Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Should ISPs Be Able to Slow Down Heavy 'Net Users?


Recently, it has been brought to the media's attention that several ISPs have been using back-end techniques in an effort to slow down heavy-bandwidth activites that people might perform on the Internet. This includes, most importantly, downloading and transmitting large files, like movies. Is it right of the ISPs to do this?

Let's play devil's advocate. If there are 100 people in one area and 10 are downloading massive files, that's going to slow things down for the other 90 people that are just doing regular Web surfing or messaging. Why should they have to pay the price for high-bandwidth activities that tech-savvy individuals want to take part in?

However, isn't the whole point of offering faster speeds and more robust services to accomodate the needs of these "heavy" users? Sure, everyone wants the average Web page to load as quickly as possible. But think about how far we've come: we have the kinds of speeds available these days that can accomodate much more than just a Web page loading in half a second! We can download entire feature-length films. Stream all kinds of music and video. Even upload massive files. Shouldn't we be utilizing these speeds to the best of their ability and not punishing those who are benefiting the most from them?

This issue garnered a lot of attention when Chatham, ON-based Internet provider Teksavvy Solutions Inc., which gets its network access from Bell, recently started receiving complaints from its users. The company realized that Bell was purposely limiting the amount of bandwidth that heavy users could take up during peak hours of service.

ISPs definitely have the right to limit bandwidth usage to ensure the best possible experience for all customers: it's their service. But on the same token, why bother offering things like unlimited bandwidth and blazing fast speeds if, in actuality, these conditions can't be completely honoured?

It's very possible that, in letting things be, the "regular" 'net users might not even notice slower load times. But maybe they would. You can't please everyone all the time so, as bad as it sounds, it might just come down to who the better customer is: either way, one group is going to be upset.

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17 comments:

Anonymous said...

What bothers me is the secrecy involved. Imagine this occuring in any other industry. Perhaps you buy a dozen donuts, but find only 6 in the box. When you complain, the vendor states that they had to reduce "a dozen" to 6 in order to keep the price the same, and that it's perfectly legal for them to adjust terms of sale without your notice.

When I've paid for something, I expect to receive it. If terms of sale change, I expect to be informed. Specifically, if ISPs sell me bandwidth, they should not be able to control what I do with it without my knowledge. And where is the line drawn? Would the situation really be any different if they were "shaping" HTTP traffic? I'm sure everyone's speed would improve if people weren't looking at so many damn web pages, so perhaps they should slow that down too.

I can understand the major ISPs perspective, but if you can no longer sell what you are promising, secretly adjusting terms of sale is unnacceptable. If this were an older, more established industry, the ISPs would already be in court over this. I am not normally one to suggest regulation, but as Internet access becomes an essential service, some regulation does appear to be required.

Anonymous said...

Totally illegal, Bell (or any other ISP) have no legal right of any kind of doing the RIAA/MPAA bidding. (how much ISP are paid to illegally censoring the net?)

Randy said...

This sounds like something bell might do and since rogers has been getting away with it since 2005 who is to stop them ? since most ISPS lease from bell or rogers

Anonymous said...

Bells traffic shaping is hardly to protect the 90 out of 100 who use their service for basic surfing.

If users are eating up too much bandwidth, they'd most likely be affecting other heavy bandwidth users, before low bandwidth users even notice.

Theres currently plenty of bandwidth to go around.

This is more out of bandwidth greed, bell needs the bandwidth for something (IPTV?) and are throttling and throttling their third party distributors.

It was no conincidence that Rogers traffic shaping started around the same time they launched their VOIP service, bell is playing their cards in turn.

I don't mind if they throttle their own customers, but it is completely illegal for them to throttle their third party distributors, with little notice, to forward their own business plan.

Anonymous said...

It isn't what Bell is doing...
it's how they do it.

They are well known for making up the rules as they go, completely disregarding the impact to others.

I have had the unpleasant experience of being a Sympatico DSL client and will begin supporting TechSavvy by becoming their customer. If Bell punishes all users, I may as well pay the company who supports me in principle.

Anonymous said...

I would like to throttle my payment for the bell services accordingly.

Anonymous said...

I think this is largely missing the point.

ISP's like TekSavvy have their oven internet connections and peering arrangements for internet access, Bell is just providing the connectivity from the users phone line to in this example Teksavvy's network. This is what Bell is choking down on them.

Teksavvy and many other independents have their own internet access and provide better services than those available through Bell Sympatico or Rogers with their throttling and port blocking.

This is not really about Bell's internet bandwidth, but is in fact an anti-competitive act. Since Bell have been throttling their own customers they have been leaving in droves to the independent competition, well beyond the normal customer "churn".

This move by Bell effectively kills the competitor's edge.

Anonymous said...

It's clear that bell needs to be wiped out. Let's let in some foreign telecoms to put the bells in the scrapheap where they belong.

Anonymous said...

It's like anything in life where a few ruin ir for the rest. Until we have unlimited bandwidth then these hogs should be cut down. If you want a movie, go out and rent it.

Anonymous said...

Bell's false smokescreen justification for thse immoral acts is a false camoflage for their own original misleading, false advertsing of umlimited downloads, and is merely a coverup for the fact their system cannot meet their originaly promised capactiies and they Bell should be seen now only as liars, Bell needs to be taken to Queen's court for this too.

Anonymous said...

They are not throttling heavy users as you state..They are throttling everyone.Not a heavy user but want to get the CBC file?Be prepaired to wait.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Bell is messing with the Data itself. They're blocking ports that they want to control and they're preventing websites from competing with there interests.

I had to switch my business to a different provider because Bell was sensoring my data.

If they're going to start doing it with ISPs they'll be risking more then being sued.

Anonymous said...

cut speed and also cut my bill in half too. don't expect me to pay full price for 1/3 of the service

Lord Reptor said...

The problem for me is not throttling - I don't really care if my speed wobbles a bit (although opaque and unfair FAP policies are sucky too).

My big problem is packet sniffing and packet spoofing, which is what Bell, my awful, disgusting, foamily offensive ISP Xplornet, and all the other North American majors are up to. TCP network packets become TCP/RST packets between me and my own private business.

This practice amounts to interference with private communications and violates Federal law and chunks of our own human rights legislation. Not to mention being unutterably vile.

These worthless corporate bastards and their enablers at companies like Sandvine are not just after your p2p. They want information control and access to your private comms.

They want to block undesirable websites invisibly, and the tech allows it.

CRTC appears to be complicit.

For privacy, I suggest i2p.

For the heads of the companies using packet-sniffing and spoofing, I suggest prison.

And for those, like me, who would just like to get on with using the infrastructure my taxes paid for and the service my money pays for in peace, I suggest gardening. Grass grows faster than my connection sometimes, and I don't get all mad at it.

Really annoyed with dishonest, pushy scum who seek power,
Lord Reptor.

PS - calling what these guys are up to 'throttling' is BS. Get educated. This has nothing to do with speed and everything to do with information control.

Anonymous said...

This is a bothersome trend that is starting to take place. It is not just in what they are doing but in how. They are using the excuse of torrents and other such p2p systems. The problem is that the reason p2p is popular for sharing is its low usage of actually bandwidth. The files are broken down into smaller sizes so that they can travel faster and take up less room. That is the point of torrents. If you try to download a torrent file that is the same size as say an .avi file. The torrent actually uses less bandwidth.
Bell or any other major provider is censoring what we as users are doing. It is not for their bottom line, they are working for someone else! If they are allowed to control this without any reprecussions, it leaves those who want freedom on the net with little choice but to find our own work arounds. Restrictions as bad as they may be, also fuel innovation, pushing us to find a new way.

Lord Reptor said...

PPS regarding calling BS - sorry for the tone. I get real worked up over this stuff, and was aiming that at the corporate media, who are always trying to turn crimes like this into a moral debate about the victim. Not aimed at you my darling bloggers.

Great to see these issues getting air.

Off to watch my garden grow,
Lord reptor.

Anonymous said...

In Europe the present existing capacity and speed of the internet issignificantly a lot higher over that now being supplied by Bell. It's own past is catching up with Bell. They are also reaping the lies they have sowed. As it has been already detailed in many places on the net, just do a Google search of Bell Sympatico, and you can see that in reality Bell falsely has deceived, mislead it's customers Canada wide on it's existing capacity to deliver the promised unlimited internet download speeds, on top of that the very poor presidential manager of Bell had also failed to use it's profits to adequately upgrade it's capability next to do so. It now was also already known in the communication, technical industry. amongst IBM engineers too, that the Scrooge Bell is a Dinosaur, and that it is, was not only poorly managed but has been composed of very incompetent, unqualified, and underpaid technical personnel .