This is the kind of statement that makes me long for a faceless, impersonal ISP. As much as I'm impressed by a neighborhood banding together and coming up with a solution, the idea of a neighbor trying to "figure out" usage or "talk to" customers about it is horrifying.
Hopefully they have a mechanism in place to allow everyone to burst to available bandwidth, but to throttle people to a sustainable proportion otherwise. Such a mechanism seems both necessary and sufficient, and given the professional equipment they're using, it seems quite likely to be available.
When Comcast sends bandwidth usage nastygrams, people get up in arms about it; we talk about "network neutrality", and that ISPs should remain "dumb pipes".
While the ability to introspect traffic at all is a bug that needs fixing in client and server software, to combat surveillance, at least with an ISP I'm reasonably confident that only 1) a trusted subset of ISP staff and 2) the government (hopefully with a warrant) have access.
By contrast, would you want your neighborhood association looking at your ISP logs? Or anyone you know personally? And making it their business how much bandwidth you use and for what purpose?
(On a separate note, I wonder how much Netflix's and YouTube's CDN boxes cost, given that Netflix and YouTube tend to subsidize them.)
I worked at a large ISP for 4 years, and for us, both the YouTube and Netflix CDN boxes were free.
However, the boxes consume a massive amount of traffic to keep themselves in sync. For us, YouTube wasn't worth having until we had over 15,000 customers, and we still don't have a NetFlix box because it syncs the entire NetFlix catalog and all changes, every 24 hours, so they actually use less traffic not having one.
Maybe you misinterpreted? He said:
> " ... we talk to them and figure out what they are doing."
He didn't say, "we transparently force all traffic through a proxy and log what sites everyone is visiting".
I work for an ISP and we have some customers (both business and residential) that are completely clueless about what's going across their network and out to the Internet.
Perhaps it's because of my role but I interpreted the statement, "We monitor all the connections", a little differently than you, I think. Replace "connections" with "links" and, like the man in the article, I also monitor all the connections. When a problem occurs, I want to know about it before we hear about it from our customers.
I think that by "connections", you assumed, for example, TCP connections. Unless they have a bunch of extra money laying around -- and it didn't sound like they do -- I'd be willing to bet they are NOT recording every connection that passes through their network.
Not every ISP is evil and trying to track everything you do -- and the small community-based ones like this are probably the last ones you should worry about -- and you shouldn't automatically assume that they are.
I wouldn't expect them to keep logs, but I also wouldn't find it surprising if, when they observed a problem, they ran tcpdump on the gateway.
> the small community-based ones like this are probably the last ones you should worry about
I certainly wouldn't expect "evil" from people who have gone to these lengths to do something awesome. But I would expect a well-paved road of good intentions. A small community-based ISP like this would 1) not have an army of people telling them what will get them in legal trouble or create a PR incident, and 2) have the kind of "play nice" mindset that makes them not automatically think to treat customer log data and other personal information as radioactive. Unless the designers and maintainers of the network are specifically privacy-minded folks, the thought might not even have occurred to them.
As long as the links aren't congested, why care at all? Bandwidth is cheap and it's not like they are charged by the GB in any case.
Their upstream either charges a flat fee or by the 95th percentile. The Netflix example is really wierd, as usage is at it's lowest during the night.
Seeing as they're using Ubiquiti equipment, I'm not sure why they are not using of their Gbps setups for the backhaul at least.
According to the network diagram in the article they do not appear to run a mesh topology. They run a hub and spoke topology. Each repeater has multiple radios.
Even so, they have serious problems if they can't sustain their 30 Mbps peak usage with their wireless equipment.
Considering they received a loan to purchase the necessary equipment to start this operation up, I'm guessing it's because they don't have a need for it -- yet, at least.
Disclosure: I built and run a small wireless ISP.
That's the curious thing. The users are paying more than enough to cover all costs, so there is no need for all this tomfoolery. I guess they have either have mentality or technical issues.
Indeed it is, especially when you consider their fees and costs. Based on the information in the article their monthly free cash flow is $2150, so they certainly can afford their current bandwidth usage be it at $9 or $30 per Mbps without playing silly games and spying on their users.
> The monthly fees also cover the $900 a month DBIUA pays StarTouch for bandwidth.
> The StarTouch link uses burstable billing, with prices going up the more they use.
I don't think I've ever had any links that were, basically, a flat rate for n Mbps with the ability to burst over that for an additional amount, although that certainly doesn't mean they don't exist.
> "The Netflix example is really wierd, as usage is at it's lowest during the night."
Netflix usage or this particular network's usage? How can you know?
I guess $900 is just the average bill for their usage right now.
> at peak usage times, total bandwidth usage across the entire network is 30Mbps or so.
The microwave backhaul is connected to a 100 Mbps port which would come out to $9/Mbit/month. From what I've seen, that's higher than what you'll pay if you're connecting to an upstream in a well-connected facility. If we then assume 95% billing and peak usage at 30 Mbps, that's an obscene per-megabit rate.
It's quite possible that you're right, of course. I'm making some assumptions based on my experiences which very likely are different from those on a small island in the PNW.
Wholesale bandwidth is sold with a commit and burst. The commit is your fixed monthly charge (and bandwidth) you pay for each month regardless of how much you use. Overages, calculated with the 95th percentile formula, are paid at the burst rate.
> The microwave backhaul is connected to a 100 Mbps port which would come out to $9/Mbit/month. From what I've seen, that's higher than what you'll pay if you're connecting to an upstream in a well-connected facility. If we then assume 95% billing and peak usage at 30 Mbps, that's an obscene per-megabit rate.
Well, yes. I remember Hurricane Electric running a promotion for 1 Gbps of IP transit for $360 a month, but then again they are not present at a HE PoP.
As to pricing, it sounds like run of the mill rural charges. Also we don't know their commit, so can't really calculate with Mbps rate. Perhaps they just decided to go with a zero commit and $30 burst rate instead of paying a flat fee of $1500 for the 100M port. Would make sense at their very low usage rates.
Both. Because that's how ISP bandwidth usage universally is. Peak usage starts after people get home and peak usage ends as they go to sleep. Few stay up during the night and even fewer schedule nightly downloads.
Yes, I am familiar and no, I'm not just assuming. I actually RTFA and I checked their upstream providers service offering terms.
You get a guaranteed minimum but if someone isn't using theirs, you can have it.
And you can set all sorts of hierarchies if you felt like it. Putting users in say the SSH group and SSH getting 10% of all bandwidth.
I assume they incur royalty costs, or is there some incentive for them to somehow boost the number of hours of content played? Is this one of those cases where they are trying to inflate their numbers to look good to investors?
yeah.. no thanks.
Slightly OT, but this statement reminded me of a question I've wondered about before and researched without finding a definitive answer:
Your average ISP probably has a lot of data which, in the wrong hands, would be excellent blackmail material. What regulations (if any) prevent the sale of that data to whoever wants it?
I sympathize (and would therefore avoid this size community in the first place, I think) but I'm curious: what would you have the customer-neighbors do, if they're being impacted by one person's selfishness?
Throttle traffic, such that if there's more traffic than the total upstream bandwidth, everyone active at any given time gets a proportional share of the bandwidth.
To take an example from another domain, much of California's Central Valley municipal water infrastructure is unmetered. A consequence of this is that problems with water infrastructure go unaddressed. In most of the cases I'm aware in which meters have been installed, even where there's no actual usage service billing, a near-immediate result is to find many previously undiscovered leaks, mains breaks, or service pipe breaks. While I'm not an uncritical fan of "you cannot manage what you don't measure", there are times when having some sanity checks on usage help.
In the case of online usage, it may be that you're a spam hub. Or that, as at one hosting provider I worked discovered, the interaction of a client's autoplay audio and a particular version of MSIE meant that we were continuously streaming what should have been a 5 second audio clip. We overshot out 95%ile bandwidth cap that month.
They still won't do any harm to anyone else. (Or if they do, then either the traffic shaping or the billing is broken.) Still not a good reason to track where the traffic is going.
However, it would make sense to give everyone fully-automated metrics on their bill, letting them know their total transfer, along the same lines as what the upstream providers provide. Make it clear that it's perfectly acceptable to use what they pay for, and that by design there's no information about the type or destination of traffic, but inform them that if the usage looks unexpectedly high compared to their own known usage (provide equivalencies in "hours of HD video" or similar so they have a baseline), they may want to investigate for themselves.
I'd rather have a mediocre d/l speed on a private connection than have my neighbors asking what I'm torrenting.
Realize that not everyone is in the same boat, connection-wise. And with data caps continuing to loom, some would like a simple setting to help guard against accidentally running over.
Also, believe it or not, some of us like the credits. And with outfits like Marvel stuffing teasers and jokes in after they've run, that interest may be increasing.
Netflix App | Hamburger | Your Account | Playback Settings | Uncheck "Play next episode automatically"
P.S. Found the described setting in the web client. Those settings pages look a bit different than I recall. I think they have added options to them since I last looked (months ago). Or, I am simply clueless -- wouldn't be the first time.
Under the hamburger menu, I can only choose which user profile and what category of content I want to view. There is no "Account Settings".
The "three dot" menu does have a "Settings" item, but it only offers a very limited set of settings, not including the one you mention.
I did find a setting on the Netflix web page interface, and I changed that. But it appears to have had no effect on the behavior I experience under the same account and profile on the Nexus tablet.
(The web page Settings page offers many more choices than the Android app Settings page.)
In fact, that's probably not correct, not sure where I picked that up.
All services check if you're still around so they're not spending licensing money they don't have to.
Nonetheless, if you are in the habit of dosing off, many nights, that can still result in a lot of "wasted" bandwidth, particularly with some of the more miserly caps being described in the (U.S.) press as having been imposed or "coming soon."
The national telco, Telkom, offers Speedy DSL, but it's not speedy or reliable, and Biznet offers FTTH only to dense commercial areas. (which is still more than Silicon Valley has!)
I had a tour of Mega a decade ago, and they have a tower pointed at Singapore. At the time they were using Linux LEAF distro for mgmt. and Soekris boards, but likely that has changed. Torrential rains do affect reception, but that also affects the Speedy landlines.
Also, outside North America, GSM rules. Which means you can go to the Borneo jungle and get 5 bars, which often doesn't happen in say, Sunnyvale. And 5 bars means adequate EGPRS data communications - everywhere.
 "Gulf Islanders 15 times more likely to oppose BC Hydro smart meters than Vancouverites" http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Gulf+Islanders+times+...
The subject comes up in places distant from BC. Considering the upcoming election year, here in Portland we usually have a few "fringe" candidates for local office asserting WiFi in public schools is "damaging" children, causing them to misbehave, etc.
Obviously most of the population is unconcerned about such risk. I suppose if it turned out that wireless signals really do cause some obscure deleterious effects, the "tinfoil hat" crowd will say they told us so. I'd go with the odds that's even less likely than winning the Megabucks lottery 3 times in a row.
I lived in Victoria for a few years. My landlords there had refused a smart meter - yet they had WiFi, and both had cell phones.
FWIW, note that, unlike the majority of the network equipment industry, $UBNT's throughput numbers are aggregate values (i.e. equal to transmit + receive). 1.2 Gbps in $UBNT-speak, for example, means 600 Mbps transmit and 600 Mbps receive -- whereas an 1 Gbps NIC can transmit 1 Gbps and receive 1 Gbps simultaneously (yet we don't call them 2 Gbps NICs).
That's more than enough to miss by several dozen dish diameters at 100km.
Look at the polar pattern here:
more importantly you have to fine tune the alignment anyway.
Unbelievably fiddly is more like it. Just the nature of it makes it annoying: before you have a connection through, you have a chain of links that doesn't work. You have to fix every single link before Eureka.
More to the point, what happens if he moves away or is unable to support it.
I do wonder if there is a business model to implement and support this type of network for small towns.
Well, you can outsource the NOC, but no amount of remote handwaving is going to help when you need hands on-site. In the end you get what you pay for.
Well, they were paying for CenturyLink and got a 10 day outage.
... and it's a really good example of getting what you pay for. I really do not think the islanders are paying Centurylink enough to be able to fix subsea cable faults with a 4 hour lead time.
That being said Centrylink's lack of redundancy and fallover links is another matter.
Which led to people often having dozens or more ISPs to choose from.
In short, in Germany many people skipped from Modem/ISDN to LTE because they had no other choice for 15 years than to stay with Dial up connections.
Presumably there will be movement of antennae as trees grow. One could monitor the alignment by periodically checking the signal strength between links. I wonder how often things will need to be realigned because the "tower" on which the radios sit changes with time.
As a lesson to all you out there who'd dare challenge a communication company.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Internet_service_prov...
 - https://www.monkeybrains.net/wireless.html
Just for reference, it uses Cambium Networks' PTP-100 by Motorola. I've actually only just discovered this today and am not entirely sure what all of it does.
PMP100 is capable of 14Mbps aggregate, often set to ~10Mbps download, 4 Mbps upload. It's roughly 10 years old at this point. The main benefit over WiFi, Ubiquiti, etc is it uses FSK modulation instead of OFDM so while it is slower it can go farther and tolerate more interference.
Cambium has a newer product, the PMP450, that is capable of quite a bit more throughput. Right now IIRC it does ~125Mbps per sector but using OFDM modulation so you need better signal to noise, usually achieved by limiting distance to clients.
The client radio on PMP100 costs ~$199. Client radios on PMP450 are license keyed by sustained capacity. A radio with 5Mbps sustained is ~$199, but unlocked ~$450 per.
Many Wireless ISPs operate on tight cashflow and have trouble self-funding that with normal residential pricing so they want customers to pay for gear up front and that tends to cost too much for consumers.
 Spent the last 11 years in Boulder.
When I first got set up, I was told I would get 8mbs down and 2mbs up for $70 a month. It was unlimited, unmonitored, and a "straight static IP into the internet". For the first 3 months, it was great. I got 8mbs and pings were 80ms. However after those first 3 months things, started to slow down. My antenna was in front of a tree and since it was now spring, the tree was covered in thick leaves. I thought that was the reason for my slow down and I didn't complain. Once winter came again, and all the leaves fell off, there was no difference. My speed was 8mbs, then it was 7mbs, and now it was hanging around 6mbs and I could no longer use my VOIP office phone. I could hear fine, but no one would hear me. And also during the evenings, things were getting worse, with speeds dipping down in the the 4mbs range, even netflix was starting to slow way down. Another year goes by and I am looking at a max speed of 5mbs, but normally it dips down to 1mbs. Another year goes by, and it was even worse, but now pings are up to 100-200 range.
I then noticed after these three years, ATT u-verse DSL was available. I managed to get the business class 6mbs for $50 a month (but I get 7mbs down). I've never been so happy....
In hindsight, I probably should have complained to the customer support, but I really had no faith in them, it felt too much like an over subscription issue and I was afraid that their "fix" would be to just install a 50 foot pool in my yard to put their antenna on which I didn't want.
Other than that, I have always wanted to build my own ISP. But now I don't know if I would do it wireless or not (but that is pretty much the only way...)
That seems awfully abusive.
Only if you want static IPv4 addresses. And even then, they aren't impossible to come by.
If you even think about offering voice services (even VoIP), then you get buried in paperwork.