Campaigning for better Connectivity and Universal Broadband Access!

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Minimum performance threshold for Connectivity services.
As of September 2009,  there were 650m devices categorised as internet hosts,  with 1.7bn internet users worldwide. It is also estimated that the volume of data transferred will also quadruple into an exflood by 2012.  Exaflood looks to be about 20Gbytes a month of downloading per user connected.   It would be somewhat tricky to expect anyone to be accountable for the performance of the bits flowing between all the users of what we call the internet.  However it is indeed within our rights,  if not essential to seek minimium performance guarantees from our local connectivity providers  which will enable us to get even more from what is truly  a great utility.
The following are proposed minimum operational performance parameters needed to define connectivity, that is the service between your router (or dongle) in you home and the edge and back of the Internet. The numbers here refer to communication between any two Broadband connections in the UK. It can be applied to a fixed or mobile/wirless connections. These are derived from the observable properties of today's connections. By formalising these properties into our terms and conditions we can begin to use our high speed connectivity to deliver predictable end user experiences for multiple key services. This does not impact on downloads speeds but permits you to do more with your broadband connection. 
Pre-Next Generation Fund

Support a bi-directional load of a minimum 500Kbps (or whatever you can get), or 90% of the available line speed.  The FCC (USA) are using a minimum of 750Kbps, while the Digital Britain britain report has stated 2Mbps with 'wiggle' room.  Any of those numbers will act as starting points but the quality must exist to run key services.  
Universal Service Commitment  versus Universal Service Obligation
The UKs proposed USC of 2Mbps is a guide provided by policy makers as to what they think is needed and assumes the service parameters are set to provide a good browsing experience and a functional download experience. 
The notion of Universal Broadband Obligation has been avoided,  because of the possible impact on the notion of affordability, and a desire to avoid over reliance on Openreach.
The merging of fixed and mobile connectivity into a single data transport fabric has been excluded from current deliberations.
Impact of Next Generation Fund 
The proposed next generation fund is a 8 year programme involving a public support for a £1.2bn investment in rural areas.  I estimate the impact could be;
  • at least a 5 times increase in average speed over todays average urban speed for both fixed (15Mbits ps) and roam from home (600Kbits pa).
  • a 10 times improvement (.1% packet loss) in quality for applications that need it.

  • a factor of 16 times increase in peak hour resources.

  • Unlimited usage for all local networking.

  • Coverage > 99%

In practical terms,  should this approach be pursued, then it will provide the means to upgrade the electronic pathways to all rural conurbations in the 3,700 rural exchange areas,  providing and open and equal access to all providers.


See our submissions for full details.


Bit Transport
For the UK,  one would expect that UK data transport networks are designed so a one bit data packet could be sent and a confirmation received within 20 milli-seconds.

50% of packets need to be delivered within x - typically 12 milliseconds (ms)

95% of packets need to be delivered within x + 25ms

97% of packets need to be delivered within x +50ms
99.9% of packets delivered within x + 75ms

x - is the base delay due to geography (speed of light) measured to be 12ms on average for the UK.  Note, the Atlantic ocean adds a further 80Ms of delay.
Packet Loss
Todays best effort broadband networks are configured to lose between 1 and 3% of packets.  This is fine for browsing and downloading,  but means out data transport is not engineered to support realtime communication services especially two-way video.  Time senstive applications need a .1% packet loss.  Either UK data transport is configured to support the .1% loss rate or users are given the means to priotitise their traffic to achiece this outcome for time sensitive applications.
Peak Period Allocation
We also need a number for the peak capacity allocated per user.  This shows how much each user has at peak should everyone be simultaniously online.  More work is needed to determine what this number ought to be,  I am guessing a minimum of 30kbps per user is used at present.  This needs to grow if we to stream a lot of TV at peak periods.
The minimum numbers have been chosen to support a number of application simultaniously,  browsing, two-way video,  voice.  If viewing iPlayer live was deemed a critical service the numbers would need to be a minimum of 650kbps.
The Performance Criteria is that expected during peak usage hours.

I am suggesting this constitutes the very minimum  performance of a Broadband Connection as defined by we the users. It is not just about speed but performance. It may change but this is a place to start!   This is independent of the medium,  be it copper, fibre or mobile.
To make use of this minimum quality we will need to prioritise our applications for peak period preferences so our important applications can get the quality they need at congested periods.
Industry at present are proposing to support a 90% of down load speed averaged over the peak three hours but with no commitments on the delay characteristics.  We need more than this if we are to organise more of our lives around our connections. 

The ideal outcome is for these performance criteria to appear in the product descriptions of the services you are buying and the appropriate Connectivity labelling is visible on all service literature. It is also proposed that these numbers could be used as a starting point in any USO discussion on Broadband.  It is a minimum and separate from the promises on  speed.  These thresholds could move upwards as the number of critical services delivered over Broadband grows.
The above parameters have come from a study as to what it would take to run a Video communication service for deaf users over Broadband connections.  Remarkably it can be done,  but the performance parameters need to be written into our service agreements.
To get a complete complete picture of an internet Broadband experience we must also take into account,  the quality of the content hosting we are accessing and the equipment we are using to access that content,  be it PC, laptop, set top box and router.  These can be itemised separately.