Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tools To Determine If Your Bandwidth Is Being Throttled

As a former start-up VoIP service provider, I'm glad there are a couple of 800 pound gorillas in our court as well, at least for now:

If anyone reading this works at a second tier VoIP network, make sure you pass this link along to your tech staff.

It's still to early to tell if in the long run the major software as a service providers like Google will end up being on the side of a tiered Internet or continue to defend an open Internet. There are points of benefit for them on both sides. I know most of you know the reasons why Google has a defensive stance for a free Internet, but on the flip side, for Google to sign QoS contracts and co-locate with all the major tier-1 providers could potentially be a minor tax write off, for a start-up with a new brilliant method for sorting search results, it could be a huge hurdle for going to market and making a real business based on revenue instead of acquisition.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Retiring CRTC and FCC Blogs

Sorry guys, again, scraping info from websites that post new releases in unpredictable ways is pretty hard, I have retired the CRTC and FCC blog.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

FCC Blog, One More Shot

From the about a dozen emails I received asking that I keep the FCC blog going, I've decided to give it another shot. Lets hope Monday it works out. Please send me a note if you find anything wrong with it or if you want me to change it's formatting.

Shidan Gouran

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I don't understand why so many government sites fail to provide some sort of feed to their daily bulletins. What I am venting about in specific are the Canadian CRTC and FCC sites, every day I have to go to the website and when I reach the content, usually it isn't even HTML but a Word or PDF file. So finally today I decided to do something about it and wrote a little app that scrapes their daily releases and displays the information in blogger so I can just add the feeds to my reader.

The CRTC site specially dissapoints me because someone who developed the site had the common sense of using Dublin Core in the meta tags or are using a CMS which obviously makes it easy to make available machine readable content.

I wrote this system using Python, Beautiful Soup and Google's App. Engine, I will allow comments on both and if there is demand will switch to a PLIGG instance instead of blogger.

As a legal note, I make absolutely no claims or warranties that this application actually works or the following blogs display accurate data from the CRTC or FCC's site.

Here they are:

for the CRTC:
for the FCC:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

CES Keynote with Steve Ballmer

Everyone (disclaimer, most my industry friends are hard core Linux zealots) told me that this years keynote address from Steve Ballmer would be a boring non-event as Microsoft wouldn't have anything new and interesting in the pipeline to talk about. That statement couldn't have been further from the truth.

Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of baseless marketing hype, a good example was their demo of a semantic web application. They used in specific the example of a medical atlas which was built as a semantic mashup. What Steve and his staff failed to mention is that the hard part of this application is the countless hours the domain experts in academia and the biomedical industry are putting into defining these semantic ontologies and vocabularies and thus making these publicly accessible resources a reality, not Microsofts API for consuming this data, there is very little value in what they have done in this space and it was a shame they showed it off so much without giving proper credits to the people that are truly making this technology a reality.

And there were also a number of been there done that demos which made my eyes roll, like the Microsoft Surface and multi-touch demos. I think after two years, we get the idea.

But there were a couple of announcements that will keep me up tonight (It's actually the jet lag and all these neon lights which I can't block out). These weren't necessarily technical in the pure sense but were really interesting business and product line developments. I'll only write about one in specific tonight.

It was Ballmers announcement that the Microsoft subsidiary Tellme has partnered with Ford in having it's voice driven directory services integrated into Ford cars. Why is this important? because Tellme is a hosted service. This means that Microsoft has moved beyond it's in-car voice driven Sync technology which follows Microsofts traditional business model to include a hosted service over what surely has to be a built in mobile link in every car. So in effect, Microsoft has become an MVNO, the largest MVNO network in North America and by all means as far as coverage goes the largest wireless carrier in North America. Sure, it's limited to one application but whats to stop them from offering a full mobile PBX that works on every major American network? They've taken the first step and taken the precedence with the carriers. I'd like to hear your comments on this.

Something else to mention, I was quite disappointed that Ballmer did not jump around like a jonesing crackhead.

Friday, January 2, 2009

VPN Magic

I recently came across this new startup. Now these guys are offering lifetime VPN services on a 10Gb unmetered virtual pipe for the amazing promotional price of $29. Before starting Jazinga, me and a friend who was one of the people responsible for turning the interconnection facilities at 151 Front street in Toronto, Canada into the premier data hotel it is, had a vision for a similar business, and in specific targeting bittorrent users. So we built a prototype but in the end decided that it was not the right time for such a venture because of the belief we had, and still do, that there is absolutely no way you can sell a 1Mb blended, unmetered virtual pipe (they claim 10Gb!) for less than $90 a year. With the extra costs of support, it became evident to us that it would be no better than reselling DSL with value added VPN services.

In fairness, the fee of $29 is a promotion, but unless their general claim of a "one time low fee" means at least $1500, personally, I would rather trust my money with Madoff.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

VoIP Was Never Alive

Alec Saunders article: 2008: "The Year that VoIP died" has made quite a bit of stir over the last few days so I thought I'd add my own commentary to the pot.

Let me first start by saying that VoIP as a revolutionary business model never existed to die.

Lets take a few steps back and remember where it all started. People either don't know or tend to forget that the Internet was created for one purpose. It was created for secure non centralized and in fact peer to peer voice communications, this was proposed all the way back in the early 60's. It was to be the phone system of the military and the huge advantage would be no physical or logical central point of control open to attack by the "enemy". So lets not forget that on it's first birthday, the Internet was all about VoIP and almost everything that has happened since in the world of VoIP (Voice and Video over IP) has been a very predictable and linear evolution. VoIP as an industry and technology has been about making the technology better incrementally and not a revolution, well almost everything, we will come back to this later after we remind ourselves what was revolutionary about the Internet.

By the mid 70's virtually all major research centers whether military, industrial or academic were connected to the Internet on an international level. And because of it's OPEN nature, the researchers were for all practical purposes allowed to use the network for whatever they chose to or could imagine, within the limits of the technology. Because of this important step it was easy for this group to turn the Internet from a voice network into a Galactic Network of globally interconnected computers through which anyone could run programs and access files located anywhere in the "cloud" and this led to one true revolution which nobody expected, that of the web, which is undergoing it's own predictable evolution.

So what was that one thing about VoIP which has been revolutionary? Simply a social and political oversight. As this network motivated by an open and non commercial design due to it's research and military use kept growing and evolving very unpredictably into commercial and mass society, no one was thinking (or those that were stayed very quiet) about the fact that a network capable of carrying voice with no central control negated the need for tariffs, the revolution was that VoIP arbitrage became a reality and this has led to the clear and reasonable prediction that voice will die as a commodity. So to distill my point, yes, VoIP arbitrage was a very exciting and disruptive revolution, but as Alec points out, we have been there and done that and after roughly a decade the excitement is dying out over this revolutionary segment of the telecoms industry. This has nothing to do with VoIP dying out or its quiet evolution. We are being introduced to VoIP products and services all the time that have the potential to make the world better and different than it was yesterday. Whether it's a new conferencing platform that ties in to social networks easily with an easy to use interface, a high definition video phone carrier which reminds us of the Jetsons or a PBX aiming to be so simple to manage that consumers can own and control their own telephony, these are incremental changes that bring us closer to the world that was predicted by the first Netizens 50 or so years ago.

A couple of final notes, we say the hype and business of VoIP arbitrage is dying out, but remember or realize, the worlds biggest IP network will not necessarily be the Internet, it just might be a closed network dominated by cellular carriers. Also there is no guarantee that the Internet itself will remain open as currently is the case. If a tiered Internet becomes a reality then the commodity market of Voice/Video and information packets/minutes will continue to a lively topic ;)


Happy New Years everyone and wish you all the best. I'm attending the CES show in Las Vegas this year and will post any interesting insights or products I run across next week so stay tuned.