As most people have probably heard by now, Google is a certified ISP. Google will be providing Kansas City residents with a 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home connection for $70/month. Add TV to that service for an extra $50/month, and you get the most awesome Internet and TV bundle for $120/month. Can’t afford that? Google’s even offering a 5 Mbps connection for free (after a $300 installation fee). All of this makes Google possibly the best ISP in the nation.
But, as some have pointed out, Google isn’t doing so with a huge profit margin. It’s not that Google is losing money on this deal, per-say, but it doesn’t seem that they’re making enough profit to survive on this business alone. Luckily, this isn’t a problem for Google, as they have plenty of other revenue streams. But, it does lead to a question of Google’s true motivation in this move.
So, I offer here my theory: Google is becoming an ISP to put pressure on existing ISPs to upgrade their infrastructure to be able to provide cheaper and faster access. Currently, there isn’t an ISP I’m aware of that can come close to the deal Google’s making in Kansas City for residential customers. If Kansas Citians realize this, they’ll flock to Google, leaving bigger ISPs (Comcast? AT&T?) in the dust.
Of course, as businesses, Comcast and AT&T should do whatever they can to keep their customers. At first, they might just offer to lower prices for customers that threaten to leave, but that really can’t maintain them long-term. They will be forced to do something to remain competitive. Especially if Google starts to move into other areas.
Remaining competitive will mean upgrading networks. That’s just a simple fact. The current residential Internet infrastructure just can’t compete with what Google’s offering. And as long as things remain as they are, the major players have no motivation to put money into upgrading their networks. I believe we’re seeing essentially the same thing with cell phone providers in the US: there isn’t enough competition to force true network infrastructure upgrades.
So, here’s my predictions for the next 10-20 years:
- Major ISPs in Kansas City will slowly start to upgrade their infrastructure and offer lower prices in order to compete with Google’s offering.
- Google will start to move into/threaten to move into other areas.
- Large ISPs will (and this might be very wishful thinking) learn from the Kansas City situation and per-emptively start upgrading their infrastructure across the nation.
After all this happens, it doesn’t really matter if Google moves into other areas, or even continues to offer service. The end result is that they’ve accomplished their goal, and that’s good for all of us. If things proceed how I think they will, the US will see some major improvements in its residential Internet in the coming years.
I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post about Net Neutrality. For those of you who know me personally, you should know that I’m a very strong supporter of Net Neutrality, and believe it’s very important that we make sure the Internet is kept neutral. However, for whatever reason, there are a LOT of misconceptions about Net Neutrality, and what exactly it entails. Since Net Neutrality in reaction to Comcast has once again come up in the news recently, I figured I should write a blog post about the subject.
First, let’s go into some background on the Comcast case. A year or so ago, Comcast decided that its network was being congested by too much P2P traffic; namely, traffic from the BitTorrent P2P protocol. So, they decided that they would clear their network of this congestion by carefully denying BitTorrent connections. They did this by looking into the traffic that BitTorrent was sending over the network, and sending back false information so that connections to peers would fail. The actual details of how this was done is outside the point of this post.
After some outrage from Comcast customers who used BitTorrent, the FCC decided it would step in and tell Comcast to stop or suffer consequences. As soon as this happened, there was some question about whether or not the FCC actually had the power to do this. But, the case went to court and a judge decided that the FCC did have the power to do this, and that Comcast had to stop denying BitTorrent connections in this way. This was a major win for users of the Internet: the court decision basically meant that your ISP can’t deny you from accessing information on the Internet. (continue reading…)
I will continue to update this post throughout today and tomorrow with the latest developments of my caller ID research.
Sunday, 9:30 AM –I’ve discovered an interesting line while decompiling Comcast’s software (in an if statement which handles incoming messages):
(arg1.from.match(CALLER_ID_SERVICE_JID) || arg1.from.match(CALLER_ID_SERVICE_JID_TEST))
This means that comcast IS checking who the message is coming from. Although, they seem to do something else if it’s not from one of these two addresses. Also, what is CALLER_ID_SERVICE_JID_TEST? I’ll have to do some more exploring!
Sunday, 1:44 PM — Hmm… some interesting declarations:
public static const CALLER_ID_SERVICE_JID_TEST:String=”firstname.lastname@example.org”;
public static const CALLER_ID_SERVICE_JID:String=”email@example.com”;
Monday, 9:19 AM — I’ve discovered an interesting URL in the code — machenmusik.com — it’s the package for the caller id decoding function (so, the project should be hosted there). However, it currently just gives a login prompt. Very strange. Anyway, I’m attempting to translate the caller ID decoding into python. I’ll let others translate it from there. We’ll see how this works out…
Monday, 3:18 PM — Well, after playing with the decompiled actionscript a bunch, I can’t get it to return any comprehensible output. The same goes for the python I translated. So, I’m kinda giving up right now due to lack of knowlege. If someone else would like to pick up where I’ve left off, contact me and I can send you what I have so far… It was worth a try, right?
Comcast has recently added a new feature to their digital voice service: caller ID anywhere. Simply download a program on your computer, enter your comcast.net username and password, and you’ll get a small alert any time you get a call. The same system allows comcast to show caller ID alerts on your TV.
So, how does this work? Did comcast come up with some super-secret way to encode this data so no one but them can use it? Nope; they’re simply using XMPP.
For those unaware, XMPP is a very nice concept: an open messaging protocol. This means that companies don’t need to invent their own protocol, or shell out big bucks to use another protocol. Just grab a server and client, and you have an instant messaging system. XMPP is also designed to be expandible. Is there a feature you need that it’s missing? Just code it in, following the current specifications. The problem with this is that different clients can conform to different specifications for things that aren’t part of the official protocol, but that’s another discussion.
Comcast decided to not reinvent the wheel, and just use XMPP, with a little twist. If you already know a bit about XMPP, I’ll give you the stanza as a client receives it: (continue reading…)