Cloud

Amid end of net neutrality, consumer cloud faces stormy future

Despite the potential that cloud solutions offer for business, consumer uses for cloud technology remain limited in North America.

 

 
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 Image: Wikimedia Commons/cjohnson7 via Flickr
  

While cloud computing in the enterprise enjoys ever-higher adoption rates, the consumer cloud has more hurdles to overcome. New developments this year have made the forecast for consumer-facing cloud technology a rather gloomy one. While corporate cheerleading of enterprise cloud remains abundant, a reality check is needed for the consumer cloud market, and the encumbrances which that market faces.

The end (for now) of net neutrality

After a ruling by a United States Court of Appeals in January 2014 that struck down the FCC's net neutrality directive, accusations are flying that Verizon is throttling Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Netflix. The FCC ruling was not unexpected, due to the way in which the FCC classifies broadband Internet services, and hope remains for altering that definition to re-introduce net neutrality as an FCC mandate.

Until FCC regulation can correct the problem at hand, relying on ISPs to reliably and swiftly deliver high-bandwidth content—or anything located on data farms such as AWS—is too high of an expectation to plan a service around.

Paying bureaucrats to legislate away competition

Perhaps even more insidious than ISPs abandoning the principles of net neutrality are attempts by these same ISPs to donate apparently paltry sums of money to local bureaucrats in Utah to prevent the spread of a regional cooperative operator from offering Fiber to the Premises outside of their current boundaries. Similar plans in Kansas to prohibit cities and municipalities from building their own community broadband services have been proposed, but have been scuttled (for now) amidst a firestorm of public criticism.

An abject lack of infrastructure

Because of the population distribution in the United States and Canada, people living in suburban and rural areas have few, if any, options for broadband Internet. This difficulty of access to the market has been known for some time, and led to the creation of the National Broadband Plan in 2009. While this has seen some increase in availability of services in rural and suburban areas, many of these newly available services are installations of slow wireless technologies such as a Motorola Canopy system (now Cambium ePMP), high-latency and data-capped satellite Internet services, or expensive data-capped mobile routers working on GSM or LTE networks operated by Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint.

In comparison to "true" high-speed Internet services, these are generally more costly on a monthly basis and have a great deal of restrictions on use that other services do not face. In addition, Internet via Satellite or Motorola Canopy installations are greatly affected by high winds, low clouds, or severe weather, all of which are in abundance in places such as Kansas where high-speed Internet options are limited outside of metropolitan areas.

What this means for the market

Some of the more lofty goals of product distribution that have come around in the last few years are still out of reach for a significant market segment of people who are not in the service area of proper high-speed Internet services, or otherwise must pay a premium in data transmission to purchase products or services. Examples include NetflixHulu, and Crunchyroll (which have to some extent supplanted the home media market of distributing films and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray), software distribution services Steam and Origin, and the distribution of software titles using OnLive, a service through which one can play video games using client software that pulls the video output and transmits user input to a cloud system.

Among others, popular cloud services include the OnLive platform, a service through which one can play video games using client software which transmits user input to a remote computer, the result of which is sent back to the user as streaming video. The streaming of films and television programs through Netflix, Hulu, or Crunchyroll, which have (to some extent) supplanted the home media market of distributing films and television shows on DVD and Blu-Ray are similarly inaccessible for consumers outside of the reach of wired Internet. Digital software distribution services such as Steam, Origin, the Windows Store, and the iOS App Store face similar difficulties in access to market.

Websites that utilize Amazon EC2 may see better results for users on traditional broadband networks by offloading binary blobs (images, zip files, etc.) to a second server running lighthttpd to serve those files.

Final thoughts

Allowing potential customers to fall by the wayside isn't a good strategy for business, but spending more to reach these same potential customers is also a non-starter. Let us know your strategies for reaching out to users with low connectivity.

 

About

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware. James is currently an education major at Wichita State University in Kansas.

11 comments
kasa_i
kasa_i

The article started well, but clearly lazy research (due to slow speed connectivity perhaps ;) ) and down right factual errors have marred the article. Fixed wireless ISPs in the u.s are actually a shining example of how good capitalism should work. They offer un-subsidized options for connectivity at much cheaper prices when compared to fiber (when you take out govt. Subsidy); not to mention hard to reach places where it is uneconomical to other wise provide fiber.

Oh, and one more thing, a simple google search would show ePMP is not Canopy. Between Cambium and Ubiquiti, there are in fact more options now to get excellent and low cost connectivity than before. More research please.

Ibapah
Ibapah

You obviously have never been on a fixed wireless circuit that is using the latest generation equipment.  Blows DSL and Cable Modems away.  Slow internet....  Try Comcast when everyone in a neighborhood is trying to stream Netflix at the same time.  I think you need to do some research.  Most of the geographical area of this nation would not even have internet if it wasn't for fixed wireless. 

rory
rory

James, you really need to do better research than you did on wireless technologies.  You know a little bit and extrapolate that to a whole industry.  We can deliver up to 30Mbps today wirelessly with the goal of hitting 80Mbps or more by the end of this year.  And that's simply to an end users. Did I mention that we are delivering up to 10Mbps for as little as $18 per month today with 30Mbps at $30 per month.  The projected price of 80Mbps should be about $40 per month.  And here is what's even more funny, it cost us less than $200 per installed customer to do that. 

forrestc3
forrestc3

You seem to be of the opinion that fixed wireless internet (which you used Canopy as an example for) is lacking in some way.  True, it is hard to compete with fiber technologies which truly deliver Gigabit to the customer, but when compared the technologies actually being deployed today (Cable and DSL), fixed wireless can and does hold it's own.   Many Wireless ISP's are delivering service far faster and far more reliable than the Cable and Telephone companies, using the very equipment you call slow and unreliable.


Unless something is being done very wrong by a Wireless ISP, service via fixed terrestrial wireless should not be "affected by high winds, low clouds, or severe weather," as you put it.   

mixophyous
mixophyous

I think you should learn more about Cambium Networks before making such BS statements 

We us it exclusively here and have no issues with providing great,fast and reliable service. 

Only ones affected by such accusations are the ones who begged to have marginal service installed and disregarded what the installer had to say. 

 

JamesAltonSanders
JamesAltonSanders

@kasa_iEconomical or not, options in the US pale in comparison to other developed countries. While wired options are preferable, even wired services by firms like Comcast are inadequate ISPs in other countries.


The ePMP / Canopy text was a very late edit to this article made because the link to Canopy didn't work, as the page on Motorola's website was removed per their sale of that business to Cambium. A quick search indicated that ePMP was the next generation of the wireless technology Cambium bought from Motorola (then called Canopy).

JamesAltonSanders
JamesAltonSanders

@Ibapah It's really hard to make a good argument from geographical area. 28% of the United States is owned by the federal government. Comcast isn't appreciably better, but options in the US pale in comparison to other developed countries.

JamesAltonSanders
JamesAltonSanders

@rory Wireless equipment such as ePMP cannot compete with fiber installations such as Google Fiber, but are absolutely preferable to services such as HughesNet or LTE networks operated by Verizon. However, this equipment exists, in practice, to serve customers that don't have access to wired Internet.

JamesAltonSanders
JamesAltonSanders

@mixophyous Wireless equipment such as ePMP cannot compete with fiber installations such as Google Fiber or in countries other than the United States that have proper infrastructure, such as Japan, South Korea, Romania, Sweden, etc. Local ISPs operating Cambium equipment aren't necessarily bad, but this equipment exists, in practice, to serve customers that don't have access to wired Internet.


I don't live in an area serviced by Comcast, but I can't expect they would be better -- I'm not a shill for Comcast -- American Internet infrastructure is lacking compared to other first-world countries (and Romania).

rory
rory

@JamesAltonSanders @rory James, thank your for replying.  I have this argument with everyone who thinks fiber is the answer.  The reality is that for most households, the single highest bandwidth application they use is video streaming.  That takes at most about 6.5Mbps.  The only applications that take more are file-sharing and off-sight backup.  So if 95% of the population can easily live with 10Mbps (and note that I said we will be doing a lot more within 12 months), why are we spending taxpayer money that we don't have to give massive bandwidth to file-sharers?


In reality, the speeds I quoted keep the CPE installed costs down to less than $200 with either Cambium ePMP or Ubiquiti AirMax M series.  Raise the price up another $100 and we can deliver 150Mbps. Raise it another $250 (theoretically but probably will happen soon), and we can hit 250Mbps.  Compared to the $7-$10K costs of fiber, I'm not seeing the value.  If a private industry wants to put fiber in on their own dime, more power to them.  But if it was profitable, everyone would be doing it.  It's not and the taxpayer shouldn't be paying for it when we can hit speeds wirelessly today that everyone could afford. 

JamesAltonSanders
JamesAltonSanders

@rory @JamesAltonSandersI'm going to be really simplistic in my counterargument (and this may work against me) but:


1. You're starting from the presumption that there is only one active video stream, which for households that have more than one person, wouldn't necessarily be true. (We're also now making the slow jump to 4K video.) 10 Mbps is baseline, ePMP can scale beyond that, but more importantly:


2. This also completely ignores ping time. As a product of physics -- again, being simplistic -- the speed of sound is slower than the speed of light. I suspect that optimum ping times on ePMP are about 30~40ms, though Cambium is working on (released?) a new scheduler that works around the problem to an extent.


It's a false equivalency to say that these two things are equal. That being said, ePMP is far better than LTE or Satellite services, and aside from ping times, is quite likely better than the aging wired (copper) infrastructure in many places in this country. As far as the taxpayer argument goes, ISPs have been pocketing taxpayer money for infrastructure rollouts that never happened. Maybe we should be looking into recovering those funds.

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