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Subject: [IP] more on Cell Carriers to Web Customers: Use Us, but Not Too Much -- Modem "Crisis" Redux

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To:
  • Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 14:08:31 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: May 11, 2006 12:38:55 PM EDT
Subject: RE: [IP] Cell Carriers to Web Customers: Use Us, but Not Too Much -- Modem &quot;Crisis&quot; Redux

This reminds me of the days when the carriers ranted and raged at length at the damage modems were doing to &quot;their&quot; network. Or when @home complained that they were just joking when they told people they could use the Internet.

The answer for the &#x201C;modem crisis&#x201D; was simple and obvious &#x2013; the only reason modems were a problem was that the carriers were denying people access to the native data packet layer which not only had far more capacity but was far easier to expand and share. We still treat the copper phone pair as a low capacity analog medium rather than a multi-megabit shareable path!

We see the exact same pattern with EVDO et al &#x2013; while the transport is digital, it is digital over a voice infrastructure whose absolute design requirement is billability. If you look at the protocol diagrams there is a very complex 3G infrastructure that exists to assure BILLABILITY. You can&#x2019;t simply add capacity without tying it into the legacy complexity and without threatening the scarcity that requires the complexity in order to manage the scarcity and in doing so uses up most of the capacity.

A simple example of the problem can be seen when we have two cell phones next to each other in a &#x201C;dead zone&#x201D; &#x2013; they can&#x2019;t communicate without going past the billing troll living in the tower (hence the term &#x201C;troll switch&#x201D;). Unlike the 802.11 and other packet networks that allow everyone to extend the reach and add capacity we have a network with humongous expensive &#x201C;towers&#x201D; (often just antennas glued to the side of a building).

This is a conspiracy fact, not theory. The carriers themselves are proud of this and tout it at major presentations as I note inhttp:// They are explicit in stating that were it not for their valiant efforts there would be abundant capacity. They are solving the problem of abundance by guaranteeing everything is kept within billable service channels.

And now they complain that we are using too much of their precious capacity because providing sufficient capacity would decrease their revenues. How convenient. And now they have to prevent a level playing field because giving the sucker an even break just ain&#x2019;t fair!

The whole idea of building common infrastructure by billing by the electron or inch out of context is, at best, stupid and at worst a malevolent attempt to take value out of the economy while preventing others from creating value.

This should all be infrastructure like roads, not private fiefdoms like railroads. We build our own roads and then choose what path to take even choosing to make our own way rather than stay on the official roads. We mustn&#x2019;t allow ourselves to be limited to just choosing among the rides the robber barons deign to offer.

Of course we have to pay for it but it&#x2019;s stupid and utterly na&#xEF;ve to just put a troll at the end of every driveway and have to justify each trip or walk we take. We need to recognize the value inherent in contributing to a common infrastructure and we get far higher cost/ benefit from funding it as such.

But our king might worry about all this rampant freedom &#x2013; how can he protect our freedom if there aren&#x2019;t carriers whose trolls can double as moles ... for more on these technical arguments you can read the treatise at

-----Original Message-----
From: David Farber []
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:46
Subject: [IP] Cell Carriers to Web Customers: Use Us, but Not Too Much

Begin forwarded message:

From: Kurt Albershardt <>

Date: May 11, 2006 11:43:43 AM EDT


Subject: Cell Carriers to Web Customers: Use Us, but Not Too Much



Cell Carriers to Web Customers:

Use Us, but Not Too Much


Wall Street Journal

May 11, 2006; Page B1

Leading U.S. wireless operators have spent billions of dollars to

offer consumers the ability to connect to the Internet on the go, but

now that such services are gaining popularity, the companies are

taking steps to make sure subscribers don't use them too much.

In the past two years, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and

other carriers have launched services that allow consumers to log

onto the Web by plugging a small card into their laptops and signing

up for a high-speed Internet plan. Unlike Wi-Fi &quot;hotspots&quot;, which

allow Internet access in public places such as coffee shops and

airports, the cellular services allow roving connections almost

anywhere cellphone calls can be made.

But the new services, while offering the convenience of mobility,

come with limitations tucked into their policies that are unfamiliar

to users of land-line Internet connections. Applications that consume

large amounts of capacity are prohibited. In practice, that puts off-

limits popular activities such as Internet calling, video streaming

and using routers that let multiple users share a single Internet


Verizon Wireless has sent service-cancellation notices to customers

it says are using excessive network capacity. Sprint and Cingular

Wireless, meanwhile, have moved to charge people for the amount of

data bits they wirelessly transfer to their computers each month.

&quot;They market it in such a way that you would think it's Internet-on-

the-go, then they start piling on restrictions,&quot; says Bill Roland, an

information-technology administrator in Ocala, Fla., who uses a

Sprint high-speed connection. &quot;What they want you to do is just

basically surf the Internet and nothing else.&quot;

Those policies represent a dramatic shift from the nearly unfettered

Internet access consumers have enjoyed with wired high-speed service

from cable and phone companies. The wireless carriers say they are

taking this approach because cellphone networks, which transmit

signals over radio waves, inherently have far less capacity than land-

line networks. Internet applications that consume lots of capacity,

such as movie downloads, are taking their toll on all Internet

service providers, but wireless carriers face an even greater challenge.


Kevin Beebe, group president of operations for Alltel Corp., a

smaller national carrier that has its own unlimited-data high-speed

service, predicted the usage-based models would backfire because

consumers are already too used to all-you-can-download plans.

&quot;The pricing scheme is established,&quot; Mr. Beebe said. &quot;It's flat-rate

unlimited. That's what consumers are used to, and that's how it's

going to be.&quot;



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