 30 Mbps data, enhanced video, and voice for $111.

This is a big win for non-profit fiber projects nationwide. And possibly a leading candidate for winning Google’s Fiber for Communities contest to build and test an  ultra-high speed network.

By the way, it appears that Comcast was at one point the sole  broadband and cable video provider for Chattanooga.Continue reading

Non-innovative ISPs

A article in Wired by Ryan Singel does a nice job of explaining why the cable ISPs need regulation. As this blog has also been saying, reclassification of their services as telecommunications, the current FCC strategy, undoes a bad course steered by the Powell FCC with help from the Supreme Court.

Here’s the money quote:”The broadband barons don’t want to provide you fast internet. It’s too close to being a utility for their tastes (that’s boring and lacks huge profit margins) and requires too much investment.

What he said! The broadband cable providers’ business model is about restricting the possibilities of the Internet. For example, I suspect your ISP is like mine (I’m stuck with Comcast) in redirecting bad URLs (“404” errors) to their own highly-skewed page of alternative suggestions. Continue reading

The Real FCC Plot: Open Internet Access

After the FCC lost its net neutrality case against Comcast, I put on hold a project to review a series of YouTube videos involving Chairman Genachowski. The rough plan was to gain some insight as to how the FCC would approach net neutrality, open internet, and universal access based on Genachowski’s public statements. I wasn’t going to do this alone, instead I would enlist the resources of Crowdflower’s cloud workers to help with the analysis.

That was ages ago (last month). Since then the FCC has announced its plan to place has placed broadband transmission under Title II regulation and has regained the net neutrality high ground. And in response, one well known, respected FCC watcher, Glen Beck, has said that the President plans to regulate the Internet and control the “misinformation” through net neutrality—there was also some talk about Marxism and public utilities.

This was enough to spur me into action and get those videos scanned for certain keywords.Continue reading

Answering David Pogue's Cable Puzzler

Last week David Pogue, The New York Times technology reporter, was perplexed (in a good way) that his local cable company, Cablevision, had been setting up free WiFi hotspots during the last year in the tri-state area (NY,NJ, CT).   Pogue’s been delighted that Optimum WiFi has been showing up with greater frequency on his menu bar for whatever gadget he’s currently holding.  He’s not sure why CableVision is doing this.

(Glad to hear it , David.  I’m not getting the same WiFi love from Comcast, my “information service” provider, who seems more reserved in dispensing her wireless gifts.)

But wait there’s more. Pogue said that Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner have formed a partnership that will begin letting subscribers roam between WiFi networks for free.


Pogue asked his loyal readers (count me as one) to explain why three competitors have joined together.  I think I have a partial answer.Continue reading

Ancillary Authority, Estoppel Gotchas, and New Statutes

I had two shots of espresso and then  tackled  a few parts of the U.S. Court of Appeals decision favoring Comcast.   I am an  informed technologist with no legal training.   It does appear to this blogger that the FCC’s case was—sigh—very weak.

In navigating this legalistic obstacle course and trying to unravel the thinking of a a generation of technology challenged attorneys, you are forced to make the unlikeliest of associations. First, telecommunications means voice and cable TV, but not data.  Data is called information services, and voice can be an information service when it is VoIP.  (Hmm, not sure I want to know how the FCC viewed the phone systems’ digital TDM protocols.)

And then voice has something like cooties, and can contaminate the data part, turning it into telecommunications. Follow?Continue reading

Pricing a Broadband Bit

In 2008, Comcast, my internet service provider, instituted broadband caps, setting a  250 Giga byte monthly limit. Time Warner started a trial program that year as well, which has since become standard practice in more cities (Rochester, Greensboro, San Antonio).

Well, how do I do know how much I’m using, so I don’t go over the cap and face the consequences?

Comcast solved that problem (at least in my area)  last week with a usage meter. I now know that I consumed 10 Gigabits last month, which works out in my situation to over $6/Gb.Continue reading