Stupidity-Induced Internet Outages in Austin

DHCP is the protocol that tells the DSL client its connection information: IP address, DNS servers, and the like. The problem is that DHCP isn't used by everybody. Most customers do, but some pay a premium to get static address assignments and do not use DHCP. They manually configure their equipment with all of the connection information, including the DNS servers. When that connection information changes, the customer needs to be told so they can manually update their configuration.

The second major boneheaded outage comes courtesy of Time Warner. They decided that as an anti-spam measure they would block all incoming emails that don't list the recipient's in the To: header field. They probably figured that if the message didn't say it was to you, it must be spam.

The problem is that's not how Internet email works, and somebody who doesn't understand that should not be managing a mail system. Your email address does not need to appear in the To: header. Maybe it is in the Cc: header. Or, maybe it doesn't appear at all—which is the case for mailing list messages and blind copy messages. That also happens for forwarded mail, such as when you have a domain somewhere and you forward your email to your Road Runner account.

Even worse, there just isn't any correlation between the contents of the To: field and spam, or at least I haven't ever seen any evidence of such. Sure, spammers forge To: addresses, but just as often they use correct one too.

These problems point to why we need open access to the communication networks. The phone and cable companies should deliver connectivity, and you should be able to choose the services (Internet or otherwise) that run on that connection. That way these companies can build their business on what they do best (deliver communication signals), and then compete for our business for the services that layer on top of that.

When telecom deregulation occurred the phone company was required to open their network for competitive service access, but in recent years their lobbyists convinced the FCC to restore their closed, monopoly position. The cable companies, thanks to the FCC and the Brand X court decision, have been able to keep their networks closed to competitive providers—with one exception. As part of the AOL and Time Warner merger, the federal government required Time Warner to provide some competitive access to broadband cable providers.

That why I have Time Warner cable Internet but Earthlink service. I love Time Warner's network connectivity, but I prefer Earthlink's Internet services. I'm one of the lucky few that have taken advantage of competitive access. I think that's a good thing. I think openness and competition are good. Too bad the Federal government doesn't agree.

(Credit for reporting these problems goes to Murray Freeman and Dub Dublin.)


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re: Stupidity-Induced Internet Outages in Austin

There's another boneheaded move that didn't get mentioned. I also have a static DSL from SBC. This week, I was having trouble getting to some sites, but not others. A traceroute to my address from outside revealed this little bit of router misconfiguration:

16 ( 22.992 ms
23.440 ms 25.827 ms
17 ( 22.650 ms
20.862 ms 22.853 ms
18 ( 22.241 ms
22.239 ms 21.613 ms
19 ( 20.986 ms
35.080 ms 23.472 ms
20 ( 32.151 ms
22.600 ms 34.562 ms
21 ( 22.302 ms
20.517 ms 22.947 ms
22 ( 22.655 ms
23.606 ms 24.032 ms
23 ( 25.604 ms
22.097 ms 20.832 ms

For those who don't know what this is, it's a packet bouncing between two routers. Router A sends the packet to router B, and then Router B sends the packet right back to router A. Things don't work well when you do that.

I called tech support and had a few laughs. The lady named "Sue" with an Indian accent asked me three times to launch Internet Explorer - after I told her I was running Linux.

Her manager told me about the DNS change, which I noted and changed later. He needed quite a lot of convincing before he tried to replicate my traceroute results.

The problem with these people is that they don't recognize an expert when they see one. The first thing out of my mouth to the manager was that I had traceroute evidence of a loop in their routing between IP #1 and IP #2. That should have been a clue that I didn't need to be instructed to open IE to check the settings on my computer!

re: Stupidity-Induced Internet Outages in Austin

After dealing with Time Warner Austin's "customer service", I've finally snapped and created a "TimeWarnerAustinSUCKS" bulletin board. Drop by