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No matter who you vote for…

James Blessing discusses technology regulatory issues he sees that should be addressed by the next government.

Since we have a potential change of government coming up, it might be useful to see how well the current one has been doing in the telecoms and technology space and where the next one might repeat the same mistakes. These are the random scribblings of an individual, and not a position paper by ISPA or any company that I work for (though the are probably people in those organisations who agree with the sentiment).

There is a fine line that people in business need to tread when trying to get the government involved in something. Whilst there is often a space for government involvement, there is also some risk that they will try to dominate the process and move it from being a good idea to something that actually would have been better for all of us if they’d never been involved.

Let’s start with the biggest heffalump in the room, BDUK. Whilst the idea of government injecting funds into various projects to make sure the country’s infrastructure is the best in the world and no region gets left behind, most of the people in industry recognised that BT would win most (if not all) of the contracts. This isn’t because of the evil machinations of the government or BT (much though people would like to believe that) but rather because the “scheme” was designed by civil servants with a paranoia that Eurocrats would jump on any project that thought outside of the most convenient box.

The “good” news is that the third round of funding seems to be focusing on more creative solutions, but I fear for those communities that are going to be left with solutions that will leave them far behind their dense cousins in the cities. The bad news is that BT’s obsession with copper (which they have a lot of) rather than fibre (which they have a lot of too) seems to be continuing with In an ideal world, someone in government would recognise that fibre is the way forward, but it seems that only the smaller altnets are the ones who are delivering it.

Moving on from infrastructure, we have the fun that is monitoring and content. The two largest parties seem to have developed an unhealthy obsession with “out-nannying” each other (and many individuals in other parties have agreed with them on occasion). The last two governments have both tried (and failed for different reasons) to introduce widescale, automated watcher programmes that keep an eye on all internet activity using potential terrorism threat and “think of the children” as their rallying cries. If I were a betting man, then I’d put money that without the more liberal elements in the next government, we’ll see the same legislation in a new format raise its head over the parapet. It’s as if Sir Humphrey’s spirit lives long around the echelons of Whitehall.

Indeed, by using the “think of the children” approach, we also appear to channelling the late Mary Whitehouse in terms of restricting access to “objectionable content”. Whilst I agree that children shouldn’t be exposed to it, the approach being used where end users get no choice in the matter removes “parental” responsibility in terms of their own media, literacy and educational development; as well as teaching an entire generation to bypass security settings to get to the things they want to. For one, I pity the IT admins of the future, who have to deal with a generation who have been conditioned that the only way to source content is to bypass access control.

But what of looking forward? What should we be pushing our government (and politicians) to do from their ivory tower? Personally, I think it comes down to number of (relatively) simple steps that they could promote, and then leave the market/society to work out:

Education – So much promise has been shown with the Raspberry Pi and the maker community when it comes to what can be done when you set the mind free, but schools’ curricula have become so restricted to focusing on “now” and not encouraging “future”, that teachers are prevented from exploiting these developments purely for the ability to create. Not everyone wants to be a web developer, software designer or network engineer but letting kids run wild with technology is the only way new things happen. We need another generation of hackers – in the original sense of the word, meaning people who want to play around with things to find out how they work rather than emo kids who hang around in basements with green characters on a black screen. In fact we should probably just clone Tom –

Infrastructure – Many new different technologies are being predicted as being “just around the corner” (the cynic inside says that they’ve been just around the corner since the 80’s but hey…), the Internet of Things, Driverless Cars, 5G, 4K, TLAs, Virtual Reality, Distributed Energy – all of which will need underlying infrastructure to ship control data. Whilst there are frequently voices raised exclaiming that we’re in the top N countries in the world for XYZ, and that we should be proud to be there, surely we should be setting our sight and goals higher? Rather than settling for 25mbps to 90% of the country, we should be looking at delivering 1Gbps in the next 5 years to everyone, and then how we move from 1G to 10G 5 years later. We might decide we can’t quite make it on that time scale and lower the goals a bit, but, at the moment, we’re shooting too low. In 2000, broadband (when it was still called DSL) managed 512k maximum to less than 20% of the country, 10 years later the average was 5Mbps and the coverage was 71%. Our minimum goal should be 50mbps average by 2020, and to hit that, we should be pushing infrastructure capabilities and formats now!

IPv6 – Whilst the previous two are rather grand sweeping topics that need lots of things to happen and a longer period of time before we see the greatest benefits, rolling out IPv6 everywhere is a much more pressing issue. The IoT is going to consume vast amounts of address space, address space that we’ve already run out of. The security services are demanding traceability of end users, and more networks are hiding them as they cope with a lack of space. In both cases, deploying IPv6 now, where ever and when ever possible, will help. It’s painful to watch clever people come up with more and more crazy schemes to share address space when IPv6 would solve the problem. For politicians, this is a great thing to jump on, its easy to measure success and government involvement is pressure on organisations rather than central financial investment – just include it as a requirement in all government tenders (preferably pushed up to an EU level as well) and see how fast suppliers start adapting.

Open data – The other easy win, the data exists, people want the data – make it available. Okay, you’d lose some revenue from the postcode database but everyone’s life will be slightly better as there is no longer a reason not to include postcode lookup in applications (other than laziness, and we can let market forces deal with that). “Publish and be damned” I say, and its great to see already taking baby steps, but a change of government is an opportunity to push this issue forward at all levels.

And with that I’ll get my coat, take my soap box away and find another crowd to harangue.

James Blessing is currently CTO of Keycom PLC, a managed services provider. He has over twenty years of experience in internet technologies. Previously he was Strategic Relations Manager, EMEA at Limelight Networks, COO at Entanet, technical support manager and technical development manager at Zen Internet; senior project manager at Eunite; senior producer at Kiss102 and Kiss105; and a technical director at Net Nannies. James is also chairman of the trade body ISPA.

Other political week posts on

James Firth on why government should stop looking to big corporates for tech innovation
Gus Hosein on Data Protection Reform and Surveillance
The Julian Huppert crowd funding campaign here
Paul Bernal suggests government should hire advisers who know what they are doing
Domhnall Dods on Electronic Communications Code reform

See all our regulatory posts here.

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Geo Restriction Means a Pirate’s Life for Me…

Accessing the whole of creation…what is available in my “region” of it, that is.

A regular contributor to, we are as always pleased to present insight from James Blessing, the current Chair of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) UK.

Once upon a time in the west, a man sat and contemplated the state of the world and the marvels that now existed upon his doorstep. With a simple gesture he could now access the whole of creation, every song that’s ever been sung, every work of art painted or love poem written in a moment of teenage angst. And the cats, don’t forget the cats…

Maybe that’s the future, it’s almost the now, but there is a problem that means that “every” gets dropped on the floor and is replaced with the slightly less poetic “everything that we could managed to get the licensing conditions approved for in your country right now, but maybe not next week” and that problems is lawyers.

When I started to think about this article I was going to focus on the benefits of the Internet and broadband, and then I tried to watch a clip from the late show…and then I changed tack. This isn’t the first time — and it won’t be the last — when content isn’t available in my “region”, where geo restriction has reared its head and made it so that if I want to watch content I have to either fire up a VPN to the “right region” and watch the content from there, or I will have to  head over to a friendly Pirate resource and unleash a p2p application. Do you want to know the worst bit about this? The content was being pushed to me by the DailyShow itself.

Sorry, but this video is unavailable from your location

And it gets worse. Wil Wheaton has written a blog about this very topic, in fact, as he’s seeing an ever increasing number of people using bittorrent to download his new show, and he is worried that if it continues the show won’t be renewed. It even pushed me into writing a quick email to Syfy UK (the network that produces the show in the US), but even they can’t get the show:

We instigated proceedings to acquire the UK rights, but a number of legal complications surrounding differences in UK and US clip clearance legislation, have unfortunately prevented us from doing so.

Now here is something that needs fixing. I have no “magic bullet” solution, as there are too many vested interests that won’t have a sensible conversation unless someone waves a stick at them and the politicians seem to be too scared of big media to unleash their sticks. There is an election next year, though, and it sure would be nice if one (or all) of the parties could commit to making an effort to resolve this issue…your local MP could be an excellent place to start!

Editorial note – check out our new site – BroadbandRating.







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IXManchester – It’s Quiet Up North #peeringweek

IXManchesterSo IXManchester has been up and running for nearly two years (must make sure someone organises  another birthday party for June) and things continue to grow at a slightly slower pace than the first hectic few months.

January saw a IX Manchester meeting take over part of GMEX Manchester Convention Centre the afternoon before UKNOF 27 and the steering committee were hoping that there would be an announcement on the completion of the fibre ring that would add M247 Icecolo in Trafford and Telecity Joule House is Salford Quays to the core – alas the supplier seems to have run into “issues” and we’re still waiting.

The good news was that the original Brocade’s (re-tasked from the LINX Brocade LAN in London and in service for a number of years before its upgrade to Juniper in 2012) were replace with shiny new  Extreme X670’s. Once the software upgrades have occurred then these will allow ConneXions services providing networks access to the IXManchester LAN from remote locations.

There are now (as of writing this) 44 connected broadband networks with 46 ports in use, 7 of these are 10G so there’s just over 100G of capacity in operation with the new sites and partner connections we’re hoping to crash through 200G this year. Thats a long way behind LINX London with its 500+ members and nearly 8Tb of capacity but its pretty good for a second city in an European country as you can see from the EuroIX list.

In remembrance of the EIX WG I shall now leave you with a traffic graph…


Other peering week posts you might like to read include:

UK internet history – The Early Days of LONAP by Raza Rizvi
INEX’s IXP Manager – Tools to help manage an Internet Exchange by Barry O’Donovan
Regional Peering in the UK by James Blessing
Co-operation makes internet exchanges future proof by Pauline Hartsuiker
Experience of launching an IXP in North America by Ben Hedges
The evolution of an IXP network engineer by Rob Lister
Why does Scotland need an Internet Exchange? by Charlie Boisseau

Engineer internet ipv6

Lightning fast IPv6

Sometimes the world presents you with random facts that you just can’t quite get your head around. Then you talk to more people about the same thing and they say they see the same thing too but thought it was just them. The final stage is a NANOG conference panel about that topic because it seems to be happening to every one… (actually stage three might be different depending on what the topic is).

The fact is that it appears as if IPv6 gives you a boost in terms of performance compared to IPv4, not just in the lab but in the wild. A number of ISPs and researchers have been tracking the performance over the last couple of years, not as an explicit test to see if its faster/better but rather to make sure that their deployments aren’t broken or to measure to see how widespread deployment is.

Their key findings…

  • 2% of end users are using IPv6 globally
  • IPv4 with a single NAT performs 20% worse than native IPv6
  • IPv6 connections fail 10x more than IPv4 connections (0.2% as compared to 2%)
  • Between 2012 and 2013 there has been an increase in the difference in performance
  • Both latency and throughput are better on IPv6
  • IPv6 tunnels are bad

So everyone should get out there and make sure their ISP is going to support IPv6 so we can all benefit. As with most of the NANOG presentations you can watch it online  (and its really very interesting if you have 4omins free at some point today)


More on IPv6
IPv6 hits 2% of traffic on Google
UK IPv6 usage lagging behind global competitors

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Regional Peering in the UK

When I was asked to write a piece about regional peering I thought it would be a quick update on the current state of affairs in the UK. Alas with all these things I realised that I need to add a little back story. Feel free to skip over the content to the end if you know all the bits…

The Internet (and what its not)

Most people know the Internet is not a single entity but rather a collective of networks that use common standards to create a single network made up of independently run and managed networks that allow their customers and end users exchange traffic and therefore create the Internet and its public face – the World Wide Web.


At the edge of each network there are a bunch of routers that communicate with other adjacent routers belonging to other networks using the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). At a basic level each network tells the other network what it knows about its network and (depending on commercial concerns) other networks it knows about using the BGP protocol. This information is shared in the form of “routes” which define a certain block of address space and how to get to it.

This leads naturally to a quick