January 29, 2007

Junk Networking

We are remodelling our kitchen - we are now three months into chaos.  For various reasons we decided to take temporary residence (refuge?) in a house we rented on the beach.

That house is serviced by a cable-TV based ISP, a very large one.

I am appalled at the garbage quality of the service.  Anyone who wanted to try VOIP would find it impossible to comprehend the conversation due to the incredible jitter.  TCP connections stall and retreat into deep congestive backoff due to lost packets and the jitter.

I noticed that the cable modem was blinking up a storm.  So I disconnected the NAT/Router and plugged my laptop into the raw packet feed coming out of the ISP and took a look.  Gack!  There were hundreds of ARP requests every second, there were unanswered DHCP queries, there were lost routers (some IPv6) looking for peers.

I can only imagine what the non-broadcast traffic must be like.  On most nets, the non-broadcast portion is considerably larger than the broadcast component.

This ISP advertises super-fast download rates (as compared to the typical ADSL).  And yes, on occasion I've seen up to about 8mbits/second (which I consider rather a yawn compared to the 100 mbits/second I believe is the minimum for modern networking.)  But the usable portion of the bandwidth is severely compromised by the ISP squeezing far too many users onto the shared cable plant.

There is a concept in the law of sales of goods called "merchantability".  This means that the product being sold is, among other things, "fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used".  There is a related notion, "fitness for a particular purpose", which kicks in under certain circumstances.  There are implied warranties for both "merchantability" and "fitness for a particular purpose".

To some extent these warranties can be excluded from a contract.  And these warranties are probably not applicable to internet service - it being a service and not involving the sale of a "good".  And, if there were a scintilla of a chance that internet service might have to meet these warranties, I'd suspect that this ISP would have plenty of language in its agreement to that minimizing or eliminating any such warranties.

But whether or not these warranties apply or have been excluded, it is my opinion, based on my observations, that this ISP is delivering a very poor quality product.

I wonder to what degree other ISP's are selling consumers an internet product that is equally shoddy?

Posted by karl at January 29, 2007 1:16 AM