JCL Blog

Uncorking Wireless

Not long ago most WiFi routers were open.  People did not bother to secure them because they did not believe they had anything to worry about.  Then came FireSheep, an extension to the FireFox browser, that showed everyone how they were exposed on public and open WiFi connections.

Now most WiFi routers are secure and I bet people like AT&T and Comcast and Verizon think that is a pretty good thing.  After all, they are selling bandwidth in fixed bundles and no one is maximizing the amount they use.  

Enter the OpenWireless movement.  This group has set about to establish new standards through which the vulnerabilities exposed by FireSheep can be addressed and promoting the idea that everyone should share their internet connection.  Quite a few organizations are supporting the initiative including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Others including Open Garden are introducing new technologies that make it easier to share bandwidth between devices or people.

This is important because it is yet another way that the Internet can route around obsticles.  The Internet is naturally suited to find the best (easiest / cheapest) way round a blockage and we all need to do what we can to support that kind of thinking.  If the Information Superhighway becomes a toll road, we all lose.

Comcast Throttles

I guess I should not be surprised.  I have been suspecting it for some time now and right before posting this entry I searched for "Comcast Throttles" and found 3,210 hits -- with just about every one of them recounting their stories about how Comcast selectively turns down their bandwidth.

I do download things, but I do not consider myself a big bandwidth user.  My biggest loads are Microsoft software updates, then Audible audio books, then a song here or there from iTunes.  But I find myself tripping whatever mechanism Comcast has set up, and then I stay turned down -- sometimes for days.

I measured my throughput daily for the last week and you can see my bandwidth changes quite a bit.

I am sure that Comcast has to manage a variety of loads on the network, so I don't expect to be at 15 MBPS all of the time.  But any time that my download speed is less than my upload speed -- is clearly suspect.

I don't think there is any law against turning down my bandwidth, and I am pretty sure that I don't have a contract that guarantees me a certain throughput all of the time.  The offense in my view is that Comcast denies doing it -- when they clearly are. 

Maybe I should move to Kansas City!

I don't think legislation is the answer because our lawmakers are definately under the spell of big companies like Comcast -- so any attempt to control their businesses would result in fewer rights or benefits to the customer.  

So let's hope for competition to solve the problem.  

Some links for you:

The "Comcast Throttles" search.

Speakeasy's Speed tester 

Wired Mag on the 250 BG cap 

Now I have to start looking for ways to give Comcast less business.  More on that later.

Confidence in Effective Government Regulation

There are too relatvely boring stories in the NY Times today that when taken toghether tell a somewhat interesting tale.

Andrew Pollack's piece titled: Modified Salmon Is Safe, F.D.A. Says and Joe Nocera's take on net neutrality with the title: The Struggle for What We Already Have.

I wonder how many readers really think genetically altered salmion is safe enough to feed their kids.  I guess not many.  The FCC's ability to regulate the internet? -- just as shaky.   And the SEC doesn't do much to build the credibility of federal agencies.

It is a miracle the FAA keeps the planes in the sky.  I suppose the highly visible planes falling from the sky scenario is what makes the price of buying the FAA beyond the reach of the hired guns in Washington.  You can bet they are trying everything they can.

So I for one do not believe that the FDA knows any more about the long term effects of the altered salmon than they do about the long term effects of the growth hormones in our beef.  Best to eat as little of that stuff as possible.

Whether or not the FCC gets some regulations to enforce against Comcast -- I am pretty sure Comcast is going to be managing my network traffic however they want.

Here is another post I did a few weeks ago on net neutrality.