ibis Budget Whitechapel

I wasn’t going to review the ibis Budget Whitechapel as I was only there for a night, but the check-out experience tipped my hand, and here we are.

My brief stay here followed a night in the rather more upmarket Park Plaza London Riverbank, but I was prepared for what it was supposed to be — a budget hotel (even though the night I was there was costing £120).

On walking in, the reception is on the first floor (for our American friends, that’s the floor above ground level), and I was momentarily confused as there’s a table tennis table to your left, and a surprisingly similar table to the right, but with a couple of screens and no net. It may not surprise you to learn that this is the check-in desk.

The staff were friendly and check-in was swift, and I was soon on my way to my room.

Bags top bunk!

As I was expecting from a budget hotel, the room was basic. A double bed with a single bunk above it. A small desk, no separate bathroom, but a student-digs style shower and a loo. No toiletries other than a couple of bars of ibis Budget soap. The view was nothing to speak of, but I’m not sure what else to expect.

Please ignore the man in the mirror!

I settled down to do a bit of work, then headed out to meet up with some friends. I noticed the battery on my laptop hadn’t charged whilst I’d been working, but I know there’s a dodgy connector unless it’s plugged firmly in, so I put it down to that.

Later that evening, I got back and put all the things on charge — except they wouldn’t. All the sockets in the room were dead, as was the TV and the air-conditioning (which has a note on the wall that it isn’t air conditioning, it’s just a fan). I had a look around the room for circuit breakers, but it was late by this point, and I had my travel battery, so I didn’t bother telling reception, I just planned to mention it on the way out.

In the morning the shower did its job, though washing your hair with a bar of soap is less than ideal, and at this point I noticed that even if I’d had power, there was no kettle, tea, or coffee.

On checkout I mentioned about the lack of power and was told “you should have told us!” I politely replied that I was telling them now, and they insisted that I should have told them last night. I didn’t want to get into a long conversation about time, etc, all I’d been hoping for was “sorry about that, thanks for letting us know, we’ll get it fixed,” so I bade the hotel farewell.

I’ll not be rushing to return.

Free broadband for all

There have probably been a thousand blog posts and LinkedIn posts already about Labour’s proposal for “free broadband for all,” but I’m going to add my tuppence-worth.  Given (one of) my Twitter handle(s) is @internetplumber, I feel it’s almost a duty.  Whilst these are my personal opinions, they’re written as someone that works in a service provider that is already largely publicly funded.

First a bit of background.  BT used to be a monolithic company that owned and operated both the physical infrastructure (fibre and copper in the ground) plus the services on top of it (phone, Internet).  To encourage competition in the services, which require access to the infrastructure, the latter was split into a company called Openreach, which is regulated, and must offer access to the infrastructure equitably to all – whether that’s BT (who also own Plusnet), TalkTalk, Virgin, Sky, or any number of other service providers (including Jisc for the Janet network, and the ISP I use at home – Andrews and Arnold).

Labour’s suggestion that they’ll provide free broadband for all using “full fibre” via a nationalised provider encroaches both on the physical infrastructure (Openreach), and the services (BT et al).

Building Fibre to the Home is expensive.  We do it for Higher and Further education, using a combination of dark fibre provided by commercial companies and products from Openreach, but this is on the scale for resilient connections to about 1,000 customers.

There are about 25,000,000 homes in the UK. A lot of those are in metropolitan areas where small fibre distances can reach many customers, but digging in cities is time-consuming and expensive.  Other homes are out in the country which, whilst perhaps easier to dig, requires a long stretch of fibre to get back to the nearest Exchange.  At £1,000 per house, that’s already £25bn.  This is an expensive investment which would benefit from public money, otherwise it may not happen, or at least it may only happen sporadically.

The Internet access on top of that infrastructure is already a very competitive market, which benefits the consumer in terms of being able to choose the right service provider for them. For example, whilst my wife would like me to use BT so that I could get access to BT Sport to watch the rugby, I have used Andrews and Arnold for a long time because they rolled out IPv6 access before just about any other domestic service provider in the UK. All Internet access is not the same.

Governments are frequently talking about regulating the Internet in one form or another.  Are you happy with only being able to visit government-sanctioned websites?  Or only using government-approved communications methods which they can, presumably, snoop on? Our gas, electricity and water do not come for free – even before deregulation there were electricity bills, gas bills and water rates, is broadband more essential than those other utilities?

Don’t mistake me, I think universal, fast, Internet access is something we all deserve and increasingly require, but are we making the right utility free, and what is the cost of making it free?

There’s a saying in the Internet industry – “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”  Where will the information collected by British Broadband be held?  What will it be used for?

Twenty years of travel.

Twenty years ago today, on 6th November 1999, I stepped on a plane for the very first time to leave the UK for the very first time.
Was this a long-awaited family holiday? Nope, they never really stretched further than Swansea or — once — Tenby.  It was for IETF 46 in Washington D.C..

The BA 777 that I flew on that day is still in service.

Now, the sum total scheduled duration of flights I’ve been on (or plan to be on) during 2019 is one minute shy of five days and 18 hours. I wonder what little me, reading Look and Learn with talk of supersonic planes (in addition to Concorde) and even ballistic travel would have thought?

Travel is disruptive, a lot of it is at weekends and evenings (and if you add a couple of hours at airports for each flight, that’s another four days on top of the 5d18h).  I know there are a reasonable number of people reading this for whom that amount of travel would be considered a sabbatical, but I still consider myself lucky to be able to do this interaction with other NRENs, service providers and global Internet governance groups as part of my job, and still enjoy travelling for pleasure, even more so now that after travelling on my own for so long I can get to do it with a wonderful companion (my wife, of course).

It’s very easy to creep into isolationism, which can happen on so many levels, whether it’s the Network Operations part of a very large company, Jisc as opposed to other NRENs, NRENs in general compared to the wider commercial Internet, or even countries thinking they can ’take back control’ and go it alone. However, it’s something we need to constantly fight against. The Internet, like everything else, can only work as a collective effort.

Of course, this rally against isolationism doesn’t detract from “me time.” 🙂