Monday, December 20, 2010

My top 10 predictions for Internet and R&E networks for 2011

I have decided to join the parade of prognosticators and seers who at this time of year make wildly, uneducated predictions for 2011.  So for no apparent reason or logic here are my 10 top predictions for 2011:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The dirty tricks that monopolists play and why Level 3 needs to get into last mile access

[It is interesting to watch the dirty little games that Comcast is playing in the US to protect its video delivery monopoly and protect themselves from “Over the Top” (OTT) competitors like Google and Netflix.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Smartphones and HPC-Clouds: The Emerging eScience Mobile Trend

[This is another critical reason why R&E networks need to start to provide national wireless 5G networks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What comes after IPv6 and DNS??

[Around the world alarm bells are going off that we are running out of IPv4 address space.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

US legislation to mandate open WiFi in all government buildings

[This legislation is something that I have been advocating for some time – that all public sector buildings (especially universities) should have open WiFi preferably powered by renewable energy. As the authors of the bill notes this will save telecom costs for consumers and government. National R&E networks or organizations like UCAN could obtain their own IMSI numbers to effectively offer a national wireless service that operating as a MVNO, in partnership with 3G/4G providers could offer a very low cost national broadband wireless Internet service. Understandably many institutions are leery of offering an open WiFi service because of the fear of DMCA take down orders and other abuse – but a national R&E network or similar entity that is the MVNO could manage all the hot spots on behalf of the various institutions – much like is what is done at many airports today. Eduroam or Shibboleth could be used for authentication on 3G/4G MVNO networks. In combination with new software based SIMs for smart phones and tablets would be the first steps to a National Public Internet. More details at– BSA]

Sens. Snowe and Warner want WiFi in all federal buildings

Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced legislation on Friday that would require all public federal buildings to install WiFi base stations in order to free up cell phone networks.
The Federal Wi-Net Act would mandate the installation of small WiFi base stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings in order to increase wireless coverage and free up mobile networks. The bill would require all new buildings under construction to comply and all older buildings to be retrofitted by 2014. It also orders $15 million from the Federal Buildings Fund be allocated to fund the installations.
“I see a great opportunity to leverage federal buildings in order to improve wireless broadband coverage at a very reasonable cost," Warner said. "By starting with the nearly 9,000 federal buildings owned or operated by the General Services Administration, we will be able to provide appreciable improvement in wireless coverage for consumers while also reducing some of the pressure on existing wireless broadband networks."
The bill is aimed at preventing dropped calls that occur indoors and in rural areas due to poor cell phone coverage, while also hopefully boosting wireless network capacity by more effectively deploying broadband wireless networks. The bill is also an acknowledgement of the crucial role that cell phones and smartphones such as BlackBerrys play in the daily routine of federal workers.
“With over 276 million wireless subscribers across our nation and growing demand for wireless broadband, it is imperative that we take steps to improve wireless communication capacity, and this legislation will make measurable progress towards that goal,” said Snowe. “Given that approximately 60 percent of mobile Internet use and 40 percent of cell phone calls are completed indoors, utilizing technologies such as Wi-Fi and femtocells will dramatically improve coverage.”
The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan argues most smartphones sold today have Wi-Fi capabilities, so installing mini-base stations and Wi-Fi hotspots in federal buildings would improve indoor cell phone coverage and increase wireless network capacity.

Rudolph van der Berg on how to become a MVNO

twitter: BillStArnaud
skype: Pocketpro

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The need for a National Public Internet (NPI) - important role for R&E/community networks

[Once again there has been a lot of press discussion about network neutrality with FCC Chair Genachowski’s announcement to put a proposal to his fellow commissioners “Preserving a Free and Open Internet” and EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes statements in Europe on the same issue. The recent debacle with Comcast charging Level 3 a peering fee to deliver NetFlix and Comcast’s intent to purchase NBC (see below) reinforces the need to protect and enshrine an Open Internet given the huge concentration of market power of the cable/telco duopoly and the lack of competition in the Internet telecom marketplace. This is not only true for US, but other countries like Canada where restrictions on foreign ownership have created a similar vortex of market concentration between media and telecom/cable companies.

The highly respected Internet pioneer David Reed I think summed up the issue quit well in his recent blog ( that the Internet is a “separate” thing. It is often confused with and equated with broadband, but the two are not the same. The Internet is essentially an agreed upon set of protocols for the sharing and transmission of data over virtually any medium, while broadband is one of many possible infrastructures for delivering the Internet to users.

To my mind treating the Internet as a separate “thing”, especially different from broadband is an important concept and why regulation of an Open Internet needs to be treated differently than broadband. This is not the first time that regulators and policy makers have recognized a new technology as requiring special treatment. As I have blogged before cable TV, in the early days was also given special regulatory treatment in Canada and US, in recognition that it’s a separate thing than being just another telecom service. ( The outcome of regulation of cable TV as being a separate thing was the creation of a strong and vibrant cable TV industry in North America. Countries that allowed the telcos to compete with cable companies such as Australia largely killed off this important industry sector in those early years.

I fear the same thing will happen to the Open Internet today as happened in Australia with cable TV in the 1970s. The cablecos and telcos will continue to push for ways to control and modify the Internet, especially in the wireless domain. They will morph it into many different variants of “Internet-like” architectures and “special” services, and essentially kill the Open Internet as we know it today. This is why I also agree with David Reed that making a special exemption in terms of network neutrality for wireless broadband is a bad idea. The case for treating wireless Internet differently is based on the misguided assumption that wireless is a narrow, single-channel, low-bandwidth service. But in reality there is an incredible wave of innovation occurring in the wireless market with multi-channel, cognitive radio integrating WiFi, WhiteFi, mesh radio etc that will more than enable sufficient bandwidth to treat the Internet over wireless the same as Internet over wires.

However I am not as hopeful as David Reed in terms of regulatory protection for an Open Internet. The incumbents will emasculate any regulation through the courts or by lobbying their political friends . A case in point is Canada where the regulator has probably imposed some of the most stringent requirements anywhere, in terms of open access on both cable and telephone industry, and yet for the most part these requirements have been thwarted in gaming of the system by the incumbents.

From the lessons we have learned about cable television, I believe if we want a truly Open Internet we need to deploy an infrastructure that is independent of the telcos and cablecos. Fortunately we have most of the important components of such an infrastructure in place thanks to the deployment of R&E networks nationally and regionally. With the added capabilities of the many community networks funded by BTOP such as UCAN it is well within the realm of possibility to deploy both a wired and wireless National Public Internet (NPI)– that is committed to the principles of an Open Internet. I am not advocating that we replace the telcos and cableco and their “Internet-like” service. But much like PBS and NPR provides an alternate voice to the mainstream broadcasters, NPI could ensure that there remains an independent and open Internet with all the benefits that entails in terms of innovation, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

I also believe that deployment of a NPI is critical for the future of R&E networks, as the mandate for many R&E networks is to provide services to researchers and educators that are not available on the commercial Internet. The Internet would have never been created by the telcos/cablecos in the first place as its basic principles of openness and intelligence at the edge are fundamentally counter to that of large bureaucratic monopolies. New advances in wireless 5G networking, green Internet, cloud computing and next generation optical technologies are in many ways are even a greater threat to the incumbents. The next wave of Internet innovation, especially in the wireless domain, is likely to be even more profound consequences than what we saw over the last two decades.

To my mind a NPI is more than deploying a network, but should also about providing services like Transit exchanges, Peering routes and free Internet at all public institutions. New technologies such as 100G and 1000G wavelengths will insure that there is plenty of bandwidth on the backbones, and technologies like distributed federated forwarding tables will allow deployment of low cost routing (and hopefully zero carbon) using hundreds, if not thousands of ordinary PCs, much in the same way Google revolutionized data center computing.

Initially NPI may not be accessible to all users, because of the current duopoly in broadband access. But with the growing number of community fiber networks the ability to deliver next generation 5G wireless using hubs at schools and libraries. By obtaining its own IMSI codes, as advocated by Rudoplh van der Berg ( and open source GSM base stations, coverage to most citizens and machines (e.g.sensor networks, grids etc) should be within the realm of possibility.

An early example of what a NPI may look like is the R&E network in Alberta Canada – Cybera ( Cybera has installed a Transit Exchange, which allows Cybera to aggregate members’ commercial Internet traffic and pass it directly to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) of their choice. This group buying setup will secure Cybera members the kind of low-cost Internet rates usually reserved for large corporations. Also, Cybera has set up initial peering connections with the Toronto Internet Exchange (TorIX) and the Seattle Internet Exchange (SIX) – where users can take advantage of these direct connections and avoid the inevitable queuing for bandwidth that takes place during peak use periods on the regular commercial Internet. These services are not only available to academic community but to small businesses and communities that are connected through the Alberta province wide broadband network – SuperNet. Cybera is quite clever in that rather than trying to establish their own peering connections at the TorIX and SIX they are sharing peering routes with other R&E networks. This is something I have been advocating for some time amongst all international R&E and community networks – such an arrangement could reduce Internet costs for users by as much as 90%. The advent of 100G and soon 1000G waves will obviate any concern about bandwidth congestion.
In conclusion while we should continue to press on the regulatory front for an Open Internet, if nothing else to prevent egregious harm to the Internet and society by the incumbents, I think ultimately the only way we will protect and insure an Open Internet, is if we deploy the technology ourselves. We have the tools. We have the means.


For more information:

A personal perspective on the evolving Internet and Research and Education Networks

By choosing to make a stand on traffic ratios in peers, Comcast is fighting directly against over-the-top video, pure and simple. This way they can state to regulators that they will not interfere with over the top traffic, as they did recently during the NBC merger oversight, even while trying to create a world where they *always* get paid on both ends for that same traffic. And while they must compete in a duopoly for the consumer end, they can set whatever price they like for transit because there is no way to bypass the consumer connections they have at any one time. Quite elegant actually. Why build a new toll booth when you can just re-purpose the one you have and close down all other gates.
There has long been a dispute about whether traffic ratios are a real and important criteria in peering, or else simply a conveniently labeled bargaining chip in a game of power. But we’re going to see that debate move beyond the traditional crowd of IP nerds now, I think.

twitter: BillStArnaud
skype: Pocketpro