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Articles about home, SOHO and small-business IT and networking issues

My comments on the new National Broadband Network in Australia

There has been recent news coverage regarding the upcoming National Broadband Network that the Australian Government has recently launched. Initially it was meant to be a fibre-to-the-node setup for most of the populated areas built by a private company who has won the government tender to build it. The last year was dogged with so much bickering about whether Telstra, Optus or other companies and consortia are fit to build the network. Now the Australian Government wrote off the tenders and decided to make the network a publicly-funded “nation-building” exercise on the same scale as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Scheme.

Their idea would be to cover 90% of Australian premises with “fibre-to-the-premises” service with the remainder served by high-bandwidth wireless or satellite connections. This will be with Tasmania being a test-bed for this service and greenfield developments being prepared for fibre-to-the-premises.

But there are a few questions that need to be asked concerning the deployment of this service.

Deployments in multiple-tenant-unit developments

In most of the densely-populated areas of Australia, there are many multi-tenant-unit developments like blocks of flats, office blocks and shopping centres with many households and/or businesses in the same physical building. Similarly, there are high-density developments where multiple households or businesses in many buildings exist on one privately-owned block of land. There have been two different ways of connecting these buildings to a fibre-to-the-premises network.

The cheaper method, known as “Fibre To The Building”, is to run the fibre-optic network to the building’s wiring closet, then use copper wiring to bring the service to the customer’s door. This may be achieved through dedicated Ethernet cabling to the office, shop or apartment or use of existing wiring that is used for providing telephone or TV service to these locations but using VDSL2 or DOCSIS technology to move the data on these cables.  It would be similar to the “Fibre To The Node” setup which was originally being considered for the National Broadband Network, except that the coverage of a “Node” would be the building.

The other method, known as “Fibre To The Premises” or “Full Fibre To The Premises” would be to run the fibre-optic network to the customer’s door.  This would be similar to how the fibre-to-the-premises network would be provided to a sole-occupancy building like a house and would have a fibre-optic socket or optical-network terminal in the premises.

This issue could be answered by prescribing an installation standard for setups in all current and future multi-tenant developments or by allowing the building owner / landlord to determine which methodology to use for their property. Similarly, there would be the question of whether an existing building should be cabled the moment the infrastructure is rolled out past it or

Carriage of TV and telephone service over the NBN

There has been talk about the high bandwidth availability being the key attraction to the National Broadband Network. This has brought up the concept of video being transferred through the NBN and this may be considered a threat to commercial television and its stakeholders.

Most, if not all, of the high-bandwidth broadband networks in operation or currently being deployed are answering this issue by providing free-to-air and subscription television service through the networks. This has also allowed supplementary services like catch-up TV or video-on-demand to be provided over the same network. As well, the companies who provide retail Internet service based on these networks typically will resell subscription TV service with the service being delivered over the same pipe. There is also benefit for community and vertical-interest television providers because they can use the same bandwidth to broadcast their shows.

The standard for TV service that is available with this broadband technology would be a “best-case” standard which permits full high-definition picture with at least a 5.1 channel surround-sound audio mix and full two-way interactivity.

The landline telephone service hasn’t been mentioned in any of the discussion about the National Broadband Network. Yet it can benefit from the same technology through the use of VoIP technologies. This can lead to cheap or free calls around the country and can lead to households and “Mom and Pop” business users having the same kind of telephone service that is taken for granted in most of big business and government.

The same technology can bring through telephone conversations which have a clarity similar to FM radio. This would benefit ethnic groups who have a distinct accent; women; children; people with a speech impediment as well as voice-driven interactive telephone services. As well, the concept of the videophone, largely associated with science fiction, can be made more commonly available.

Could this be the arrival of the “single-pipe triple-play” service on the Australian market?

This is best exemplified by the typical “n-Box” (Livebox, FreeBox, Bbox) service that is being promoted by nearly every major Internet service provider in France. It is where a customer buys or rents an “n-Box” which is a WiFi router that connects computers to the Internet and works as a VoIP analogue telephone adaptor for two phones; as well as an IPTV set-top box that connects between the “n-Box” and the TV set. The customer pays for a single-pipe triple-play service with cut-price telephony, broadband “hot-and-cold running” Internet and many channels of TV.

Universal-access service and the cost of the service

There is the promise of 90% coverage for Australia but will this promise be of reality? As well, there will need to be a minimum standard of service for all to benefit from the Internet using this technology.

I have talked elsewhere in this blog about achieving a standard of universal access for the Internet in a similar manner to the landline telephone service and other utilities. Issues that may need to be raised include reserving funds for the big infrastructure projects that need to reach certain communities and whether to create subsidised access plans which provide a basic level of service at a very low price or for free.

This would then cover access to decent Internet service for disadvantaged communities including indigenous people, income-limited people and migrant / expatriate communities who would benefit from this technology.

Conclusion

Once the questions regarding about how the National Broadband Network will be implemented are answered, we will be able to gain a clearer picture of the service that it will provide for all customers.

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16 April 2009 Posted by | Internet Access And Service, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Increase in poor service quality with Web-based e-mail services

 

LiveSide article about Hotmail service outage (March 12, 2009)

BBC Technology article about recent GMail blackout (February 24, 2009)

An increasing number of people are using free Web-based e-mail services like Windows Live Hotmail, Google GMail and Yahoo Mail because of their free, anywhere access model. What is happening now is that these popular services are groaning under the weight of their huge userbase and traffic demands.

This is manifested through slow response time during sessions and, lately, the services enduring significant amounts of downtime. I have even observed this with a friend’s GMail service which was off-air for a significant amount of time and this friend worrying about e-mail they or their correspondents were meant to receive. The situation ends up with users losing faith in the services or wondering what is happening with their incoming and outgoing e-mail, especially if the service is their primary e-mail address.

Most of these services typically run huge server farms on a high-availability arrangement, but they may need to identify ways of identifying potential bottlenecks and spreading the load. This could involve localisation of the user experience or simply extra machines or server farms providing a failover role.

Some of the recent Web-mail failures have been targeted not at the e-mail storage or handling but at the user-experience servers. A few people in the IT industry reckon that some of these servers are being subjected to DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks by computer hackers.

The situation that is happening with GMail and Hotmail needs to be observed by Web-based Internet services like the Bebo, Facebook and MySpace social networks; and the photo-sharing and video networks like Picasa and YouTube. This is in order to keep the Web 2.0 services alive and resilient.

19 March 2009 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | | 2 Comments

Keeping the WiFi public hotspot industry safe

There are an increasing number of WiFi wireless hotspots being set up, mainly as a customer-service extra by cafe and bar operators. But there have been a few security issues that are likely to put users, especially business users off benefiting from these hotspots.

This is becoming more real due to netbooks, mobile Internet devices, WiFi-capable smartphones and other easily-portable computing devices becoming more common. The hotspots will become increasingly important as people take these devices with them everywhere they go and manage their personal or business data on them.

The primary risk to hotspot security

The main risk is the “fake hotspot” or “evil twin:. These are computers or smart routers that are set up in a cafe or bar frequented by travellers, business people or others who expect Internet access. They can be set up in competition to an existing hotspot that offers paid-for or limited-access service or on the fringes of an existing hotspot or hotzone. They offer the promise of free Internet access but exist for catching users’ private information and/or sending users to malware-laden fake Websites hosted on the computers.

Standard customer-education practices

The common rhetoric that is given for wireless-hotspot security is for the customer to put most of their effort into protecting their own data without the business owner realising that their hotspot service could be turning in to a liability. This can then lead to the hotspot service gathering dust due to disuse by the customers it was intended to serve.

The typical advice given to users is to check whether the premises is running a wireless hotspot or if there is a hotzone operating in the neighbourhood before switching on the wireless network ability in your laptop computer. Then make sure that you log on to a network identified by a legitimate ESSID when you switch on the wireless network ability.

Other suggestions include use of VPNs for all Web activity, which can become difficult for most personal Web users such as those with limited computer experience. Some people even advise against using public Internet facilities like Internet cafes and wireless hotspots for any computing activity that is confidential on a personal or business level.

But everyone involved in providing the free or paid-for hotspot service will need to put effort into assuring a secure yet accessible hotspot which provides a high service quality for all users. This encompasses the equipment vendors, wireless Internet service providers and the premises owners.

Signage and operating practices

When Intel promoted the Centrino chipset for laptop computers, they promoted wireless hotspot areas that were trusted by having a sticker with the Centrino butterfly logo at eye level on the door and the premises being scattered with table tent cards with that same logo. Similarly hotspot service providers and wireless Internet service providers used similar signage to promote their hotspots.

But most business operators, especially small independently-run cafes and bars, tend to deploy “hotspot-in-a-box” solutions where they connect a special wireless router that they have bought to their Internet service and do their own promotion of the service. This may simply be in the form of a home-printed sign on the door or window or a home-printed display sign near the cash register advising of WiFi hotspot service.

An improvement on this could be in the form of the ESSID matching the business’s name and listed on the signage, which should have the business’s official logo. Similarly, the network could be set up with WPA-PSK security at least with the passphrase given to the customers by the business’s staff members when they order hotspot service. Most “hotspot in a box” setups that list the customer’s username and password on a paper docket list the ESSID and WPA-PSK passphrase on these dockets. As well, I would modify the login page to have the business’s look with the business’s logo. A complimentary-use hotspot could be secured with a WPA-PSK passphrase and the customer having to ask the staff member about the passphrase. This could allow the facility to know who is using the hotspot and the organisation who runs that hotspot can have better control over it.

It may be worth the industry investigating the feasibility of using WPA-Enterprise security which is associated with different usernames and passwords for access to the wireless network. Most portable computers and handheld devices in current use can support WPA-Enterprise networks. This can be implemented with the typical “paper-docket” model used by most “hotspot-in-a-box” setups if the authentication system used in these units works as a RADIUS server and the built-in wireless access point supports WPA-Enterprise with the unit’s built-in RADIUS server. The same setup could work well with a membership-based hotspot service like a public library with the RADIUS server linked to the membership database. But it may not work easily with hotspot setups that work on a “self-service” model such as paid-service hotspots that require the user to key in their credit-card number through a Webpage or free-service hotspots that use a “click-wrap” arrangement for honouring their usage terms and conditions.

The organisation who runs the hotspot should also be aware of other public-access wireless networks operating in their vicinity, such as an outdoor hotzone or municipal wireless network that covers their neighbourhood; and regularly monitor the quality of service provided by their hotspot. Also, they need to pay attention to any customer issues regarding the hotspot’s operation such as “dead zones” or unexpected disconnections.

People who own private-access wireless networks should also keep these networks secure through setting up WPA-secured wireless networks. They should also check the quality of their network’s service and keep an eye on sudden changes in their network’s behaviour.

When wireless-network operators keep regular tabs on the network’s quality of service, they can be in a better position to identify rogue “evil-twin” hotspots

Improved standards for authenticating wireless networks

There needs to be some technical improvement on various WiFi standards to permit authentication of WiFi networks in a manner similar to how SSL-secured Web sites are authenticated. This could be based around a “digital certificate” which has information about the hotspot, especially:

  • the ESSID of the network ,
  • the BSSID (wireless network MAC) of each of the access points,
  • the LAN IP address and MAC number of the Internet gateway
  • the venue name and address and
  • the business’s official name and address.

The certificate, which would be signed by public-key / private-key method could be part of the “beacon” which announces the network. It would work with the software which manages the wireless network client so it can identify a wireless network as being secure or trusted if the signature is intact and the network client is attached to the network from the listed BSSIDs and is linking to the gateway LAN IP.

The user experience would be very similar to most Internet-based banking or shopping Websites where there is a “padlock” symbol to denote that the user is using an SSL-secured Website with an intact certificate. It will also be like Internet Explorer 7 and 8 where the address bar turns green for a “High-Assurance” certificate which requires higher standards. In this case, the user interface could use colour-coding and / or a distinctive icon for indicating a verified public network.

The provision of cost-effective wireless-network management software

There are some programs that can turn a laptop computer in to a wireless-network survey tool, but most of them don’t show much useful information, are hard to operate for anyone other than a network technician or are too costly. They miss the needs of people who run home or small-business wireless networks or wireless hotspots.

What needs to exist is low-cost wireless-network management software that can work with the common Microsoft or Apple platforms on computers that have common wireless . The software should be able to use commonly-available wireless network adaptors such as the Intel Centrino platform to perform site surveys on the WiFi bands and display the activity on these bands in an easy-to-view but comprehensive manner. The software should be easy to use for most people so they can spot interference to their wireless network easily and can “tune” their wireless network for best performance.

Similarly the popular smartphone and PDA platforms like Applie iPhone, Symbian S60 / UIQ, Blackberry and Microsoft Windows Mobile could have low-cost wireless-network management software written for them so they can make a handheld PDA or mobile phone work as a site-survey tool for assessing quality of service

Once this kind of software is available for small business and home users, it empowers them to assure proper coverage of their network and check for any “evil twin” or other rogue hotspots being set up to catch customers.

Summary

There needs to be more effort put in to setting up secure public-access wireless networks so that people can benefit from portable computing anywhere without forfeiting the confidentiality of their personal or corporate data.

It also will encourage people to gain the maximum value out of their WiFi-enabled portable information devices whether for their business life or their personal life.

12 March 2009 Posted by | Home computer setups, Internet Access And Service, Network Security, SOHO / Small business computer setups | , | Leave a comment

thinkbroadband :: 2Meg broadband to become universal

thinkbroadband :: 2Meg broadband to become universal

My Comments about Britain’s universal broadband Internet step

Britain is taking a positive step in placing broadband Internet on the same standard as the telephone service – accessible for all no matter where they live.

I have always raised a particular issue regarding rural ADSL and wireless broadband in that the bandwidth needs to be measured from the customer’s doorstep rather than the base or a location closer to the base. This is because ADSL throughput is dependent on the length and condition of the telephone line to the customer’s door and wireless throughput is dependent on the quality of the signal received at the customer’s door.

Then any universal-service funding should be used to renovate telephone infrastructure that will impede ADSL throughput. This could include implementing DSLAMs installed in exchanges located in villages and hamlets, use of range-improvement ADSL codecs and identifying and working on any old and decaying telephone infrastructure.

Any inconsistencies in the way ADSL service is provisioned should be addressed. They typically can manifest in situations where some households, particularly those who have had their telephone lines renewed, may be able to receive ADSL whereas their neighbours may not be able to receive ADSL. This usually is caused by a street or block being serviced primarily by decaying telephone infrastructure.

Once these issues are looked at, then we can be trusting about broadband Internet as a universal service.

2 February 2009 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | , | Leave a comment

Watchdog exposes broadband speed rip-off – Times Online

Watchdog exposes broadband speed rip-off – Times Online

My comments

There hasn’t been a standard for defining the quality of service that one should expect from their residential or small-business broadband Internet service but this is one key issue I have talked about in the blog at its current location and its previous location. Typically this may concern those of us who want a service not of minimum bandwidth but of bandwidth that is considered reasonable by today’s standards.

Factors that may affect the broadband service quality typically will include the quality (and age) of the telephone infrastructure in an ADSL setup and the number of households sharing the same bandwidth in a cable-modem setup. Wireless installations like 3G tend to vary in quality because they are simply radio-based and can be subject to “distance from base” issues, material being between the base aerial and the customer’s modem; and simply interference.

What needs to happen is a defined minimum service standard for broadband Internet and operators being encouraged to achieve the standard at all service points. Often this is because there isn’t a universal service obligation for the Internet in that country as I have mentioned in a previous article. This issue may be more of concern with country areas or poorer communities where there is little desire to invest.

9 January 2009 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | | Leave a comment

WiFi tops poll for best technological innovation of last decade – Telegraph

 

WiFi tops poll for best technological innovation of last decade – Telegraph

What has WiFi been about especially for the home IT environment?

One major way WiFi has benefited the home IT environment is the increased sale of laptop computers (http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,24897,24851973-15306,00.html?referrer=email) over desktop computers. This typically would manifest in a home computing environment consisting of one or more laptop computers that have built-in WiFi wireless ability. The network – Internet “edge” device in this environment would be a wireless router that brings the Internet to these laptops via WiFi wireless. In some countries, the standard provider-supplied “customer premises equipment” for Internet service would be equipped with WiFi wireless capability.

Increasingly, nearly every printer manufacturer is running at least one residential-tier multi-function printer equipped with network ability, typically with WiFi network access. This means that the printer can be located in one position wherever the user desires and print documents from their laptop. There also is the increasing number of “Internet radios” or “i-Radios” that use WiFi to bring Internet radio streams to the speakers in these sets.

This may not be strictly a home-IT environment issue but the number of “hotspots” and “hotzones” that are part of public places is now increasing. These WiFi-based public networks are allowing for anywhere computing.

This has also caused most current-model mobile phones and PDA devices to be equipped with WiFi wireless thus allowing for cost-effective portable Web browsing and, increasingly, DLNA-driven music management and playback. These phones will eventually lead to WiFi being another mobile-telephone network usually in the form of fixed-mobile communications for example.

There have been attempts to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg” by limiting WiFi or making it unpopular. It has mainly been based on the “electromagnetic waves being dangerous to people” theory being propagated as part of junk science, but real scientific tests have proven that the RF emissions yielded by typical WiFi and Bluetooth setups none or very little detrimental effect on people.

Even without this article, I would certainly agree that WiFi has become an important computer technology for all IT scenarios.

29 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service, Mobile Computing, Wireless Networking | | Leave a comment

Universal Service Obligation and Broadband Internet – Further comments

ThinkBroadband article on European Commission plan to establish a broadband-Internet universal service obligation in the European Union.

My Comments

What should be the minimum qualifications for universal provision of a broadband Internet service?

There may have to be a minimum bandwidth for the “standard service”. This would then require the universal service provider to be able to provide that level of bandwidth to the customer’s door in all areas.
In the case of technologies like ADSL or wireless where the distance from the exchange or base station and the quality of the infrastructure or the terrain between the customer and the exchange / base station determines the bandwidth, the provider would have to take steps to achieve the minimum bandwidth at the customer’s door. This would require the ISP to undertake such works as renewal of telephone wiring or installation of repeater stations.
As far as the minimum standard of service is called, there would have to be a minimu bandwidth. Some people may reckon that 512kbps would be the standard bandwidth for basic use such as browsing “Web 2.0” sites and / or sending and receiving e-mail using POP3. Others may consider 1Mbps more realistic considering the current generation of Internet transport protocols. This would allow more bandwidth for the increasingly-common Internet practices like on-line multimedia, V2oIP (voice and video telephony over the Internet) and increased file transfer such as through use of “cloud-based” computing services.
Another factor that may need to be defined would be what kind of technology should be used to provide the service. This would determine whether the service should use ADSL2, FTTx and similar wireline connections to each door as a minimum standard or whether they can use wireless in sparse areas.
Similarly, there may be the issue of bandwidth-use allowances for the universal service and what happens if the user oversteps that allowance.
Another issue that will need to be worked out is content control mechanisms so that children don’t see unsuitable content on this service. Could this be provided with a “clean-feed” service or through a standard Internet-filter program installed in the Internet-gateway device or “end-user” computer. It also includes updating of content filter lists on a regular basis. 

Who should be the ISP who provides the “standard service” and is responsible for covering all areas?

It may be provided by the “universal service” telecommunications provider’s retail broadband-Internet arm, similar to Telstra’s BigPond service, British Telecom’s BT Broadband service or France Télécom’s Orange Internet service. On the other hand, it could be provided by an existing retail ISP who is awarded a “universal service provisioning” contract by the national government or a local ISP who works as part of a local “switched-on access” program. If true competitive access is required, then all retail ISPs would be required to provide the universal service.

What could be the public-access requirements?

The standard for universal-access Internet service will have to encompass “public-access” requirements which would be the equivalent of the “public payphone” in the universal-access telephony service definition. This could cover the requirement to provide Internet-access terminals in public libraries, hospitals, and similar public places; or providing “wireless hotspot” service in public areas like parks or town squares.

How should it be funded?

Because it will be more costly to provide the set minimum standard of Internet access at a specified price in some areas such as the country, there would be the issue of covering the losses associated with providing this kind of service.
Typically, this could be through the ISP charging more for its discretionary services such as high-bandwidth plans, mailbox services or Web hosting. This may be the model practised by retail broadband arms of universal-service telecommunications companies. It may also encompass the ISP selling content services such as music and movie download services to its customers and to the general public.
On the other hand, there may be a “universal service fund” that may be established by the government. The money could be raised through dedicated taxes such as a “universal service levy” on discretionary services; redirection of a portion of any sales tax or consumption tax associated with Internet-access costs or simply through line spending by the government.
Sometimes, the universal Internet service could be integrated in to the mechanisms that exist for providing the universal telephone service, such as using existing universal-service funds or taxes.
Whatever way, such universal-service obligations shouldn’t hamper the competitive Internet-access market and the advantages that it brings like low access prices or good-quality service.

Concerns

One main concern would be how universal-service operators could marginalise areas of less economic importance. This could manifest in deploying infrastructure capable of providing just the basic Internet service into those areas or being slow about provisioning or maintaining Internet service in those areas. This situation can lead to long-term customer dissatisfaction with the service and therefore lead to customers deserting the universal-service ISP when competition appears in their area.
This situation has repeated itself many times with incumbent telecommunications providers who provided the universal telephone service, whether they are private companies or government-run operations.
There needs to be a minimum service-level standard established as part of the universal-service obligation for the Internet. It would have to cover such issues as response to customer issues like service faults and difficulties; and the time taken to provision new services to the customer.

To sum up

If the concept of universal Internet access is to work successfully, a lot of questions will need to be asked so as to avoid problems with provisioning this level of service.

11 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | | 2 Comments

“Triple Play Social” now in full deployment in Paris

News Links (French-language sites)

http://www.degroupnews.com/actualite/n3071-hlm-paris-sfr-fibre_optique-haut_debit.html DegroupNews (France)

My commets

Since my earlier article wbich I had moved from my older blog, SFR had taken over Neuf Cegetel. But this universal-acces “single-pipe triple-play” service has continued on and the trucks are now rolling a the HLM estates as this is being written.

Because of the high-throughput technology, companies like SFR are able to provide this kind of acess to the people.  As I mentioned earlier, it is underpinned by the European business culture which is primarily “for the people” rather than for the executives of the big companes which is the primary business culture in the USA.

11 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Triple Play Social” in Paris – an example for providing a universal bare-bones “triple-play” service

News Links (French-language news sites)

http://www.pcinpact.com/actu/news/41764-neuf-cegetel-opac-triple-play-social.htm PC Impact

http://www.vnunet.fr/news/neuf_cegetel_introduit_sa_fibre_optique_dans_les_hlm_de_paris-2026564 VNUNet 

My comments

)In February 2008, Neuf Cegetel (a French telecommunications provider) along with Office HLM de Paris (the public housing authority in Paris, similar to the Ministry of Housing in Victoria, Australia) have established a universal-access “single-pipe triple-play” service for deployment in areas of Paris that have fibre-optic telecommunications.

This service, which is offered for EUR1 / month tax-exclusive has the provision of:

  • 18 channels of regular “free-to-air” digital television programming including high-definition broadcasts provided by the “free-to-air” broadcasters
  • 512kbps broadband which is effectively the same standard as most mid-tier ADSL plans currently available in Australia and;
  •  a landline telephony service of similar standard to Telstra’s InContact service — can receive incoming calls but cannot make outgoing calls except to emergency and special numbers

delivered over the fibre-optic pipe.

Comments on this service in relevance to the Australian market

From what I see, the 512kbps ADSL service is being considered the bare minimum standard of Internet access in Europe where people in Australia have to call this standard of service a luxury and have to consider 256kbps “fraud-band” Internet service as the “way in” when thinking of broadband. Often this has meant that sole parents and others on very limited income are having to stick to this speed if they want to think of broadband at all; or just simply work with a dial-up Internet connection.

As well, Australian pay-TV providers don’t offer a “FTA-only” deal where you only receive the free-to-air digital TV channels. This may be because of the prevalence of cheap standard-definition DVB-T boxes flooding the market and the DTV service comprising primarily of the FTA channels receivable on regular TV and a handful of supplementary channels that are “spin-offs” of the regular broadcast output. The only areas where such a service may take hold would be customers who live in areas with marginal TV reception and / or customers who rent premises where there is an underperforming TV aerial or simply no TV aerial and may find it hard to get proper digital TV reception.

The kind of landline telephony service that is offered may appeal not just to people on a low income but to share houses where a common telephone may be required just for receiving calls and “emergency fallback”. Typically, the tenants would then maintain prepaid mobile phones for their outgoing calls and for receiving personal calls.

This kind of service provisioning may catch on in Continental Europe where most of the culture is centred around being “for the people” but won’t easily be accepted in cultures like the USA where corporate profits are more important than the needs of the people.

11 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | , , , , | Leave a comment

Housewives hooked on the internet as they log on more than anyone else | Daily Mail (UK)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1093047/Housewives-hooked-internet-log-else.html

Articles posted during New Year’s Day

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7789494.stm 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/dec/31/internet-housewives

My Comments

Affordability of Internet service and computer equipment

Nowadays, a decent-standard broadband Internet plan is at a price that is affordable for most people no matter the financial situation. Increasingly, these plans are becoming bundled with other personal telephony or pay-TV deals so they end up being a no-brainer to consider for the home.  This also includes the arrival of “n-play” deals that encompass personal (landline and / or mobile) telephony, Internet access and multi-channel pay-TV services.

As well, computer equipment of a standard good enough for working on the Web and doing other basic tasks can be purchased for a reasonable sum of money. Similarly, I had talked on the blog about a) repurposing an old business laptop as a general-purpose “kitchen PC” and b) the concept of “netbook” computers like the Asus Eee PC as general-purpose computers. This covers cost-effective laptop computers being able to earn their keep in this kind of situation.

The new computing experience

I have mentioned a lot in my blog of a “new computing experience” that is becoming the norm in most households. The Internet “edge” for this setup is typically an affordable wireless router that provides a WiFi local network segment as well as an Ethernet local network segment. The computer that is typically used in this setup is typically a notebook (laptop) computer that has a built-in WiFi network interface. The printer will typically be an inkjet-based “all-in-one” that is hooked up to the computer as need for printing or scanning arises. Some setups may use a network-enabled “all-in-one” printer that connects directly to the Ethernet or WiFi network segment and uses standard network protocols for handling print jobs.

This experience has been brought about through Intel’s heavily-promoted “Centrino” concept which promotes the WiFi wireless network as part and parcel of laptop use. One main concept that was promoted in the “Centrino” concept was the idea of portability where you can go anywhere in the house in a moment’s notice yet still be within reach of the Internet.

What is this leading to?

The main activities cited in the article include general Web browsing and banking / paying bills online.  It had said that the short amount of time needed to do the business online can lead to more leisure time. In the context of the housewife, this would encompass more quality time with the children.

Other articles that I have read talked about housewives with young children visiting the casual gaming sites like MSN Games and MiniClip so they can play a few rounds of a casual game while their child is having a nap.

Social-networking sites; which are often demonised as huge “time wasters”, a threat to privacy and a hangout for unsavoury types of people, can appeal to this kind of user. The same can hold true of online forums, instant messaging and similar sites.

But primarily, the housewife using the Internet as part of her life means that there is another tool for her association with th organisations that she deals with. Think of being able to view "parent-teacher" information sent by the school that the children go to or putting up online notes for the pressure-group organisation that she and her neighbours are part of.

Conclusion

The remarks made in the Daily Mail article and in this blog commentary certainly show that the “connected” lifestyle certainly appeals to those who spend some of their time alone in the house.

10 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service, Network Activities | , | 1 Comment