ISP Bandwidth in an at-Home World

The rapid spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has seen a rapid change in behaviour in so many aspects of our life, which has had me thinking … what are the new ways of working in an at-Home World (aHW)?

Being Thankful

From a “society” perspective

Before I start on what is an IT-focussed article, I want to start by expressing my thanks.

  • Personally – I remain grateful that amid the chaos and confusion, that my family and friends are safe and not affected health-wise
  • Professionally – My employer is incredibly supportive, providing a multitude of resources to support my family and I, flexible working (work from home) being just one of them
  • Emergency Services – As an ex Australian SES and Irish Civil Defence and Irish Coast Guard volunteer, I remain in close contact with those who are on the front line of our emergency services.
    • Just today, a member of the Dublin Fire Brigade was confirmed as being infected with COVID-19 – it only serves to demonstrate the risk to our health and emergency service professionals.
    • THANK YOU for your service

As a Geek

To switch gears to the topic of this rather lengthy post … !

It’s times like this that I am so glad I have my 1Gb Fibre to the Home (FttH) from Eir.  I have no slow downs at any time of day (or night) and the whole house can run Ultra HD while I work from hone without any interruption or contention using services such as WebEx and high volume data transfers in support of my clients.

I have a static IPv4 address and native IPv6, all running behind my UniFi Dream Machine Pro (UDM Pro) … this make me happy !

Oh … did I mention that it’s only €75/month with no data cap and no fair use policy?!

Living in an at-Home World (aHW)

Working from Home is one thing – I do that almost exclusively when I’m not travelling.  Having moved from Australia to Ireland in 2001 has also seen my relationship with my family change – so use of video calls and social tools to keep in touch with family is also “normal”.

But in Ireland (and increasingly in other countries around the world), we are finding ourselves living in an “at-Home World” (aHW).

Our aHW sees almost everything shift to an aHW way of living:

  • Home School
  • Order groceries
  • Ordering presents (it’s my son’s birthday in early April)
  • Kids keeping in touch with their friends
  • “Virtual” coffee chats with friends
  • Keeping in touch with family and friends
  • Working from Home
  • Virtual Doctors
  • Entertainment (movies, TV, games)

One thing I do love is that it’s incredible how resourceful we are all rapidly becoming and adopting an aHW lifestyle.

But … this comes with its own challenges … this is driving a significant change in the way we communicate, and the services that we rely on the facilitate this communication

Recognising a Problem

Being able to drive such a high volume of load, without consideration to the WAN link utilisation however is a luxury that many do not have.  There is significant bad publicity on (for example) Australia’s NBN service which has run into multiple delays, cost overruns, and bad publicity due to slow bandwidth.

My usage profile highlights both the value, and the problem with the ever-increasing demand for high definition services, and demand for faster and faster bandwidth speeds (my friend Sam, living in Singapore gets 2Gb for $50/month).

Watching the behaviour and problems that have been experienced the last couple of days, globally we are going to see a huge shift in patterns of usage of key resources that were perhaps not always consider (by some/many) as critical as they actually are.  We are already seeing the impacts in the changing work behaviours.

We have seen significant dependencies on corporate networking infrastructure, for good reason. But we are now faced with a pattern of behaviour which drives a very different change in behaviour

Genuinely thankful

I am genuinely VERY grateful for my (ISP) service. It allows us to maintain a quality of connectivity for a vast array of resources including education and entertainment. It allows me to maintain critical contact with my colleagues, and facilitated uninterrupted work from home, even without the extra burden that we are seeing from the change in behaviour of things like communications infrastructure.

Changing Behaviours

Alas though, the current actions underway to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are only going to serve to highlight a combination of  lack of foresight in planning to implement services that facilitate remote working,  as well as placing pressures of services that have already been considered (and even implemented) … resulting in very real-world problems across a large range of services.

Fallback Options

In IT we always talk about redundancy, resiliency, having fallback options.  In our Disaster Recovery processes we include options for things like “work from home”.  But these considerations are often business-focussed.

What we are faced with now could be considered an invocation of “Community Resiliency” – we are invoking disaster recovery plans across a multitude of industries and services from education, to healthcare, to work; and as a result, we are exposing limitations in a large variety of areas.  We are seeing a new term being used – “Social Distancing“. ISP bandwidth is just one of many different examples of impacts that we are seeing.

We are already in our “fallback mode” – if telecommunications services tumble from overload – the tertiary options aren’t easy.

A Final Though … something we can do

I hate identifying problem and not be prepared to at least suggest a solution.

A Personal Response

Having removed all of the bandwidth limits on devices when I had my Fair Use Policy cap removed by Eir, I have now put a limit on all of my devices at home – nothing can individually use more than 10Mb/s and our iPads/iPhones are individually limited to 3Mb/s.

While that might not sound like much – it means that even if every “media-capable” device was to work at full bandwidth, at the same time, I’d never exceed ~50Mb/s … which is 2.5% of my total available bandwidth !

While this is a personal response, it’s not easily implemented by everyone, and requires the vast majority of consumers to implement such a change.  The other option is …

A Corporate Response

Service Providers can also help with this response too.  Things like limiting streaming media video quality from 4K down to (for example) 720p would have significant impacts.  For Netflix users, reducing 4K to SD would reduce bandwidth by 87.5%

There will, I’m sure, be similar considerations for Massively MultiPlayer Games (MMPG) – though I confess to note knowing the details, as I’m not a huge gamer myself!

A Caution to Net Neutrality

Having suggested that there are some options for service providers to implement controls that reduce bandwidth utilisation, I do want to throw out a cautionary warning in relation to Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is “the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all Internet communications equally, and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, destination address, or method of communication” (Wikipedia.org)

What we do NOT want to do is use the current economic crisis and infrastructure challenges as a reason to facilitate inappropriate controls that contravene the principals of Net Neutrality. However we genuinely are in uncharted territory, and this does suggest that it would be appropriate for each service provide to identify ways to ensure that all consumers of the precious resource that is the internet, have their fair chance to access and use its resources.

In agreeing a way to implement such controls, we will also want to agree the “Terms and Conditions” by which those controls can be rolled back.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Original Post

This post was originally authored on this blog, you can also see the corresponding LinkedIn Article here – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/isp-bandwidth-at-home-world-andrew-barnes

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