Internet User’s Bill of Rights


This is the second article in our series. Our first was a Bill of Rights dictating the etiquette of software updates. We continue with a proposed Bill of Rights for consumers with respect to their Internet service.

1) Providers must divulge the contention ratio of their service.

At the core of all Internet service is a balancing act between the number of people that are sharing a resource and how much of that resource is available.

For example, a typical provider starts out with a big pipe of Internet access that is shared via exchange points with other large providers. They then subdivide this access out to their customers in ever smaller chunks — perhaps starting with a gigabit exchange point and then narrowing down to a 10 megabit local pipe that is shared with customers across a subdivision or area of town.

The speed you, the customer, can attain is limited to how many people might be sharing that 10 megabit local pipe at any one time. If you are promised one megabit service, it is likely that your provider would have you share your trunk with more than 10 subscribers and take advantage of the natural usage behavior, which assumes that not all users are active at one time.

The exact contention ratio will vary widely from area to area, but from experience, your provider will want to maximize the number of subscribers who can share the pipe, while minimizing service complaints due to a slow network. In some cases, I have seen as many as 1,000 subscribers sharing 10 megabits. This is a bit extreme, but even with a ratio as high as this, subscribers will average much faster speeds when compared to dial up.

2) Service speeds should be based on the amount of bandwidth available at the providers exchange point and NOT the last mile.

Even if your neighborhood (last mile) link remains clear, your provider’s connection can become saturated at its exchange point. The Internet is made up of different provider networks and backbones. If you send an e-mail to a friend who receives service from a company other than your provider, then your ISP must send that data on to another network at an exchange point. The speed of an exchange point is not infinite, but is dictated by the type of switching equipment. If the exchange point traffic exceeds the capacity of the switch or receiving carrier, then traffic will slow.

3) No preferential treatment to speed test sites.

It is possible for an ISP to give preferential treatment to individual speed test sites. Providers have all sorts of tools at their disposal to allow and disallow certain kinds of traffic. There should never be any preferential treatment to a speed test site.

4) No deliberate re-routing of traffic.

Another common tactic to save resources at the exchange points of a provider is to re-route file-sharing requests to stay within their network. For example, if you were using a common file-sharing application such as BitTorrent, and you were looking some non-copyrighted material, it would be in your best interest to contact resources all over the world to ensure the fastest download.

However, if your provider can keep you on their network, they can avoid clogging their exchange points. Since companies keep tabs on how much traffic they exchange in a balance sheet, making up for surpluses with cash, it is in their interest to keep traffic confined to their network, if possible.

5) Clearly disclose any time of day bandwidth restrictions.

The ability to increase bandwidth for a short period of time and then slow you down if you persist at downloading is another trick ISPs can use. Sometimes they call this burst speed, which can mean speeds being increased up to five megabits, and they make this sort of behavior look like a consumer benefit. Perhaps Internet usage will seem a bit faster, but it is really a marketing tool that allows ISPs to advertise higher connection speeds – even though these speeds can be sporadic and short-lived.

For example, you may only be able to attain five megabits at 12:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, or some other random unknown times. Your provider is likely just letting users have access to higher speeds at times of low usage. On the other hand, during busier times of day, it is rare that these higher speeds will be available.

There is now a consortium called M-Lab which has put together a sophisticated speed test site designed to give specific details on what your ISP is doing to your connection. See the article below for more information.

Related article Ten things your internet provider does not want you to know.

Related article On line shoppers bill of rights

APconnections Announces 50-Percent-Off Sale of New NetEqualizer-Lite


Beginning May 26, all customers purchasing a full size NetEqualizer 2000/3000 model will qualify for a 50-percent discount on the NetEqualizer-Lite. In addition, the offer will be extended to all existing NetEqualizer users who will also be entitled to the 50-percent discount on their first NetEqualizer-Lite purchase. This offer is valid until June 30, 2009. Limit two per customer.

As well as offering users the same services available through previously released NetEqualizer models, the NetEqualizer-Lite is Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), handling up to 10 megabits of traffic and 200 users. Furthermore, the NetEqualizer-Lite also serves to solve hidden node issues without customers having to change their existing access points.*

Although the core technology behind the NetEqualizer has not changed, with the latest release price point, many ISPs and businesses are deploying the NetEqualizer-Lite closer to end users, often directly behind congested access points.

After just over a month in the field, NetEqualizer-Lite users are reporting they can now easily increase Internet subscribers by 30 to 50 percent at once congested towers and AP sites. For example, a customer with an 802.11b radio now has 100 subscribers on his network and is still running smoothly. In the past, this customer’s norm for saturation stood at roughly 20 users, but he is now enjoying a 500-percent increase after installing the NetEqualizer-Lite. This is translating into both higher revenues and a more satisfied customer base.

The NetEqualizer-Lite lists at $1499. In addition to the 50-percent discount, we are also currently offering volume discounts. Pricing information on all other NetEqualizer models is available online at http://www.netequalizer.com. For more information, please contact APconnections at 1-800-918-2763 or admin@apconnections.net.

*Hidden nodes are a problem frequently encountered by commercial wireless operators that has previously been solved using APconnections’ AirEqualizer technology. The NetEqualizer-Lite’s capability to offer similar solutions is simply one of the multiple benefits of the technology for administrators of networks of many different types and sizes.

New Asymmetric Shaping Option Augments NetEqualizer-Lite


We currently have a new release in beta testing that allows for equalizing on an asymmetric link. As is the case with all of our equalizing products, this release will allow users to more efficiently utilize their bandwidth, thus optimizing network performance. This will be especially ideal for users of our recently released NetEqualizer-Lite.

Many wireless access points have a limit on the total amount of bandwidth they can transmit in both directions. This is because only one direction can be talking at a time. Unlike wired networks, where a 10-meg link typically means you can have 10 megs UP and 10 megs going the other direction simultaneously, in  a wireless network you can only have 10 megabits total at any one time.  So, if you had 7 megabits coming in, you could only have 3 megabits going out. These limits are a hard saturation point.

In the past, it was necessary to create separate settings for both the up and down stream. With the new NetEqualizer release, you can simply tell the NetEqualizer that you have an asymmetric 10-megabit link, and congestion control will automatically kick in for both streams,  alleviating bottlenecks more efficiently and keeping your network running smoothly.

For more information on APconnections’ equalizing technology, click here.

NetEqualizer-Lite Revolutionizing WISP Performance


After just over a month in the field, NetEqualizer-Lite users are reporting they can now easily increase Internet subscribers by 30 to 50 percent at once congested towers and access point (AP) sites. For example, a customer with an 802.11 B radio now has 100 subscribers on his network and is still running smoothly. In the past, this customer’s norm for saturation stood at roughly 20 users, but he is now enjoying a 500-percent increase after installing the NetEqualizer-Lite. This is translating into both higher revenues and a more satisfied customer base.

Although the core technology behind the NetEqualizer has not changed, with the latest release price point, many users are deploying the NetEqualizer-Lite closer to customers or just behind their congested wireless access points. Customer satisfaction with the new release has been consistent across the board, with users voicing their reviews to us directly as well as online. One user on DSLReports.com commented:

“The Netequalizer has resulted in dramatically improved service to our customers….Bottom line to this is that we can deliver significantly more data through the same AP. The customers hitting web pages, checking e-mail, etc. virtually always see full bandwidth, and the hogs don’t impact these customers. Even the hogs see better performance” (dslreports.com).

In addition to offering users the same services available through previously released NetEqualizer models, the NetEqualizer-Lite is Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), handling up to 10 megabits of traffic and 200 users. Furthermore, the NetEqualizer-Lite also serves to solve hidden node issues without customers having to change their existing APs.*

The NetEqualizer-Lite lists at $1499, but we are currently offering volume discounts. Please contact us for more information at 1-800-918-2763 or admin@apconnections.net.

*Hidden nodes are a problem frequently encountered by commercial wireless operators that has previously been solved using APconnections’ AirEqualizer technology. The NetEqualizer-Lite’s capability to offer similar solutions is simply one of the multiple benefits of the technology for administrators of networks of many different types and sizes.

APconnections Releases NetEqualizer for Small Business and WISP Market


LAFAYETTE, Colo., April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- APconnections (http://www.netequalizer.com),
a leading supplier of plug-and-play bandwidth shaping products,
today announced the release of its newest NetEqualizer model,
developed specifically with WISPs and small business users in mind.

This newest NetEqualizer release easily handles up to 10 megabits of traffic and up to 100 users, allowing room for expansion for growing demand. Furthermore, in addition to offering all standard NetEqualizer features, this smaller model will be Power over Ethernet, providing administrators greater flexibility in placing the unit within their network.

The model was developed to meet a growing demand both for an affordable traffic shaping device to help small businesses run VoIP concurrent with data traffic over their Internet link as well as a need for a shaping unit with PoE for the WISP market.

In a large wireless network, congestion often occurs at tower locations. However, with a low-cost PoE version of the NetEqualizer, wireless providers can now afford to have advanced bandwidth control at or near their access distribution points.

“About half of wireless network slowness comes from p2p (Bit Torrent) and video users overloading the access points,” said Joe D’Esopo, vice president of business development at APconnections. “We have had great success with our NE2000 series, but the price point of $2,500 was a bit too high to duplicate all over the network.”

For a small- or medium-sized office with a hosted VoIP PBX solution, the NetEqualizer is one of the few products on the market that can provide QoS for VoIP over an Internet link. And now, with volume pricing approaching $1,000, the NetEqualizer will help revolutionize the way offices use their Internet connection.

Pricing for the new model will be $1,200 for existing NetEqualizer users and $1,499 for non-customers purchasing their first unit. However, the price for subsequent units will be $1,200 for users and nonusers alike.

The NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology gives priority to latency sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. It does it all dynamically and automatically, improving on other available bandwidth shaping technology. It controls network flow for the best WAN optimization.

APconnections is a privately held company founded in 2003 and is based in Lafayette, Colorado.

Full Article

Finally a Bandwidth Control appliance for under $1500


Lafayette Colorado April 9th 2009

APconnections today Announced a small business bandwidth control device that  lists at $1499. (for single unit orders)

This new offer  handles up to 10 megabits and 100 users with room to spare for some expansion. It comes complete with all the standard features of the NetEqualizer, but in a smaller  low power format  with Power over Ethernet.

Demand for this new offer came from two sources

1) There was huge demand for an affordable traffic shaping device to  help small business run their VOIP concurrent with their data traffic over their internet link.

2) There was also a need  for a low end unit, with POE,  for the WISP market .

In  a large wireless network, congestion often occurs at tower locations.  With a low cost POE version of the NetEqualizer,  wireless providers can  now afford to have advanced bandwidth control at or near their Access distribution points.

According to Joe DeSopo from NetEqualizer, “About half of wireless network slowness comes from p2p (bittorrent)  and video users overloading the access points. We have had great success with our  NE2000 series  but the price point of $2500 was a bit too high to duplicate all over the network.”

For a small or medium sized office with a hosted VOIP PBX solution the NetEqualizer works like a genie in a bottle. It is one of the few products on the market that can provide QOS for voip over an Internet link. And now, with volume pricing approaching $1000,  it will help revolutions the way offices use their Internet connection.

The NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology gives priority to latency-sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. It does it all dynamically and automatically, improving on other available bandwidth shaping technology. It controls network flow for the best WAN optimization.

APconnections is a privately held company founded in 2003 and is based in Lafayette, Colorado.

Related Articles

Is Your ISP Throttling Your Bandwidth?


Editor’s  Note: With all the recent media coverage about ISPs giving preferential treatment to VOIP, and the controversy over Net Neutrality, we thought it might be interesting to revisit this original article Art published in PC Magazine back in 2007.

Update August 2010 the FCC is not being fooled anymore.

Analysis: The White Lies ISPs Tell About Broadband Speeds

By Art Reisman, CTO, APconnections (www.netequalizer.com)

In a recent PC Magazine article, writer Jeremy Kaplan did a fantastic job of exposing the true Internet access speeds of the large consumer providers.

He did this by creating a speed test that measured the throughput of continuous access to popular Web sites like Google, Expedia, and many others. Until this report was published, the common metric for comparing ISPs was through the use of the numerous Internet speed test sites available online.

The problem with this validation method was that it could not simulate real speeds encountered when doing typical Web surfing and downloading operations. Plus, ISPs can tamper with the results of speed tests — more on this later.

When I saw the results of PC Magazine’s testing, I was a bit relieved to see that the actual speeds of large providers was somewhere between 150 Kbit/s and 200 Kbit/s. This is a far cry from the two, three or even four megabit download speeds frequently hyped in ISP marketing literature.

These slower results were more in line with what I have experienced from my home connection, even though online Internet speed tests always show results close, if not right on, the advertised three megabits per second. There are many factors that dictate your actual Internet speed, and there are also quite a few tricks that can be used to create the illusion of a faster connection.

Before I continue, I should confess that I make my living by helping ISPs stretch their bandwidth among their users. In doing this, I always encourage all parties to be honest with their customers, and in most cases providers are. If you read the fine print in your service contract, you will see disclaimers stating that “actual Internet speeds may vary”, or something to that effect. Such disclaimers are not an attempt to deceive, but rather a simple reflection of reality.

Guaranteeing a fixed-rate speed to any location on the Internet is not possible, nor was the Internet ever meant to be such a conduit. It has always been a best-effort mechanism. I must also confess that I generally only work with smaller ISPs. The larger companies have their own internal network staff, and hence I have no specific knowledge of how they deal with oversold conditions, if they deliberately oversell, and, if so, by how much. Common business sense leads me to believe they must oversell to some extent in order to be profitable. But, again, this isn’t something I can prove.

Editors update Sept 2009: Since this article was written many larger providers have come clean.

A Matter of Expectations

How would you feel if you pumped a gallon of gas only to find out that the service station’s meter was off by 10 percent in its favor? Obviously you would want the owners exposed immediately and demand a refund, and possibly even lodge a criminal complaint against the station. So, why does the consumer tolerate such shenanigans with their ISP?

Put simply, it’s a matter of expectations.

ISPs know that new and existing customers are largely comparing their Internet-speed experiences to dial-up connections, which often barely sustain 28 Kbit/s. So, even at 150 Kbits/s, customers are getting a seven-fold increase in speed, which is like the difference between flying in a jet and driving your car. With the baseline established by dial-up being so slow, most ISPs really don’t need to deliver a true sustained three megabits to be successful.

As a consumer, reliable information is the key to making good decisions in the marketplace. Below are some important questions you may want to ask your provider about their connection speeds. It is unlikely the sales rep will know the answers, or even have access to them, but perhaps over time, with some insistence, details will be made available.

Five Questions to Ask Your ISP

1.) What is the contention ratio in my neighborhood?

At the core of all Internet service is a balancing act between the number of people who are sharing a resource and how much of that resource is available.

For example, a typical provider starts out with a big pipe of Internet access that is shared via exchange points with other large providers. They then subdivide this access out to their customers in ever smaller chunks — perhaps starting with a gigabit exchange point and then narrowing down to a 10 megabit local pipe that is shared with customers across a subdivision or area of town.

The speed you, the customer, can attain is limited to how many people might be sharing that 10 megabit local pipe at any one time. If you are promised one megabit service, it is likely that your provider would have you share your trunk with more than 10 subscribers and take advantage of the natural usage behavior, which assumes that not all users are active at one time.

The exact contention ratio will vary widely from area to area, but from experience, your provider will want to maximize the number of subscribers who can share the pipe, while minimizing service complaints due to a slow network. In some cases, I have seen as many as 1,000 subscribers sharing 10 megabits. This is a bit extreme, but even with a ratio as high as this, subscribers will average much faster speeds when compared to dial-up.

2.) Does your ISP’s exchange point with other providers get saturated?

Even if your neighborhood link remains clear, your provider’s connection can become saturated at its exchange point. The Internet is made up of different provider networks and backbones. If you send an e-mail to a friend who receives service from a company other than your provider, then your ISP must send that data on to another network at an exchange point. The speed of an exchange point is not infinite, but is dictated by the type of switching equipment. If the exchange point traffic exceeds the capacity of the switch or receiving carrier, then traffic will slow.

3.) Does your provider give preferential treatment to speed test sites?

As we alluded to earlier, it is possible for an ISP to give preferential treatment to individual speed test sites. Providers have all sorts of tools at their disposal to allow and disallow certain kinds of traffic. It seems rather odd to me that in the previously cited PC Magazine test, which used highly recognized Web sites, the speed results were consistently well under advertised connection speeds. One explanation for this is that providers give full speed only when going to common speed test Web sites.

4.) Are file-sharing queries confined to your provider network?

Another common tactic to save resources at the exchange points of a provider is to re-route file-sharing requests to stay within their network. For example, if you were using a common file-sharing application such as BitTorrent, and you were looking some non-copyrighted material, it would be in your best interest to contact resources all over the world to ensure the fastest download.

However, if your provider can keep you on their network, they can avoid clogging their exchange points. Since companies keep tabs on how much traffic they exchange in a balance sheet, making up for surpluses with cash, it is in their interest to keep traffic confined to their network, if possible.

5.) Does your provider perform any usage-based throttling?

The ability to increase bandwidth for a short period of time and then slow you down if you persist at downloading is another trick ISPs can use. Sometimes they call this burst speed, which can mean speeds being increased up to five megabits, and they make this sort of behavior look like a consumer benefit. Perhaps Internet usage will seem a bit faster, but it is really a marketing tool that allows ISPs to advertise higher connection speeds – even though these speeds can be sporadic and short-lived.

For example, you may only be able to attain five megabits at 12:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, or some other random unknown times. Your provider is likely just letting users have access to higher speeds at times of low usage. On the other hand, during busier times of day, it is rare that these higher speeds will be available.

In writing this article, my intention was not to create a conspiracy theory about unscrupulous providers. Any market with two or more choices ensures that the consumer will benefit. Before you ask for a Congressional investigation, keep in mind that ISPs’ marketing tactics are no different from those of other industries, meaning they will generally cite best-case scenarios when promoting their products. Federal regulation would only thwart the very spirit of the Internet, which, as said before, has always been a best-effort infrastructure.

But, with the information above, it is your job as a consumer to comparison shop and seek answers. Your choices are what drive the market and asking questions such as these are what will point ISPs in the right direction.

Since we first published this article, Google and others have been trying to educate consumers on Net Neutrality. There is now a consortium called M-Lab which has put together a sophisticated speed test site designed to give specific details on what your ISP is doing to your connection. See the article below for more information.

Related article Ten things your internet provider does not want you to know.

Created by APconnections, the NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology dynamically and automatically gives priority to latency sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. Click here for a full price list.

%d bloggers like this: