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SUP a way of saving money?

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SUP a way of saving money?

Okay, now I have your attention....
(and let's face it, it quite obviously is a way of saving money)

Reading the forums, I don't think I'm the only one unhappy with the belt tightening that's going on within F9. Suddenly I see (what is reported as) £1.7m spent on what I can only see as buying in new customers.

I am not an accountant - but honestly I can't see what's in it for F9 in either the short or medium term - certainly there seems to be no benefit to existing F9 customers in any measurable form of improvement in our service.

The argument used back, was that F9 are still attracting customers - I say, so what? AOL are still attracting customers - all that proves is you can fool some of the people some of the time.

My viewpoint is simply that F9 seem to have decided to make what they have go further, ie. Increase the headcount (and therefore income), whilst at the same time stretching the existing resources further.

I really don't want to get into a "oh not we're not", "oh yes you are" debate on this. To me the proof is quite quantifiable.... Publish a historical graphic of "average available bandwidth per ADSL customer" -vs- "time" over the last 4 or 5 years. You don't even to label the average bandwidth axis.

I would expect the average to slowly slope down over periods as new customers signed up, with sharp increases each time pipes were added.

Now my guess, and I quite openly admit it is such, would be that we are near the bottom of one of those troughs - and whereas F9 would previously have invested in more bandwidth, they are simply trying to stretch that they have further (obviously the money was needed elsewhere).

I have no doubt that investments will be made to accomodate the increased headcount due to the aquisition of MetroNet, as the MetroNet customers are migrated onto the PlusNet architecture - but will it be PROPORTIONAL to the number of customers being migrated? ie. if F9 purchase 90% of the required bandwidth to accomodate the MetroNet customers, relying on the remaining 10% to be averaged out with the existing F9 resource pool - F9 make money (oh and the rest of us get a slightly cr**pier service).

And before someone points out that the average bandwidth per ADSL customer is currently higher than it was "whenever", I would point out the decrease in cost per ADSL customer as well as the increase in published bandwidth availability from 512k to 2meg.

So go on F9... a graph.... Jan-1999 to Dec-2005 on one axis, average available bandwidth per ADSL customer on the other. You might even want to draw a nice little arrow to May-05 (when everyone, in theory, got 2Meg).
25 REPLIES
Plusnet Staff
Plusnet Staff
Posts: 12,169
Thanks: 18
Fixes: 1
Registered: 04-04-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Hi,

I'm not sure I can get the graph, but I can ask, in the meantime Kitz has recorded the pipe history going back nearly 3 years at

http://www.kitz.co.uk/adsl/pnPipes.htm

The way the network is being designed is with the majority of our customers in mind. The amount of capacity we have is budgeted for based on customer numbers and account type make-up. The amount of capacity we have is correct for the customer base.

To add an extra 155Mbps segment costs over £400,000 per year, so it doesn't make sense to just add them to see them sit half empty or just to keep adding them and adding them just so a tiny number of customers can download 100's GB's each and every month.

The smart way is to maximise the usage of the central pipes and to have a control over unsustainable usage. We are part way through building the managed network, the changes we have made so far ensure that when the network is busiest people don't see packet loss and ping spikes. We've set up controls for high usage, and made changes to how usenet traffic works.

There are more changes in the way the profiling works planned too to give further improvements to the majority of customers. As soon as I can give you the details I will.

Regarding Metronet, yes this adds a load of customers but that's not the only thing. Over the coming weeks and months not only will we be able to bring enhancements for Metronet customers, but we can bring things to our Force9 customers too.
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SUP a way of saving money?

Thank you Dave.

I take your point about people downloading 100's of GB's of data, but this is a whole package, averaged out over your whole customer base. For each customer that is (in a managed network environment) massively over utilising the bandwidth, there must be a larger number that are massively under utilising the bandwidth. Were that not true, contended networks such as ADSL would not work.

I've made the point before, but if there was an equal amount of emphasis on the lowest 1% of ADSL customers as there is on the top 1% - I would agree that the emphasis is on the customer. Whilst the emphasis remains only on restricting the higher users (and so reducing costs), I can only presume it's about the money.

The case is always put across as if the highest users are effectively robbing the lower users blind. Of course they are. But, my point would be that that is how the ADSL platform is designed... Some customers use more, some less, some at certain times of the day, some at others - if everyone were online at the same time, all trying to download at full capacity then it wouldn't work. But the system is based on averages, as long as the average remains below a certain level, PlusNet make a profit. Since PlustNet continue to make a profit, that average must be below that point, therefore again, I must assume part of the SUP efforts is to further reduce that average, and make a bigger profit.

I can see that everyone suddenly jumping to 2Meg (and potentially 8Meg) could put a big hole in that average. BT switching to capacity based charging also moves the emphasis too.

The reason that 95% of your customer base aren't complaining about awful usenet speeds, is that 95% of your customer base doesn't even know that usenet exists. I doubt 99% have ever heard of gopher, or any other of the more archaic applications such as usenet. So it's an easy target, it uses above average bandwidth and most customers wouldn't notice if you blocked the service completely. If World-Of-Warcraft used an equal amount of bandwidth, my guess would be you won't be quite so quick to restrict it as it would visibly affect more customers.

By all means restrict P2P and Usenet at peak times, and anything else that uses above average bandwidth - in order to maintain a decent service for the majority of customers. But drop those restrictions outside peak times. By all means have a "soft cap" for overall bandwidth per month, but send at least one warning, even for the most excessive usage before hitting anyone with penalties. If 15Gig of usenet access is truely excessive, then apply the same limits to other individual applications.

My main gripe is that I am willing to accept some of these draconian measures. F9 have lowered the bar on my expectations so low now, that anything would be an improvement.

Actually that's not true, my main gripe is that F9 have started down the road of being underhanded with the flow of information. (£39.99 for 8Meg anyone? *cough*).

Want to get me think this is more about quality of customer service and less about raising average profits per customer?
  • Drop the bronze queue - it we wanted speeds that slow, we'd still be using modems not broadband.
  • Drop the 15Gig usenet cap - 15Gig is 15Gig whatever application downloads it.
  • How about gold/silver queues being 100% effective 4pm to 11pm, 30% effective from 9am to 4pm and 11pm to 1am and 0% effective in the middle of the night.
  • Offer a truly unrestricted 512kb product - you used sell one, it was called premier.
  • If the problem is overall bandwidth usage, keep the soft caps. If the overall problem is peaktime responces then keep the queue system. But don't keep both.


For reference, I do not play WoW. I do not access usenet. I once used gopher. I have never downloaded >100Gig per month. I object not because most of the SUP affects me, but on the principle of the idea and the precedence it sets.
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SUP a way of saving money?

I think reasoned arguments are wonderful if people are listening, but although individuals ocasionally do, f9/plusnet as a company is only hearing things when they sound like a mass exodus. I'm leaving sadly, after about 8 years and I really think the only way things are going to improve is when enough people leave to start hurting.
Come to think of it, it's not sadly, I can't wait, "customer service" has timed out.
JonathanW
Grafter
Posts: 2,648
Registered: 02-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Hi,

You make some valid points in your post, queeg500, however there are a few more factors involved in the choices that we've made about network management.

It's unfortunately not as simple as there either being too much bandwidth usage over all, or peaktime responses not being up to scratch. Its a combination of both those, along with the fact that during the year we've seen the majority of people increase their line speeds.

We could resolve the bandwidth issue by lighting new central pipes with BT, however as Dave has already stated a 155mb pipe costs £400,000 a year, and this would swiftly be used up by people using p2p/usenet traffic, which would mean that we'd be spending a large ammount of money and making very little of it back from the customers on the pipe.

Over the past year we've seen an exponential growth in p2p traffic in general, and this is down to a number of factors, one of which is the bulk upgrades that we've had going on with BT. But part of it is also down to the increase in this kind of traffic that everyone is seeing.

This was reaching the point where other traffic was suffering at peak times, which is why the ellacoyas were introduced into the network, so that we could start to prioritise traffic appropriately. We're working with Ellacoya themselves in order to try and get the best out of their equipment, and feedback to them so that further improvements can be made, all as part of building the managed platform.

As for the SUP, this is something that's here to stay, at least for the short term. Depending on how things develop, both in the wider world and inside Force9 this could be replaced with something that is better for the light to medium users, along with other improvements that will see the average user getting a better service, similar to what the longer term members are used to from the network. We still need to do something about the higher users, the few people who are utilising the network in a way that is no longer sustainable.

The usenet changes made at the start of last month are the first part of this, though they were implemented fairly swiftly, as we needed to do something to both improve the service for those people who do use usenet, many of whom don't use above the 15gb level of silver traffic, and do something to protect our usenet servers and the network. Usenet was also targeted specifically for these reasons, and due to the fact that the very heavy downloaders, right at the very top of the 1% that people hear so much about, don't use http or p2p for their dowloads but instead use usenet due to the high speeds that this offers.

As for offering a truly unrestricted 512k package, this isn't something that we can offer in a sustainable way, not without making the price of doing so prohibitavely high, to the point where people would be unlikely to sign up to the package.
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SUP a way of saving money?

Quote
I'm not sure I can get the graph, but I can ask


Any luck with that graph Dave?
Marteknet
Grafter
Posts: 577
Registered: 13-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Quote
Hi,
As for offering a truly unrestricted 512k package, this isn't something that we can offer in a sustainable way, not without making the price of doing so prohibitavely high, to the point where people would be unlikely to sign up to the package.


Why not. That was the package I signed up with at F9. Ho yes I now have a 2M max but due to BT / F9 my line has a max speed of only 1M. When I joined F9 they were advertising the package as unrestricted and even used the words "download as much as you need" in their advertising. But over time as more and more new services were added this has changed somewhat and there are soft-caps, banding and other methods to restrict customers usage. People who joined because the package was hyped as unrestricted are now losing because these extra services are eating away at the available bandwidth.
JonathanW
Grafter
Posts: 2,648
Registered: 02-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Hi,

Things have change since the residential packages were offered as unlimited. You've been a customer for some time, so you're most likely aware that the SUP isn't the first time we've had to take action in order to protect the network for the benefit of the majority. This isn't something we've done in order to make more bandwidth for other services. Its simply a case that certain protocols will soon swamp the network and mean that we have to greatly increase the price in order to keep things running at a sustainable level.

Similarly, traffic shaping is something that most ISPs are either introducing now or will most likely introduce in the future. As it just isn't possible to leave the network run unchecked, as all that will happen is p2p traffic will grow to fill the avilable space meaning that pretty much everything else runs slowly for everyone.
Marteknet
Grafter
Posts: 577
Registered: 13-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

How on earth did you manage make it affordable in the first place and have stainable usage, remember I have been with F9 for years, what has changed, has bandwidth price gone up?
JonathanW
Grafter
Posts: 2,648
Registered: 02-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

There's a few things happened together to mean that things changed. The two big ones are the move to CBC from BT, which has ment that things had to be revaluated with regards to usage from customers. The other one is the large growth in p2p traffic when compared to the number of customers.
Marteknet
Grafter
Posts: 577
Registered: 13-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Quote
The other one is the large growth in p2p traffic when compared to the number of customers.


Point taken. But I am not entirely happy with the set up of peak time / off peak limits.

Here is why, I am paying for 2M speed but can only get 1M (not my fault its the line) so if I limit my downloads to off peak times (mid-night to 8am) that means I am further limited to just 8 hours downloading at a slower speed, large articles on the Usenet may well expire before they are finished thus wasting my bandwidth allowance.

Are there any plans to extend the life of files on the Usenet servers to accommodate the new downloading guideline times.
JonathanW
Grafter
Posts: 2,648
Registered: 02-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Whilst there aren't any plans, at the moment, to increase the retention of posts on usenet, we do plan to reduce the peak times for the faster traffic on Premier to be the same as the SUP.

Though please keep in mind that these only apply to the residential accounts, the Premier package in particular.
Marteknet
Grafter
Posts: 577
Registered: 13-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Quote

Though please keep in mind that these only apply to the residential accounts, the Premier package in particular.


Ok.
So now can you tell me why I am only getting an average download speed of 15.5 KB/S while using Usenet on a Teleworker account during peak time.
JonathanW
Grafter
Posts: 2,648
Registered: 02-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Quote
Quote

Though please keep in mind that these only apply to the residential accounts, the Premier package in particular.


Ok.
So now can you tell me why I am only getting an average download speed of 15.5 KB/S while using Usenet on a Teleworker account during peak time.


That's something that would best be looked into by support, as a possible issue with either your connection or your account. But you should be getting better speeds than that.
Marteknet
Grafter
Posts: 577
Registered: 13-10-2007

SUP a way of saving money?

Quote
Whilst there aren't any plans, at the moment, to increase the retention of posts on usenet, we do plan to reduce the peak times for the faster traffic on Premier to be the same as the SUP.

Though please keep in mind that these only apply to the residential accounts, the Premier package in particular.


May be it would be a good idea anyway to increase the retention and reliability of the F9 Usenet, this in the long run may just save wasted bandwidth across all account types. Here is an example of wasted bandwidth for you.

I downloaded an article from your Usenet server and the resulting files will not combine even with all the par files in place. There were a total of 11,484 source blocks, over 86 source files, I found that 18 files were damaged when the download was finished, because of these damaged files I needed 52 more blocks. This means I have downloaded 4,381,855,696 bytes that are totally useless. No dough there are others that have found the same sort of thing happening to them, there must be a huge wastage of bandwidth because of the ongoing problems with Usenet reliability.