Regardless of where you stand on net neutrality, there’s a bigger slice to the story – how to monitor the health and performance of a network to ensure system performance.
|ISPs are often under-delivering on promised
network speeds and bandwidth
While an Internet fast lane for everyone makes sense, the reality is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are often under-delivering on promised network speeds and bandwidth. And while the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will likely delay net neutrality rules until next year, the effect ISPs have over streaming media and bandwidth speeds is already being seen in choppy service, especially with video entertainment applications. This scenario is actually providing a new opportunity for progressive systems integration companies such as Livewire LLC, Richmond, Va.
“What we are finding is that promises of network speeds differ versus actual delivery. Remote monitoring gives us the ‘trust but verify’ information we need to assist customers,” says Henry Clifford, president of Livewire.
The FCC is seeking to keep the Internet free and open, and to ensure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source. The latest on net neutrality is that on Nov. 10 President Barack Obama asked the FCC in its proposed regulations to set strict rules for ISPs and regulate them like public utilities. And, of course, there was outcry from behemoths such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast, whose stock share prices took a hit.
So it’s back to the drawing board for the FCC, which has already been working on new net neutrality regulations after courts struck down previous efforts intended to prevent ISPs from discriminating against web sites and other online content. Without such protection, regulators fear companies that deliver Internet connections to consumers will be able to block new services and bypass innovation, even “throttle” or control the speed of connections.
What’s really happening with network connectivity?
|Livewire has been offering customers the InVision network monitoring product from ihiji
“We get complaints that customers with Netflix streaming media, for example, are having ‘fuzzy’ reception,” says Clifford. “Not all bandwidth is equal anymore, so it’s an education process with our customers. At the end of the education, the frustration doesn’t change, but it’s our job as integrators to keep customers in the loop with what’s going on. I think some of the bandwidth ‘throttling’ is short term, and new deals will go through that will result in the ability for the network to handle higher speeds consistently,” he says. Clifford says video streaming is the biggest issue, and that’s where customers feel the most pain.
Livewire has been offering customers the InVision network monitoring product from ihiji, a black box designed to remotely and proactively monitor the health and performance of network and audio-video (AV) systems. InVision provides 24/7 network monitoring and most often eliminates the need for on-site service calls. InVision can remotely re-boot installed equipment and apply updates on a regular basis. It also provides information on the condition and frequency of ISP uptime, slow Internet connections, or latency and intermittent Internet disconnects (packet loss). He charges $49.99 a month for 24/7 system monitoring and unlimited remote support.
“The reports from InVision give us a high level look at upload and download speeds so we can figure out if it’s a network issue or a service provider issue,” says Clifford. “We want to make sure the customer is getting what they are paying for. Anytime we can offer information to the customer, it gives them peace of mind and lets them know we are on the job. It really helps cement the relationship with the customer and build our credibility.”