Opera the web browser people are experimenting with a server side compression technology version of their browser which speeds up web browsing for Internet users with a slow Internet connection. Dial-up, 3G or throttled broadband web browsing speeds can be speeded up by compressing the data via a server doing just this. Traditionally this has been a paid for service that sits in between the computer and its Internet service provider as a third party paid for service (although AOL’s portal software used to compress on-line images a bit more many years ago when more of us had dial-up connections).
The Opera 10 Turbo preview can be downloaded by those who may find this technology of benefit. The compression ‘turbo’ mode can be toggled on and off easily.
Typically it’s pictures which account for a lot of the high data consumption of a web page (excluding streaming video and audio of course) and the effect of compressing what are usually compressed jpg’s anyway is noticeable as the following two examples show.The extra compressed picture via the turbo mode shown on the right shows more compression artifacts and this is the usual compromise that then enables web pages to load faster without having to turn off image loading altogether (which has always been possible in Opera).
Ofcom have published a voluntary code that it hopes the UK broadband Internet providers will adopt.
These include being transparent with prospective customers over the actual speeds that are likely to be achievable at their location, being more proactive in resolving technical difficulties (best of luck on that one – bet that’ll be via a premium rate number), offering customers the option of downgrading to a lower sped package should desired speeds not be achievable and providing clear information on usage limits and informing them if and when that limit has been reached.
As somebody sometimes called up to resolve broadband connectivity issues after someone has already chosen an ISP and often has to talk with the ISP to resolve setup issues and which are often met with a somewhat ‘don’t want to know’ attitude on first contact until you can prove a level of technical knowledge that steps you up the support line chain of command it’ll be interesting to see how many ISP’s adopt the voluntary code.
No mention in the voluntary code about dubious selling tactics like 18 month tie in contracts and resetting contract terms when having to downgrade or upgrade speed packages thus locking unhappy customers into poorly performing packages, often when they were often unaware that they were agreeing to these terms and conditions.
I needn’t have got too worked up about the BBC’s iPlayer not being available for Mac despite it’s retro Apple-like name as it looks like cross platform porting and availability is the least of users worries as ISP’s start to foam at the mouth over its potential increase in use and how they may be able to restrict or better still, charge for use of the iPlayer application.
Throttling Awkward Innovation
The danger is that as more and more ISP’s use bandwidth throttling and shaping to control high bandwidth activities they will throttle the very technologies that require a fast Internet connection (hurray say the ISP’s and follow up with a convoluted legalise that explains that when they said ‘Unlimited Internet’ , they meant ‘always on’, not ‘Unlimited Use’). The ISP’s would love to charge you and I extra for using these technologies but competition may prevent that model from being employed.
But they knew it was coming?
The ISP’s were consulted during the development of the BBC iPlayer and knew that Ofcom would expect them to invest more money in their infrastructure to cope accordingly but currently 61% of ISP’s still delivering via ADSL are using BT’s wholesale IP stream instead of their own Local Loop Unbundled (LLU) equipment. And don’t think that cable is up for the iPlayer challenge as Virgin Media would rather its customers accessed iPlayer content through its TV and on demand options than crippling their Internet service. Certainly the Beeb are now exploring as many delivery channels as possible (cable, MySpace, Beebo, YouTube) and may find their Internet delivery plans somewhat stillborn by the actions of many ISP’s.
First NTL tries to bury their chequered past and poor customer service record by spending £25 million re branding as Virgin Media together with throwing £10 million extra in to improve customer service. Then Virgin runs into trouble as the rivalry between the Murdoch Sky TV empire and Richard Branson resulted in several Sky channels being removed from Virgin’s cable service in a spat over carrier fees.
Now there are tentative signs of an approach to buy Virgin Media by the American private equity group Carlyle.
On paper Virgin media should be a lucrative cash cow of a business with its fingers thrust into many media pies however the UK’s competitive market and continued customer and shareholder dissatisfaction at the Sky debacle with many Virgin customers marching off to Sky (something Sky were probably very keen on achieving at the outset of the talks with Virgin) have left the cable TV,telecommunications and Internet company looking ripe for a take over.
A year ago a private equity approach would have been out of the question for the management of Virgin Media and they did in fact reject offers of around £10 billion at that time .
Currently despite a debt of £6 billion the company is likely to be valued at around £11.5 billion.
It would seem that Virgin Media’s bandwidth throttling or ‘shaping’ is here and it’s making it hard for me to do very much. I’m not using torrents but I am listening to internet radio sparingly and uploading video content to my own space (no larger than 50Mb per day on average)plus by usual blogging and email, surfing. Over the past week or so I’ve experienced outages during the day where all I can access are a few instant messaging services and no web page or email access (this has been weekdays). My speeds this weekend have been around 1.2 Mb download with a crippling 3K/s upload speed (I kid you not!).
I currently subscribe to their L package and just cannot see how I’ve gone over the new 750Mb daily download throttling figure. I haven’t even been on YouTube. Following several years of good service it now seems that the rebranded NTL may feel themselves able to rip off their customers to a greater degree now that they hide behind the Virgin branding. They may well just drag whatever good will the brand had down and will soon be looking to re-re brand again once they’ve trashed that.Pity. Especially as the pointless hell of trying to contact customer services is clearly drawing very near for me. I may need chemical help.
I’m running a net monitor to track my usage and to see if there’s any correlation to when throttling happens.
My actual broadband test results (best result)For Sun 3rd June (throttling in action?)
I’ve had semi outtage this morning with our Internet connection and quite odd it was too. It’s rare to have an outtage but once in a blue moon it happens as someone falls on a server somewhere down the line. It all fell apart slowly. First my gmail access went, then googletalk followed by a web slow down and then the phones. In the end I was only left with ICQ/AIM connectivity and some web pages so figured it was either a ports issue or screwey dns resolution problem or just planned outtage.Then I got the phones back but it was a good couple of hours before web access was restored. I could ping the isp’s servers so presumed it was a problem at the isp.
One of the few websites I could access was iGoogle which even loaded all the modules and RSS feeds and together with netvibes were the only websites with access. I noticed that the personalised cutesy theme I’d chosen for Google had now changed from the croquet scene to one of eating a picnic lunch thus:
How sickeningly twee. Anyway all back to zippy normality so presume it was maintenance or some kind of planned outtage.Such is life.