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Keeping the Pipes Clean

Many industry professionals sensibly opt to converse in analogies, simplifying the clear-as-mud world of four-letter acronyms to instead describe the world of broadband as a motorway with dirt-track off-ramps, for example. Or drawing parallels between airlines and telecom firms to describe the services-led approaches needed to combat the commoditization of bandwidth.

My favorite of these old chestnuts is the concept of ISPs and telecom firms as utility providers; that somehow the provision of data services is very much the same as the provision of water, for instance. Both have the reservoirs (backbone), pipes (Digital Subscriber Line), taps (customer premises equipment), meters (billing), the list goes on It’s a clever and convincing argument but with one immovable blockage lodged firmly in the U-bend: Water provided by the local utility is cleansed and service provider connectivity is not.

If service providers wish to subscribe to the ideal that the pervasiveness of modern communications will compel residential and business consumers to absorb increasing amounts of bandwidth and services as essential utilities, it is clearly incumbent upon them to start behaving like other utility providers. They need to offer a ready-to-consume service that requires no additional treatment – a service that will not cripple the very devices it is meant to feed.

Owing to a mixture of government dictum, voluntary practice, and commercial expediency, water companies regularly reinvest substantial sums of their revenues, ensuring that their product is provided reliably and filtered free of the kind of nasty content that could seriously harm the very people who pay to use it. In telecom, if a customer gets cholera in the virtual service water then it becomes their problem.

Changing of the Guard, Assuming Clean Network Responsibility

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