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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Friday, February 03, 2006

BobF at 9:28 PM [url]:

9-1-1 – Better Safe Than Live?

The land line carriers put a lot of pressure on the FCC to require that the VoIP providers support 9-1-1. While they say it’s about safety it’s more about trying to put hurdles in front of competitors. VoIP phones are very mobile. Landline phones rely on static tables to map phone numbers to location – though they tables aren’t necessarily accurate. Cellular phone support for 9-1-1 is lagging because of the difficulty of adding new capabilities to such a complex system.

The VoIP providers have complied and require that you update your location their web sites. fauxATT seems to have taken the 9-1-1 so seriously that if you lose power it will ask you if you changed location. Really smart. If you have an auto-dialer for emergencies and press 9-1-1 you get the long recording explaining that you seem to have lost power and asking you to verify that your location has or has not changed … if you live that long. It doesn’t just place the call (at least for normal calls).

We should stop this political nonsense and move towards a real emergency signaling system based on simple IP protocols. The location information should be provided by direct observation via GPS or a local server. There may be some design challenges but at least it’s better than using 9-1-1 as a pawn by the carriers to disadvantage competition

This is the message I get when I go online. Why are they blocking my calls just because I had to reinit their stupid interface that gets addled by any change to my router. Is it possible that fATT wants to sabotage voice over IP?? This is why we must get rid of the phoney companies because they know there is only one proper way to use a telephone. That's stupid and offsensive and a direct attempt to limit my choices! Why am I not allowed to make my own decisions! They were born in the 19th century and are still there! They require a human being listen to their stupid mesage and respond. If you use an auto-dialer for emergencies you die because there were no auto dialers in the 1800's! And in 2005 there should be no phone companies! The telegraph is gone -- why do we still a special purpose smart-assed phone network?

We have detected that your Telephone Adapter recently lost power. For 911 Service to work properly, outgoing calls will be blocked for all phone lines on this account until you confirm and/or update your 911 Service Address. Incomng calls will not be blocked.

911 Services will be provided, but can only be routed to your confirmed, registered 911 Service Address. Failure to keep your Service Address current will result in your 911 calls being misdirected. Your call will be sent to emergency responders servicing your previously registered 911 Service Address. Unless you advise them otherwise, they will dispatch services such as an ambulance to that incorrect address as well. In the event you or anyone in your household makes a call to 911 before registering a new 911 Service Address, please make sure you tell the emergency operator your current location.

To remove the restriction on outgoing calls, and confirm your eligibility for 911 Service, please make a selection from the choices below. If you are certain that your 911 Service Address information is correct as shown, simply select the "No Address Change" option, below.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

BobF at 11:16 PM [url]:

QoS as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

In looking though Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Consultation Paper On Issues pertaining to Next Generation Networks (NGN) 12th January 2006 I came across a comment on QoS:

QoS obligations on VoIP are becoming an exception i.e. many regulators are going for forbearance on this. The general view is that consumers are best judges of quality. Also, in the long-term, due to technological development in IP, the QOS is not going to remain an issue any more.

This is very well said. People are starting to understand connectivity. Arguing about regulatory policy is frustrating but as more people start to understand the issues we're going to see major changes. The longer we continue the current policies the more difficult transition will be -- at least for those vested and invested in the past.

BobF at 10:32 PM [url]:

Achieving Connectivity

Amatrya Sen: no famine has ever occurred in a democratic country with a free press and regular elections.

The Internet can deliver on the promise of a free press and more -- it gives everyone a voice. It gives them a chance to contribute and prosper in a world economy. Why are we continuing to accept policies not only mired in the past, but policies designed to keep us there simply to support a pretend-industry created by a now falsified regulatory traditional.

Getting Connected is about policy. There is ongoing debate about "Net Neutrality" in an effort to assure that the carriers do not abuse their control of the rights of way. It's reminiscent of the old notion of a "common carrier". I argue that setting such rules is likely to provide protection for the carrier by allowing them to comply with the letter of the law but not the spirit. The Internet is something very different than the phone network. The Internet is a proven success -- we should be framing policy in terms of connectivity rather than treating it as just another service as if it were just another television channel.

Dana Blankenhorn has posted his own comments. Dana is far more practiced at writing to a general audience and many readers may find his presentation more accessible.

You should also read Bruce Kushnick's "$200 Billion Broadband Scandal". Connectivity threatens the carriers' ability to charge for the value of their services. There problems are structural so we shouldn't be surprised that they are doing "whatever necessary" to try to forestall the inevitable but it doesn't mean we can condone it.

Assuring Scarcity is an examination of cellular carriers' policies. Today's digital cellular system is borne of the very same technologies that gave us the Internet but turned 180°and used to maintain total control. I'm excited by the document because it makes my case for me. They come right out and say the Internet will give us abundant connectivity at a low price. But to them it is not a chance to fulfill Amatrya Sen's vision -- to them it's a danger. It threatens their revenue and they must redouble their efforts to assert control in the best tradition of the railroad robber barons in the United States a century ago.

My January column in Von Magazine was a titled And Now with Billability. It was a satire about the carriers' plan to extend this cellular strategy to land line service. It's called IMS and, it's not a fantasy -- it's part of this same GSMA strategy.

I use the term "connectivity" rather than speaking about the Internet as such because the Internet is a specific implementation of a particular set of protocols. The word "Internet" itself has a lot of semantic overloading with many people confusing the Internet with particular modes of use such as the web.

The Internet is about the idea that anyone can create solutions without having to depend on others. Unlike traditional networks the Internet doesn't promise reliable delivery yet we can create reliable services at the edge anyway. It's a very powerful concept I consider on a par with Copernicus message that the Earth was not at the center of the universe or even the solar system. There are a number of ways to describe this dynamic.

The Internet is based on the "End-to-End Principle". Unfortunately this is easily misinterpreted as just the opposite -- womb-to-tomb in which the intermediary takes responsibility for all aspects of the service. This also means they get to define the services and set the rules. This confusion frustrates the creation of effective policy. The Internet provides opportunity but doesn't guarantee any particular service will work -- those who focus on the risks will want assurances and the intermediaries are very happy to oblige. In fact, they offer "quality" and how can anyone object. Yet that term is a trap -- they define quality according to their metrics, not the users.

If we interpret quality for a voice conversation as "sounds better" then it turns out that Internet is rapidly evolving. Whereas it was once difficult to use the Internet to carry on a conversation, simply by increasing capacity the net is beginning to sound better than traditional phone calls, especially for international calls. The audio quality of calls is not limited by the PSTN's predetermined "QoS" (Quality of Service). Not only can you get more capacity from the transport you can also take full advantage of the audio capabilities of the PC. You aren't even limited to audio and can add video and maybe even a smell-o-vision protocol (but, please don't).

As an aside, this is a good lesson in how evolution works. When you presume a designer you get a single optimum or measure of quality. The Internet allows multiple and unpredictable measures of quality to be achieved.

Cellular telephony as at the center of the debate. It's easy to get faster connections but we can't take advantage of connectivity is it not available. Cellular phones have given us a taste of availability but those who provide cellular connectivity have a stake in preventing competition. They must oppose untethered Internet connectivity because it is a threat to their profits. They are right but their profits cannot take priority over the fundamental needs of society. In the US it is a direct assault on free speech.

The increasing availability of cellular telephony in the developing countries is an exciting development. It is an example of the marketplace working the way the cellular companies say it should. But cellular architecture places an upper bound on the deployment. It would be better for these governments and those helping them to understand what connectivity is and its value. The developing countries tend to have punitive charges on international connectivity in search of short term revenues. The effect is to isolate them from the world.

It's easy to recognize the value of cellular telephony compared with not being able to communicate. But this should not blind us from the larger value of connectivity as basic infrastructure.

It's easy to be discouraged by the apparent unlimited power and influence of the carriers and the tendency for legislators to view the future as more of the past -- a past in which we had to have phone companies and cable companies. But the issues are coming to a head simply because technology is evolving quickly and we are becoming increasingly adept at bypassing the gatekeepers.

The carriers themselves are telling us that we can have abundant connectivity and they may not have a role in a real marketplace. In a world beset by crises and in the grips of fear we can't afford to turn our backs on abundance merely because it threatens a few large companies.

For more, see the Archive.

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