January 20, 2006

Survey says users are worried about Net Neutrality

Yesterday the results of a survey conducted by Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and Free Press were released. “The nationally representative survey found that more than 75 percent of Internet users polled are seriously concerned about not being able to freely choose an Internet service provider or being required to pay twice for certain Internet services. Another[sic] 70 percent were concerned about providers blocking or impairing their access to Internet services or sites, such as Internet telephone service or online retailers like Amazon.com. Fifty-four percent want Congress to take action to ensure that Internet providers are prohibited from engaging in these practices.”

The users instinctively know the true nature of Internet. I feel strongly that ISPs that go against this will feel the wrath of the Invisible Hand.

Posted by aswath at 01:11 AM | Comments (1)

January 18, 2006

Jack Decker Joins the Blogosphere

Recently Jack Decker started to blog about communications related topics. For many of us who know of him, this is only a change in the technology for his writings. For a long time he has been distributing his thoughts and commentary on communications issues via his website and his mailing list. His instruction on how to connect ATA to the house phone wiring is well known. (Indeed some have suspected that then AT&T CallVantage copied it, including the pictures, and distributed as their own. If you have not already done so, please take a look at his blog. I am sure you will find it interesting.

Posted by aswath at 11:26 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2006

Phone Numbers, URIs and Silos

A couple of days back Erik Lagerway wrote a guest post in Om Malik’s blog lamenting on the fact that most of the VoIP service providers are silos and don’t peer their traffic. He asks a poignant question: “…why is it that we can’t share traffic and generate even more revenue than before?” In a seemingly unrelated comment, Chris Holland extends the discussion to advocate the use of SIP URIs instead of telephone numbers.

First let me take issue with Erik’s claim that VoIP service providers can generate more revenue from peering. Ironically, those service providers who use telephone numbers will, nay need to, peer traffic because they use telephone numbers. First of all accepting traffic generates revenue for them in the telephone number world. Secondly the big stick in the form of FCC will compel them to accept incoming traffic. So the only culprits could be those who use some form of URIs. I claim they can not generate any more revenue from peering because all on-net traffic is revenue-less to begin with.

By posting his comment in this post, I think Chris seems to suggest that use of URIs will make peering inevitable. PhoneGnome uses phone numbers for the user id. But that is only for human factors purpose. It is really URI based. Generally ENUM will convert a phone number to an URI anyways. Blacklists in email world, which is URI based, are a standard technique to block traffic.

So silos are there because there is no incentive for service providers to offer them and they have made a policy decision. It is not a limitation imposed by the technology or the addressing mechanism.

By the way, if we are going to demand peering, we should also include exchange of presence information as well; not just the media traffic.

Posted by aswath at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2006

Unlearned Learned Men

A couple of days back, there was a story that stated that non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the shrine at Lord Krishna’s temple at Guruvayoor. (I think this means the sanctum sanctorum and not the temple complex itself, though the story just states “shrine”.) The context for this story is the recent visit by the President of Sri Lanka. He was there to pray for peace in his country. Though he is a Buddhist, a Temple administrator explained that Buddhists and Jains are considered part of Hinduism. I suppose the President of India better look for a different place to pray for his country.

The irony is more fundamental. In Bhagavd Gita (7:21), Lord Krishna says, “Whatever devotee seeks to worship with faith what form soever, that same faith of his I make unflinching.” (Based on one translation; see here for another). I am sure these administrators have read Gita but have they learned from it? Even as a practical matter, how can they decide on a person’s religious affiliation? A non-Hindu Indian can not visibly identified. Are Hare Krishna members Hindus?

Posted by aswath at 03:54 PM | Comments (2)

January 04, 2006

Optimized for Skype

Today Netgear and Skype announced that Netgear will market a standalone Wi-Fi Skype phone that does not require a PC to run the Skype client software. Along with that, they also announced that Netgear RangeMax MIMO router will be equipped to “optimize Skype”. There are no additional details, but we can infer. Netgear router can help assist the Skype client in NAT/FW traversal. This means that the supernodes do not have to do STUN and TURN functions, minimizing the resource requirements on the supernodes. The router can give priority to Skype traffic as the packets go on the broadband link. This is all well and good. But this also makes it easy for a Skype client behind a NAT/FW to act as a supernode. If that is a concern for you then you need to find out additional details on the specific nature of the optimization. Given that Skype is now ported to embedded devices, non-Skype users need to make sure that the router itself has not become a supernode.

The news item was announced just now and a link to the news story is not available at this time in Skype or Netgear websites.

Posted by aswath at 02:34 PM | Comments (7)

January 02, 2006

Telecom Fees and Indirect Taxation

In my opinion, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a progressive body, even if its recommendations are misinterpreted in the West(as when people say that VoIP is illegal in India) and rejected by other government bodies for parochial and political reasons. It seems that TRAI had earlier recommended that the regulatory fees be reduced, suggesting that fees be used “only for the universal service obligation and to cover administrative costs.” According to a published story, a senior TRAI official said, "India has very heavy taxation structure and reducing levies is essential to lower the cost to the customer, to universalise telecom services in real terms and increase the penetration in new markets, particularly rural areas." The industry had projected (I can not vouch for its voracity) that the tax revenue will indeed increase by reducing the tax rate. But the finance ministry has rejected the recommendation saying that “… it is important for us to increase the non-tax revenue and telecom is a growing source."

In a country where the telephone usage is exploding so much so that an auto rickshaw driver can be summoned on his cell phone, isn’t it regressive? By the way, many ministers participated (symbolically) in the recreation of the historical Salt March to mark its 75th anniversary.

Posted by aswath at 04:25 AM | Comments (1)

Networked Home

Lately, I have been adding devices to my home network enhancing its utility. If these devices add a common set of capabilities, then these devices could add value by taking advantage of always on broadband connectivity. The purpose of the note is to initiate a discussion along this line.

Two of the latest additions are from Netgear – a print server and networked hard drive enclosure (SC101). The print server is a simple device that allows any computer connected to the home network to use a printer connected to it. SC 101 accommodates two hard drives of any size and computers connected to the home network can use these drives. Actually, the drives could be partitioned so that a computer can be allowed to attach to only certain partitions. All in all it suffices to say that a sophisticated mirroring and sharing system can be setup imitating the services provided by FolderShare. But both the devices can be used by only the computers that are in the same home network. Though I have not tried it, I suspect that these devices will not support cascaded routers.

Now consider the case where these devices use the mechanism I had described in a previous post whereby they use the directory service and NAT/FW traversal capabilities offered by IP Communications providers. Then I will be able to use my home printer and hard drives from any place on the network. By adding a couple of simple capabilities we can make any home network devices to be “Networked devices”.

Posted by aswath at 03:48 AM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

I wish you all a very happy New Year. As my daughter commented yesterday, the whole thing is an arbitrary mark, especially when you celebrate 3 new years in a single calender year. Still, it gives an opportunity to pause, take stock at things and plan for the future.

Coincidentally, it has been two years since I started to blog. During these two years, you have given enough encouragement and feedback to make the whole thing worth the while. Two years back, I knew of only one blog – Jeff Pulver’s. Fashioning after him, I stareted to blog. He added my name to his blogroll on day one and he didn’t even have too many links at that time. This was my first exposure to an environment with friendly gatekeepers, but then I attributed it solely to Jeff’s style. Then within a week (or was it the first day itself) Om Malik and David Beckemeyer welcomed me and added me to their rolls. Even at that time, Om was big in the blogosphere and be included in their rolls so soon after launching made me a bit nervous. This kind of open and free inclusion has continued to this date. Andy Abramson (if I remember correctly, he atarted around the same time I did), who writes more prolifically and with breaking news has put out nice words about me – more than I desrve. Martin Geddes’ tagline (“Now if only he’d post more often”) is very complimentary (and truthful). Many of my notes on Skype woould not be considered friendly by many corporations. But Skype added me to their “We read” section (which has been renamed “Friends of Skype”) and even now I am surprised at that. To cap all this, Tom Evslin added me to his roll with a post. All these are instances of “friendly gatekeeper” that is characteristic of Internet. Of course there are many others, but then this post will turn into an”Oscar moment”.

I hope that I will continue to earn your respect and compliments. I am not promising more regular posts – there is no pint in making a promise that I can not keep. But I will strive hard to make post analytical and interesting.

Posted by aswath at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)



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