Posted: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Last year we got involved in a project to bring high-speed broadband to a rural community in Hampshire as part of a number of trials to evaluate what technology could be used to serve a number of residents in a remote pocket of the country. Interestingly the villages of Little London and Smannell were a stone’s throw from a new housing development which was being served with a fibre to the premises (FTTP) product from Independent Fibre Networks Ltd making it a good location test with.
What was interesting with this project was the use of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) for Little London and a wireless solution for Smannell ensuring that all the houses and local businesses were served. The use of multiple technologies meant we were able to maximise the budget while ensuring nobody was left out. This along with our Service Exchange Platform meant that the solution also delivered choice to the residents so they had a number of ISPs to choose from to deliver internet their home.
While the final speeds still aren’t near FTTP they are faster than most urban areas and a huge increase over their previous ADSL service. This film was done as part of a look into broadband in the UK and was shown this month on BBC South.
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Posted: Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
The Internet connectivity market is an increasingly competitive place, in order to stay ahead of the pack Fluidata have always endeavoured to provide the best level of quality and service to our clients.
The provision of fully in-house tech-supported hardware is a key foundation in our ability to successfully support all the lines we deliver. Sourcing that hardware though can present more challenges than you might realise.
One problem that we are witnessing increasingly is faulty hardware. For all suppliers cost is important, however it appears that the exercise of sourcing hardware at the lowest price from around the globe can result in faulty, defected, insecure and at times counterfeit hardware finding its way into their distribution chains.
Another challenge faced by those distributing hardware is when manufacturers decide to end production of certain models in light of technical advances or just overall improvement. The issue that ISPs have is that at times these changes can happen very quickly and without much prior notice. This can create time pressure’s – as not only does new hardware need to be sourced, but also needs to be tested and potentially trouble-shot – before it is dispatched to the client’s site.
One way that ISPs overcome this is ensuring that they hold sufficient stock of all hardware to see them through the transition period. There are however some occasions that even with best efforts cannot be rectified easily. During a manufacturers audit month their production stops completely. The challenge that ISPs and suppliers face is that dependent on stock availability some will panic buy remaining quantities to sell onto private end users. This usually has a domino effect resulting in at least one product becoming unavailable throughout the UK and abroad between an eight and twelve week period. Such a situation can again encourage suppliers to source hardware that might not be of UK standards; resulting in some of the problems discussed earlier.
Through continued expansion and development Fluidata have asserted ourselves with manufacturers to enable us to receive in depth information regarding “end of life” models or low stock (on a national or international level). This enables us to offer a calm, high standard, precise procedure from manufacturer to client’s site while reducing these risks to a minimum. All stock is stringently tested in-house and accredited before dispatch to ensure the best quality of service is maintained throughout.
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Posted: Thursday, August 9th, 2012
There has been much discussion in the media of late surrounding the enforced ISP blockade of torrent and file sharing websites such as Pirate Bay. Following this, Torrent Freak have recently published what they claim to be a leaked crisis report from the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) suggesting the music industry is arming itself for a full blown assault on the online piracy industry.
The weapons in the IFPI arsenal are said to consist of the following quintet of offensive strategies – Take Down, Disruption, Investigation, Lobbying and Litigation. The report suggests the federation will refine the rulebook on ISP’s behaviour towards file sharing piracy websites (part of the ‘Take Down’ strategy). This will include forcing all ISP’s to block all infringing websites.
The report has already provoked strong reaction online – from music fans to those concerned about the openness of the internet. Putting aside any debate about the liberty of the internet or ethics over file sharing, from a purely logistical perspective such a strategy would be difficult to implement.
Even if you were to get all ISP’s on board (a tough task in itself as many are inherently against packet inspection and other such restrictions) it’s not as if there aren’t canny users out there capable of using proxy servers and VPN tunnelling to circumvent restrictions, likewise those canny users are not shy of sharing such information on the internet. As the internet continues to grow day by day, as IPv6 turn billions of IPv4 addresses into more addresses than there are grains sand in the world, as using the internet becomes less learned and more intuitive with the next generation and the generation after that, controlling the internet becomes more difficult. Even in China, where Internet regulation is as stringent as anywhere in the world, users still find ways to negotiate restrictions.
Will any organisation, industry, state or country ever truly prevail over the openness of the internet? Or will the organism that is the internet continue to evolve to always be one that step ahead?
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Posted: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
The House of Commons debated the Defamation Bill yesterday; discussing wide sweeping reforms of the libel laws that could see internet service providers (ISPs) given greater protection from being sued in return for helping to identify so-called ‘internet trolls’.
Claimants will have to show they have suffered serious harm to their reputations, or are likely to do so, before they can take a defamation case forward.
As things stand, website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything that appears on their sites, even though the content is often determined by users. Many operators of forums for instance, do have admin staff who are there to determine what could be deemed inappropriate and remove material accordingly. But, in the case of Twitter is that even viable?
The quid pro quo put forward by the government is you identify the individual/s and we prosecute them. Forgive me, but am I alone in thinking the Government are being somewhat naive? What happens in the case that someone masks their identity by using proxy? The ramifications are similar to ones I raised one of my previous articles.
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Posted: Friday, January 6th, 2012
Ok, so I live out in the country and I’m in the privileged position of getting almost 3Mb/s on my ADSL line at home.
But is speed the only problem that rural communities (and councils) face? I’m not convinced, yes it takes me an age (relatively) to download updates and programs but I can equally go for a walk (or the pub) whilst I wait for whatever Microsoft update I need.
But streaming, that’s where my problems lies, or should I say, any need for constant low latency connectivity to a server, now most people will think why is that important? Let me explain: The reason we all need more speed is for the user experience at home or in the office. Part of that user experience is how quickly can I get a piece of data from over there, to me at my computer. But if you are needing a constant stream of data say of video and sound, say around the 27th of July this year, and you keep dropping packets you’re not going to be a happy user.
I’m pointing out the problem of a recreational user but what if the your talking about a home user or small office using Citrix or a thin client solution, this is where the problem often gets very worrying. For those of you who don’t know, as soon as a packet is dropped on a Citrix session, the client software has a bit of a moment and decides it needs to check the connection to the central server, meaning the user hopes that they saved the last piece of work they were doing and logs back on. This is often the problem of latency and packet loss, unfortunately for the end user and ISP there is a whole host of things that can cause this. From dodgy old routing equipment (on the ISP’s core network) to the end user not having a good enough CPE.
So are there solutions to this issue? Well the short answer is “yes” , however the issues are often specific to each end user due to the amount of things that can affect the latency. If you are having problems and you don’t use our connections, come have a chat with one of our consultants who should be able to help.
On a final point (not an intentionally smug way, but…) I was lucky enough to upgrade my line at home to a BURST connection last year, so high latency and packet loss can’t be my excuse as to why I’m so rubbish at Battlefield 3!
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Posted: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Bringing connectivity to rural homes and businesses has received quite a lot of press recently as the government gears up for a significant investment into new last mile networks. This should help to stimulate local communities and make low density populations more accessible.
Part of the issue however, with this kind of government investment, is trying to give consumers a choice of provider. The cost for ISPs to connect to these networks can be significant in terms of national backbone connectivity and development costs. We have been working on this issue for the past year and will soon be announcing a new joint venture to solve this issue. By providing ISPs with one network with which to connect, Fluidata will then connect to all the rural networks along with the regular national providers. This will dramatically cut costs, improve take up and deliver ISPs with a wide portfolio of products and services. This will provide a network unique in terms of reach and choice of technology.
This article at Telecoms.com gives further details and insight into the problem and Fluidata’s solution.
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Posted: Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Network Neutrality – the principle that internet users can access any web content/application they choose without restrictions or limitations imposed by the ISP’s or government, has been a hotly debated topic over the last 18 months.
There are two opposing views on network neutrality. Those against ‘deregulators’ have traditionally been incumbent telecom companies – keen to charge website operators and application manufacturers for smooth access and direct users to favoured content. On the other hand there are the ‘open-ists’ who are in favour of executing a neutral system. Two companies who strongly uphold the principle of net neutrality are Microsoft and Google. Microsoft make the applications that sit outside of the core network, therefore they want transparency, end to end connection, without any interference. Google don’t want the ISP’s to have the control and have the ability to direct users to certain searches.
Internationally we are witnessing governments taking different approaches to the issue. In June 2010, the National Congress of Chile became the first country in the world to preserve network neutrality. More recently, in June 2011, the majority of the Dutch parliament voted for new net neutrality laws which prohibit the blocking of internet services or the manipulation of internet traffic. However, both Spain and the US seem to be moving away from implementing neutrality laws; Telefonica’s CEO has expressed that his company may charge Google and other search engines for the use of the ISP’s network. In the US, although the government have banned ISP’s from blocking certain websites, the ISP’s are still charging web operators higher prices for faster access. The principle of network neutrality is infringed most markedly in authoritarian states – where web traffic is subjected to the same suppressive measures as more traditional forms of media. A recent example of this infringement can be found in The Egyptian Revolution – where the government attempted to shut down social media sites altogether.
Domestically, the issue of network neutrality is rising in prominence as a result of network congestion. With internet in the UK used increasingly for voice and video services, as well as other rich content, high bandwidth applications – we create what we might term ‘internet traffic jams’, which certain operators alleviate by prioritising some traffic over others, i.e slow lane/fast lane.
Network Neutrality is as a fascinating, multi-tenanted issue. Arguments for and against involve consideration of number issues, from the technical and logistical to the economic and political. Fluidata is proud to operate as a Net Neutral company, but we believe it’s unlikely this will be adopted throughout the UK, as Telco’s would rather manipulate traffic and compromise performance than charge consumers more for the use of unrestricted access.
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Posted: Monday, May 23rd, 2011
A recent survey in ISP review showed that 35.3% of UK businesses feel discouraged from switching ISP’s because they fear of potential downtime. This is understandable when looking at August 2010’s survey in ‘Which’ magazine that showed nearly half of the 10,000 asked had issues or failed migrations.
This kind of issue can cause loss of productivity and profit for any business and causes the IT manager undue stress. With the idea of changing being for an easier life, would anyone want to take the risk of looking like the bad guy when the business grinds to an unprecedented halt?
This perhaps would be worth taking, yet with many ISP’s enforcing a cancellation charge you are potentially risking a day’s downtime and business loss, added hours reconfiguring the network and potential bad face in the next business meeting with the added bonus of having to pay for the privilege.
This fear of changing over is inherent throughout the industry, with internet services being so integral to business practice that the chance of disruption leaves many organisations sticking to their original supplier despite being overcharged or underperformed. Personally I believe that being happy with the service you receive should be the reason one chooses to stay with their supplier not the fear of charges and undue stress. For this reason I have looked into what has caused stress with customers that have moved over to us.
The first important factor to take into consideration is lead times when moving a line or changing ISP’s. If uptime is integral, is a migration the best option? Perhaps installing another line alongside your current one for a few days would help prevent against downtime and avoid having an angry workforce unable to access facebook in their lunch hour.
With regards to charges, in an ideal world no provider would charge if a customer is out of contract and wished to move, which is something that Ofcom is working closely on at present. To mitigate against this it is always recommended to read not only how the service is due to perform, but how if you ever needed to, you’d be able to move on. If a company is not up front about how you move away from them, perhaps questions should arise as to why they make it so difficult.
In summary, there are a number of potential downfalls of changing ISP, however the majority of these can be avoided by asking the right questions and planning in advance. For example, does your new service provider offer 24/7 support to help out at the moment your connection transfers? Do they offer the capability to expedite should you require service before you expected? Have you considered buying a handful of 3G dongles if all else fails? By given thought to these factors your next connectivity move need not have to be so worrying.
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Posted: Thursday, April 21st, 2011
In January 2011 Ofcom proposed charge controls for those rural areas in Britain which are not served by wholesale competition. This is to ensure better value connectivity for areas such as Northumberland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the South West of England, Norfolk, Yorkshire, Cumbria and parts of Scotland.
Ofcom proposed significant reductions in the prices that BT Wholesale can charge ISPs in those parts of the country where it is the sole provider of wholesale broadband services. Ofcom has proposed a reduction of between 10.75 per cent and 14.75 per cent below inflation.
The thought is that ISPs, who will now benefit from the lower wholesale prices, should be able to buy more capacity for their customers and lower their retail prices giving the end user better value connectivity.
Hence by enforcing charge controls, ISPs would be able to allocate more bandwidth per customer as a result, which could benefit nearly 3 million home and business consumers. This could narrow the difference between prices that businesses in rural and urban areas are paying for Internet services and perhaps give those businesses in rural areas a chance to increase productivity, and overall make Britain more competitive compared to other European countries.
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Posted: Monday, July 26th, 2010
When it comes to obtaining the right internet line for your needs, the speed of the connection is fundamental in the decision making process.
Although any competent IT manager will not order a line offering 8 Mb/s download when in reality their company needs at least 12 Mb/s, many make misjudgements when faced with the cloudy issue of ‘up to’ speeds. Dissatisfaction felt by consumers and business at not receiving the speed of connection they hoped for, has led to OFCOM threatening tougher action on ISP’s who don’t fulfil their code of practice and precipitated a review into providers’ willingness to disclose estimate speeds.
When working with a organisation to find a solution that best fits their objectives, it is the responsibility of each individual account manager to not only asses the services available, but also the external conditions that could affect the delivery of the service i.e the distance from site to exchange and if available, information that may hint at the quality of the copper in the area (such as performance of existing lines). OFCOM’s intentions to enact measures that help ensure this process is undertaken are admirable, but emphasis on speed estimates could prove foolhardy.
Although it is relatively easy to get an estimated line distance, there is no way of knowing 100% what speeds an individual customer will receive. If only a post code is supplied for example, one can only work out the straight line distance from the exchange and not take into account the path the copper will take. In addition to this, the infrastructure in the UK is by all means antiquated and so the true quality of the copper is never fully known. In this way anomalies will occur, with some sites exceeding expectations whilst inexplicably others will fall short of the predicted level of service.
To introduce penalties on such an ambiguous area may be controversial. This does not however suggest that providers should not actively work to meet client expectation. Although there is limited control over the line quality and length to a site, providers can ensure that every other factor is well covered. By guaranteeing low contention ratios and adding resiliency to their network, internet providers can make sure that clients get maximum throughput and performance from the line and the best speeds achievable at their location. Shorter contract lengths, easy upgrade paths, or even migrations to different technologies or network carriers which some ISPs offer; also afford clients flexibility should a line fail to meet expectations.
For an ISP to neglect to mention an estimate speed early in the quotation process may not necessarily be deliberately misleading to a business. In many ways estimates can actually cloud an IT manager’s judgement – pinning their hopes on a particular speed, when appreciation of all the determining factors and eventualities helps set expectations better. OFCOM would be better placed working to ensure providers work transparently and consultatively and also that clients exercise proper due diligence.
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