April 17 and a couple of updates
1 – Data caps. Not quite a breaking news update (on my caps comments at the end of this post), since this story appeared in Ars Technica on March 13. “Time Warner Cable has been offering customers $5 monthly discounts in exchange for giving up unlimited data for the last couple of years, but almost no one has taken the company up on its offer.” In fact, only a few thousand of TWC’s 11.5 million customers have done so.
Here’s the deal: any TWC sub who wants to save the $5 a month can do so by cutting their cap from unlimited to… 30 GB! Jon Brodkin does the math and figures that three months of “excessive” Internet use and that sub loses a year’s worth of savings. The USA’s second most-despised ISP (after Comcast) has a story for that. CEO Rob Marcus claims his customers must value unlimited – duhdoy.
But that’s only half the battle. If TWC merges with Comcast, Marcus’s attachment to unlimited will get swept away by the new boss, who never met a data cap he didn’t like. At the end of the day, the unlimited offer is on very shaky ground as an operating principle, since even Marcus is still mouthing the usual ISP party line: “I think that the concept of ‘use more pay more, use less pay less,’ is an important principle to establish.” In other words, we’re going to keep pretending that congestion is caused by hogs, not by aggregate traffic buildups. In Canada, meanwhile, we know for sure that Bell and Rogers would never have offered unlimited in any form were it not for the competitive embarrassment from TekSavvy and its combo of 300-gig and unlimited packages.
2 – Mean download speeds. In this post I made particular fun of the Moore-Harper scheme to give Canadians a 2017 broadband target of… 5 Mbps! All kinds of data, including data from the real world in our own country, shows the Tories have no clue what they’re doing on the digital file. Another nail got hammered into that particular coffin a couple of days ago, when Ofcom announced that measured (actual) mean download speed in the UK has now hit 17.8 Mbps – whereas the UK mean had already hit our Tory target four years ago (May 2010). Two lessons emerge from Ofcom’s latest research.
From Ofcom’s broadband research page (April 15, 2014)
The first is, of course, that the Tories have been overtaken by events in broadband development. As I argued below, they aren’t just struggling to keep up; they’ve already lost, for the simple reason they don’t care enough to pay anything other than lip service to the benefits of digital.
The second lesson is this: Ofcom actually does detailed empirical research and makes the results widely and readily available. And they use the data they collect to make policy. It’s time for the CRTC to start paying attention to how a consumer-friendly regulator conducts business. Here’s a hint from the page on the broadband results, in the form of the seven subject headings used:
- Average UK broadband speed revealed
- Differences across the country
- Fastest download and upload speeds over a 24 hour period
- Average download speeds by ISP package
- Measuring speeds at peak times
- Advertising and promoting broadband speeds
- Ofcom broadband speeds research
There’s a nice crossover here between this update and the caps above. If the CRTC began making all these measurements, especially speeds at peak times, pretty soon we’d begin to see that caps have no role in traffic management.
In a perfect object lesson for the CRTC (which is currently trying to fix its kludge of a Web site), here’s how Ofcom describes their work under the last of these subject headings – and in particular, how their work is puposefully designed to help consumers make purchase decisions:
This is Ofcom’s tenth report into fixed-line residential broadband speeds using data collected by research partner SamKnows. The research examined packages provided by the seven largest ISPs by subscriber numbers. There were 735 million separate test results recorded in 2,391 homes during November 2013. The report is intended to help consumers understand the significant variations in the performance of ISP packages and, when considered alongside other factors such as price, to make more informed purchasing decisions.
Four years and they give us 26 lousy pages?
Your first clue as to the astounding incompetence of the DC150 plan is its length.
It’s hard to understand how these guys thought they could get away with releasing what is essentially a marketing brochure and pass it off as a national strategy. Then there’s the timing issue.
Four years ago Canadians were treated to a consultation on Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage (pdf). Until last week there hadn’t been any action on whatever that consultation turned up. You’d think after all that time IC officials would have cobbled together more things for us to read. Worse still, DC150 makes not a single allusion to the 2010 exercise, suggesting it was just window-dressing and a waste of tax dollars.
Now let’s look at how those 26 pages get used. Continue reading