RMIUG Meeting Minutes - Measuring and Monitoring
The September 10, 1996 meeting presented
"Everything you always wanted to know about
ISDN ... but were afraid to Ask" Approximately
140 people were in attendance, with Dan
Murray MC'ing, and Alek Komarnitsky taking
the minutes. Thank you to Michael Rabb who
help arranged our speakers for this meeting.
Dan started meeting at 7:00 sharp. He
reminded folks that our next/October meeting
will be on the 3rd Tuesday (October 15th)
due to scheduling issues with the room.
Our November meeting will feature a selection
of Internet Service Providers (ISP's) who
will give RMIUG'ers a taste of what is out
there. We are limiting our panel to 8 ISP's,
and this will be first-come, first-serve.
Dan passed the hat requesting donations
from the audience to cover the room rental
fee and cost of copies; we didn't pass it
last month, but got charged, so he asked
folks to dig deep! ;-) The farthest distance
people came was from Fort Collins, and they
got a free mouse pad courtesy of Peak Computing;
who also supplied some free copies of the
Colorado Internet Business Directory for
A survey of the audience showed that most
people heard about the meeting via Email
from being on the rmiug-announce Email list.
A handful of folks saw the Denver Post blurb,
from friends, and other stuff. Only about
10 folks actually had a working (! ;-) ISDN
line ... but about 50 or so raised their
hands when asked if they were thinking about
getting one for home/work. Vast majority
of folks use 28.8 modems for access ...
and interestingly enough, only a very few
use the higher speed 33.6 modems (although
announcements this week from Rockwell/US
Robotics implying 56 KBit modems is interesting).
Everyone has heard horror stories about
ISDN ... some are dying to get it and wonder
what it is. Dan presented his "top-ten Letterman"
list of what ISDN stood for - some of these
were: "Information Superhighway Delivered
Now", "I'm Spending Dollars Now" , "It Simply
There were a variety of announcements
from the floor:
- Lance Jones from CCG Online said they
have positions open for WWW Sales, Programmers,
and Graphics Artists. For more information,
pls contact Mark Richtermeyer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Dave Roland (email@example.com,
930-9828) said he was very experienced
in ISDN (sits on several ISDN committees)
and is rolling out product called "SOHO-net"
that is geared toward small businesses;
focusing on C-470/Tech Center area, but
hopes to go national in mid-November.
- Rocky Mountain Internet Expo (972-8980,
is the "region's premier Internet conference"
and is scheduled for October 18-19th at
the Colorado Convention Center.
- Terry Freeman (firstname.lastname@example.org,
691-0404) with the Internet Chamber of
Commerce announced their September 25th
meeting at the Regency Hotel (I-25 and
West 38th) which will be free and open
to public. It will feature a panel of
ISP's and include vendor exhibits.
- Michael Rabb (email@example.com)
is interested in starting an ISDN users'
group and passed around a sign-up sheet;
contact him if you are interested. You
can get a free issue of Computer Telephony
with an article on ISDN stuff by emailing
and mentioning Michael's name.
- Laura Austin-Eurich (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is the editor of Peak Computing (http://www.peak-computing.com)
and is doing a reader survey on "best
of Colorado" and is also quite open to
generic feedback. They offer free classifieds
for 4 weeks of your Web Page URL.
We then moved to the main part of
The first speaker was Alicia Chalmers
(email@example.com) who is the !nterprise
ISDN Product Manager for US West Communications.
She has been working with ISDN for 8 years,
mostly in a technical capacity.
ISDN actually stands for "Integrated Services
Digital Network" ... basically makes the
"last mile" truly digital and support a
worldwide protocol set that supports both
voice and data. ISDN BRI (Basic Rate Interface)
is a 160 KBit/sec channel which basically
has 144 KBPS available to the user via 2
Bearer (B) channels at 64KBPS (each with
their own phone number) and 1 D (Delta)
channel at 16 KBPS for signaling purposes.
ISDN PRI (Primary Rate Interface) delivers
1.544 MBPS with 23B and 1 D channel available
and delivered over a T-1 line.
Current BRI pricing is $67 to install,
$60/month, $6 CALC (fed tax?)/month, and
possibly a one-time charge of $25.50 if
your loop requires qualifying. ISDN PRI
is $3,512 to install, and $2,179/month ...
although that drops to $2,156 if you sign
up for three years, and $2,139 if you sign
up for five years. There are plans to implement
time/usage based pricing soon. All of this
pricing is controlled by the Public Utilities
A big issue is if your area is ISDN capable.
It's not offered in all areas (see http://www.uswest.com
for a map showing availability areas or
call 1-800-PATHWAY - most heavy population
areas are covered). In addition, the "rules"
are that you must be within 18,000 feet
of a central office (decibel loss is the
true determining factor ... but 18,000 feet
is what is currently used). Finally, there's
an issue if the copper wire in your house/office
is "good" enough to support ISDN ... old
houses may have problems and/or wiring that
has been split many times.
US West's service problems are well-known
... but they feel they are getting a handle
on these issues. Reason for backlog is that
demand has exceeded what service center
can handle ... normal turn-time is 60-90
days and a big reason for this is that the
database of local loops (and if they are
qualified) isn't quite right ... but it
is getting better.
One audience member told a story where
they said a technician came out, said it
was loop qualified, but then central office
was limited ... so wait until 1997. US West
is working on internal Web Service that
will eventually go external so that customers
can check it out themselves to see the Scoop.
Alicia closed her presentation by using
ISDN to show www.uswest.com.
Our next speaker was Darryl Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
who, as the president of ABWAM (a local ISP),
discussed things from an ISP perspective.
He is strong believer in ISDN and actually
believes it makes for a much better standard
voice connection that analog phone lines (except
you need power or battery in the phone itself).
But it does not offer easy configuration (yet)
and is not quite interoperable 'cause standards
aren't quite there. It's also more than you
think ... 'cause in addition to $70/month
to the phone company, you have to pay the
ISP for the Internet feed. In addition, installation
issues, such as loop qualification, are often
far from a no-brainer.
Darryl emphasized that the speed of the
line is only one factor in throughput. While
ISDN gives you a faster pipe, other contention
points are slow links at your ISP (not enough
upstream capacity - 8 ISDN circuits will
fill a T-1), Internet slowness in general,
slowness that the remote WWW site, and connection
between the ISDN modem and your PC (serial
is worse, dedicated card is better (ISA
is slow), and Ethernet connection is probably
best). Note that with the last setup, the
ISDN line goes into a box/router which then
has an Ethernet connection that several
PC's can be connected to. Darryl did a real-time
download of a 1Mbyte file in about 60 seconds,
which yielded ~150KBPS ... but he says with
compression, you my see bursts of 512KBPS.
BTW, "ISDN modem" is a misnomer, it's not
a modem, but everyone says this, so it's
OK ... although a more correct term is a
TAP or terminal adapter. These typically
cost $500-$1000 ... and Darryl highly recommends
the Ethernet connection type.
Darryl talked a bit about Dial-on-demand
which opens up connection as required. This
is pretty cool ... and is general transparent
to the user. Basically, the modem/line are
idle until someone requests something that
requires an external connection. It automatically
makes a connection (typically in 5-10 seconds)
and starts transferring data. After some
user-configurable time of no activity, the
line is dropped, and awaits future work.
This can dramatically reduce your on-line
time. This is not necessarily bi-directional
(i.e. someone tries to connect to your site),
but a few ISP's do offer that. ABWAM sells
unlimited ISDN access for $225/month ...
most of that is eaten up in US West costs
and infrastructure to support things. The
do offer a reduced-rate plan that is $60/month
for 30 hours (may soon be bumped to 40 hours).
ISDN is ideally suited for small workgroups/LANs
and is also cool 'cause it pretty tough
against line noise, reliability is good,
and you are pretty much guaranteed the full
bandwidth. It also allows you to juggle
lots of phone lines ... eight come into
house ... only two active at a time ...
but can do some cool stuff in terms of making
things look like a PBX.
Darryl concluded his presentation by showing
a real-time demonstration of the dial-on-demand
and how fast the connection setup time is
... and how fast downloading of data is.
Michael Rabb (email@example.com - who
helped put together meeting - thank you!)
represented the User perspective. Has been
involved in Telcom management and voice processing
systems for ~15 years and is the president
of US VOICE. He's quite excited about the
data capabilities of ISDN ... but says that
most people overlook the cool voice/FAX/line
sharing features that ISDN provides for you.
He just started using ISDN a several months
ago - they wanted a home office that had
single ISDN line with phone/FAX/data hooked
up to it. First you need to get Loop Qualified
... took several weeks, but this is getting
better as US West's database is improved.
You then need to actually order it - took
'em 5 months to get it ... but they are
in the boonies, so this is worse than normal
(5 miles from central office, so needed
repeater installed). Overall, they are really
happy with it ... and have the 2 B channels
allows fairly seamless access of 2 of the
three devices (voice, FAX, data). One cool
feature if that the data portion will use
both channels if available to double throughput
- but if an incoming FAX/voice call comes
in, it will automatically release one of
the channels (cutting the data rate in half),
but allow the call.
Michael polled the audience ... and of
the ten people actually using ISDN, only
three are using voice in addition to data.
He said it's important when you talk to
US West to tell them what you are going
to hook up ... and if you "add" stuff later,
you need to contact US West ... takes around
a month and half (getting better) for them
to add SPIDS (Service Profile Identifier;
basically a phone number) to your line.
BTW, he warned folks to make sure they aren't
paying for extra SPIDS on your ISDN line
... and US West makes mistakes here ...
but they are getting smarter about how to
handle ISDN in general.
Note that you must have digital phone
to plug directly into ISDN ('cause it is
digital!), but to plug in Fax's, etc. you
need to have a Terminal Adapter to convert
to POTS (analog phone line). House wiring
is an issue ... especially if old stuff
... want nice clean Cat-5 wiring if at all
ISDN hookup to an ISP is a bit of a challenge
... only 4-5 ISP's offer dial-up dynamic
128 KBit/sec ISDN access on their side.
Nice to have TCP/IP built-in capability
with Windows95. Dial-on demand is cool because
it automatically connects/disconnects. He
emphasized that ISDN basically allows you
to have a mini-hunt group PBX like setup
at your home office.
The whole panel then came up for some question
In response to a question about pricing,
US West said they are looking at other plans
such as a $40/month base, plus 2/3 cents/minute
for outgoing only calls. $70/month capped
at 200 hours/month. And $200/month for unlimited
service. When you open up an ISDN line,
you are grabbing a circuit ... there one
case where person had ISDN line up for 52
days. Tariff's have been filed in Wash DC
... but not at state level yet.
There was a spirited discussion about
why ISDN is apparently cheaper in other
parts of the country. US West said some
of this is because PUC's have not allowed
legit price increases. Also, the geographically
disparate territory of US West (with low
population density) makes infrastructure
costs higher. They currently do state-wide
averaging ... so basically Denver folks
are paying a bit more to subsidize people
in the boonies (ala Universal Service).
One audience member said that there is some
data that shows once the infrastructure
costs are taken care of, ISDN may be cheaper
Alicia said that US West will allow reselling
of ISDN. Darryl said that ISP's like to
work with US West, but they'll do whatever
necessary for their customers/business ...
which includes possibly working with other
phone companies. One interesting audience
comment discussed the ability of the ISP
to offer dial-back service ... since ISDN
is charged per minute when you initiate
the call, but not when you receive a call.
The panelists all agree that ISDN has
great voice capability ... so it adds some
capability that ADSL and/or Cable Modems
(emerging technology for even higher speed
data connections) don't have. The panel
closed by reminding the folks out there
that the everything comes down to $$$ ...
and how people use ISDN will affect how
it's offered, how fast it's rolled out,
and the pricing.
Some helpful URL's for information are:
(general/techincal info on ISDN)
(US West Home Page)
- comp.dcom.isdn (ISDN newsgroup)
Upcoming RMIUG Meetings (tentative listing
and schedule, subject to change):
- Oct. 15 (NB: 3rd Tues.) - Eagle River
Interactive presentation on Internet Industry
Trends and Interactive Solutions
- Nov 12 Annual ISP-Fest Panel Discussion