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Home media servers, AUPs, and upstream bandwidth utilization.

  • From: Roland Dobbins
  • Date: Sun Dec 24 19:27:48 2006
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I recently purchased a Slingbox Pro, and have set it up so that I can remotely access/control my home HDTV DVR and stream video remotely. My broadband access SP specifically allow home users to run servers, as long as said servers don't cause a problem for the SP infrastructure nor for other users or doing anything illegal; as long as I'm not breaking the law or making problems for others, they don't care.

The Slingbox is pretty cool; when I access it, both the video and audio quality are more than acceptable. It even works well when I access it via EVDO; on average, I'm pulling down about 450kb/sec up to about 580kb/sec over TCP (my home upstream link is a theoretical 768kb/sec, minus overhead; I generally get something pretty close to that).

What I'm wondering is, do broadband SPs believe that this kind of system will become common enough to make a signficant difference in traffic paterns, and if so, how do they believe it will affect their access infrastructures in terms of capacity, given the typical asymmetries seen in upstream vs. downstream capacity in many broadband access networks? If a user isn't doing something like breaking the law by illegally redistributing copyrighted content, is this sort of activity permitted by your AUPs? If so, would you change your AUPs if you saw a significant shift towards non- infringing upstream content streaming by your broadband access customers? If not, would you consider changing your AUPs in order to allow this sort of upstream content streaming of non-infringing content, with the caveat that users can't caused problems for your infrastructure or for other users, and perhaps with a bandwidth cap?

Would you police down this traffic if you could readily classify it, as many SPs do with P2P applications? Would the fact that this type of traffic doesn't appear to be illegal or infringing in any way lead you to treat it differently than P2P traffic (even though there are many legitimate uses for P2P file-sharing systems, the presumption always seems to be that the majority of P2P traffic is in illegally- redistributed copyrighted content, and thus P2P technologies seem to've acquired a taint of distaste from many quarters, rightly or wrongly).

Also, have you considered running a service like this yourselves, a la VoIP/IPTV?

Vidoeconferencing is somewhat analogous, but in most cases, videoconference calls (things like iChat, Skype videoconferencing, etc.) generally seem to use a less bandwidth than the Slingox, and it seems to me that they will in most cases be of shorter duration than, say, a business traveler who wants to keep up with Lost or 24 and so sits down to stream video from his home A/V system for 45 minutes to an hour at a stretch.

Sorry to ramble, this neat little toy just sparked a few questions, and I figured that some of you are dealing with these kinds of issues already, or are anticipating doing so in the not-so-distant future. Any insight or informed speculation greatly appreciated!

Roland Dobbins <[email protected]> // 408.527.6376 voice

All battles are perpetual.

-- Milton Friedman