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Who's Testing The Net-Traffic Meters? 27 June 2002 Edition
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When you go to the deli section at the supermarket and ask for 200 grams of ham, the person behind the counter will weigh out your meat using a set of scales that are carefully tested and certified accurate at regular intervals.

When you fill your petrol tank at the local gas station, the pump will also bear a label that provides you with some measure of comfort that you're actually getting a full 1000ml in every litre.

The law realises that there's a huge potential for consumers to be ripped off by inaccurate equipment -- either through the deliberate action of unscrupulous traders or by neglect.

In fact, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs website states quite clearly: "All weighing and measuring equipment used for selling goods by quantity must be of an approved type".

So why isn't this the case with IP traffic on the Internet?

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Why are so many DSL users complaining that the usage meter provided by Telecom is so often wrong? (see this story by Paul Brislen over at IDG for details)

Even if Telecom sort out its "obvious" problems, how are users going to know that they're actually getting every byte they're being charged for?

Why should IP data be exempt from the rigorous scrutiny of the people at the Weights and Measures department of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs?

Since virtually all DSL plans are now capped and require a per-megabyte payment beyond a certain volume of traffic, and certainly in light of recent events, some independent body should be vetting Telecom's measurements to ensure that customers aren't being ripped off -- either accidentally or on purpose.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • Weights and Measures... - Bahu
  • ADSL Usage meters... - Paul

    From yesterday...

  • The Blob Tube... - Bernard
  • Enterprise... - Nigel
  • The tube... - Stewart
  • TV... - Brodie
  • Have Your Say

    It seems that Telecom is about to solve(?) their problems by providing users with software that will run on their PCs -- but do *you* really want a piece of Telecom software resident on your PC?

    What independent authority is going to test that piece of software to ensure its accuracy -- and who's going to check it for "undocumented functionality" that the Telco may feel useful at some time in the future?

    "Hello, help desk, I have a problem with my Internet connection"

    "Hang on Sir, we'll just log into your computer and check your browser settings..."

    I'm sure that some will say I'm being excessively cynical in making these suggestions -- but when you're dealing with what amounts to an almost total monopoly (who owns the copper running into your house again?) then such cynicism is not always unwarranted.

    Indeed, perhaps all broadband providers who charge by the MB should be subject to similar scrutiny so as to verify the accuracy of their measuring and logging systems.

    Let's hope that someone in government can tell us why so many other retail measures are held to an official level of accuracy while Internet data is seemingly exempt -- something that currently gives Telecom the ability to say "take it or leave it" when it comes to customer queries over traffic bills.

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