Sunday, October 23, 2005

First Mile, Second Mile and Last Mile 

Over the weekend I was pondering over the arcticle in WSJ: Phone, Cable Firms Rein In Consumers' Internet Use I was als mentioning in a previous post and here especially on the following sentence:

Some of the companies say the users are hogging bandwidth, taking up too much space on networks and slowing down service for all customers that tap the Internet for email, video, music, phone and other services.

If you think about it, this is simply outrageous:

Let's assume, you are a customer having subscribed a DSL-service with an Internet Access Provider, say 2MB/sec downstream and a 5 GB download limit per month. You naively assume the deal is that you may use e.g. a bandwidth of 2 Mb/sec (what you never get anyway) until you used up the 5 GB. And you also assume naively that you may use the 2 MB/sec for whatever you want to do with it: webbrowseing, voice calls, file download, audio- and videostremaing, etc.

And now you are blamed out-of-nowhere by your IAP that you are a bad guy and "clogging" up the bandwidth and slowing down service for the other users.

You think:

1. The other users are not your problem, an IAP is not a church where you have to care about your brothers and sisters.

2. Especially on a DSL line (the first mile from your point of view) you have exclusive use. That the IAP is calling this the last mile is typical for his point-of-view, BTW.

3. If you are somewhat involved in Internet technology, you also know that bandwitdth on the backbone is no problem at all, there is enough fibers and lambdas around, and if not, there is still enough un-lit dark fiber waiting to be lit..

So what is the problem?

It is the Second Mile.

Your DSL line is connected to a DSLAM and DSLAMs are concentrators. The provisioning was done some years ago, based on customer behaviour at that time (which was mainly web-browsing, e-mail and some uncritical file-transfers). All these applications where not real-time applications and not time critical. In addition, at this time most DSLAMs where not fully equipped. Most customers had between 512kb/sec and 1024kb/sec down. So for many DSLAMs 8Mb/sec back-haul to the routers of the backbone and a 20 to 30 overbooking seemed ok.

In the meantime the customer behaviour, the applications, the speed of the modems changed and also the DSLAMs are now fully equipped. The only thing that did not change was the capacity in the backhaul.

Who is to blame for this? Definitely not the end-user. So dear customers, do not feel guilty, it is not your fault.

So, dear access providers, do your job and fix this, and stop blaming innocent customers.

Note: I used DSL here as example. With CableCos and GSM GPRS/UMTS providers, this second mile begins immediately behind the CPE.

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