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[ NNSquad ] Re: Comcast Launches Data Usage Meter
Did we get the Internet by measuring telephone traffic? Where is any sense of applications beyond more of the same?
Most important – what does “Broadband” have to do with the Internet
beyond being an dry river bed that we happened to repurpose as path? What about uses that thwarted by the need to have a subscription? What is the relationships between the number of bits and the amount of data? Is an HD movie a billion times more data than a heart monitor?
I can’t help but worry about this project since it is framed in terms of “broadband” rather Ambient Connectivity. As I wrote in Promises vs. Discovery there is a very serious problem of begging the questions. We will find that broadband is used for broadband applications and for not applications such as local infrastructure, medical etc that don’t fit into the current paradigms.
In reading http://mitas.csail.mit.edu/papers/Bauer_Clark_Lehr_Traffic.pdf I see some interesting questions to be asked such as identifying anomalous traffic that would indicate bot activity. Such measurements as most valuable when they surprise us.
Such studies are most worrisome when they reinforce our naïve assumptions and confirm our fears and justify existing business models. We have to be very wary about the road analogy as used here. The examples in the paper emphasize planning and show a major concern about avoiding congestion. It reminds me of Bob Metcalfe’s fear that the Internet would collapse. It’s also similar to the worries about modem traffic overwhelming the phone network.
This goes against the idea of the Internet as creating opportunity for what we can’t anticipate rather than promising more of the same (http://rmf.vc/?n=IPPvD again).
It would also be helpful if we were able to compare today’s approaches with other approaches to supporting the kind of connectivity that the Internet gives us a taste of.
What if we made all the physical capacity of a city available for connectivity without limiting it by trying to bill for each bit and without distinguishing between wired and wireless bits? Such an experiment would be hypothetical unless it had the scale and time base that would give us a chance to develop the applications and technologies to take advantage of the opportunity. We can also look at routing approaches that separate the routing relationships from the application relationships thus greatly simplifying routing by taking advantage of stable paths.
Given these I risks I would opt out of participating but I don’t have that option – I am a captive of my provider and it is their wires and it is their Internet. It isn’t mine – and the numbers will prove it.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Lauren Weinstein
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 14:18
Subject: [ NNSquad ] Comcast Launches Data Usage Meter
Reliable user-accessible Internet data usage metrics are of course
increasingly important as bandwidth/usage caps are deployed by ISPs.
I assume however that most or all ISPs' "usage meters" will not be
providing information to users about the amount of data used by ISPs'
own digital content (e.g. digital video) flowing over the same
circuits, since that data is not subject to any ISP-imposed
bandwidth/usage caps, so customers don't have the necessary "need to
know" for this information. Uh, right?
----- Forwarded message from Dave Farber <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 12:27:07 -0500
From: Dave Farber <email@example.com>
Subject: [IP] Comcast Launches Data Usage Meter
To: ip <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Jason Livingood <email@example.com>
> Date: December 1, 2009 12:01:29 PM EST
> To: Dave Farber <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Comcast Launches Data Usage Meter
> Dave - For IP if you wish:
> Today we announced the start of a pilot market deployment of our data
> usage meter for our High-Speed Internet Service. This deployment begins
> today for customers in Portland, Oregon. We announced this on our blog
> ), on our network management page (at
> http://networkmanagement.comcast.net/datausagemeter.htm) in an email to
> customers in the pilot market sent today, and on two web forums (our own
> and Broadband Reports at
> An extensive list of FAQs can be found on our help site, as the index
> updates (at
> Since we know many of our customers will be curious about how the usage
> meter works, we commissioned an independent analysis of the usage meter
> by NetForecast, Inc. Their report on the system is available on their
> website (at
> The pilot market deployment follows employee testing of the meter this
> past summer. We selected Portland because it is an area where we have a
> single Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) platform, enabling us to
> control for that variable in the pilot (many markets have several
> different CMTS platforms).
> Customers can view the usage meter by logging into Customer Central (at
> http://customer.comcast.com) and clicking on the "Users and Settings"
> tab. From there, click on "View details" in the "My devices" section
> (located toward the upper right hand of the screen) and that will go to
> the meter page. You can see what the usage meter looks like at
> Our systems update the meter approximately every three hours, and it
> displays in whole Gigabytes (GB), shown over a calendar month (not a
> billing cycle) rounded down to the nearest GB.
> Much more detail can be found in the forum and Network Management page
> links noted above.
> Jason Livingood
> Internet Systems Engineering
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----- End forwarded message -----