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Telecommuters: Are you paying your ISP for business or residential use?

Jan 18, 20063 mins

* Converging business and residential services

One the most powerful drivers behind convergence is “mobility.” In fact, in the soon-to-be-released “Webtorials State-of-the-Market 2005/2006 Voice over IP Report,” the provision of mobility and flexibility to employees topped the list of expected benefits from implementing a converged network. And it is a given that a huge percentage of this mobility will come from the melding of the “business” and the “residential” workplace.

Over the past 10 years, DSL and cable modem services have provided the enabling bandwidth for this mobility. Whether the “home office” is used for after-hours work, for telecommuting, for “virtual office” workdays, or as a permanent or semi-permanent workplace, a service from an ISP is used in some form for accessing the corporate network.

However, as discussed in this week’s Network World WAN newsletter that Steve co-authors with Jim Metzler (archive of the WAN newsletters here), the line between “residential” and “business” variants of cable and DSL services is blurring, and the distinction between the two is often difficult to justify, or even to understand. But one thing is clear: just as was true with traditional telephony services, business services tend to cost roughly twice as much and often provide minimal additional benefit. Consequently, it seems as if the providers of these services sometimes place arbitrary restrictions on “residential” services to force the mobile worker to use a more expensive “business grade” service.

For example, some service providers block – with varying degrees of success – the use of IPSec sessions on residential DSL and/or cable services. We see this as one of the reasons that corporations are migrating at times to SSL for these applications. SSL is legitimately useful for both business and residential traffic, and, once the traffic is encrypted, the carrier has no visibility into the application. The rationale here is that there is no legitimate reason that a residential user would use IPSec.

As another example, a different service provider includes a static IP address with business grade service. Makes sense. But, at the same time, the same service provider will sell – as an upgrade – a static IP address for residential service. We may be missing something here, but it’s really tough to come up with a non-business reason why one would need a static IP address for “residential” use.

The bottom line, as argued in the WAN newsletter, is that having separate “business” and “residential” services no longer makes sense. Instead, we need one service – at a reasonable base price – with the ability to add a la carte services such IPSec transport, static addresses, the ability to add a group of e-mail addresses, high-priority service for troubleshooting, a guaranteed Mean Time to Repair, and other metrics that are currently seemingly arbitrarily applied to differentiate the services.

Let’s simply make all of the service a converged “busidential” service.