Auntie Beeb on Net Neutrality

Earlier this week Andy D suggested that I might be listening to too much Radio 4.

I don’t necessarily think that’s been a bad thing, as that means I caught a couple of items on Net Neutrality. Indeed, the Beeb seems to be showing increasing interest in this area, and wouldn’t you, if there was something which threatened your editorial freedom?

Imagine for a minute that Sky Broadband subscribers got ultra fast access to Sky News (and other News Corp) content, while poor old Auntie (among other content providers) got packet-shaped, throttled and capped to a crawl? Now you’ll see what the fuss is about.

Anyway, Radio 4 has recently discussed Net Neutrality on two occasions in the past few weeks.

Firstly during the long-running consumer affairs programme “You and Yours“, on the 7th October, there was a brief discussion (will open a link to BBC iPlayer) which included comments from ISOC’s Leslie Daigle.

This week, on Monday 17th October, there was a further segment on the subject (iPlayer link) in the “Click On” programme – fast forward to around the 17 minute mark – which contains the fantastic quote of “Put three geeks together in a room and you’ll get four definitions of Net Neutrality”.

I’m not sure if that says more about the issue, or more about the geeks. 🙂

There’s also a rather nice BBC blog article from Erik Huggers (Director, BBC FM&T) which incorporates and sums up nicely elements from both the above articles, including that despite the appearance of freedom of choice and competition in the UK consumer broadband market, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, due to triple-play lock-ins or the sheer aggro factor.

The closing paragraph talks about “thin-end-of-the-wedge” concerns about this gradually creeping in through the backdoor if the regulators don’t use tools in their power to manage this contentious issue.

While the BBC, as a major content player, do have a vested interest in preserving their editorial freedom and equal opportunity to distribute their content, there’s a lot of sense behind it too.

I don’t work for the GOOG…

…or anyone else for that matter.

As you may know, I recently stood down from my full-time role as CTO of LINX – I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical between now and the end of the year. However, I still attended the NANOG50 meeting in Atlanta last week.

So, I was surprised when several folks asked me “How long have you been working for Google?” I think I was more surprised than the questioner!

Where had this rumour started?

Matt Petach usually keeps good notes of proceedings when he attends NANOG and sends the notes out to the mailing list so that other folks can benefit. It’s a good, community spirited thing.

Turns out that Matt had managed to affiliate me with the GOOG in his notes! It certainly got a few sideways glances!

In any case, I really don’t know if I even have the patience to jump through Google’s legendary recruitment hoops – though ask me that again in about a year, if I’m still out of work and living on a studentesque diet of baked beans and canned tuna.

So, just to categorically state: I dont work for GOOG. Or anyone else, for the moment. Phew. 🙂

Whither (UK) Regional Peering – Pt.1

Just last month, in mid-September, Andy Davidson brought up the switch at IXLeeds, the latest UK regional IXP.

You’ll note I say “the latest”, but how many non-London UK IXPs can you name off the top of your head? Not many, I’ll wager. Fewer that are still operating, too. No, the LINX PoP in Slough doesn’t count in my picture of non-London!

This is the problem: It’s often said that there isn’t the level of regional IP peering going on in the UK that there probably should be for redundancy reasons. The majority of IP peering in the UK happens in London, and when it isn’t happening in London, it’s probably happening in Amsterdam instead.

Let’s face it, on an island that’s ~15ms round-trip top-to-bottom, we’re less likely to peer to reduce latency, especially when the architecture of the incumbent wholesale DSL platform doesn’t encourage networks to do little beside haul all broadband customer traffic to a central point before dispersing it.

Previous attempts at establishing regional IXPs in the UK have had varying levels of success. The most successful to date, in terms of number of participants and achieving critical mass is probably MANAP – which was founded in Manchester in 1997.

Unlike LINX which did survive (well, successfully resisted) a demutualisation attempt, MANAP only sort-of did. It allowed it’s infrastructure to be taken over by a company funded by the local Regional Development Association, and the exchange became a service provided over the infrastructure which was no longer dedicated to IXP operations, but also carried other traffic and provided other services.

The MANAP that exists today is not the same exchange, it has been subsumed into the NWIX platform and operates as Edge-IX, a distributed exchange which is present in both Manchester, elsewhere in the Northwest, and in many other locations, including those in London’s Docklands that it was initially intended to provide redundancy for. It’s has a different flavour, and has lost some elements of it’s “regionality”.

What distinguishes it from a carrier, other than the Edge-IX services being non-profit, while the NWIX ones are?

I’m not suggesting that this is a better or worse model, just different, and probably not regional anymore. If this, i.e. reinventing yourself as an inter-regional IX, is the only way a regional IXP in the UK can survive, then we’ll find it very challenging to reach position of sustainable regional peering in the UK. Could things have been different in Manchester?

You may be questioning what issue I have with a “wide-area” exchange point, distributed over a large geographic area? The main concern is shared fate. A disruption that would otherwise be localised, spreading easily. I can probably write a whole article on that. Maybe I will another day…

So, why would a quick hop over the Pennines to Leeds be any different?

Manchester itself is also at risk of being unattractive as a location for regional IXs – with the recent purchase of IFL by Telecity Group there is very little organisational diversity or competition in the Manchester co-lo market – there’s existing facilities such as Vialtus Serverbank, and recent new entrant Ice Colo. Folks in the Manchester area were very quick on the social networks to state their fears about anticipated price rises and few options as a result of the lack of choice.

The Leeds scene is rather different, with lots of smaller, entrepreneurial companies active in the metro area. This is a double-edged sword, as while it results in competition in the co-lo market which folks like, it also meant that IXLeeds couldn’t be present everywhere the potential IX participants wanted to connect, certainly from day one. There’s a future aspiration to expand within the metro.

One of the early strengths in IXLeeds is that has a good community feel behind it, including the involvement of folks who have experienced peering in Manchester, while the Yorkshire RDA have been involved from the outset in getting folks together, but (so far) haven’t felt the temptation to get in the driving seat, instead choosing to play the role of facilitator.

There’s a will to succeed, so hopefully they will reach the critical mass that is required to sustain the exchange.

A concern I have is the lack of international capacity into the Leeds area, Manchester is in a better position here due to the independant (from London) Transatlantic connectivity arriving in the area.

That said, while international bandwidth a something of a pre-requisite for a national exchange point, is that actually necessary for a successful regional IX?

Then again – what are the success criteria for an IX, especially a regional one? A graph that forever goes up and to the right? They probably are and should be different from a national IX. Is the regional IX not being satisfied with it’s lot, and wanting to be like it’s larger neighbour, what actually destroys it? Maybe that’s another article in itself?

I’d say it depends on how non-London-centric the early IXLeeds ISPs are, how much of their traffic is delivered locally, and how much traffic they have between each other that they might normally route through London.

If my previous experience is anything to go by – such as opening a new PoP for an already successful IX – these things usually “slow start” – so that means patience is required.

I’m going to come back to this topic in the coming weeks, I’ll try and write about some of the side issues I’ve threatened to cover above, and maybe touch on a missed opportunity.

Still think they should have called it the Rhubarb Internet Exchange. Even if it was just to confuse people. 🙂

Beginning of the end for hotspots?

The Dutch Telecoms Regulator has announced it will require Dutch hotels to register as ISPs (Slashdot article).

Despite the fact that the hotel usually doesn’t own the wifi infrastructure in the hotel, and certainly isn’t an ISP in the normal sense, the Dutch regulator’s rationale is that the hotel is reselling the ISP service – i.e. is a VISP.

I don’t see this is always the case, as the hotels in the .nl, from my experience, don’t rebrand the ISP services as their own. However, they often collect the money and charge it to your room folio.

I suspect the meta question here is what does this mean for hotspots generally, especially the ones which are currently free?

Does this drive up their costs significantly enough to either a) cause free hotspots to charge or b) shut the hotspot down, because the costs of the bureaucracy aren’t recovered?

What happens if I let someone else use a MiFi that I own? Am I an ISP too?

Seems more thought is needed!

Freedom. Whatever that is…

So, as some folks will know, I recently left my employer of 11 years.

I felt it was time for a change, and time for a break – I’d been wanting to take a sabbatical for a few years now, but I realised that it was becoming less and less likely to happen soon – so I took the plunge.

When you take a big step like this, you find out a lot of things. Especially who your friends are – which I’m happy to say, seems to be most of you…

The plan from here is that I take between three to six months off full time employment, while at the same time keeping in touch with an industry I’ve been 110% involved in for the last 15 years. So I’m probably still going to crop up at industry meetings, and I’m still going to be involved in some of the voluntary work I do in the community, such as help run UKNOF meetings.

One of the things that was suggested to me as a way of keeping connected to the community is that I start blogging and writing about tech stuff…

Of course, I’ve always had an opinion on most things, so why not do what comes naturally!