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Cable Co's Want More Control Over Your Network 726

Posted by timothy
from the but-of-course dept.
Moonshine Coward writes: "'The CAT and the NAT' in latest issue of www.cedmagazine.com discusses Cable labs and their efforts to come up with a 'better' protocol than NAT that allows them more control over devices behind your cable modem. Their upside on this...$4.95 per IP per mth. Their #1 concern...people putting in 802.11b hubs and sharing with their neighbors. Fine in principle and if it gets them drooling enough to speed up the deployment of fiber to the home it might be a good thing. However I can see way too many downsides...not least of which is being nickled and dimed to death..my webcam, cable ready microwave, refrigerator, pictureframe that shows revolving jif's ... each costing me $4.95 p.m. -- all on top of regular $39.95 cost." Note: the article is written from an interesting point of view -- it's aimed at the people who want to collect the additional per-IP charges.
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Cable Co's Want More Control Over Your Network

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:44PM (#2620914)
    "Illegal bandwidth sharing." I pay a certain amount for bandwidth and a single IP from a provider. What I do with that connection and single IP is my own business as long as I'm not using my connection in a detrimental way to others, as stated in their Acceptable Use Policy. How is sharing my bandwidth, which appears to them to be all the same source, and technically is, illegal?
  • by ergo98 (9391) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:47PM (#2620935) Homepage Journal

    What relevance does the number of devices behind the cable modem have? The reality is that the real load on their system is gross throughput, and if there really is a problem of abusers then the natural solution will be in the realm of additional bandwidth costs: Joe will be a lot less likely to set up a 802.11 network if it costs him $5 / GB past 5GB or whatever.

    As a bit of perspective here: I hope they didn't have to do any of this, but the reality is that the "honest" among us end up paying when people abuse these sort of commercial services : i.e. they price based upon the requirements to support the average Joe's bandwidth, so when BillyBob opens up his cable modem to 10Mbps with SNMP and then sets up a warez FTP site and shares his connection with his apartment complex, then that ends up cost ME more in the long run (or alternately, and worse, the service is withdrawn entirely because it isn't economically viable).

  • by Alpha_Geek (154209) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:50PM (#2620952) Homepage
    They claim that sharing your cable-modem connection with your neighbors via 802.11b is illegal. Aren't you paying for bandwidth at a fixed rate? Why should they be able to mandate what you have on the other end of the line. Business providers certainly don't care how many machines (or what type) you have at the other end of their T1 or T3. I suppose the real question is what is in the service agreement you have with them. It seems really slimy to me to restrict how you use your bandwidth. Why can't the ISPs just treat bandwith as a commodity instead of being restrictive on their customers?
  • by n8ur (230546) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:50PM (#2620956) Homepage
    The proposed CAT doesn't sound like it breaks NAT but simply replaces it (or works with some sort of enhanced NAT). As long as folks have a way to run a NAT service (i.e., running a Linux router behind the cable modem), the "nightmare scenario" of bandwidth sharing won't be stopped other than through bandwidth usage monitoring, which can be done now.

    CAT might be helpful to manage sanctioned home-networking schemes, but it won't solve the problem the article addresses.
  • by minyard (101989) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:50PM (#2620957) Homepage
    Cable companies currently cannot charge per TV. How could charging per IP be any different? Also, should I have to pay for my iron's IP address if it never browses the web? Heck, why do they need to know ANYTHING about my home's network.

    Sigs are for naught.
  • by guru_steve (205501) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:51PM (#2620964)
    from the article:

    "What's the value of the stolen goods? Revenues associated with additional IP addresses, for one. Let's say one in 10 of the 5 million U.S. cable modem subscribers are usurping IP addresses without paying the $4.95 per month fee that's typically charged (beyond a pre-specified limit, which varies MSO to MSO.) Right off that bat, that's just shy of $30 million lost, annually."

    I've never ran an ISP, so i'm not familiar with how IP addresses are doled out to the "big" guys. Interesting that they calculate the "losses" at $5.00 a month.

    A long time ago, weren't different classes of IP addresses handed out for free? How does one put a price on these things?

    Furthermore, i thought there was a shortage of IP addresses now. If they're going to implement some funky $5.00/month additional IP charge, i actually wonder if these IPs are going to be routable ones, or an IP on some cheezy intranet, unaddressable to the outside world (as if the cable companies were themselves NATting the connection for you from your private $5.00/month address.)
  • by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:52PM (#2620972) Homepage Journal

    "Let's say one in 10 of the 5 million U.S. cable modem subscribers are usurping IP addresses without paying the $4.95 per month fee that's typically charged (beyond a pre-specified limit, which varies MSO to MSO.) Right off that bat, that's just shy of $30 million lost, annually"

    I'd like a little more concrete numbers there. ANYBODY can pick a number and make a horrific sounding cost analysys out of it. It's a lot like saying 'A CD costs $17, and a DVD costs $19, therefore, all that video and extra features only costs two bucks!'

  • First Gripe! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webword (82711) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:53PM (#2620989) Homepage
    The other day I went to my brother's house with my laptop. I couldn't remember a few commands to release and renew my IP address for some reason so I decided to call Road Runner tech support. For those that don't know, Road Runner is a cable modem service provided on a franchise basis by companies such as Time Warner.

    In any event, they were slow but helpful. I noticed during the help call they asked a million silly questions that had nothing to do with my issue. The call should have taken about 2 minutes but it actually took about 8-10 minutes because of these questions (e.g., What is the brand of your cable modem?, What is the serial number on your cable modem?, When is the last time you called us?, and so forth). These questions were asked after I got the command that I needed. It was actually painful to get the guy off the phone. He wanted to check and verify basically the entire setup of my brother's computer and cable connection.

    Now, I don't know about you, but this kind of thing really rubs me the wrong way. It isn't support. And, despite what many companies think, it is not Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It is 100% hassle. I am pretty sure this kind of "support" is used to control users and ultimately squeeze more money out of them.

    On the one hand, I am not happy about this kind of user support. On the other hand, I am glad that I can even get a good high speed connection. It does cost more than dial up, but it is worth it to me given my career. In any event, I really wish there was more competition. I don't have a choice but to suck it up and quietly complain on Slashdot.
  • by pryan (169593) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:54PM (#2620995) Homepage
    That's what lept to my mind. Unlike cable TV, where service is, for all purposes, unlimited for sharing, internet service is very limited. In other words, if I buy a certain amount of bandwidth and choose to share it with my neighbors, I am depriving myself of that bandwidth.

    I am not "stealing" anything from the ISP by sharing bandwidth. I am taking no more than my allotted amount of bandwidth when sharing with my neighbors.

    What they are doing here is changing the rules. They are no longer providing 2.5 Mb/s down and 128 Kb/s up, they are providing connections to individuals. They are doing this for the sole purposes of increasing their profits. Now this might be acceptable, if they rewrote their contract, but right now, at least for my ISP, they are selling bandwidth.

    And as long as they are selling bandwidth, and I abide by the AUP, I can do whatever I flipping well please with my bandwidth, including sharing it with my neighbors.
  • by The G (7787) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:56PM (#2621016)
    How long is it going to take before ISPs start realizing that Internet Service Provider means Internet Service Provider? I just want a pipe with some bandwidth, to use as I want. This seems a simple enough notion, but the ISPs are all into "we'll sell you a piece of a pipe, as long as you don't use it much, and not for things we don't like."

    Clue to ISPs: Sell the pipe. Don't worry about what goes through it unless you're sitting on a subpoena or something. Everything else is silly optional garbage.
    --G
  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@yaho o . com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:57PM (#2621018) Journal
    I used to work for a cable modem ISP (until they went out of business last January). People sucking up an inordinate amount of bandwidth on "consumer" accounts were a huge drain on our resources. Usually it was spammers or people running high volume websites at home, but we also had a few folks with as many as 30 computers on one cable modem. We were only charging them $50 a month, but they were eating up almost an entire T1 all by themselves. Losing $1000 a month to one customer is not a good way to stay in business.

    It got so bad in one area we actually started putting together a database of MAC addresses, trying to map them to individual customers (even with NAT, the MAC address of the original computer is in the packet). Unfortunately, that project was just starting when the company filed for bankruptcy.

    That said, an easier and more effective solution would be to put QOS restraints on people. Who cares how many devices are hanging off one network connection? It's the bandwidth they're using that's important. And if bandwidth were limited to cable modem customers they wouldn't be so eager to share what they have with all their neighbors.

    Cory
  • by djmurdoch (306849) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:57PM (#2621025)
    I think the cable companies love flat rate charging, because then they don't have to provide you the bandwidth they promise.

    If they charged by the megabyte, then their revenues would drop when they had a blackout, or when they didn't put enough bandwidth into your neigbhourhood, or whatever.

    It was the same with dialup service. Last time I tried a couple of years ago, it was impossible to buy a fixed number of minutes of connection time, I could only buy flat rate monthly service. I got a lot of busy signals on that flat rate service, which cost *me* money, not the ISP.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @04:59PM (#2621051)
    Well the problem is that you don't really pay for that amount of bandwidth. They are banking on the fact that most people won't max out the connection all the time, so you're paying for a certain maximum amount of bandwidth. If everyone does max out their bandwidth all the time, then they'd be forced to actually charge you for the full bandwidth - likely it'd be significantly more than you currently pay. Then your arguments would hold up, but not with the current $40/month or whatever you pay.
  • by SaDan (81097) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:04PM (#2621105) Homepage
    I'm also failing to see where the cable internet providers have a real complaint.

    You pay them for a certiain amount of bandwidth. What's the difference between one legit PC using all the bandwidth all the time vs. ten PCs using 1/10th the bandwidth all the time? None.

    Cable companies are just trying to justify a way to make more money. Granted, $4.95 a month isn't bad for a second real IP, but it's nothing compared to what I pay for static IPs, which is $14.95 a month for eight static IPs (five useable, ARIN registered) on my DSL setup.

    If the cable companies are overselling their bandwidth capabilities, maybe they should just scale back the amount of bandwidth they sell to their customers, or charge more for current bandwidth?
  • by clifyt (11768) <sonikmatter@gm a i l.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:07PM (#2621128) Homepage
    Damn right about that. I pay for a set amount of bandwidth and I should get it. My site (above) had just upgraded its bandwidth and was deciding between colos and a T1...funny thing was that several of the folks that had talked about doing the T1 had mentioned an increased price for 'Excessive' Bandwidth.

    What the F*ck????

    I was willing to pay for a set amount of bandwith...if I saturate it 24/7 why should it matter? I can't imagine how I could have excessive bandwidth...do these guys sense that my lines are saturated and go out and install a second line (actually we had enough lines run to install several....when ya go up 14 flights, ya don't want to do it again).

    Ok, that is a business situation, so it is *slightly* different. Then again, when I look at my DSL contracts, it really is the same wording. I am paying for 512k SDSL. They promise 512k of bandwidth ready to use...I'm going to damn well use it. I'm not paying per meg, thats not what they advertised, they advertised always on 512k of service.

    Yeah yeah, I know the reality of this, and ya'll all know the reality is that the companies are banking on the fact you won't be using the service 24/7. This is the same reason biz phones cost 10x what residential phones do because the assumption was that residential phone users don't use the phone as much as businesses (we're ignoring the modem users out there because this is still a model predated from the advent of the 'internet' as the former AOL User know it).

    If companies want to charge per meg, let them advertise that...it doesn't sound as sexy to say 10Gigs of downloads a month as it does 512k UNLIMITED Downloads.

    You will get far less folks buying it if it sounds limited in any way. Too f*cking bad. Stop advertising it as unlimited and let us do what we will with our lines. I don't have more than one computer hooked up to my DSL...I have my little linux box hooked up to it...I have several other computers hooked up to the box, but none of them actually touch the lines, so its none of their business what else I have in my home.

    Again, the problem I have with this is truth in advertising...don't get mad when people take you for your word...

    clif marsiglio
  • by well_jung (462688) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:18PM (#2621226) Homepage
    The Gist of this article seems to be that the neighbors can use the bandwith without paying for it. Thisis the same as my friend next door that get's NHL Center Ice, and then has a few of his neighbor's over twice a week to watch games.

    All this time he thought he was sharing what he paid for, building a sense of community with his neighbors. Can't wait to tell him that he's really depriving DirecTV of nearly $1,000 in revenue since the boys and I don't have to pay to watch it.

    Honestly, as long as I'm not clogging my segment, I don't want to hear any bitching about this service I pay 600 bucks a year for.
  • by Bandman (86149) <bandman@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:19PM (#2621236) Homepage
    Wouldn't it work using a dual-homed 486 as a gateway? I just have a DX2/66 with 2 intel cards as my gateway, using ipchains to masq and it works great. they see an Intel NIC as the MAC address, and think it's 1 computer, and I just run all my services to the internal interface. No problems.
  • by Drakantus (226374) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:20PM (#2621244)
    Here is why they don't charge based on bandwidth: they would make less money. How much bandwidth do you think the "average" person uses? A little web browsing, a little email, *maybe* a total of 3MB/day, for around 90MB/month. Any reasonable system of paying for bandwidth would have to be in the ballpark of $10/GB or less (really far less would still be generous to the cable companies, a Commercial T1 line capable of 300GB/month is $400), and so the majority of users paying $40/month now would instead be paying $1/month. Ouch, there goes the profit.
  • by aonaran (15651) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:20PM (#2621246) Homepage
    Well, If you want the whole pipe call up your phone company and order one. ...ask for a T1, not a DSL or fractional T1, those are part pipes too.
    T1 isn't a wide enough pipe?ok ask for a T3... then bitch when you can't use the whole pipe.
    When you're paying the hundreds/thousands per month then you have the right to bitch.

    Am I the only one who sees why @ home went bankrupt and all the other providers are increasing prices?
  • by Prong (190135) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:23PM (#2621265)
    Bzzzt. Try again.

    The entire Internet is "shared bandwidth". If I pay for a pipe, whether it be OC48 or dialup, I'm paying for bandwidth, not a device count. How I use that bandwidth is up to me. The cable companies have the option of throttling customers bandwidth usage (aside from the advertising, there really isn't anything promising X/kbps), but they probably won't because of the resultant bad publicity. From where I sit, this looks like a case of out and out, big company greed.

    This also something of a red herring. Remember, cable companies aren't really telcos. They have no institutional concept of things like demarcs, CPE, and CME. As far as they are concerned, it's their network, and they have the right to talk to any device connected to it.

    That being said, I'm not terribly worried about this. The bottom line is that walling then off from your home network will still be possible, plus I don't really see the equipment makers buying into this. There are already cable "routers" that not only have programmable MAC addresses, but that automagically adopt the MAC of the first device plugged into the hub side, so it looks like your cable/DSL modem is speaking to a pee-cee. Failing that, a cheap miniboard 486 or pentium with 2 ethernet cards works nicely.
  • Culture Shift... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bonker (243350) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:24PM (#2621277)
    What I found most interesting about this article was the amount of time it spent name calling-- in particular, the IPS's users 'thieves'.

    Of course any movement has its particular socialization. The OSS movement in particular hangs on the 'Information Wants to Be Free' slogan.

    It's a little more extreme in this case. The author of the article, and probably the magazine that published it, has a definite agenda to push. The agenda here is to try to limit the amount of bandwidth any one user uses per month. In this case, they're pushing their new 'standard' (*snicker*), and are trying to convince the readers of the article that it's not only right to force that on their users, but that the users need have done something wrong and criminal that they need to be punished for.
    Personally, when I pay for cablemodem service, I figure that if I pay $50/month for 384kbyte/s service, then I'm paying $50 for
    384kbyte * 2678400 and whatever I don't use is just a bonus for the cable co.

    It's obvious that Cable providers would have a different viewpoint, but to criminalize their oppozing viewpoints is altogether more than is called for.
  • by TheShadow (76709) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:25PM (#2621289)
    If you are running a Linux firewall then why don't you run your own DNS server? That way if there's is down, you are still up.
  • by Bagheera (71311) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:26PM (#2621294) Homepage Journal
    The problem is on both ends though. Until Febrary when the cable modem service provider I was using went belly up (ISPChannel) I was reasonably happy with the service. Four fixed IP's, 500k/sec downstream, 200k/sec upstream. Reliability was less than pristine, but at least some fraction of that was in the ancient cables run through the city.

    My issue here is with the bandwidth. The cable modems were all throttled to restrict the upstream and downstream speeds we could utilize. I was limited to 500k/sec as mentioned, but the entire city was fed by 4 T1 connections. We had roughly 1000 users, each throttled to 500k/sec sharing a 6M/sec pipe.

    You do the math. There are similar cases with DSL providers hanging 8000 ADSL users at 1+M/sec of a Redback serviced by a single DS3.

    The replacement service, Excite@Home, was no better. Worse, in fact, since they had a No Servers policy and used to aggressively scan for them. No improvement in service or bandwidth. Just a loss of freedom to use the bandwidth we were already paying for.

    The providers are complaining about people "stealing" bandwidth when they are massively over-subscribing their systems. If I am paying for bandwidth, I expect to get it. This "they're stealing IP's and sharing the pipe!" line is just a feint to cover the fact they are so massively over-subscribed they can't possibly support the userbase they have.

    If my link is throttled, then HOW I use that link is realy no business of my ISP's - unless I'm doing something that's actually against the law. If they don't have the infrastructure to support the bandwidth I'm paying for, that is not MY problem . If they can't support X users at Y bandwidth, then they have no business SELLING X users Y bandwidth.

    In other venues, it's called fraud.

    Sorry, the ISP's aren't getting my sympathy.
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <<gro.tserofed> <ta> <todhsals>> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:28PM (#2621306)

    The problem is that the cost structure of ISP services doesn't match the pricing structure. Charging per bit moved wouldn't work, because for most residential service the main cost is infrastructure support (the cost of maintaining the pipe, regardless of whether it's used). But charging only for access, as is currently done, doesn't reflect the scarcity of the actual resource -- bits moved.

    The only reason we (residential customers) have to sign no-resale agreements is that the ISP's pricing structure is a poor match to the cost structure. Think about it: if the match were better in the high-demand case, then no agreement would be necessary. Does the power company forbid you from reselling your power? No -- but it doesn't make economic sense for you, because the price structure matches the cost OK in the high demand case.

    The no-redistribution agreeent is a kludge that doesn't even work to limit customer bandwidth in all cases. Typical ISPs might oversell their pipes by a factor of 50, so each user must stay below 1/50 of their long-term-average bandwidth or else the ISP loses money. I just upgraded my DSL connection to 640kb symmetric, and one use I'm putting the pigger pipe to is listening (at work) to my home mp3 jukebox. That uses 128kbps, or just over 1/5 of my pipe -- so my ISP, who charges only for access, loses out on the deal if I leave the stereo running all day.

    A low-volume NATted subnet doesn't affect the fan-out rate nearly as much as a heavy data mover like my mp3 stream -- though it does use slightly more bandwidth. A high-volume NATted subnet increases the spikiness of the load on the ISPs pipe and requires beefier infrastructure -- so you should pay for it.

    It seems to me that the ISPs that charge nothing up to some volume of data flow, then a fee per gigabyte above that, have the right idea. That charging scheme matches well with the actual cost of high-volume users. (Cell-phones work that way too...)

  • by Steveftoth (78419) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:34PM (#2621342) Homepage
    Cell phones are less and less the exception. As more people get a cell phone, you will see flat rate systems popping up.
  • by mttlg (174815) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:36PM (#2621350) Homepage Journal
    What's the value of the stolen goods? Revenues associated with additional IP addresses, for one. Let's say one in 10 of the 5 million U.S. cable modem subscribers are usurping IP addresses without paying the $4.95 per month fee that's typically charged (beyond a pre-specified limit, which varies MSO to MSO.) Right off that bat, that's just shy of $30 million lost, annually.

    Except there aren't any additional IP addresses being used. And of course, as with most speculative damages, this fails to take into consideration the fact that many of these additional computers would not be networked for internet access at $5 per month if there were no "free" alternative available. Consumers gaining functionality does not automatically equate to companies losing profits, especially if the service offered is not the one desired (IP addresses vs. just a data pipe).

    With NAT-based hubs, cable providers won't be able to see into all connected devices-making remote troubleshooting difficult-because, again, the NAT is speaking for all connected devices.

    Oh no, my cable company won't be able to mess around with the equipment without my knowledge. I'm so worried.

    CAT could replace NAT altogether, at least in equipment hand-picked by MSOs for home-network service packages. ... At the very least, cable MSOs involved in CableHome want a counting mechanism, with parameters set by them, that specifies a maximum number of connected devices.

    Um, why should my cable company be able to penalize me for having devices that aren't routinely (or ever) used for internet access? So I guess I'll need NAT in the CAT... This whole article is one big piece of misinformation and FUD. My cable company doesn't need to know what I have on my private network - they provide the pipe, I use it. They might be able to monitor some of the data that goes through their network, but anything more invades my privacy (ethical argument, not legal argument) and puts my network at risk of attack. NAT will be around until the cable companies buy a law banning it, and then it will still be around illegally.

  • by Arethan (223197) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:44PM (#2621412) Journal
    First my view:
    I used to work in the cable modem industry, and my beliefs made it very hard to me to tell people that they needed to cough up an extra $4.95 per computer they wanted online.

    I always looked at it like every other cable or electricity or phone service. You pay a certain amount of money for a line that goes up to your house, and the ability to use the service provided in general.

    Think about it. I can have 1 phone, or 10,000 phones all connected to the same phone line. The phone company doesn't care, so long as I pay for the number of calls I make. I can have 1 outlet, or 10,000 outlets. (Or one desk lamp, or 10,000 desk lamps.) The elctric company doesn't care, so long as I pay for the amount of electricity used.

    The cable company will let me connect 1 or 10,000 televisions up to their CATV service, so long as I pay my monthly bill for the channels I recieve.

    Similarly, I should be able to have 1 computer, or 10,000 computers, so long as I pay for the bandwidth and IPs I use. In my case, I use 1 IP amongst 4 computers, and have opted to pay for the fastest cable modem service available, making it easy for all 4 computers to be using the service without noticable speed problems.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with my setup.

    Now for the problem:
    IPv4 has a limit number of valid IP's available. Many of the class A ranges are already taken by telco's and large network companies. If everyone obeyed the cable company's silly policies about 1 IP per computer, they WOULD run out of IP space. Yes, it would be a while, but if everyone that could have cable television had cable internet, and they all had an average of 1.5 PC's in their homes, you're looking at more than likely more IPs than are currently available.
  • by Fritz Benwalla (539483) <randomregs@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:48PM (#2621441)
    I think this "I can hammer my line as much as I want" take on things is a misunderstanding born of a misreprentation. The cable companies advertise high bandwidth services, so those of us who are bandwidth hoars sign up with mainlining Kazaa in mind. In reality, what the cable companies are offering (hence the misrepresentation) is low-to-moderate speed bandwidth *burstable* to high speed.

    So your actual out-of-pocket in a cable modem economy is probably close to fair for the bandwidth you actually would end up using in a metered economy. My cable-modem hookup is *completely* dark 95% of the time. The other 5%, however, is spent with the expectation that a DVD-Rip of Planet of the Apes will slam into my computer so fast it dents the case.

    So cable modem users should complain that yes, cable companies aren't being entirely honest with them. But they should also realize that if they expect to get a $1,000 per month T1 line for $40, they are being either unintentionally or (as I suspect is the case among our infrastructure-savvy /. readers) intentionally naive.
  • by electroniceric (468976) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:51PM (#2621465)
    Leslie,

    As an amateur networking enthusiast, I'm quite dismayed both by the unbalanced slant of your article on network address translation
    (http://www.cedmagazine.com/ced/2001/1101/11d.ht m) , and by its similarly unbalanced technical details.

    You write for an industry magazine, and as such, it's very important that your readers have a clear understanding of the upsides and downsides of each type of technology.

    Let me begin with technical details:

    You do NAT a service by pointing out that it greatly simplifies routing. This is certainly true, and has allowed me to build my own home network, and thereby learn a great deal about networking.
    However, this is overshadowed by a fact you neglect to mention, perhaps NAT's greatest advantage. By translating addresses, NAT allows home users to assign non-routed IP addresses to their devices. Non-routed means that Internet routers will send data packets to or from these IP addresses. This has great security implications. By assigning non-routed IP's, you greatly strengthen the security of that network - anyone attempting to attack machines within the network must first break through the NAT device. Hardware NAT routers have very few security holes, and therefore offer security to their consumers.

    I would also greatly worry about replace NAT with a protocol with built in "holes". Not only is this an extensive violation of privacy - my information connectivity provider has absolutely no right to know whether my fridge is connected to my network, but worse yet, the ability to "see into" networks is an invitation to hackers to conduct attacks through these holes. I have no desire to have a hacker ask my fridge what's in it, or turn my stereo on. I am very dismayed that these broad questions did even merit mention as security challenges in your formulation.

    Second, your interpretation that NAT is bad because it prevents cable providers from selling services they may like to sell is highly suspect. Additional IP address sales may be a perk for broadband providers, but by it is by no means the RIGHT of these providers to collect tolls for these IPs. A more apt analogy for NAT is that it makes broadband service like a telephone. One of the great advances when "Ma Bell" came when consumers could easily connect their own telephone to the wall, and not pay per unit. This resulted in explosive advances in technology and drops in cost for telephones - a huge service to consumers. If you believe that telcos should be able to charge per telephone in your home, perhaps you'd be willing to pay me those fees until the telcos can catch up.

    I'm sensitive to the worry that the installation of NAT devices by end-users could result in very heavy loads on broadband providers, in return for minimal revenues. Furthermore, a wide open network behind a NAT device could result in a DMCA-generated liability nightmare if a user in a NAT-wireless "Neighborhood Area Network" decided to do something illegal or ugly.

    However, this behavior can be controlled through strict terms on bandwidth monitoring, packet filtering, and license agreements controlling these elements of use.

    While NAT does present some challenges to effectively providing broadband connectivity to home users, these challenges do not justify the intrusions into users' privacy and network security that you claim. I challenge the broadband industry to solve these problems in ways that help the consumer, rather than deprive her of her privacy and security.

    Sincerely,

    Eric
  • by dbrower (114953) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:53PM (#2621473) Journal
    Your article makes a number of assertions that reasonable
    people could dispute. First is that there is anything illegal
    about using NAT; Second is that what NAT is being used for is
    unintentional. The gist of my complaint is that you could have
    addressed the real issues without waving the red flags of "illegal"
    behaviour and "unintentional" consequences.


    To the first incorrect assertion: You claim that it is "illegal"
    to use NAT. This has never been suggested or proven in a court of
    law. It is not a "theft of service" in any event -- the service
    of a single ip address to the subscriber is not being stolen from
    the service provider. There remains only the single publicly
    visible IP address. If there are restrictions in the SP ToS
    limiting single computers to be connected, they would need to
    be pretty carefully worded to rule out NAT use, and would at
    worst create a ToS violation.


    To the second point 8 years ago when NAT was created, there was
    great concern about IP address shortage, which remains true today.
    Contrary to your article, people were at the time very concerned
    about the trend towards every electronic appliance in a house needing its
    own IP address. NAT was one of the solutions to the problem.
    Creating "sort of private, sub-network running datagrams to and
    from invisible end devices" as you put it was the point of NAT.


    The real issues for connectivity providers are (a) bandwidth
    utilization by subscribers; (b) market penetration/revenue. (c) abuse
    accountability. We can agree that a huge network hidden behind a NAT,
    using a home cable connection provisioned for fractional use can use a lot
    of unexpected bandwidth, but so can a spammer using a single machine, or
    a teenager dedicated to downloading mp3s. So to address
    issue (a) the problem is regulating traffic use in a way that offers
    reasonable service to customers on low priced tiers with low provisioning.
    This is a ToS issues with price/demand curve and competitive implications.
    You don't have to drag NAT into the bandwidth hog issue at all.


    Issue (b) is the penetration/revenue question: if one house buys the
    connection and 802.11's the neighborhood, how does the installation pay
    for itself? The answer is cruel: the service providers need to provide
    enough value to justify subscriptions. If a shared connection using 802.11
    is acceptable and worth $5/month, the service provider should provide a
    supported, reliable $5/month service, not a $29.95 service.
    In this case, tiered pricing (see issue (a)) may stabilize the
    situation - if the neghborhood 802.11 connection is saturating the cable
    connection


    For abuse issue (c), the problem is that if someone drops into a private
    802.11 domain and disrupts the network, who do you blame, and how do you
    sanction them? The same as before, under ToS/bandwidth conditions.


    In conclusion, NAT isn't a problem for which service providers need a solution.
    SPs need bandwidth and abuse controls, and pricing commensurate to the
    perceived value of their product in an area of rapid change. If one had
    bandwith control, and the extra $4.95 month bought an additional increment
    of allowed utilization, then there might be a value proposition that could
    be tolerated by the public.


    For the record, I had no access to ADSL or cable modem. I have a 144k
    IDSL connection behind which I use NAT to attach 10 computers on my property.
    I'm already paying for 24/7 use of my 144k, and I am completely guilt free.


    cheers,
    -dB

  • by n3bulous (72591) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:56PM (#2621495)
    They get around not charging you for splitting by requiring a separate device for every split by:

    1) Switching to Digital Cable
    2) Scrambling signals
    3) compression (I've heard this, but it always turns out to be scrambling. If it was compressed, I wouldn't be able to sort of see the images, and why would they scramble and compress?)

    So now they force you to buy another tuner/descrambler/etc...

    There was a time when I could split the cable signal to my tv and vcr. I could then record and watch different programs. Then the cable company started scrambling channels so I can only record a lot of crap plus a few real cable channels.

    Basically, they F*K you because no one can stop them. In most cases, people can't switch providers. Sure there are dish type providers but there are problems here as well (I can't see the south sky).

    Americans need their TV so the cable companies bilk you as much as possible and the gov't helps them. The general consensus before the cable act of (9x?) went into effect is that it would raise prices, and it did. I now pay almost twice what I used to, and half the channels I never watch. Now maybe the increase is all due to taxes or something, but either way my only voice is to disconnect and how do I benefit from this? I just suffer less.

    This is why capitalism doesn't work on a large scale. Even if 1% of the people rebel, the company in question won't care. You would probably need 25% or more for them to start doing something about it. Of course, most Americans are sheep (myself included) and won't do anything but complain about the cost/use/reliablity/etc...

    My friend uses the capitalism argument to defend the RIAA. If you don't like the price, don't buy it. Guess what? If others still spend billions, my voice isn't heard and the only person who suffers is me depriving myself of something I want because the cost/value ratio isn't fair IMO. Not much useful martydom there...
  • Unbelievable Spin (Score:3, Insightful)

    by btrain (235160) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @05:57PM (#2621500)
    This is like the electric company charging me per light.
  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @06:06PM (#2621559)
    There is (was) money in hosting. People need access to the Internet to send data. You can warehouse your servers or you can rent thick-pipes (T1+) that gives you bi-directional bandwidth. Therefore, hosting companies buy large amounts of bandwidth (bidirectional) or are big enough to carry it themselves with peering.

    Now home users want downstream bandwidth.

    Solution? Buy the bulk bandwidth, and sell the upstream via hosting and the downstream via broadband.

    It's not a rude situation.

    If you want bidirectional bandwidth, you can get it. Get a T1 or SDSL at home.

    It costs more?

    Of course it does! Upstream bandwidth is expensive, downstream is cheap.

    Therefore, ADSL is priced based upon the little bit of upstream used and you get a high speed downstream connection.

    It's economics. If you want upstream bandwidth, buy it. You aren't entitled to it.

    Alex
  • by schon (31600) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @06:07PM (#2621569)
    I don't think this is what the companies want

    I can't speak for all ISP's, but (as I am the SysAdmin for a small ISP) I can speak for our company.

    We DON'T want metered (pay per hour) billing, because metered billing is a pain in the ass. Keeping track of user's hours, and then going through your records because Joe Blow has disputed the charge ("I couldn't possibly have used that much time") just takes up too much time - as soon as a charge is disputed, someone has to stop what they're doing, and resolve it, so you've lost the $1.50 profit you were making off them in the first place.

    At least once a month we get calls from people who want metered service, and we just tell them that we don't do that.
  • by Omnifarious (11933) <eric-slash@nOSPaM.omnifarious.org> on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @06:18PM (#2621651) Homepage Journal

    Your CAT NAT replacement technology is based on the faulty assumption that you're selling a 'subscription' to the Internet. That is an extremely cable providerish way of looking at things, and precisely the reason I avoid cable (and tell my friends to as well) like the plague.

    What you're selling me is a connection to the Internet. You're selling me bandwidth. That's all you're selling me. That's it. You can't care what I have on the other end of the pipe anymore than the water company can care whether or not I have a dishwasher plugged in or water a neighbors lawn.

    If you're basing your pricing and bandwidth provisioning on expected usage, it's cheaper and easier to implement traffic shaping and aggregate (as opposed to burst) bandwidth limiting than it is to develop a whole set of proprietary protocols that people will just get around anyway, thereby starting a technology war (which cable companies will ultimately lose) with your customers. Then you can charge people if they want to exceed your expectations. This model is enforceable, will be seen as reasonable, and doesn't require expensive proprietary and invasive technologies to implement.

    I find it kind of amusing (and scary) how so many companies want to have broken business models, call customers criminals when they don't work, and try to implement invasive technological solutions that give the service provider immense control. It's stupid and wrong, and you should know better than to have written an article advoacting such iodiocy.

    Cable will never enter my home until you guys get a clue and stop trying to make me into a passive consumer instead of a happy customer.

  • by Nindalf (526257) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @06:41PM (#2621768)
    Here in Canada, the cable modem ISP I use sets a monthly transfer limit of 1 GB per month. I'm pretty sure I've gone over it a couple of times, but they haven't bothered me. I do keep the limit in mind, so I would never go over it by much (this doesn't seriously inconvenience me in any way, of course, since I don't use my computer as a server), and I suppose it's not worth their trouble to pester me over a hundred megabytes one way or the other.

    However, if I regularly went much over the limit, they could easily demand that I pay an extra $10 per gigabyte. That would cover their cost, and would be quite reasonable to a heavy downloader like myself. If I tried to run a high-traffic webserver, or something like that, my transfer would go through the roof, and they'd insist I switch to another kind of account to cover the cost of upgrading the last-mile connection.

    Very few people complain about the transfer limit, and I don't think it costs them any customers. On the other hand, people would be screaming bloody murder if they tried to control what you did with the connection. The user agreement is short and sweet, with only a few inexplicable IRC usage restrictions sticking out like a sore thumb. Basically: don't use it maliciously, don't do anything illegal, don't use more than 1 GB/month, and don't bug us about your home networking problems.

    I really don't know why the other sort of bandwidth management is so common in the US; this way seems so much simpler.
  • by Dagum (26380) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @07:03PM (#2621910)
    Dear Leslie Ellis,

    I just finished reading your CED article regarding NAT and cable modem service, and I would like to throw my viewpoint back at you (as countless others have likely already done, since your article was mentioned on Slashdot today).

    I think you clearly and rightly stated your comparison of NAT to cable TV theft. In this argument, I would not accuse you of expressing only the point of view of the cable company, because you are also addressing some simple concepts of what is fair.

    However, I think the analogy to cable TV theft is an inaccurate representation, and that it makes some assumptions as to the service being purchased by "Customer Bob" that doom him and his neighbors to being defined as abusers.

    In the world of TV cable theft, sharing your subscription with your neighbor had no detrimental effect on your own service, unless you were bad at splicing and damaged your own connections; the neighbor's stolen cable would normally be identical to the service to which paying subscribers were entitled. There was no noticeable issue of bandwidth.

    However, in the world of cable modem service, the subscriber is renting a connection and purchasing bandwidth from the cable company. Unless prohibited (some would say arbitrarily, or in a slippery attempt to hedge off potential revenue loss) in the service agreement, it is not dishonest for Customer Bob to share that single connection and bandwidth with his neighbors, as he is not consuming ISP resources that he would not otherwise potentially have used. Bob's sharing of his own connection and bandwidth is very different from Bob somehow jury-rigging an independent cable or DSL connection at his neighbor's house using his neighbor's own cable or phone line.

    Should such a standard as CAT be implemented, I would certainly hope that the cable companies using it would reduce their rates as they applied to single computers, as they would be reducing the service provided and severely limiting the customers' options as users of that reduced service.

    Please understand that I approach this issue from the viewpoint of my own NATted network, all within my own home, using a DSL connection, with an ISP who has no qualms with the full usage by customers of their paid service.

    Thank you for your presentation of this issue, and thank you for your attention. This reply is also being posted to the Slashdot thread where your article's URL appeared this morning.

    David A. Mason
    david.mason@miis.edu
    Network Administrator
    Center for Nonproliferation Studies
    Monterey Institute for International Studies
    http://cns.miis.edu/
  • by alba7 (100502) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @07:13PM (#2621973) Homepage
    > Doesn't the MAC address appear only on the local
    > physical network and disappear at the first router?


    Exactly. That's the main difference between a hub and router.

    IMHO the poster does not have a clue (probably the reason the shop went broke).

  • Classic Absurdity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by r3v0ltn (535889) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @07:50PM (#2622140)
    The hypothetical numbers this articles uses are priceless examples of industrial chicanery: "Let's say one in 10." No, let's not say one in ten. Let's be realistic instead.
  • by camusflage (65105) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @08:15PM (#2622253)
    This is like the electric company charging me per light.

    I think we agree that this is a specious argument. The underlying issue, however, is not. Presently, cable modem service (to extend your electricity analogy) is like giving you a wire on the grid for $50/mo. You can use as much or as little as you want for the $50/mo. Whether you use that solely to open the cold can of pork and beans you eat each evening, or whether you want to light up a stadium every night. The trouble is that there's a fixed charge for bandwidth that they buy, and if everyone is trying to light up a stadium, they'll go out of business quite quickly [yahoo.com] as demand far outstrips supply, or rather, capacity to buy supply.

    A more reasoned response would be to throttle after a certain transfer threshold, unless you pay for not being throttled. Their (recurring) cost is usage sensitive, their present pricing is not--therin lies the problem.
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @08:16PM (#2622259)
    How much of a problem is this really? Not that many people are going to let their neighbors have unfettered access to their network. I sure wouldn't. I can just see the Secret Service kicking in my door when some goober neighbor threatens the President via my IP. Not to mention them downloading child porn and nuclear weapon plans, while sharing software from companies who are known for their attack-shark lawyers. I think most people who have the brain cells to put a wireless network together are going to realize these drawbacks and have the same reaction.
  • by zootie (190797) on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @09:19PM (#2622509)
    Indeed, it'd be hard to block existing NAT users, but they can make it harder:

    * Discontinue (or make it hard) to use Ethernet on the cable modem. You see more and more USB cable modems, and more and more users blindly going for it. While you could still use NAT (having a PC running Windows or Linux dedicated), you'd need USB drivers, which might be "CAT" aware.

    * Provide value added services if you use CAT. For example, digital phones (or other "Internet aware" appliances) using the cable could be connected to the Ethernet network as long as you're using a CAT enabled router. It could also be more insidious: they could actually limit bandwidth, or reduce routing priority if you're not using a CAT enabled USB modem with proprietary drivers.

    One of the advantages of a cable modem is sharing the connection. SOmetimes I'm using the computer in my living room, sometimes one in my bedroom. It is unacceptable that they charge me for a computer that might or not be in use...

    I'm using RoadRunner. THey used to require that you run an authentication app to let you get on the network. That went on for a couple years, and it was flaky as hell (need to authenticate once for the lease, afterwards, the lease remains active even if the app wasn't running, and the installation made a mess of itself), and they eventually decided to discontinue it and use straight DHCP, limiting the number of connections on the cable modem (and I think they've saved quite a bit in support calls). Trying to lock down the number of IPs will only cause headaches, and customer discomfort...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2001 @11:45PM (#2623085)
    The real constraint isn't running servers - it's Upstream Bandwidth and Complaints/Publicity which are the problems.
    • The technology is highly asymmetric - it can handle lots more downstream bits from the head end to the user than upstream bits from the user to the head end. (Beyond that, it's really symmetric, and since most users are couch potatoes, upstream isn't a problem from there on up.) Early cable modem hardware couldn't limit bandwidth, so the "No servers" threat policy was used as a substitute for technology. Newer hardware can do bandwidth limitation, but by now many of the cable companies have forgotten why they set that policy, and they're clueless about how desperately they need high-bandwidth customers and how this is losing them business. There are still performance concerns, but using a webcam to video-call grandma burns a lot more cumulative upstream bandwidth than easily-limited web service.

    • The real problem is that they can't risk bad publicity about service quality, like the Obnoxiously dishonest but effective telco "Web Hog" commercials, and in the early years, service quality was really variable, and often bad, and they suffered a big PR hit about overloaded service in their beta-test cities that turned out to be because of some bad hardware, but the public perception of bad performance in overloads overshadowed the later explanations of what went wrong. So they really don't want some pr0n server dogging some neighborhood's network performance and leading to customer complaints, plus that kind of thing gives them a bad image. And face it, while it makes much more sense for you to use your 20GB disk drive for pictures of your kids and cats than to upload it to a colo-based web service, just so grandma and your friends and a few random servers, can see it, which needs to run a much higher service quality than you do, popular web sites (ok, pr0n, warez, and pirate music) are much more likely to have an impact on upstream bandwidth than your much more respectable uses. Obnoxious as it is, it doesn't make economic or social-policy sense for the cablemodemco to waste its time debating with you about whether your server is a Politically Correct Family-Oriented Site or a Politically Incorrect Too-Popular Web Server. So they really need to get even better at bandwidth control - which they could do pretty easily if they were technically smarter folks who weren't in deep financial trouble right now.

    The whole Cable Openness debate a couple of years ago was bogus, and ISPs and Cable Companies both mishandled it. Until PPPoE, the technically right architecture for a cable modem service was to do routing from the head end on up, which makes the traditional ISP's bundled service (modem access, routing packets to Rest Of Internet, and mail/web support) much less competitive, because it's Already Too Open - the cableco will route your packets anywhere you want them to go, without the ISP's bottleneck, and that leaves them competing with free email and web services (including the cableco's portals), so their only value adds are personalized service quality and avoiding advertising banners. The other two openness issues are wholesale pricing / billing, and the afore-mentioned service restrictions. PPPoE strikes me as an ugly kluge that's mainly designed to make it easier to shut off accounts for non-payment, charge extra for some services, and force traffic into bottlenecks like some ISPs, and it's a bad idea as are most of the different NAT options cablecos play with.

    What the cablecos should have done is realize that they desperately need customers and use two ways to get them:

    • Cooperate with the small ISPs, or at least with large marketing-oriented ISPs, giving them some cut of the bill to bring in customers and maybe handle billing. Much better than fighting with them, which cost several years of businesses opportunity, though they did spend part of that time fixing the ugly pre-IP technical infrastructure that many local cable TV companies had.

    • Encourage unrestricted development of cool applications that will make people want to buy broadband to get them - whether it's things that depend on always-on, or things that need higher bandwidth, or locality-based things like neighborhood-watch cameras, or peer-to-peer games or whatever - which are much more likely to come from some random Internet users or random industry than just the cableco's own development efforts. Two classic applications are ICQ and Napster. (Some cablemodemco folks do get it about Napster, so they alternate between saying "Napster Bad, Servers Bad, Intellectual Property Licensing Good, Piracy Bad" and saying "Well, Duuhhh, of course we like killer apps that make everybody want to buy broadband, as long as they can make the locality work better so it doesn't dog our network, we just say bad things about Napster because our lawyers tell us we have to, and at least it's in better taste than pr0n.")

    I've found the whole "Stop the Nasty Thieving Bandwidth-Sharers" publicity campaign to be in bad taste and a tremendous display of lack of imagination - not only do the cablecos have to cope with the reality of cheap radio and NAT hardware and NAT and routing software, but they Still desperately need ways to bring in many more customers, and should figure out how to use this technical opportunity to get them. Of course, cluelessness isn't a new problem for these folks :-) See: Use a Cable Modem, Go To Jail [geocities.com] and the Slashdot Ensuing Discussion [slashdot.org].

    Lots of Disclaimers - I'm posting this as Anonymous Coward, because I do work in this industry and my opinions are Extremely Not My Employer's, especially the bit about Napster which I just didn't say at all, and you didn't read it here. But hey, I've been ranting like this for a while, and I'm not mentioning their names, because it's strictly my own opinions, not theirs, and besides, as a stockholder of several of these companies I'd appreciate it if everybody in the computer and communications industries could start to get some clues again. We need to start doing synergy, not fighting each other, so we can make some money. And there are several other rants I left out of this one, like how they've dropped the ball on totally transforming the voice telephony industry :-)

    Bill The Anonymous Coward

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday November 28, 2001 @12:31AM (#2623197) Homepage
    I'll state this up front. I am not a networking expert, network programmer, or even a guest on The Battle of the Network Stars. *

    What I am, tho, is someone who has been on this scene since '81. I remember the advent of fiber optic lines, and the promise of immense bandwidth Some Day, maybe in ten years...

    In the mid Eighties, the talk was of laying the mighty fiber trucklines through major cities. I remember the day that downtown Chicago got it's first, GASP, fiber line down the middle of State Street (I think).

    Speculation was rife about fiber to the house. Of course, the holdup was that it would cost roughly 500 -- that's five hundred -- dollars per household in '86 dollars to fiber the country up. No one wanted to shoulder that expense. No company wanted to do it -- the profit model couldn't be made to show it working as a business proposition.

    I remember debate about letting it become a governemnt service, like water, or a regulated utility. Let taxpayer cash fund the structure of the net; the benefit would be laser beams for all, forever and ever, amen.

    Well, the '80's marked the ascendency of the capitalist as a god, and business was our new religion. Public anything was communism, anti-profit, and besides, private biz could do it cheaper, faster, and without the bureaucracy.

    We went ahead. Modems reached dizzying speeds of 28.8k, 56k... and the businesses who would pay the premium got T1/T3 lines. No fiber ever reached the citizen, except for a few private projects.

    Curiously, as hardware became commodity priced, switches, routers, and their humongous bigger brothers became a cash cow for the companies that made them. Shakeouts occured, companies merged, profits stayed pretty high. Small ISPs couldn't compete with ever-bigger competitors, and died.

    Here we are. 2001. And we still are using modems over 1890 Bell wire. And the phone bills still keep climbing, tho why is a mystery...

    Here's the bad math. If we had fiber, say, 50 million homes and apartment complexes in the late '80's at guvmint expense, the total would have been:

    $ 500.00 US * 50,000,000
    = 25,000,000,000 bucks.

    Let's adjust it a bit by assuming:

    1. That even tho the per home cost of equipment should have dropped with that scale of manufacturing, the cost would have stayed about the same due to the enormous physical work necessary to lay glass pipes over entire cities and burbs.
    2. That inflation would make it, say for the fun of it, about $50,000,000,000 US in today's dollars.
    3. The project would have taken, say, fifteen years.

    Okay then. Per annum, 3 1/3 billion a year to fiber every one of fifty million homes. Hell, there weren't even that many PC's yet, so I'm overshooting.

    For 3.33 bil a year, we could have replaced the phone system with a packet-switched digital model. Had video phones. Cable TV with thousands of channels. Video cameras on neighborhood networks, so that everyone could see what was going on around town. Cheap ways for bizes to connect with each other.

    The upkeep cost of the system would be in the billions every year, not to mention the cost of fibering new customers all the time. Obsolesence would be a major pain, but we'd get by by standardizing on newer equipment using old standards, and do Good Enough overall.

    Okay, so by today, we would all be connected by laser, running at rather interesting speeds. The equipment would become obsolete, but mostly at the neighborhood switch level and higher -- the customer setup would become commodity priced pretty quickly.

    What do we have instead?

    Okay, let's just say we have, um ten million cable modem subscribers now. Each pays $50 US a month.

    That's 500,000,000 mil a month. For 128, 256, whatever, bandwidth.

    That multiplied by 12 is $6,000,000,000 - six billion a year we shell out.

    And under that biz model, there is no profit incentive, ever, to fiber our homes.

    Think about it. Twiddle the numbers around. Don't forget businesses pay far higher prices for their connectivity as well. I left out the modem users and what THEY pay to the phone companies and ISPs.

    How much has the free market cost us, and what have we gotten for it?

    Shangri La: we had spent 3 billion or maybe more a year, in today's bucks, over a long period of time, to fiber everyone. Yay us.

    Too expensive? What about all that Dark Fiber laid down in the last few years? Why innanameofGawd is everything so expensive when it wasn't all that hard to drop that fiber?

    Reality: the mega-companies that are buying up and/or creating bandwidth are never going to fiber us, not at prices we can afford. And they also are becoming the same companies that additionally own the entertainment giants, so they want to monitor our net usage to make sure we don't steal their "property". They don't want us sharing bandwidth, or using too much bandwidth, because their profit models would be ruined.

    That's business? A small group of rather wealthy companies get it all their own way, and we gave up fiber for this? 'Cause biz was better and cheaper?

    I've watched the Great Experiment of the dereg of the telcos (now remerging), of the degreg of media, and I see that we are getting absolutely robbed, of not only our cash, but what the future should have been.

    Hell, not the future, the PRESENT.

    * Battle of the Network Stars was a really, really bad show in the '70's. Forget I mentioned it.
  • by danielgast (445926) on Wednesday November 28, 2001 @01:08AM (#2623287)
    Before you embarass yourself again, get a clue. The firewalling properties you perceive in NAT are an illusion, a side-effect of its primary function. NAT makes communication possible where it was not possible before. This is the opposite of what a firewall is designed to do, which is to make communication impossible where it would otherwise have been able to take place.

    Since you have gone to the trouble of saying this several times in this article, even going so far as to mock people, I feel it is worth a moment to point out why you are (effectively) wrong.

    Your definition of a firewall is very simplistic. Perhaps it is one of a beginning Computer Science student or a mid level manager / sales team member of a firewall product company. I encourage you to take a moment to revise it to more accurately reflect what firewalls do, and to open your mind somewhat to understand perspectives that are not yours. A better definition of a firewall may perhaps be "a piece of hardware or software designed to restrict communication between points as permitted by site policy and as configured by a site administrator".

    A firewall can do several things that really do not fit into your more narrow definition of a firewall. Some of these things might be gateways/proxies (SecureIIS [eeye.com] is a proxy of sorts that does exactly this), reactive ACLs (a'la Cisco), stateful packet analysis (chained to the appropriate logging or filtering facilities), yes, even completely rewriting the packet with different source or destination addresses (NAT) and or ports (sometimes abbreviated PAT) based on certain rules.

    Your arrogance and/or ignorance is blinding you to the fact that NAT is two sided, and that the relevant portion to "firewalling" is the portion you aren't considering. That is, the NAT device can not guess, based on a random incoming packet, where it should send that packet inside the "protected" area, therefore it is forced to discard it.

    A fair example of this, I believe, is my own home system, where I have exactly one machine for web browsing, and it is a laptop under the control of my employer - a fine bunch of people but not always on top of the patches for my machine. I have a basic OpenBSD system at home that serves no relevant purpose other than to simply provide me DHCP and ipf/ipnat services. By merely putting this NAT in line with my daily machine, I have been protected from the wave of Code Red and Nimda variants that pounded my cable modem a few months ago. In fact, thinking this through, its easy to come to the (perhaps incomplete) conclusion that all broadband users should be forced to be behind NAT for their own good. While that may be a bit extreme, I can say that NAT was the simplest way for me to provide effective firewalling for 100% of the problems that my machine has been at risk of. (excusing of course the onslaught of E-Mail worms which would have necessitated other forms of filtering had I been running Outlook and friends.)

    In conclusion, there is more to firewalling than simple packet filtering (or whatever "make communication impossible" is meant to imply).

    Enjoy your new clue.

    -Dan

    P.S. If your teriyaki glaze really looks like WD-40 please reply to this and I'll e-mail my mom and get her recipe from her and pass it along.

  • by pauldy (100083) on Wednesday November 28, 2001 @01:15AM (#2623313) Homepage
    It's the lazy companies and demanding shareholders etc... Companies are pressured to increase profits and it is a whole lot easier to sqeeze a bit more money out of a current user base than it is to do new and interesting things. Whats the incentive to provide value to the customer in a controled monopoly. I'm sure there is a lot of incentive for them to squeeze you out of every penny you have. So what should really get you is that there is nothing to prevent you from screwing you around because the officials we eect are not passing the laws required to prevent these sort of things from happening and creating competition in the marketplace.
  • by Pii (1955) <jedi@lig h t s a b e r . org> on Wednesday November 28, 2001 @10:39AM (#2624386) Journal
    Bzzt. No, you are wrong.

    If I am utilizing a NAT device (Cable/DSL Router Appliance, Linux Box, etc.) then I still only have one device on their network.

    The remaining devices are on my network, whether wired, or wireless...

    I am purchasing nothing more than bandwidth from these clowns. I don't use their mail hosts, nor their DNS servers, nor their "Free" 10 Megabytes of Web Hosting space. They are, to me, simply a utility.

    The bandwidth is like the water that runs through my faucets, or the electricity that flows from my wall sockets.

    I get Xkbps, which is capped by their equipment anyway, and I give them my money monthly.

    The infrastructure is there... They paid to install it. Every empty bit-space on the wire erodes their return on investment. What is in short suppy, arguably, is the IP address I utilize from their address space, so if I want an additional IP address, I don't have a problem paying for that (My Cable ISP offers additional IP addresses for $6.95/month).

    If we extend your assertion to the Power company, then you should be charged per wall socket used... Or to the water utility: Charged per faucet...

    In each of those cases, you are indirectly charged per electrical device, or per running faucet. Power and Water are metered. The Cable companies and DSL providers could (and some day, I believe will) do the same.

    What is preferable: Flat-rate medium bandwidth (640kbps down / 320kbps up), or Metered high bandwidth (1.5Mbps+ up and down)?

  • by StormyMonday (163372) on Wednesday November 28, 2001 @12:53PM (#2625063) Homepage
    What's the value of the stolen goods? Revenues associated with additional IP addresses, for one.

    The author is assuming that, if the users weren't "stealing" (rhetoric 101: apply perjorative terms to things you don't like) bandwidth, they would be buying it for whatever the seller cares to charge. Doesn't work that way. There are many things that I get free (the vast majority of Webpages I look at, for instance) that I wouldn't be willing to pay anything at all for.

    And certainly, no one had fully imagined that the resources shared by a single, wirelessly-networked residence would also be shared among other devices, at other residences, within 300 feet.

    This is simply a failure of market research. The cable providers assumed that the "typical" user would look at graphics-heavy news sites (cnn.com or suchlike) and send a bit of e-mail, and that would be it. When the "typical" household has Mom watching movie trailers, Dad looking at pr0n, and the kids swapping MP3s, it's no wonder that the pipe gets jammed. Instead of saying "Oops!" and figuring out how to deal with it, they want to go back and cram the usage pattern into their marketing model.

    Basically, the whole thing is a marketing error, compounded by abysmal ignorance of things Internet on the part of the cable providers. There are any number of technical fixes that don't involve dealing with anything behind the firewall. Unfortunately, this is "too much like work" for the cable providers.

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