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176 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 522264 17-Sep-2011 09:40
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DonGould:
TelstraClear: If you email your account number and contcat details I'll ask one of the technical team to look into this for you:


Not really sure what could have been more helpful than that than perhaps the call center staff answering BiDi's questions to his satisfaction before he had to post here.

+1

DonGould:
BiDi: We have asked Telstra for help (We have tried telephoning their service line and also sent in several emails requesting support):
  • can they give us the mac addresses of the downloading machine - apparently not (privacy!),
  • can they explain how it is possible to download half a gigabyte when the cable moden is switched off - apparently not (they avoided the question by telling us they did not support our wireless router - which was also off!)
Telstra have not (yet?) been helpful, but this might just be because we have yet to find the right person to answer these questions. Our problem does seem odd.


I would agree that it seems fair that Gary might not know the answers to those questions himself and might need to consult with some people to find the right person (something that even BiDi points out).



Which one of those questions did Gary's answer not actually address?



I hate the whole "we don't support your hardware, therefore its all your fault" line. It is such a pile of crap. I've even taken to explicitly pointing out that I am not actually asking for support of my hardware, and that I am perfectly capable of providing that for myself. What I want when I call up is for them to support their service, without resorting to avoidance tactics like this.

Yes, it may well be policy that these tactics are not employed, but it's a call centre, for Pete's sake! (begin-generalisation) If the CSR can spin the line, you go away, they don't raise a ticket, they complete the call quickly, etc (end-generalisation)



BiDi:
Does anyone know if
  1. it is possible to manipulate another subscriber's download statistics?
  2. the time-stamp used for the on-line Telstra download reports is accurate (ie could it be one or more hours wrong)?
  3. it is true that privacy law prevents Telstra from telling us (the bill payer) who is using our service by releasing MAC addresses?
  4. there is someone in Telstra who is willing to answer such questions?
Another possibility seems to me that the Telstra billing software could be buggy.

Any thoughts, advice?


Here's my observations:
  1. If you send them traffic, they pay for it. If you are on net, you pay too.
  2. Gary has addressed this. Not really all that well, but he's had a crack at it. In a nutshell, he explains there are two systems, one critical, which keeps running, and one non-critical which generates the graph. The suggestion from others here has been that the critical system is keeping a counter, and the non-critical system is generating a graph based on polling that counter, hence "missed" usage clumps. Gary's response seems to support that to one degree or another.
  3. Gary has (obliquely) addressed this too. When he said TC have no idea what is going on behind the cable modem, he's right. And why would they care? They give you one IP address, so necessarily, you supply one MAC address to go with it. That is the only MAC address they get to see, and what that box chooses to do with the traffic is not their concern. In reality, that box is NATting the internal network, and while TC are unofficially aware, publicly endorse this kind of behaviour, and even go so far as to support certain hardware (likely only that which they supply), your internal network is your concern. Got a leech on the wifi? Not their problem, or responsibility.
  4. I've discovered if you make enough noise, you might get traction. For you, they might credit the rogue usage. Don't expect them to fix the usage meter. There is little to no commercial benefit in doing that. Call me a cynic if you like, its business.


edit: formatted list



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 522299 17-Sep-2011 12:06
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First I'd like to make it clear (if it wasn't already) that my OP was intended to raise questions about the service (technical) that we were experiencing. I guessed, correctly it seems, that there would be geeks who could shed some light on our problem for us (thank you GZ).

At the same time the OP was fishing (overtly) for a response from TC. 

We have been with TC for a long time, getting telephone, TV and internet in one package. I have to say that there have been some very very poor instances of customer support over the years, but there have also been times when they have been excellent. So, it seems to depend a lot on who you get when you contact them (and I alluded to this in my OP).

In that, the OP has been successful (thank you Gary) and I have reported their response back to this discussion (one contact from the technical team). However, we do not yet feel that our main concern has been addressed. I have reported that we have installed metering software on the various computers at home that will account for most of the traffic. We have also been switching off the modem at night.

I do appreciate that TC asked us to contact them if there are further concerns. The nature of the response we got from the technical team was essentially that they could see nothing wrong at their end. So, it is taking us a while to collect some evidence for or against our concerns. We will engage again when it looks as though there is something concrete to discuss.

This weekend we intend to look at a few days data and compare what he have with the reports that can be downloaded from the TC website.

I will report in due course.

TelstraClear: TelstraClear usage meter

The system that counts the traffic is the one that is used to bill your traffic. It also feeds into another system that drives your usage meter in the Customer Zone on the web. This isn’t real-time, but is regularly updated and is usually pretty close. We’ve had a couple of occasions when the second (usage meter) system hasn’t talked nicely to the first (traffic counting) system. That means that when they do start talking again, the usage meter updates with the backlog so it just looks like you’ve suddenly had a lot of usage.

Gary


At first blush, Gary, 'a couple of occasions' does not seem to cut it. We are still seeing significant peaks of activity at times that make no sense to us.

Possibly (probably?) the time axis on the TC usage report is wrong. If, when we add up all our data, we can explain the downloads as having occurred at different times then I will feel a bit annoyed that we had to go to all this trouble, but I will not resent paying TC's bill.

On the other hand, if our usage is significantly lower than TC's estimate, I will be pissed. I don't care if that's the way the technology works, I don't want to pay for extra GBs sent to me that are unwanted. I dare say that there are many (unsuspecting) customers out there who would agree.

We will see what the numbers say. I'm not accusing anyone, I'm just asking questions, raising hypotheses for discussion and expressing my own opinions. Where I come from, it's called 'problem solving'.

 
 
 
 


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Master Geek
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  Reply # 522305 17-Sep-2011 12:17
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Wow, I just noticed this

http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=44&topicid=90138

Sadly, TC have not offered us an upgrade, we must be on a different plan.

 

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Master Geek
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  Reply # 522309 17-Sep-2011 12:24
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BiDi: Wow, I just noticed this

http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=44&topicid=90138

Sadly, TC have not offered us an upgrade, we must be on a different plan.

?


I noticed that last night - but someone from TC said 'cable users watch this space'. So we haven't been (totally) forgotten.

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  Reply # 522319 17-Sep-2011 13:35
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jnawk: Don't expect them to fix the usage meter. There is little to no commercial benefit in doing that.


Agreed.  This is the same as going to a super market that has scales that are under weighing. 

Given the number of providers who are now having problems with metering, it's becoming much clearer that this really does need to become something the community sorts out and not left to commerical interests.

Telecom - I'm sure you've all seen the media press about that one.
XNet - I don't know what the issues are there, I didn't even read the thread, but the title suggests there are problems... 'Xnet data usage incorrect, again.....'
Orcon - (government owned) - As with XNet, my email system keeps pinging me that it's still an issue that people are still talking about for some time now.  http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=82&topicid=87928
TelstraClear - we're reading it here...
 
I haven't done hardly enough research... I'm just like you and the OP, I got bitten, it's resulted in quite a bit of family disruption and upset and then I just got fobbed off.

What this really needs is government/community controlled netflow collectors.  From my previous posts you can see just how cheaply it can be done. 

Providers would still do as they do, and as they choose, only difference is that all the netflow data would be mirrored to a central system managed by government and made visible to the consumer to use as a tool to verify usage against that presented by the provider.

Of course it would be good to have providers running their own systems as well because that would ensure that the government system is kept in check and provide a way to assure that the government systems are working properly as well.








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Master Geek
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  Reply # 522327 17-Sep-2011 14:06
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DonGould:Agreed.  This is the same as going to a super market that has scales that are under weighing.


Well, not quite I think.

If I am not mistaken the scales must be checked, regularly. I'll look this afternoon, but I expect there to be a little sticker on the side of the scales, certifying their performance.

Moreover, a set of malfunctioning scales might just as easily cost the shop money. So they will look after them. The real worry there is that the shop might deliberately adjust the reading in their favour, hence the independent certification.

The 'measurement' in the network case seems different. If I have understood correctly, it would seem that the supermarket analogy goes like this:

  • as you go to weigh the bananas, someone pours a whole lot of sand onto the scales. 
  • You don't want the sand (you may not even notice it), but the price is set for both
  • you pay for bananas + sand at the check out. 

Now, the supermarket does not know the little devil who put sand on the scales, so they plead innocence. They may be kind enough to refund the extra charge when it is pointed out, but clearly they cannot fix the problem. However, you are unhappy, because you have been overcharged. The little daemon with the sand just has fun.

My guess is that the next step would involve store security vetting people entering the store, to try to eliminate the daemons. Alternatively, we could set up another, controlled and independent set of scales, and weigh everything twice.

 

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Master Geek
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  Reply # 522339 17-Sep-2011 14:56
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BiDi:It would seem that the supermarket analogy goes like this:

  • as you go to weigh the?bananas, someone pours a whole lot of sand onto the scales.?
  • You don't want the sand (you may not even notice it), but the price is set for both
  • you pay for bananas + sand at the check out.?

Now, the supermarket does not know the little devil who put sand on the scales, so they plead innocence. They may be kind enough to refund the extra charge when it is pointed out, but clearly they cannot fix the problem. However, you are unhappy, because you have been overcharged. The little?daemon with the sand just has fun.

My guess is that the next step would involve store security vetting people entering the store, to try to?eliminate?the daemons. Alternatively, we could set up another, controlled and independent set of scales, and weigh everything twice.

?


That is probably one of the best analogies so far, however, I still don't quite think it is right.

The issue here (at least, as I understand the original issue to be) is that TC charge for traffic that occurs whilst your modem is off. Such traffic is necessarily incoming. So, I think its more like this:

You have a direct debit arrangement with the supermarket. You order your groceries online. They charge you for what you deliver.

Then you go on holiday. Some B*stard places an order. The supermarket charges you, and delivers, but finds you not at home. So they throw the groceries in the bin.

Had the supermarket phoned beforehand (ISP keeping records of when the modem is on), they'd have known to refuse the order.

Yes, its still flawed, as in this case, it involves unambiguous fraud, but I think it is a little closer.



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 522372 17-Sep-2011 15:44
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jnawk:The issue here (at least, as I understand the original issue to be) is that TC charge for traffic that occurs whilst your modem is off. Such traffic is necessarily incoming.


That is an interesting comment.

I am not sure that the delivery of unwanted data ONLY occurs when the modem is off. Indeed, at the start of our troubles the modem was always on, we just turned it off to try to diagnose the problem.

Correct me if I am wrong, but suppose someone sends 500 MB of unwanted data to our cable router now, as I write, there is no reason for me to notice that. If the cable modem-router doesn't know what to do with that data, it will just be discarded. Right?

You are right though, my analogy does not represent the case the modem is switched off. (I wanted to refine Don's scales).

I suppose if telephone calls were charged for at the receiving end, regardless of whether you answered the call, we would have a better example:
  • you pay for all calls coming into your number
  • that includes those annoying calls asking you to do a survey or donate to a good cause
  • even when you unplug the phone, the call charges keep accumulating
  • you even pay for calls that you can't answer because you are speaking on the phone
To make it better, you could throw in an home extension system with DDI. Calls to the wrong extension number would still be charged, although no one's phone will ever ring.

When you look at the (fictitious) billing rules above, it is clear that there is a risk bias against the consumer.

(Do you think I might suggest this business model to someone?) 

The rules should be modified until the likelihood of some disadvantage occurring is the same for the consumer and the provider.

We then have a situation more like the scales: there may be problems, but they could go either way. Both parties have an incentive to ensure that the system functions correctly. The costs of verifying such a system are likely to be minimal (you won't need to duplicate all the scales).

There are many subtle checks, similar to the scales, that are carried out in our society. We tend not to notice them, but we expect them to be there. Think about that next time to fly somewhere, for example!



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  Reply # 522374 17-Sep-2011 15:46
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jnawk:  That is probably one of the best analogies so far, however,


Yes it was a sensational bit of work! :)

jnawk:  I still don't quite think it is right.


I agree, but it was a rocking hot effort, and I suspect we just won't find a direct comparison even if we try all weekend.

jnawk:
Yes, its still flawed, as in this case, it involves unambiguous fraud, but I think it is a little closer.


Yes it it's getting closer...







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  Reply # 522380 17-Sep-2011 15:53
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jnawk: You have a direct debit arrangement with the supermarket. You order your groceries online. They charge you for what you deliver.

Then you go on holiday. Some B*stard places an order. The supermarket charges you, and delivers, but finds you not at home. So they throw the groceries in the bin.

Had the supermarket phoned beforehand (ISP keeping records of when the modem is on), they'd have known to refuse the order.

Yes, its still flawed, as in this case, it involves unambiguous fraud, but I think it is a little closer.


I don't see this as being close to an analogy at all.

Inbound uninitiated traffic still costs the ISP money as it's still using up bandwidth - you might not have requested those packets it but it's the basis of how the internet works. The argument that you shouldn't pay for them just because your modem isn't connected is an interesting one.


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  Reply # 522394 17-Sep-2011 16:25
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sbiddle:
jnawk: You have a direct debit arrangement with the supermarket. You order your groceries online. They charge you for what you deliver.

Then you go on holiday. Some B*stard places an order. The supermarket charges you, and delivers, but finds you not at home. So they throw the groceries in the bin.

Had the supermarket phoned beforehand (ISP keeping records of when the modem is on), they'd have known to refuse the order.

Yes, its still flawed, as in this case, it involves unambiguous fraud, but I think it is a little closer.


I don't see this as being close to an analogy at all.

Inbound uninitiated traffic still costs the ISP money as it's still using up bandwidth - you might not have requested those packets it but it's the basis of how the internet works. The argument that you shouldn't pay for them just because your modem isn't connected is an interesting one.



That argument simply levels the playing field with ADSL - your modem if off, your PPP session is dead, you have no IP address, the ISP bears the cost of traffic to an IP address not connected to something.

I think for a consumer to be liable for traffic they clearly have indicated they had no intention of receiving, simply because their ISP has chosen to allocate them a fixed IP address is a bit rich. TC don't give us the choice of a dynamic IP address.

To be fair, the underlying issue here is that we even pay for traffic (as distinct from bandwidth) at all. We never did on dialup. That we could have done 30GB in a month was a risk the ISP managed.

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  Reply # 522395 17-Sep-2011 16:27
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BiDi: Correct me if I am wrong, but suppose someone sends 500 MB of unwanted data to our cable router now, as I write, there is no reason for me to notice that. If the cable modem-router doesn't know what to do with that data, it will just be discarded. Right?


Your cable modem acts as a dumb bridge device. If it receives a packet on one interface (cable), it spits it out the other (ethernet). It is the device at the other end of that ethernet connection that discards the packet. If that is your PC, and you are running windas, and you have the little network icon thingy, you'll notice the traffic.


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  Reply # 522399 17-Sep-2011 16:39
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BiDi: Alternatively, we could set up another, controlled and independent set of scales, and weigh everything twice.


Ok, that's not quite as silly as it sounds...

However there are now a number of things going on and our supermarket example is just about as complex as the issue at stake to compare.

First, when you put your banana's on the scales there are two systems in play.  One is a system that is reading the measure accurately and one that is passing, or not passing information to the till display.

In our case, the scales are weighing the banana's ok, but it's just not being presented on the till at the time of purchase. 

However the back office computer system has apparently (yes I'm not acutally confident about that than more, but we'll just assume for the sake of argument) picked up the missing banana's.

The problem is that you finish up your sale and charge the goods to your store account (which you will pay at the end of next month).  In the mean time, you saw what the till was saying at the time you made the purchase and updated your own records (in your head or in your cheque book... you know, bit like how we used to have to keep a cheque book balance because you couldn't get an accurate balance from the bank until all chqeues were presented.)

In the mean time, you're thinking that you still have credit in your store account (when in fact you don't).  So, thinking you still have money/credit you go and grab some ice cream.

This of course is a very serious problem for you. 

* Your daughter loves you because you brought her home some ice cream which she then laps up.
* Your wife is very suspicious as to how you get all the food and had money left over for ice cream.

However a day later the bill from the store shows up.  It's not due for payment yet, but you now have a bunch of issues...

* Your daughter is not feeling to pleased with her self any more because she feels she should not have eaten the ice cream but have left it so you could return it to the store for a credit.  You of course reassure her that this was not her fault, but it's a little to late, she's already feeling bad and responsible.
* You now feel quite bad, because you'd done something nice for her and it's just turned to custard on your.
* Your wife is less than impressed, but what's worse, she's pointed out that you don't have enough credit in the store account any more to cover the food for the rest of the month and will need to apply for more.

What I didn't add, is that when initially asked about the account, you just dismissed it as being nothing more than the cost of banana's going up a bit and it was just your fault for picking a few to many because you happen to like them and know she does as well.

She then puts in the real effort to check the entire bill and realises the mistake and questions why you're still using this super market.  (I could go on, but you see where I'm going).

She also feels very bad because she in fact ate quite a number of the bananas, more than she might normally eat because she's discovered she likes them and given how hard life is right now, anything that's a simple pleasure goes a long way.

So all and all this whole banana thing has left a very sour taste in your mouth and caused you some considerable distress.

The Sand

The sand example was a very clever way of thinking of it.  It really was... :)

But what's really going on here is that people are putting extra goods in your cart while you are walking around the store that they think you might like.  The Weetbix rep drops some of his new cereal in, the Coke guy drops a few bottles of a new flavor in, etc.

You get to the till but because the till isn't reading/presenting the goods correctly, you're just not noticing until you get the updated account at the end of the month or when ever.

In good faith you've made a number of really obvious requests.

* Can you please stop these people from dropping in my trolly by not letting them in the super market?

"No, it's your job to block goods into the trolly as you shop"

* Can you please give me an accurate bill at the checkout?

"No"

Customer Service

When you complain about the reps, the supermarket just attempt to wear you down with instructions about how you can attempt to prevent the reps from doing this as you shop.

When you ask to speak to a manager, you're told you can't.

You are then told your problem will be escalated to a manager, but you are just sent a form letter in the post about how to prevent the reps from putting goods in your trolly.

The Problem

The problem here is that you just stop trusting the supermarket.  From your point of view, the supermarket has  a very clear vested interest in the reps putting extra bits in your trolly because they're collecting a healthy profit off you at the till.

You become paranoid about it because you feel you can't shop in safety any more and shopping and eating food was something you once enjoyed.

You know that the real answer is that you should just shop somewhere else, but the problem is that you have media evidence that they are exactly the same so can't justify a change with your wife.

Plant Vegies and set up a Dairy

In the end the only logical thing you can think of is to spend your free time digging up the garden and putting in some vegies to reduce your reliance on the super market.

You also look around everywhere for some wholesale supplier and spend the time you used to spend eating banana's planning your own Dairy.  Something that everyone in town laughs at you about, but you know in your heart that it really is your only choice.


Modem Off

I'm sorry.  I simply can't work that one in to the supermarket at all.  There just isn't a parallel and we've still to actually prove that the counters are tripping when the modem is off or it's just usage that's just not updated from the ERX to the upstream system.






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  Reply # 522418 17-Sep-2011 18:22
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jnawk:Your cable modem acts as a dumb bridge device. If it receives a packet on one interface (cable), it spits it out the other (ethernet). It is the device at the other end of that ethernet connection that discards the packet. If that is your PC, and you are running windas, and you have the little network icon thingy, you'll notice the traffic.


First, the cable modem feeds our router. So, is it our router that drops the packet? If not, how does the router know which PC to send the packet on to? (Perhaps I should add that IP addresses are dynamically allocated by the router)

Second, I suppose that if I did connect a PC directly to the modem, then the metering software I have installed on all our machines now would 'see' all traffic. Although it still isn't clear to me what that would look like.

I don't understand:

jnawk:If that is your PC, and you are running windas, and you have the little network icon thingy, you'll notice the traffic.


How is my little network thingy going to alert me? It just sits there. If I'm on the computer, chances are I'm interacting with the network anyway, so what is going to alert me to unwanted incoming packets of considerable size (or number) alongside other traffic? 


 

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  Reply # 522423 17-Sep-2011 18:37
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jnawk: That argument simply levels the playing field with ADSL - your modem if off, your PPP session is dead, you have no IP address, the ISP bears the cost of traffic to an IP address not connected to something.


Actually this isn't quite true. 

With PPP you can use static IP addressing, and in fact Orcon did last time I used them.

But as I understand it, the accounting is a bit different. 

The PPP session uses 'keep alive'.   So if the PPP client (in the router modem) is off then the ppp session will not stay up.

However, TelstraClear are using VLANs with are terminated on the HFC modem as I understand it (I could be completely wrong, but as there's no one here from Telstra with any apparent clue correcting me each time I make a mistake then all we can do is just assume I'm right).

Telstra could run PPPoE and just terminate the PPP session on a customer router, but they don't.

So I'm assuming their BRAS (ERX) just sets up a static VLAN interface with a common gateway IP and a /32 assigned to each interface.

The VLAN interfaces on my routers have separate counters.  This discussion has prompted me to wonder what would happen if I assign a sub net to an interface and then just ping the remote IP with traffic even though the remote end doesn't exist.

So all you need to do is hit the customer IP with traffic to trip the interface counter in the BRAS. 

My understanding is that providers don't use counters in the cable modems because it's to easy to hack the modems and change the counters (I think both were done in the past, I recall reading discussion about this stuff ~13 years ago in Australia).

jnawk: I think for a consumer to be liable for traffic they clearly have indicated they had no intention of receiving, simply because their ISP has chosen to allocate them a fixed IP address is a bit rich. TC don't give us the choice of a dynamic IP address.

To be fair, the underlying issue here is that we even pay for traffic (as distinct from bandwidth) at all. We never did on dialup. That we could have done 30GB in a month was a risk the ISP managed.


Ok, so if we assume I'm right, it really wouldn't matter if the IP was dynamic.  It would just move the traffic around users a bit more.

If my tin foil hat theory from the other day has any foundation at all, the offending ends are doing port scans on the IPs, seeing they're not responding at all, assuming that the modem is off then hitting them with random traffic.

The netflow data would tell us this because we could see where the traffic is coming from and that it keeps hitting consistantly but nothing is going back.

However the ERX can't identify this based on VLAN interface counters for obvious reasons.  I only counts bits and doesn't consider what sort of traffic it is.  So it can't see any difference between DDOS and valid UDP traffic that would only head in one direction.

Ideally the RADIUS server would poll the HFC modem in some way to check it was still alive and ignore traffic when unit is turned off.  As I understand it from comments posted here some where last week, this is sort of technology is possible, but not used by TC, though again, how would I know?  I don't.






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