What is Prioritization?
We’ve introduced new, powerful hardware to improve our network performance for customers. We are the smallest internet service provider in the country with this capability! On a network, without prioritization, apps like Windows Update, Netflix, web browsing, game updates, Skype, gaming all fight each other for resources on a first come first serve basis. Prioritization solves this problem by giving priority to the app that needs it most for that window in time. Call us for some examples or more information about this.
What About Privacy!
Our prioritization technology gives us a very broad look at traffic to help us understand our customer’s usage patterns and how to improve service. The actual traffic itself is anonymous and protected. Much like a shipping company, we move internet data like cardboard boxes. We study weight, type, size, and when the package needs to get there. We cannot see what is inside the box. More than anything our ability to make the network more efficient is an exercise in logistics. Our interest is to make the best of the resources we have. If you are concerned about this please get us on the phone for further explanation.
How does Prioritization work?
Internet use, whatever shape it takes, flows in the form of “packets.” For example a Netflix video stream is really lots of little bits of video packets that follow each other like vehicles on a highway. When you request a movie or show to watch, these packets get sent from Netflix through our network to your TV. The packets have to get there fast enough so that you can watch without “buffering.” We suspect many of you have experienced “buffering.” It’s no fun waiting for packets. Ideally the packets always get there to keep the video playing smoothly. This is what the prioritization technology is built to do.
Shared vs. Dedicated Internet
There are two ways in which internet is broadly sold in the world. One, dedicated bandwidth. Typically a choice for big business, a dedicated internet line supplies an empty pipe capable of so-many megabits at all times. It is not in use by any other entity and is very predictable. This might sound great, but the cost for such connections is massive, usually starting at $500/m and going up steeply from there. The reason for this is that it is inefficient. Whenever the user needs bandwidth it is 100% available, but the rest of the time it costs the user just as much, even though they aren’t using it. It’s like having a chef on staff making 5 course meals all day long. One can only eat so much. For large businesses the cost isn’t a big deal, so it’s an option. For most of us it’s not efficient enough, and not cost effective.
Most of the world uses the the second type is called shared bandwidth. There’s a large pool of internet which everyone on a network shares. The benefits of this type of service is the low cost as it is a very efficient use of resources. The disadvantage is that sometimes everyone wants to use the internet at the same time and there’s less available. Philosophically, the shared method is superior for many reasons, but it is much more complex and requires sophisticated tools to succeed where it counts.
By definition, if a pool of internet is shared it is oversubscribed. This is why every ISP advertises “Up to x” speeds. They cannot guarantee a speed. When a plan advertises “Up to 8Mbits,” this is simply the speed of the plan when it is available. During peak hours the vast majority of the time this will not be the case. So you may be thinking, “what am I buying, then, if not the plan speed?” You may be feeling a bit jaded by this, but the reality is that advertised megabits aren’t a good way to purchase internet. They tell you little about how oversubscribed the network is, and how congested it gets during peak hours. This is incredibly important to determine actual service quality.
So then how should I buy my internet?
How about based on what you do with it! This is a more concrete way to visualize what you’re getting. That’s why prioritization is so important. There are a few other terms for this: Traffic Shaping and Quality of Experience. The latter infers that there is a specific experience everyone is looking for at any given time using the internet. Whether it’s searching on Craigslist, watching a movie, playing games, downloading stuff or other activity, it becomes apparent when the service isn’t working properly. The hardware and software we’ve placed on our network allows us to give priority to the service that needs it most.
What’s the alternative? Chaos. If no effort is made to do this, all the traffic on the network essentially fights to get through first, whether it needs it or not. Internet services/apps do not coordinate with each other. Managing this is the key to good service.