[CalFiber] This is a new one from Comcast

Dane Jasper dane.jasper at sonic.com
Wed Nov 18 21:56:37 PST 2020

> I remain surprised that smart people feel that the number of bits sent in
> the download direction vs the number of bits sent in the upload direction
> tells you something about how you value download vs upload.
> Video content sends a lot of bits. Me going from 250 Mbps to a gig on
> Comcast hasn't changed anything in my perception of how good my downstream
> is. Not at all. But going from 10 to 40 Mbps is why I pay that bill. I
> *really value* my upload and pay more for it. But every month I download
> far more than I upload.

The "I need more upload speed" situation certainly has shown up during this
pandemic, with distance learning and work from home requiring a few
megabits per second per simultaneous user. And yes, despite being a carrier
focused on delivering 1000Mbps service today, I'll concede that there's
little observable difference between a 100Mbps and 250Mbps downstream
connection for most interactive uses, as long as it is honestly uncongested
and totally consistent speed. Heck, for most end-users, virtually all
devices are wireless today, and the WiFi at a typical 100-500Mbps is the
real bottleneck for "gigabit" users.

> There is no reason to believe the number of bits transacted in a month in
> a certain direction tells you anything about what a user values in the
> service. But this is the first argument people use to justify connections
> that throttle the upload.

The main intentional actor on upload throttling is Cable. Typically DSL
carriers just provide the maximum upload speed the technology can support.

I believe that there are two reasons that Cable does this. First, it makes
for nice tiers: 50/5, and 100/10, etc. You pay more, to get either more
upload or more download, and they increase together. The second reason is
that upstream capacity in DOCSIS is very limited, so they want to allocate
it in ways that maximize revenue. If they gave everyone the max possible,
they'd be able to serve far fewer users per dollar of revenue. Oh, and
there is also a technical reason that upload must increase as download
does: ACKs. For every inbound packet of payload, you need an outbound
acknowledgment. So why is Cable often at around 1000/35? Because
downloading at 1000Mbps requires a bit over 30Mbps of ACKs!

Clearly, all of this is an artifact of the fact that we're using old copper
infrastructure that was designed for telephone calls and for television to
carrier an IP service. Fiber is the answer. We need to deploy fiber to
every home and business. If incumbents won't do it, competitors should. And
if competitors won't, the public (municipalities) should. We can't just
wait around forever.

But I do think that when public money is spent to build networks, they
should be the simplest possible infrastructure: open-access dark fiber.
Homes with tails. This assures deployment where the public wants and needs
it while allowing for a vibrant competitive end-user services market.
Trading a crappy incumbent telco/cable duopoly for a new
vertically-integrated municipal monopoly (ala Chattanooga EPB) seems like
two steps forward and one step back, and then no steps further forward at
all, ever. And imagining a small city trying to run an ISP without real
scale, not to mention phone service and TV service and repair and technical
support, just seems impractical. I'd imagine Chris may disagree with me
here. ;)

And no, Ammon Idaho is not a better example. Open-access lit networks are
awful. Way too much unnecessary complexity, and the payoff: no potential
for any differentiation or innovation by providers. It's unnecessary, and
only good for the people trying to convince you to buy all the equipment or
hire them to operate it.


> Christopher Mitchell
> Director, Community Broadband Networks
> Institute for Local Self-Reliance
> MuniNetworks.org <http://www.muninetworks.org/>
> @communitynets
> 612-545-5185
> On Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 7:55 PM Dane Jasper <dane.jasper at sonic.com> wrote:
>> I can provide some insight into how people with symmetrical services use
>> their access. We've got tens of thousands of asymmetrically connected DSL
>> customers, and tens of thousands of symmetric gigabit fiber customers.
>> And in this case, Comcast's claim is not incorrect: regardless of having
>> a symmetrical connection, usage is predominantly asymmetric. That's why
>> xDSL and DOCSIS were designed the way they were, allocating more spectrum
>> to downstream than up. And it makes sense: anyone can flip on a 4K TV and
>> use 12Mbps all night long, while producing that amount of content in the
>> home and uploading it is a niche activity.
>> What isn't niche anymore is Zoom et al. And with the onset of COVID and
>> the SF Bay Area SIP orders, Sonic so a huge uptick in usage - and this
>> increase was greater in the outbound, because consumers were not producers
>> of content in ways that were not common before, participating in video
>> conferencing all day long. So while inbound/download usage increased by
>> 30%-35%, outbound went up by more, nearly 45%. See:
>> https://twitter.com/dane/status/1247646654490017793/photo/2
>> But while outbound did go up by more due to this change, it remains a
>> small fraction as compared to inbound usage by consumers. You can get a
>> rough view of the ratio of inbound to outbound here:
>> https://twitter.com/dane/status/1247646654490017793/photo/1  The green
>> is inbound usage toward customer homes, downloads, while the purple is
>> their outbound utilitization.
>> That said, you still want a symmetric connection. And fiber enables that,
>> so why not? An abundance of outbound for a majority of consumers should
>> allow for new applications, and we could expect this ratio to shift
>> somewhat toward outbound over time as a result.
>> -Dane
>> On Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 11:22 AM Ernesto Falcon <ernesto at eff.org> wrote:
>>> One of Comcast's lobbyist on this California Broadband Council meeting
>>> made the standard cable argument that people use the Internet
>>> asymetrically because look at what our Comcast customers do.
>>> I suggested that perhaps people with symmetrical services use the
>>> Internet differently and that data would provide a bigger picture.
>>> Comcast's person responds. I am unaware of any ISPs that offer
>>> symmetrical services.
>>> I just left it that at.
>>> --
>>> Ernesto Omar Falcon
>>> Senior Legislative Counsel
>>> Electronic Frontier Foundation
>>> Office: 415 436 9333 ext. 182
>>> Cell: 202 716 0770
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> CalFiber mailing list
>>> CalFiber at lists.eff.org
>>> https://lists.eff.org/mailman/listinfo/calfiber
>> --
>> Dane Jasper
>> CEO
>> 707-237-6205
>> dane.jasper at sonic.com
>> _______________________________________________
>> CalFiber mailing list
>> CalFiber at lists.eff.org
>> https://lists.eff.org/mailman/listinfo/calfiber

Dane Jasper
dane.jasper at sonic.com
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