Saturday, January 22, 2011

It is capped already!

Photo courtesy of Richard Masoner (on Flickr)
Local telecommunications companies want to cap the amount of data that subscribers use to accommodate more subscribers and avoid investing more in their infrastructure. More subscribers is always better, until the subscribers notice how crappy the service becomes. So, instead of investing, they want to add more limits!  I find it really funny that some folks tend to forget that subscribers are using an  already capped service! Telcos just want to shortchange the subscribers more and they want National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to bless it.

Telcos want us to believe that  "abusive" subscribers who use the internet 24x7 are the culprit -- why the majority of the subscribers are getting crappy service. I believe that my Manila Bulletin TechNews editor believes this is true. Well, let's look at the facts.

Subscribers pay a monthly fee for a fixed bandwidth. For the sake of argument, let's say it is 1Mbps. If the telcos provide the full guaranteed 1Mbps, then in a month, provided a constant connection for 24 hours each day for 30 days, the subscriber can transfer a maximum of 324,000 MB of data (here's the math, 1 Mbps x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 30 days / 8 bits (to a byte)), roughly 324GB of data per month (at 1000MB/GB). If this is not a cap, then I do not know what is! It is impossible to go beyond this limit, unless telcos subscribe to a different science!

The reality, however, is different. First, telcos NEVER provide you with the full guaranteed bandwidth that you subscribe to in the entire 24 hour connection in a single day. They will say that they are delivering "best effort" services, which means that they can give you 10kbps and it is still within their promised service! Do you think this is fair? I don't think so. The NTC is correct in requiring telcos to give a minimum bandwidth for each subscriber.

Second, subscribers, even the heavy users (will get back to this later) like me, do not use the full subscribed bandwidth for 24 hours, for the full 30 days! There are days when you download gigabytes of data (try getting XCode and you will know), but it isn't everyday! In a single day, a 1Mbps subscriber bandwidth gives you 10.8GB of data (for 24 hours continuous transfer). I do not think this is fair, either. If a cap is inevitable (until the telcos decide to invest and improve their infrastructure OR until NTC requires them to) I propose a weekly cap of half the full data volume that can be transferred for 7 days for a full 1Mbps continuous connection - giving us a data volume cap of 37.8GB/week. For a 4-week month, we get 151.2GB - a far cry from the 100GB/mo that is being given by Bayantel!

Remember that the above proposed data volume cap is under the premise that subscribers are getting what they are paying for AND NOT what the telcos are providing at its "best"!

Now, let's go to the heavy users. My Manila Bulletin TechNews editor mentioned peer-to-peer file transfers in general, and BitTorrent in particular - even mentioned Japan's experience - to describe heavy users. BitTorrent is simply a protocol - you must not block it. Legit file distribution sites, specially Linux distributions, use it to ease up their bandwidth by distributed file transfers. Unfortunately, it is being abused by other file distribution sites in illegally re-distributing media files. However, do these BitTorrent users use more bandwidth than the rest? Some people think they do, but do they really?

Remember the data volume cap mentioned above - and how it is restricted by the subscribed bandwidth? This also applies to BitTorrent transfers. The file transfer is limited by the subscribed bandwidth - it cannot go beyond that! Think of the bandwidth as the narrow end of the funnel. No matter how much data you pass through it, it is still limited by the narrow end. Who suffers? Those on the wider end. How about the other end of the funnel? Does the funnel pass through more? Of course not.

The analogy used was how abusive bus drivers hog EDSA. Now, here's my analogy - Commonwealth Avenue is wider than EDSA. The volume of traffic, however, is restricted by the Philcoa funnel. From 10 lanes of Commonwealth to 4 lanes of Philcoa. As far as the the Elliptical Road is concerned, the number of vehicles that pass thru Philcoa has a 4-vehicle per instance rate. It is physically impossible to have a 10-vehicle per instance rate at Philcoa! Do those traveling the circumference of Elliptical Road get deprived of the lanes? Not really - as far they are concerned, it is still a 4-lane funnel. No matter how wide you make Commonwealth Avenue, the same number of vehicles pass through Philcoa at a certain instance. Now, widening Philcoa is a different matter.

Who is affected by the BitTorrent transfers? It is the users at the wider end of the funnel - those who are sharing the single internet connection provided by the telco (I believe this is what my Manila Bulletin TechNews editor experienced at MB). It cannot go beyond the maximum subscribed bandwidth! As far as the other, narrower side of the funnel goes, it is a fixed rate of data transfer, regardless of type of data (web, email, bittorrent, streaming media, etc.).

The general point of the matter is this - our broadband subscription is already capped by the subscribed bandwidth that we pay for every single month. Telcos want to further restrict the data volume that we can transfer (so they will not need to invest more in their infrastructure) WHILST not providing the full bandwidth that we are paying for (substandard is an understatement, IMHO). The "best effort" service that telcos claim is their special privilege, protected by law (I hope not), to screw subscribers. Ask ANY broadband subscriber and chances are s/he only gets 40% of his/her subscribed bandwidth. And don't get me started with the latency issue! And IPv6? Hell, what is NTC doing about this? I hope they are NOT PROTECTING the telcos!

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