ISP tries packet compression to speed Web access

Rural Ontario Internet users outside the reach of broadband services may see a five-times improvement on their dial-up connections.

The most recent Internet service provider (ISP) to offer this improvement is BMI, a division

of Bruce Municipal Telephone Service. The company services customers across south-west Ontario, many of which aren’t covered by a broadband infrastructure.

The technology responsible for the improved dial-up is provided by Slipstream Data Inc., based in Waterloo, Ont. “”We’ve used some compression technology that came out of the University of Waterloo and combined it with other technologies that make the underlying thing more efficient,”” explained Slipstream president and CEO Ron Neumann.

Slipstream’s Web Acceleration Solution won’t affect the speed at which files like MP3s can be downloaded, but Web pages will load at a much faster rate. “”Basically, instead of moving a whole bunch of data to get a Web page (to load), we just move smaller amounts. You can move one-sixth the amount of data, yet the Web page will display,”” said Neumann.

Tiverton, Ont.-based BMI will start offering the service to its customers starting next Monday under the label “”Turbo.”” The company has installed Dell servers, co-located with its point-of-presence equipment, to run the Slipstream software.

The service will be free to BMI’s 20,000 dial-up subscribers for free for 30 days. After that, a $2 fee will be added to the regular charge of $22.95 per month in order to retain the service.

“”My director of marketing and myself have a little side bet,”” said general manager and CEO of BMI Hans Nilsson. “”I’m saying we’ll get 50 per cent of our dial-up customers, and he’s saying 25 per cent. Normally I win. That’s why I purposely priced it at the $2.””

Slipstream has sold Web Acceleration to six ISPs across North America. The last was Execulink Internet Services Inc., based in Woodstock, Ont., which began using the service last November.

He’s not afraid of running out of dial-up customers, despite the federal government’s attempts to get all Canadians within reach of broadband by 2005. “”There will always be people that are not serviced by broadband,”” he said. “”It’s actually a bigger issue in the U.S. than it is in Canada. In the U.S. and other countries that are not as far along, it’s always going to be an issue.””

Neumann now has his eyes set on improving the speed at which e-mail attachments can be downloaded over dial-up, and he sees a potential market for improving bandwidth on mobile devices.

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