End User internet Legal net neutrality

Consumer Rights and Net Neutrality

Consumer Rights is a far less toxic term than Net Neutrality.

I’ve previously written for Trefor.Net on the subject of Net Neutrality and what it means to members of the VoIP community. And I think it’s high time for an update, but this time considering consumer rights.

After a promising start the European Union went off the rails, passing a first reading of a text that essentially outlawed 4G services. VoLTE requires prioritisation. Hard line elements on the subject of “net neutrality” managed to convince a strange coalition that it was a good idea to promote their ideological definition just before an election. It was spun as a vote winner, this despite that fact that 999 calls would no longer be treated differently. Consumer rights being protected, were they?

Unforeseen consequences at their worse, which is why I believe that net neutrality is now a toxic term and should be avoided. In fact, I’ve worked on briefing documents that are four pages long that completely avoid the term. I also try to avoid “Open Internet” for similar reasons, as both — as I’ve written before — mean different things to different people.

That’s where consumer rights come into play.

What we want is a level playing field. We want a distribution system for content that doesn’t discriminate against certain types of lawful content for vested reasons. Most of all, we don’t want people misled, and we want consumer rights upheld.

If you ask the average consumer on the street whether Skype and YouTube are part of the internet, anyone other than a recent immigrant from Outer Mongolia that would no doubt answer “no”. By extension, I defy you to find anyone, other than hardcore employees of EE and Vodafone, who would suggest that internet access does not include access to Skype, YouTube, or similar services.

Remember the outrage when people were buying 15 burgers for 99p and it transpired that those burgers were made from horses? It’s the same thing. It’s a basic principle of consumer law that you don’t mislead at the point of sale; be it overtly or through trickery in the small print. Consumer rights need to be protected.

This is why I was so heartened to see Philip Davies MP (Conservative member of Parliament for Shipley) build upon his great performance sticking it to Ed Richards (Ofcom CEO – 40 minutes into the video on the link) on the subject by tabling an amendment to the latest consumer rights bill. This amendment basically just said that you can’t call something “internet” unless it complies with the spirit of everything I’ve said before. For those who are interested, the amended stated;

A term which has the object or effect of permitting a trader to block, restrict or otherwise hinder the access of a consumer to any lawful Electronic Communications Network or Electronic Communications Service on the basis of an unreasonable or unusual definition of “internet access”, “data”, “web access” or similar word or phrase. Nothing in this prohibition shall affect filters for the purpose of child protection.

Electronic Communications Network or Electronic Communications Service shall have the same meaning as in the Communications Act 2003.

tn_own_consumer-rights_tweetPhilip Davies MP is a libertarian Conservative and as a result is one of my favourite MPs. This means he’s often at polar opposites to Her Majesty’s Opposition and an uncomfortable bed fellow with their coalition partners. That makes it even more incredible that the amendment was gladly supported by both the Shadow Minister, Helen Goodman MP and Julian Huppert MP (Liberal Democrat Member for. Cambridge and a good advocate for the technological community). A rare moment of cross party backbench support that, alas, was defeated without Government support, which is still backing the self regulation horse.

All the amendment sought to do was to ensure that the likes of Vodafone and historically EE would be unable to call a spade anything other than a spade and that consumer rights would be upheld. As such, defeat was a great disappointment.

In any event, word on the street is that there may soon be new signatories to the Broadband Stakeholder Group’s Open Internet Code of Conduct. The amendment may get re-tabled in the House of Lords. And The Council of Europe may well get its ducks back in a row.

The battle is one that is very much being fought on three fronts, however the momentum is now behind those of us who just want a level playing field to compete on. Who knows, it might even be over by Christmas.

Apps End User gadgets media

Chromecast – a second review

chromecast setupHaving read Terry Hughes’ Chromecast review I eventually got round to rushing out (metaphorically) and buying one from Amazon. It was forty two quid or so ($35 in the USA) but the cheaper ones involved longer shipping from the States or an additional postage charge so ripped up the budget and clicked.

The Chromecast is now installed and in use. I have some observations:

  1. You have to actually physically switch on the Chromecast dongle – it doesn’t just power up in the “on” state
  2. Installation from Chromebook didn’t work. I don’t know why. I moved on to do it from the S4.
  3. Installation from my Android was very simple. I guess this is it’s core use market/scenario (if that’s the right phrase)chromecast ready
  4. The dongle sits nicely and unobtrusively at the back of the TV and is powered by the USB port of the TV (didn’t realise I had one but now I do – phew – Anne would have complained if there was another dangling cable)
  5. It is very easy to use. In my case I just selected HDMI2 input and hey presto…
  6. It is also easy to “cast” content onto the TV from your phone – there is a small icon to select inside the app view.
  7. Now this is where it starts to get interesting. You can use Chromecast to stream movies, music, YouTube and Netflix. I only use YouTube to store the occasional vid for use in embedding in this blog – as in this post for example. I have no interest whatsoever in Netflix content – though many others must be as it takes up a significant chunk of ISP bandwidth. I have no movies to stream (and rarely watch them anyway – 90mins?!) and all my music is on my phone.
  8. chromecast musicThe latter point is definitely interesting. This is all about driving traffic into the cloud. In moving operations to Google Apps, Chromebook and cloud storage I began the process of shifting my music to Google Music (or whatever it’s called) but I stopped for some reason. I think it might have been because it involved entering my credit card details. Obviously Google wants to make it easy for me to buy more music.
  9. Currently any music I buy is in CD format and I then upload it to my phone. In my new cloudy ecosystem I may have to rethink this. Although I like having a CD in its case to touch and feel this might be because I’ve grown up with that experience. My kids think nothing of buying music from iTunes and never having a “hard copy”.
  10. Chromecast is likely to change my habits here. I had already been thinking of buying a surround sound system for the TV room and this may top the balance in its favour.
  11. I will also say that I was astonished at the quality of HD streaming on our TV. Although the TV is HD “ready” we have never had an input source to supply the HD – no Blueray, no Sky, no Virgin etc. The HD footage I took with my Samsung Galaxy S4 – this ride on Stephenson’s Rocket for example, was really good quality full screen 1080p on our 42″ box (flat panel).
  12. It was also very easy for multiple users to take advantage of the Chromecast. One of the kids came home from a music rehearsal and had downloaded the App and got it working in seconds. The kids are much bigger users of YouTube than I and he was streaming jazz videos in no time, (until his mum wanted to watch the news).

In conclusion – Chromecast – very easy to set up and use, obviously aimed at delivering content from the cloud, and could well move my music listening to streaming from that cloud. It’s all driving bandwidth use. Onwards and upwards.

I note Phil’s comment re waste of space. It does need to support more apps. I didn’t try seeing if I could surf using it but I suspect not – it would have been more in my face. Rewind – just noticed this icon in Chrome – not tested it but looks positive.

Update on casting from Chrome browser here.

chromecast in browser
Update 17th March Google Chromecast to become available in the UK – leading to lots of visitors to reviews on this site

Business net neutrality Regs

Orange accused of blocking YouTube

Tweet from ISPreview caught my eye this morning on the subject of Orange allegedly blocking YouTube as part of its parental control service. The post goes on to tell us that this was apparently “an isolated incident”.

Without going in to the specific ins and outs of the Orange scenario which you can read over at ISPreview I guess that the point is when you start applying blocks on specific types of website you are going to block sites that you hadn’t meant to. The www is too complex for any filtering software to block “perfectly” (in the absence of a better turn of phrase). One wonders how many owners of websites there are out there wondering why their traffic levels have dropped.

If I were you I’d bookmark that ISPreview post so that next time you hear an MP call for blocking websites you can point them in the right direction. Note this is very different to the IWF list blocking which targets specific illegal websites.

4g Engineer mobile connectivity

More O2 LTE trial datapoints – very impressive upload times

Continuing with the day’s theme of the O2 LTE (4G) trials I found myself back in the Devonshire Arms with Cliff Saran of Computer Weekly. I’ll leave most of the story to Cliff and his column but I herewith provide you with the video footage of 4 more iPlayer streams – we could have streamed more but screen size becomes an issue.

At the Piazza in Covent Garden I uploaded a 298MB video in eight minutes at 9Mbps uplink speed. O2 LTE 4G upload speeds at the Piazza in Covent Garden
In the Devonshire Arms I videoed the process of setting up the iPlayer streams and then uploaded that video again to YouTube so that we could compare performance with the Covent Garden upload.

This time the file size was 795Megabytes

End User mobile connectivity

Snooker, chainsaws and high voltage cattle prods & O2 4G LTE trial

In an idle moment last night whilst simultaneously watching the snooker and browsing Twitter I asked the important question of our time. Does anyone have a favourite agricultural equipment? This was totally random but it was amazing how many people responded – all blokes.

Rob immediately came back and said “David Brown tractor” as his dad used to build them. That’s cool especially as it turns out David Brown used to own Aston Martin (hence DB5) and Lagonda. I wonder how many gears that tractor has.

I thought plough had a certain earthiness to it. Note the video at the bottom of this post was taken in October 2010 just outside Lincoln (England) at the World Ploughing Championships. Check it out and note the O2 LTE upload medium.

Jon went for scythe which I agreed has

4g Apps Engineer mobile connectivity

Samsung media event date announced – should we get excited – 4G & photos

I have to be careful here because whilst I am a Samsung fan I have no desire to be labelled a fanboi in the manner of Apple afficionados. Samsung has announced a media event at Earls Court on Thursday 3rd May and the speculation is that this will be the Galaxy S3 launch. This might be exciting.

I use a Galaxy S2 which is as far as I am concerned still a great phone. There has to be a lot of new functionality for me to want to upgrade – certainly more than appears to have been the case with the various flavours of iPhone churned out over the last 12 months.

What might these improvements be?

Engineer internet

Bandwidth explosions

We are currently seeing an explosive growth in the distribution and delivery of digital video content across both fixed and mobile networks. Four years ago 100 million videos were watched on YouTube every day. It is two billion today. The BBC’s iPlayer launched in December 2007. It now delivers over 120 million requests every day which adds up to 7 petabytes of data a month.

As a result of this, the volume of data carried by mobile operators has risen twentyfold over the last two years (thanks iPhone), and is forecast to grow almost as much again in the next two years. The figures for fixed operators are less dramatic but still very significant.

End User video

Kodak and YouTube are burning up your bandwidth

Since I got my KodakZi8 in mid November I’ve been videoing – not a surprise. The statistics however are startling. In that time I have recorded around 13.3GB of HD video – all of which resides on my hard drive.

I have also uploaded 26 of these videos to YouTube with a modest 616 total views. I’m not sure what the average size of video is but a rough guesstimate is 1 minute and 100MB. This suggests that my videos on YouTube account for around 61GB of data download in around siz weeks (and 2.6GB of my own upload bandwidth). Let’s assume everyone has a YouTube account and is like me. In this case everyone will be downloading this amount of data. Ok I know they are not all doing it at this time but it certainly points to the future.

As a sanity check I looked at my own ADSL usage in December – 67GB!

Video is going to change the rules when it comes to growth in use of the internet.

End User internet

slow down – it’s all going to explode!

Worth watching. Blows my mind.

End User internet

slow down – it's all going to explode!

Worth watching. Blows my mind.

End User internet

Zi8 is a stunner and will drive internet bandwidth usage

Following on from the Jeff Pulver #140 Conference in London yesterday I’ve been trying out a new toy.

This is the Zi8 HD digital video camera by Kodak and I have to tell you it is a stunner. Presented to me yesterday by Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak the HD video quality is outstanding and it is extremely easy to use.

My kids have already latched onto it and started playing with it though rapid adoption by children is not necessarily a pointer to how easy a gadget is to use – technology comes naturally to them.

The camera facia comes printed with the YouTube and Facebook logos, which is a strong enough hint for even the dumbest of users.

I’m not going to bore you with the camera spec. What I will says is that the 75MB of the 59 second video below is well within the 2GByte allowance that YouTube gives for a single video!

The video is presented below for all to see. It’s no professional production and I note that I should have combed my hair first – I’m desperate for a haircut. That’s showbiz folks.

The Zi8 is groundbreaking and although I’m no expert I have no hesitation in recommending it after just a short test.

You may have noticed that this blog doesn’t major on gadget reviews.  The point here is that this another contributor to the growth in bandwidth usage as people start to upload more and more HD footage to sites such as YouTube. What goes up once of course gets downloaded many times, assuming it is any good. It’s a worry for those of us having to manage ADSL backhaul bandwidth but that’s progress for you.

Business datacentre internet ofcom

Video Streaming Regulation: Is Ofcom Going after YouTube?

This may be something that has been going on for sometime in the background, but Ofcom today launched its consultation into regulation of video on-demand (VOD) services.

Following the Audio Visual Media Services Directive, the Government is to regulate VOD services which are ‘TV-like’. The consultation is looking at whether the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) should regulate advertising in VOD services and is proposing that VOD services be regulated by the Association for Television on Demand (ATVOD).

The regulation will consist of a range of minimum content standard, new VOD rules delivered through a co-regulatory framework,  and Ofcom will be given primary responsibility to ensure the effective operation of the co-regulatory framework.
VOD regulation has to be in place by December 19 and Ofcom is seeking views by October 26.

I did wonder whether this meant that Ofcom would be trying to regulate the likes of YouTube. The consultation document does tell us that whether a service is in scope for regulation is defined by a range of criteria, including: whether the principal purpose of a service is to provide “television-like” programmes, on an on-demand basis, to members of the public; whether such a service falls under UK jurisdiction for the purposes of regulation; and whether the service is under a person’s “editorial responsibility”.

I suspect that YouTube falls outside of the UK for jurisdiction but this might not be the case in my mind if a specific video was stored on servers based in the UK. I don’t know where specific bits of the YouTube cloud are but it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that some of it could one day be in UK datacentres. Looks like another potentially messy situation to me.

PS I note that my post titles are getting more and more tabloid-like and sensationalist. I rely on my friends to tell me when it is getting out of control 🙂

Business internet media

We7 cracks free online music streaming business model

I have been getting more and more hits on an old post about We7 where I was giving away promo codes for free music downloads.

In a dialogue on this subject with We7 CTO Gareth Reakes I was extremely impressed to find that they seem to be on the way to cracking the business model for giving away “free” music online.

The whole music streaming business model has been a debating point with the content industry for the last 12 months or so as ISPs and the Music Industry struggled to find a viable, mutually beneficial approach.

Several big name sites have got into difficulty over the model. YouTube have allegedly lost hundreds of millions of dollars (apparently 89% of YouTube traffic is(was) music) and allegedly in debt to the record labels for tens of millions.

It is easy to attract visitors to your website if you are giving something away free but not so easy to make money.

What We7 has done is to fine tune the model so that the revenues balance out the costs.

Reakes said “We are trying to grow at while increasing ad revenues as we go and ensuring the model can work. What it comes down to is the number of ad impressions you get per stream you serve (this includes ads as they surf around the site looking for new content). With us that ration is between 3 and 4.

What this means is that you can get to a reasonable CPM rate (cost per thousand impressions – its how ads are priced) which is as low as £2.50. This really is an achievable rate. That’s not even factoring in the recent MCPS/PRS reduction in rate from 0.22p to 0.085p which reduces our costs per stream by over 10%.”

The key here is that We7 can get as many as 4 ads in your face/ear whilst you are listening to a track. This adds up to the equivalent of a CMP rate of £10 whilst the advertiser is on average only charged £2.50. Compare this with up to £60 at the FT and £25 at the Register. Not the same target audience I know but it does give you a feel for the attractiveness of the rates.

The reduction in the MCPS rate has also been a big help although this together with payments to the record labels still amounts to around 1 pence per stream.

We7 has been growing at a very attractive rate.  Reakes again:

“We will reach a couple of good milestones soon (we are nearly at million monthly unique visitors). I suppose one of the most interesting things from my point of view is that we are starting to get great reach with our widgets. We now have partnerships with The Guardian and NME where they show the widgets. They are also picked up in many many other places. The whole distribution of music and being able to listen to it anywhere is very interesting. We have had .75 million unique visitors to the widget on all its sites in the last 30 days! (that excludes anything on our site).”

This is a great story and the team at We7 is to be congratulated on their progress. I didn’t ask them whether they have reached profitability yet but this suggests that it can only be a matter of time.

I have had quite a few unanswered requests for We7 promo codes recently. Hold on tight guys and I’ll send some more out this week. Also We7 have said that if I want more to just ask so keep the requests coming. This batch is for ad free music.

Business internet

20% increase in P2P downloads since Pirate Bay court case.

At the ISPA Legal Forum today it was stated that research has shown that illegal P2P downloading has increased by 20% since the high profile Pirate Bay court case.

This was revealed as the result of a recent 3 month research study into Consumer online behaviour by University College London academic Robin Hunt. Hunt said that a snapshot of Bit Torrent activity indicated that there were 1.3 million sharing sessions online – up 20% from before the litigation.

He also stated that in a breakfast meeting yesterday with David Lammy, the IP Minister had estimated that there were 10 million people in the UK involved with illegal P2P downloading.  The scale of this is such that if 10 million people are breaking the law then “there is something wrong with the law” said Hunt.

The prospect of criminalising 10m people is clearly unimaginable.

Other snippets from the Forum suggested that since YouTube had stopped rights holders such as Warner Brothers from posting videos to the site there had been a growth in kids uploading videos made from their own local copies.  This has lead to unknown teenagers getting a huge number of hits.

What’s more with the plummeting cost of storage – £150 can now get you a Terrabyte hard drive – it won’t be long before the whole iTunes back catalogue can be stored on a single PC. It is estimated that 10 Terrabyte hard drives will be available within two years.

This problem seems to me to be about to come to a head as we await the Digital Britain Final Report.

Business internet mobile connectivity ofcom voip

Ofcom advice on use of mobiles abroad

Picked this up on my travels.  It’s a YouTube video posted by Ofcom giving advice on how to minimise your phone bills whilst abroad. You might wonder why, as a mobile service provider, I am pointing you towards a site that will help you to cut your mobile bills.

Actually the philosophy at Timico is that our relationship with customers is a long term one and is based on mutual trust.  This includes making sure that the customer gets the best value out of the services we provide.  Ad over – enjoy the video.

PS if anyone does want advice on cutting communications costs whilst travelling abroad please do get in touch.  Our customers also use their VoIP accounts from their hotel rooms which makes calling home cheap and allows them to keep in touch with their business (spouses permitting).

PPS it is good to see Ofcom embracing this modern internet/YouTube thing .

Business internet media


A bit of an ambiguous post title but considering this is meant to be a technology blog I get more and more opportunities to comment on political and business issues. Following on from yesterday’s post on the Coroners and Justice Bill today brings a report on how to combat Online Radicalisation and also more on the debate between the music industry and ISPs as YouTube pull the plug on music downloads in the UK.

The International Centre for the Study for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) has produced a report recommending how “the world” should combat this problem. It starts off saying that any efforts to date have been either “crude, expensive or counterproductive” and concludes that we need to spend more time deterring the producers of extremist materials, empowering users to self-regulate their online communities, reducing the appeal of extremist messages through education and promoting positive messages.

Call me a cynic but I doubt that this will get anywhere though I suppose at least they are having a go.

The second bit of news relates to a public spat between YouTube and the Performing Rights Society (PRS) who can’t agree licensing model (ie costs) that will allow YouTube to stream music. Unfortunately this seems to be a theme of any discussion between the music industry and those organisations providing internet services. During my time spent in meetings between the ISP and music industries it seems to me that the latter needs to start exploring new ways of making money, and believe you me I do not in anyway support the illegal downloading of another person’s intellectual property.  Link to the Guardian report here though it has been widely reported elsewhere in the UK.

What all this amouts to is a huge change in the way we live our lives. Last night a friend rang me for advice.  His broadband connection was down all day and his family was up in arms. Other than suggesting he moves to Timico all I could do was make sympathetic noises and say at least his family would talk to each other that evening – united in the face of a common problem instead of locked away surfing in their own rooms.

Business internet

Is The UK An Innovation Backwater?

I’m sure this is a subject that has raised its head on many occasion over the past decade or two. It struck me this morning that all the futuristic development work that I am looking at is based on technologies and services that have originated outside the UK.

In particular Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Digg it Yahoo, Google etc etc etc are all North American inventions. The one British equivalent that springs to mind is Friends Reunited which looks as if it has missed the boat big time on the social networking opportunity yet it was probably the first in the space. Certainly I never used it seriously because there was a subscription cost.

Not only is the innovation in the USA but all the conferences that you might want to go to to network and discuss innovation are in the USA. I used to work for a company that had offices in San Jose and when visiting could always sense the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that pervaded the whole community. 

Now it is true that due to the nature of the internet and thanks indeed to the ability to communicate and innovate that web2.0 has brought (bit of a generalisation I know) the world is a lot smaller. However there still lacks the forum outside of the USA for getting together with like minded people to discuss and progress.  Jeff Pulver’s “Breakfasts” are a good start and I will be attending the one in London on January 28th.

I periodically hold a “Friday Lunchtime Session” in the office at Timico HQ where innovation is discussed. If there are any like minded people in the UK who want to get together on a periodic basis to discuss innovation, technology, Social Networking, Web2.0 et al please get in touch.

End User internet

Berkeley University Lecture Downloads

The University of California, Berkeley too the step a couple of years ago to make some of its lectures available for download via podcast. A year or so ago it started making these lectures available as video on YouTube.

Yesterday I was told that the number of lecture downloads has now exceeded 1 million. Pretty amazing.

Business competitions video

Video competition

Following on from a post I made in June regarding Polycom putting over a hundred videos on YouTube I have started exploring this myself.

The video at end of this post is my first post on YouTube (timicocto) where I have uploaded details of a video competition that we are running at Timico in July. The hope is that we will get some good material to post on the company website.

Ultimately we will be looking at broadcasting live and this is a step towards that goal.

I’ll report back on how it went when it is all over and done. Sorry – the competition is open to company employees only.