Usage Graphs, Plan caps or limits

usage graphUsage Graphs

We recently added usage graphs to the customer invoices.   We have added the graphs for a couple of reasons:

  • We want our customers to know how much data they are actually using.
  • We want you to be able to tell when your usage has changed significantly.
  • It makes it easier to compare services with other technologies such as WiFi hotspots.
  • New service plans may have data limits.

It’s very difficult for most customers to understand how much data they are using.  The units vary and there is considerable confusion concerning speed (how fast you can transfer data) in Megabits per second and usage (how much data in a time period) in Mega Bytes.

Cell phone and Cellular data plans normally have limited data usage .   Typical data plans have 5 to 10GB per month of data before additional costs are incurred.

Our typical home Internet customer uses 41GB of data a month.  15% of the users exceed 250Gb, and 1.5% are over 500Gb.

Are usage limits coming?

Not on the existing plans.  We anticipate that any new service plans will have usage limits.

Why is Amplex considering usage limits?

We want to offer higher speed plans to our customers.   With our newest equipment we can offer much higher speeds, but we need some type of usage limit before we can do so.   Our current highest speed plan is 9Mb/1Mb.  We would like to increase the speed on our existing plans, and offer higher speed plans up to 25Mbps.

With our current plans, a customer maxing out the service for an entire month generates a economic loss – the data consumed exceeds our costs.  Our current plans at 3.5 or 5Mb limit the losses on any given customer, simply because the customer can’t download enough data to cause a major problem. This changes if we offer higher speed plans with no usage limits.

We have not decided on what the new plan speeds or limits are going to be, though the FCC has established a minimum usage of 100Gb/mo for a plan to be considered broadband.   Our service plans will be at least 100Gb, and probably far higher.

Can I keep my existing plan?

Yes (seems like there is a Obamacare joke here somewhere….).   We may discontinue the existing plans for new customers, but will continue to offer the current plans if you want to stay with them.

What Is A Mbit? GB? Internet Service Terms Explained

If your eyes glaze over when a techie starts talking about megabits, gigabyte caps and upload speeds you’re not alone. Internet terms can be very confusing and it’s important to know what each of these terms mean.

 

Speed_Limit_65mbit_signMegabit/Kilobit  - When you hear the term Megabit (Mb), one million bits, or Kilobit (Kb), one thousand bits, it is most likely in reference to speed of the connection. The speed of most internet connections is listed in Mbps (megabits per second) and the higher the Mbps the better.

 

 

capacityGigabyte / Megabyte – The term Gigabyte (GB), one billion bytes, or Megabyte (MB) one million bytes, usually refers to the maximum amount of data you’re allowed to transfer before being charged more or having your browsing speed reduced. Streaming movies or downloading large files can quickly use up a data cap.

 

 

internet-pingPing Time / Latency – The latency or ping time measures, in milliseconds, the time it takes a single bit of information to get to a location on the internet and back to you. The time this takes is very important for playing online multiplayer games and online chat and phone applications. The lower the ping times the better.

 

 

upload-downloadUpload / Download – Upload is the information sent from your computer or device out to the Internet. Download is the information sent from the internet to your computer or device. Many internet services have different upload and download speeds because most home and small business users download significantly more then upload.

 

So how does Amplex Compare? I’ll use my personal internet connection which is on the Home Xtreme service for this example.

  • Megabits: 9 Mbps – very fast with burst speed up to 15 Mbps.
  • Gigabyte Limit: None – very good since I watch online TV episodes.
  • Ping Time: 23 ms – very low which lets me play online FPS games.
  • Upload/Download: 9 Mbps / 1 Mbps – very fast downloads and I can send e-mails and upload pictures quickly.

Routers – What They Are & What To Look For

whatisrouter-routerbanner

Have you ever heard the term router or wireless router and wondered what it was? A router is a piece of equipment that is connected to your network or internet connection and directs the information received and sent to it. Routers are important because they allow multiple computers to share one common connection and provide some protection from unwanted access by deciding what is and is not allowed to pass through it.

Routers come in two types: wired and wireless. A wired router most commonly has four ethernet connection ports for computers and one ethernet connection port for the network link or internet connection. A wireless router has all the ports of a wired router with the addition of a built-in wireless antenna system to send and receive information over wireless signals.

whatisrouter-specs

Routers have a few different specifications to understand and evaluate when purchasing one.

  • Ethernet/LAN Ports – These are the ports you plug in computers you want to wire directly to the router. Most routers include four of these ports but home/small business models are made with up to sixteen ports.
  • Wireless Signal Type – Many routers today have built in wireless capability but the speeds can vary greatly. The fastest newest standard is 802.11AC, the slower but more common 802.11N, to the oldest but most common 802.11G. No matter what speed your router is rated for your internet connection speed will dictate the speed you can access the internet.The most important thing to remember is that both the router and the computers wireless need to match for maximum speed. If a router has 802.11N 600 Mbps but your laptop only has the ability to transmit at 802.11G 54 Mbps you can only communicate to the router at 54 Mbps speed. Most routers are backwards compatible so the connection will fall back to the lower speed if the computer connecting to it doesn’t support the faster speeds.
  • Antenna Design – Wireless routers can feature internal or external antennas. External antennas generally perform better and while the rule is bigger is better when it comes to antennas it’s a good idea to remember that walls and interference play a big part in the range of the signal. Some routers support the ability to add-on an external antenna which can be helpful if you need a boost to the signal.
  • Extra Features – Routers can have a host of extra features including the ability to connect USB hard drives and printers, have guest Wi-Fi networks and advanced firewalls. Keep in mind that many of these features have limitations and in the case of USB connections may only work with certain types of devices and printers.

whatisrouter-choosebest

The best way to choose a wireless router is to look at independent testing sites and customer reviews. SmallNetBuilder is a website that provides independent testing of many routers and can be accessed by going to http://www.smallnetbuilder.com. You can find customer reviews by going to many major electronic retailers websites and searching for router.

Tim Alexander
Amplex Internet

P.S. One final bit of advice when purchasing a router: make sure the store has a good return policy. Since router performance, especially wireless routers, can vary based on where it is placed and the construction of your building you may find a well reviewed router does not meet your needs.

Government data gathering and the PRISM program

There are quite a few sensational stories in the media claiming that the government is gathering large amounts of data from network providers without warrants and/or abusing privacy.   Some of the fuss is legitimate but for the most part it’s being blown out of proportion.

Lert’s start with how Amplex handles requests for data by government agencies:

  • Any request for data of a transactional nature made by a governmental agency requires a valid subpoena.  The request can specify that no notification be made to the target of the investigation for a certain amount of time.  These requests are rare and very specific.  There really isn’t anything to object to in these type of requests – it’s local or state law enforcement doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.  Amplex reviews these requests with our legal council to verify the authenticity of the request and complies as needed.
  • Requests for stored data (email or other content) or any real time capture of data requires a search warrant, signed by a judge.   Search warrants may specify that no notice be given to the affected party.   Amplex reviews these requests with our legal council for authenticity and to narrow the scope of the request if the request is unreasonable, excessively broad, or technically unfeasible.
  • National Security Letters (NSL).  This is a special type of request for data from the federal government.  This type of request contains a gag order prohibiting the disclosure of the contents of the letter, the requested data, etc.   The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good writeup of NSL’s.  Amplex has never been presented with a National Security Letter (at least as of 6/8/2013).

On several occasions Amplex has been presented with a request from law enforcement for information outside the above processes when there was imminent danger.  Amplex will cooperate with law enforcement in these situations when we believe the request is legitimate.  Specific examples of this have included a bomb threat to a local school, and a person posting very specific threats online.  Please note that our terms of service allow Amplex to cooperate with law enforcement agencies (LEA) in these situations.  Is there a potential for abuse in this?  Yes, but there are many legal options for Amplex to take if we discover that the process was abused or LEA intentionally deceived us.

So what are all the sensational stories about?   What is the real story?   We have a few ideas but first we need to discuss CALEA:

CALEA  is a federal regulation that specifies a series of technical, legal, and management procedures by which LEA can gather needed data.   The CALEA implementation in a private network is NOT controlled by the government.  There are a considerable number of safeguards in the CALEA system to prevent unauthorized use and to limit the data captured to only the records specified in the accompanying search order.

PRISM is the system that hit the news this week.  The system reportedly gives the government access to large amounts of data.   The story doesn’t really add up.  Why?

  • The reported cost of the program is $20 million dollars.    The federal government can’t fund a giant data gathering program with that money.   $20 million barely pays for the consultant to design the program, much less implement it.
  • The shear volume of data would be extremely difficult to capture and transport.  Capturing all the data from a tiny network like Amplex would consume somewhere around 40TB of data per day.  Getting that data transported off the network would be very expensive.   There is no central point on the network where all data can be collected in any case.
  • Large networks like  Google, MSN, Facebook, are very decentralized.   Large scale monitoring would require a massive investment in additional transport capacity.  The networks have a hard enough time keeping up with their own growth, much less building a parallel network for the government.
  • Most data transported on the Internet is asymmetric, meaning that the data path to the end user is not the same as the return path.   Capturing data at mid-points in the network usually only gets you 1/2 the information.  Trying to capture the data from multiple mid-points and putting it back together is very difficult.  Capturing data only works well at the source or destination.

So what is PRISM really about?   My best guess is that it’s a electronic system where the government can present CALEA requests along with the relevant legal search warrants,  national security letters, etc. to the participating companies by electronic means rather than faxing, scanning, and/or using overnight delivery services to move paper around.  That is about the only thing that $20M by the federal government will buy you.   It also makes sense.  Much of the legal system really is 15 years behind the rest of private industry and they still push mountains of paper around the country.   The fed’s did something smart and built a secure communication system to deliver legal documents?   Good for them.  Perhaps they should have sent out a press releases instead of hiding it.

Are the feds overreaching with NSF letters and the PATRIOT act?   Yes – and the Department of Justice has previously found major problems with the program.  Are other government agencies abusing the program as well?    I suspect we are about to find out.

Mark

Internet Service Provider Re-launches Website

Amplex Internet New WebsiteMillbury, Ohio (April 4, 2013) – Amplex Internet, a northwest Ohio-based Internet Service Provider, announce a re-vamped and re-energized website located at www.amplex.net.

Site changes feature enhanced content and redesigned format to provide a better overall user experience and enhance Amplex Internet’s already well-established position. The site’s new look is intended to align Amplex’s branding and image with their mission of providing world-class service, quality and delivery to their customers.

Amplex Internet Sales and Marketing Director Brian Hintze added, “The digital arena is becoming increasingly important for both our current customers and people who may be looking for a better, local broadband option. In an effort to deliver enhanced content to our customers and visitors, Amplex is proud to unveil a new look to Amplex.net.”

Amplex Internet uses fixed-position wireless technology to provide reliable, high-speed broadband Internet access to thousands of households and businesses throughout Northwest Ohio. By helping to bridge the ‘digital divide’, Amplex ensures everyone has access to Web-based information and services that will allow local communities and businesses to compete in the global economy.

About Amplex Internet
Amplex Internet is a northwest Ohio-based Internet Service Provider. Since 1997, Amplex has helped narrow the digital divide by providing reliable, high-speed broadband Internet access to thousands of households and businesses throughout Northwest Ohio where DSL and cable are not available or are unreliable. Learn more at www.amplex.net or call 888.419.3635.