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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

My ISP and ADSL2+ (part 4)

It has grown increasingly clear that our ISP does not care for its userbase. They plan everything around those users who know nothing about how or why their connection works as long as it does. Us lot (power users they call us) that do know such things are increasingly ignored.

This was never more clear than after the recent tests of ADSL2+ here.

Since they started the tests it has become increasingly clear that they have not the faintest idea why sync speeds for the vast majority of their customers are so crap. As long as old Mary Smith is happy with her connection then they are happy for her and chuffed with themselves they can please this level of user. Because they have not the faintest clue why the contact with them has got less and less until silence ensued.

This shows to me a total lack of caring for their power users. Okay so those power users make up about 1% of their total customer base but it is that 1% of users that   demand the best from their connections as that 1% of users are much more likely to use protocols the other 99% have never heard of let alone used.

What they cannot seem to grasp is that the twisted pair wiring here is mostly old. Because it is old it is more likely to break down during heavy usage resulting in dropped connections, slow connections etc etc. Why they cannot, or will not admit to this only they know. Until such a time arrives when they will admit ADSL2+ is a joke not worth laughing at here and acknowledge where the problems with ADSL2+ really lays then there will be no such thing as a high speed connection. Not until fibre comes along anyway and if they screw that up like they have  this ADSL2+ then they are beyond hope. We are close to that now anyway and it will not take much to drive the 1% over the edge. Not that we can go anywhere else which the majority of that 1% would given the chance.

ADSL2+ here in hull is so poor it is a joke. A joke not worth laughing at. As the parent companies shares fall and the companies cost rise the likelihood of them fixing what is so obviously the problem grows less and less likely withe ach passing day.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

My ISP and ADSL2+ (part 3)

After a week of tests our sync rates are still pathetic. Sure, in BT land one can expect slow ADSL2+ sync and throughput speeds but here in Hull, via KC/Karoo, the situation is different. Different enough to not even bother comparing what those in BT land get on an ADSLL2+ enabled line.

I will quallify that comment. The main difference is line length. In BT land the vast majority of people are a lot further away from their exchanges than the vast majority of people are  here in Hull. ADSL and ADSL2+ are both line length driven technologies in so much as the further one is away from their exchange the poorer your sync and throughput speeds will be. The underlaying technology is basically the same but is it that line length that causes problems. Of course, one should not, indeed one cannot, discount  poor/bad/broken wiring both in the house and on overhead and underground. Nor can one discount the modem/router in use nor micro-filters in use but the main cause of slow sync and throughput speeds comes down to the length of the telephone wiring (twisted pair) between house and exchange.

Due to our ISP having a monopoly on the telephony here, especially the provision of ADSL/ADSL2+, one would think the quality of wiring would be higher. After all, they provide a city not the whole country as BT do, with the telephony network, thefore one could assume that purely on a land size basis the work involved is much lower. Indeed, it is. However, the telephoney network within the city of Hull was built peicemeal. As the city grew so did the telephony network. Bit but bit it was peiced together. This means that there is varying thickness wiring dependant on when said wiring was installed. Of course, as time progressed some of the more anceint wiring was replaced but in the main this is not so. So, today we have a mish-mash of a telephony network. This goes someway to explaining why some people are getting sub 2mb syncs and throughputs while others are getting 9-10mb and a very few greater than 17mb. The average ADSL2+ sync speed here is 10mb. In itself that may not seem too bad when compared to a comparatively distanced from exchange BT user but for here it is pathetic.

We are 1.9km from our exchange. We get a poor, for ADSL2+ 11mb sync. Throughput is 1.2MB as reported by the various   download applications I use here which includes but is not limited to, SVN, CVS, GIT, FTP, Web downloads and a host of others. Our sync should be a lot higher but due to possible problems on our line between house and exchange we cannot achieve any higher. I have asked our ISP several questions for which i am waiting answers. I want to know what thickness of wiring is in use here. I want them to manually check each and every inch of it. If the quality of the line is poor I have been assured they will change it. There are many reasons why a sync could be low but by starting with the wiring between house and exchange they can eliminate bit by bit as th checks are made. I have been assured that they think the vast majority of users should be syncing between 15 and 20mb but the reality is the vast majority are not seeing those sync speeds. Therefore, they are committed to  trying to establish why this is so.

Time will tell if they actually manage to improve peoples sync speeds or not.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

My ISP and ADSL2+ (part 2)

People here cannot grasp why their connections are  slow. Sure, there are a few lucky ones with good sync speeds but the vast majority have seen their sync speeds slow down since the move to ADSL2+. In an effort to explain to them why this is I have been collecting data from all over the city. Some 1000 people have since provided me with the data I asked for. While I will not be giving that data out to anyone I would like to try and explain the why.

In this city the telephone wiring from house to exchange has rarely changed since it was first installed. Some has been renewed but not many and not in any great number lengths. Take for example a house on Princes Avenue down Belvoir Street, another off Spring Bank on the small Stanley estate, another off Newland Avenue down Grafton Street and finaly one off Orchard Park down Gosthorpe. Each and every one of those sample houses has had their telephone wiring for differing lengths of time. Take the first one, they got theirs approx when KC  first started offering a telephone service. Take the second one, they got theirs when the estate was first build around 1963/4. The third one around the same time as the first one and the last one arond 1964/5 when Orchard Park was first built. Now, one would think that the newer the telephone wiring is the better is would handle high speed connections. Partly correct but there is another equation to take into consideration and that is where the exchange is located and how far the house is from that exchange.

Contrary to popular opinion just because an exchange is closer to a given house does not mean that they are connected to that exchange. They could be connected via an exchange a mile or so further away. Take Orchard Park as an example. Here depending where one is on the estate depends on whether you will be connected to the West exchange or the Cottingham one. Our own connection while being closer to the Cottingham exchange (1.2km) is instead routed to the West exchange (1.9km). So, trying to establish why sync speeds are low via who is connected to which exchange is a tricky one as the most direct route is not always the one taken.

Most people are using the Karoo provided Netgear modem/router (which incidentally is the only one  supported by the ISP) which rules our modem/router differences.

Added to all this is the fact that just because your house is located less than 1km from your exchange does not mean the telephone wiring is the same length. In some instances we have people 1.3km from their exchange but the telephone twisted pair runs some 3.4km. Due to the massive variations here it cannot be discounted as the cause of slow sync speeds.

Hull itself is not a huge place. But the whole twisted pair cabling is mostly ancient. The limited amount of exchanges sure doesn't help the sync speeds. There are 7 or 8 main exchanges dotted around the city with the rest being boucers or sub exchanges, sometimes called dead exchanges as oppose to a live one which is a main exchange, does not help people with slow/poor sync speeds. None of this does.

Overall, the whole telephone network here is poor. It is poorly designed being tacked togther as it was as the city itself grew and with that the number or people wanting telephones, lacks true expansion capabilities because of the former. This is now starting to show with the advent of ADSL2+ the so called high speed connection which is anything but for most people. Whether or not KC or Karoo  plan on doing anything about this situation remains to be seen.

My own view is they do not care enough to do anything about the telephone  wiring (the so labled 'last mile') as there are no other ISP's here that can or will challenge their monopoly on the city's telephone system. The only real solution is for KC/Karoo to flood the city with fibre. I do know this is being looked at as future plan but if they don't so it soon the whole telephone system will likely collapse under the weight of customer usage patterns. Another thing with fibre is the cost of replacing age old  copper wiring. Fibre, which much cheaper than it was a few years ago, isn't cheap and starting on replacing the copper with fibre won't come cheap for the company either so if they baulk on the figures we could see telephony here fall further and further behind everyone else everywhere.

Hull CC Complaints unit.

Our council here in Hull (Kingston-upon-Hull to give it its full and proper name) has a Complaints Unit. They can be contacted via any means possible except email. I find that in a world where email personifies communications the fact that the one, possibly the most used, area not available via email contact is complaints.

That said, the available complaints procedures are limited in scope and would certainly scare the less intelligent of the local populace (and our Lord knows there are plenty of those here) away from using said service.

We have not as yet used the service but we know plenty of people who have and they say the procedures are so bad the majority would never use it again. In and effort to understand why those who have used the service find it so bad I went out on a crusade to gather as much information from those people as was possible. One area that stood out time and time again was that while it was easy to start a complaint (email not withstanding) once the procedure was underway the nightmares began. Stalling was one complaint. Another was lack of resolution. After gathering as much information is possble over a 9 month period the only conclusion I can come to is that HullCC make it as difficult as they possibly, and legally, can, probably in the hope that the number of complaints go down thereby making it look like the people here have nothing to complain about.

At this time we are considering, or rather was considering, putting in 2 complaints. The fact that there is no email contact has forced us to have a rethink. The 2 complaints we have are as follows:

1) When we were first told of the availabilty of this house we came to have a look. The house itself had had some major work done in it as the previous tenant had deliberately broken a major water pipe (I will leave it to your imagination the   amount of damge that was caused). While the internals of the house had had major work done there was plenty of small to not so small problems that still remained. Before we had moved in the then Housing Officer assured us that any and all remaining problems we found once reported would be fixed. We followed his advice and rang the relevant number with a long list of remaining problems. They sent a  guy round to identify all the problems and he then let the relevant departments know. They all came and fixed nearly all  what the should fix. There are however some remaining and after call after call to them saying what the problems are that still need fixing they remain  steadfastly not fixed.

2) The Housing Officer that was then has now moved elsewhere and we have a new one. She is utterly useless at the job and is frankly totally uncaring. Her attitude is one of "You should be thankful for the house".

3) Before we moved in and with the previous Housing Officer he agreed that the state of both front and back garden should be and would be sorted. 1 year later we are still waiting. The small garden out front is a mass of weeds and a small tree has overgrown. The current Housing Officer has said "The gardens are not our problem". A comment we happen to agree with but as the previous Housing Officer had given us assurances that becuase of the state of said gardens BEFORE we had moved in they remain a council problem and the council should sort them out. We are now in no mans land as we have the agreement with the previous Housing Officer which the current Housing Officer does not care about. Her  exact words were  "The problems are yours and you should pay someone to sort the gardens out". Not exactly nice or correct as the previous Housing Officer has given us assurances that "Because the problem of the gardens was evident before you move in that the gardens are a council problem and the council will send someone around after you move in to sort the gardens out for you". Of course, to this day that never happened and because we have an uncaring Housing Officer for these parts now our chances of getting those jobs done that was a part of our agreement when first signing for this council house are seemingly nil.

It would seem from talking with other residents on this and other council estates we are not alone in having agreements broken and not alone in not liking the current complanins setup of our council. Whether they will take any notice of this or the emails sent or even the written letter sent to them remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though and that is something must change before the council becomes mistaken in thinking all residents are happy as tey have not complained. If the procedure to complain remains an obstical to complaining then that alone explains why people will not complain.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

My ISP and ADSL2+

My ISP, Karoo of Hull fame, or infamy, has recently changed over to ADSLL2+. Yay! I hear you  shout but it is not as simple as that. In Hull, as in other parts of the U.K., the telephone wiring system here is old. Some has been replaced, most has not. Because of this ADSL2+ in the main for the vast majority of their customers sucks badly. So badly the majority have seen a drop in sync speeds. Sure, there are some whose sync speeds actually went up but they are so few and far between the move to ADSL2+ can only be seen as a failure. Not by the ISP however.

And that is where the problems start. As one can rightly expect from an ISP point of view slower sync speeds means slower throughput which means less can be downloaded. From a customer point of view lower sync speeds means slower throughput which means Internet applications, including but not limited to downloading in general, such as VOIP, watching video's, streaming music and Internet radio etc stutter and stammer as if we were back in the days of the old modem dialup world dialing into a modern Internet. Basically, from the customers point of view the whole ADSL2+ experience is a poor one.

Some have already requested to be moved back to the older, in their cases, more reliable ADSL while others are patiently waiting for the ISP to somehow magically fix whatever it is they need to fix to improve their connectivity. A few others have left Karoo and moved into the Mobile Internet world where they are finding that their speeds are better.

It is generally accepted that here we on average overall speeds are better than they are in "BT Land" and in some circumstances better then some cable areas. But, when things go wrong here it can be a long arduous fight to:
1) Get them to see the problem
2) Get them to accept that the problem exists
3) Get them to accept that the customer can be right
4) Get them to realise that some customers  are more technically aware than some of their own  technicians and  engineers
5) Get them to fix whatever is the underlaying reason for the problem or problems.

With 5 being the ultimate objective 1 and 2 can be and is the hardest to get across while 3 and 4 are nigh on impossible.

Over the course of the last week or so I have been fighting on behalf of many of their customers to get the ISP to admit they have screwed up. Indeed, during one particularly brutally honest  confrontation I said sod it and quit the forum I was on. He tried to get me to allow him to ring me (isn't that a stupid corporate thing? Asking if one can ring) but I said back that if he wants to ring me there would be strings attached which i laid out for him. So far, he has neither replied nor answered the questions posed. Sort of typical really. When the going get tough, they hide.

We shall see over the rest of this week just how much he cares about his customers and whether or not he was for real when he said I was the most technically minded of anyone outside of his immediate business associations.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Our ISP.

By our I mean it in the sense that the ISP is in our city via our cities telephone system. We are somewhat unique in Kingston-upon-Hull in that we have our own telephone network totally separate from BT/Virgin etc from which the rest of the country benefits in a way we cannot. That benefit is if you hae problems with your current ISP you can simply jump ship and sign up elsewhere. You can do this as many times as there are iSP's available to you. It is that telephone company the provides the city's ADSL offerings. Apart from those ISP's that provide only dialup services and another that supposedly provides ADSL and one other that claims to be providing fibre based services (I say claims to be as I have yet to fine any installations done) our ISP being a child offspring offering ADSL  based services off the back of the telephone provider Mother ship is all we have here.

That being the case. When the ISP in question buggers things up or is, as any child can be, petulant or simply does not offer what customers, home customers in particular, want  then we have no other ISP to go to. Sure we could use 'mobile Internet' but that has problems of its own here, such as low signals which makes using mobile Internet something akin to the old, and now ancient, dialup services.

Right now, there are huge problems with the ISP's ADSL2+ offerings. All over the city, in every single exchange area, people are getting low sync (down) speeds. Lower, in some cases much lower, (down) sync speeds than they had on the older ADSL services. One always knows when they have a problem or two as they do not return emails. Emailing their technical support is a waste of time as they just trot out the company line. Emailing cutomer support is like pulling teeth with a spoon. I.E. something worth considering but once commonsense has kicked in the idea ia forgotten. apart from that, emailing customer support is a waste of time as they too trot out the company line, along with such gems as "have you changed your settings" which is fast becoming the watch word for the ISP's  customer service team. They are frankly a joke. Getting any information out of them is akin to getting water out of a stone. On occasions emailing them does return a decent result but when the shit hits the fan they hide away.

We are in discussions (as part of our normal monthly meetings) with said ISP in an effort to find out why their ADSL2+ is so crap.  So far they have trotted out  'line length'  and 'incompatible hardware (meaning modem/routers and plain modems) which is all well and good for the masses as an excuse but us more techincally aware people know that those are simple excuses. While they do obviously play a part in end user sync speeds in a city such as we are with its tightly setup network of cabling we do not believe  for one minute those are the cause of the low down sync speeds. They are not talking with yor average Joe here they are talking to two people that have years of network and telephony experience between them. So, while they can fob off a lot of folk they cannot as easily fob us two off. Of course there are those within our group that think they know everything and often times come up with utter bullshit but others know who they are so ignore them for what they are.

In the next day or so we should be finding out the waht, why and how come.

Monday, 15 September 2008


Our ISP has recently moved a lot of their customers from ADSL to ADSL2+ and surprise  surprise everybody's line syncs have dropped.

Why is this not a surprise to anyone except the ISP in question? Because, we users are used to be shafted by our ISP. Some are saying they have deliberately slowed people down to save on bandwidth costs. Others are saying they will use the Consumer Act against the ISP. They are saying that the ISP lied to the cities residents when they pumped up ADSL2+. Advertising everywhere to maximise how many people saw their adverts. Now people have moved over to it they are finding they have stepped back a few year in time with speeds lower than they had on the older ADSL technology.

In our group we have a couple of solicitors and they are looking very closely at what the ISP said about ADSL2+ and what people ended up getting. The two could not be further apart in fact so they will not have to look very hard.

The 'upgrade' to ADSL2+ is a mess and has left a lot of, read,most of, their customers with slower speeds. You cannot believe the depth of feeling generated over this. I have had a weekend of  seemingly none stop emails over this and I am not exhausted of interest.

I have asked the ISP to put me back on the older ADSL to which they replied that could I give them a couple of days to see what they can sot out before 'downgrading'. I said that in the name of helping other customers I would wait until no later then Wednesday. If no solution to the slower line syncs arrives I fully expect to be back on ADSL by Wednesday morning.

We shall have to wait and see what they come up with and see if they can fix whatever it is that is so obviously broken. i will not be holding my breath on that happening. We shall see though.

Top posters.

It cannot have escaped those who have been using the Usenet for any length of time that the vast majority of top posters come in two categories. One, those that are new to the Usenet  and know no better. Two, they use MS Windows and the Usenet program that comes with it.

This latter one can be fixed using something called the OEQuote patch or some similar name. The former can be educated but don't bet your house on them changing if they haven't installed the afore mentioned patch and even if they have the chances of them changing is slim at best.

Even Microsoft caved in and released the OEQuote patch so that Outlook Express defualts to the bottom of the post instead of the unpacthed Outlook Express that defaults to the top of the post thereby giving users of it the idea that that is the correct way to post.

Much contention can be seen around the Usenet over top versus bottom versus intermingled posts and which is the more correct. If one reads a book you do not expect the en to be on the first page. Similarly, if you read a Q&A faq you do not expect to see the answers given before the question. So, why do some people insist that top posting is correct?

The mind boggles at what goes on the heads of such people. Do they live their lives backwards?