Random matrix and phase shifts

I just stumbled across this great article on Tracy-Widom distribution. It talks about random matrices and phase shifts.  This reminded me of some work I did on resource allocation in network interconnection. We derived routing matrix conditions for "peering" and "dis-peering" (the latter a new term) to be equilibria in the decentralized resource allocation game. I wonder what a probablisitic approach with the routing matrix randomized would add to the game theoretic results. Large scale self organizing interconnections (or failure thereof).


Don't buy the second item on the menu

Yesterday a door to door salesman from Time Warner Cable came to our door. He was a nice guy so I listened to him even though I've been avoiding cable for a long time. Anyway here are the current options for Internet access from Time Warner Cable:
"If Internet is all you need, however, TWC offers its “Everyday Low Price” plan for just $15 per month. This includes 2 Mbps download speeds, 5 emails accounts and 100 MB of email storage. Need to go faster? Try Basic (3 Mbps and $30 per month) or Standard ($35 per month with 15 Mbps). If you’re an online gamer or download large files on a regular basis, the 20Mpbs of TWC’s Turbo plan ($45 per month) may be the best option, while home business users may want to try out the Extreme plan, which offers 30 Mbps download speeds at $55 per month. Finally, if you have a large family or Internet users or connect multiple devices on a daily basis, you may need the Ultimate plan, which provides download speeds of 50 Mbps, 30 email accounts and 10 gigabytes (GB) of email storage for $65 each month."
OK now consider the slope or marginal prices:
  • The first 2 Mbps costs $7.50 per. Fair enough. 
  • But then the next 1Mbps costs $15!
  • The next 12Mbps cost  just $0.42 per!!!
  • Then the next 5Mbps cost $2, 
  • And the following 10Mpbs are $1,
  • And then 20Mbps more at $0.50 each.
The first and the last three are totally reasonable. But notice the second item on the list is a horrifically bad deal.  Why does it exist, who in their right mind would pick that? It's like  a trap. Maybe some people will just ignore the Mbps amidst all the verbiage about storage and email etc (extras which really are insignificant in terms of cost) and think to themselves: "Hey, I'm not poor and "Everyday Low Price" that sounds like the plan for poor people.  And I don't understand the high end stuff, so let me get Basic, that sounds reasonable." And boom, they are paying an astronomical price. Even if not many people fall for it, it's very profitable.  It's also kind of unethical in my opinion. (This is not the first time I'm finding fault with Time Warner in these pages, and I don't even use them. )

A more innocent version of the same thing is wine lists at restaurants. Never order the second item! It's for suckers. To see why, imagine a naive and status-conscious customer who doesn't know much about wine: he will skip the first one to avoid looking cheap, but will hesitate to go to far down the list because they can't justify buying the expensive ones. So he will settle for the second one. The restaurateur willing to exploit this can profit by putting the cheapest wine at the second cheapest price.  Thus gouging the suckers without affecting others. The moral of the story is, even if you don't know about wine, you can still have a wine list strategy.


Net neutrality

"Net neutrality" a hot topic again these days. Plus ça change, plus ça reste pareil. Given the amount of confusion out there it seems like it won't be the last time.

When people say "neutrality" they could mean any combination of:
1) dominant access or backbone providers should not discriminate between customers, they should offer a similar prices to any buyer
2) all / most / many networks must exchange traffic free of charge with each other
3) all traffic must be treated the same regardless of application
4) all end users must pay a flat price for unlimited usage

My view, as regular readers... < crickets > ... can guess, is that 1) is the only good version.  2) I've written quite a bit about before, and I still think it's wrong,  but thankfully 2) is rapidly joining  3) which has been obsolete for years.  4) is fine when feasible but demanding it be a requirement of all forms of access is just silly.

But 1) is really important! I hope that somehow emerges as the dominant focus this time but I'm not holding my breath.

For example, in the US right now there's a real danger with Comcast: local access monopoly x continental scale + vertical integration with content. Huge issue. This is all about 1), but the general public thinks the issue is 4), which means "net neutrality" will be defeated as irrational whining.