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As more sophisticated tools for traffic shaping are unveiled, the question soon becomes which service providers aren't throttling customer traffic

Adding itself to the small-but-growing list of ISPs that admit to traffic shaping, Canada-based Bell Sympatico has confessed to using “traffic management” on heavy users “during peak hours.”

“We are now using a Internet Traffic Management to restrict accounts,” wrote an unnamed forum administrator on Bell Sympatico’s support forums. According to the administrator, Bell Sympatico’s traffic shaping affects an unmentioned number of applications and protocols, including BitTorrent, Gnutella, Limewire, Kazaa, eDonkey, eMule and WinMX.

A Bell Sympatico Manager chimed in immediately afterwards, explaining that “there continues to be phenomenal growth of consumer Internet traffic throughout the world” and that “Bell is using Internet Traffic Management to ensure we deliver bandwidth fairly to our customers during peak Internet usage.”

According to the Manager, the bandwidth cap was introduced sometime last year and “doesn't affect the vast majority of [Bell’s] customers.” One concerned user asked if the traffic management will be removed as network capacity increases, to which the administrator replied that he “can’t answer this question,” and noted that it would be decided as the issue arises.

Internet service providers have found themselves under an increasing burden as bandwidth-intensive internet services like online video and file-sharing have proliferated. While the true volume is unknown, many think that 30%-50% of all internet traffic is P2P-related, with a recent survey from traffic-management company Ipoque pushing that number towards an astonishing 90%.

In response to this, many providers have employed a variety of techniques to limit customers who are deemed to be using more than their “fair share,” a tactic that has been the subject of much debate as part of the controversy surrounding “network neutrality.”

While traffic shaping is by far the most common, a few companies have employed more exotic methods: Comcast is thought to impose an invisible 600 GB bandwidth limit on its “unlimited” internet service, and a recent study conducted by the AP found that the ISP impersonates BitTorrent clients for the purposes of interfering with their connections.

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What's fair?
By FightingChance on 11/10/2007 1:04:32 PM , Rating: 2
“Bell is using Internet Traffic Management to ensure we deliver bandwidth fairly to our customers during peak Internet usage.” That seems fairly reasonable. I know that if I were a Bell customer, I wouldn't want my connection handicapped by another customer downloading entire seasons of TV shows.

RE: What's fair?
By Pythias on 11/10/2007 1:05:30 PM , Rating: 3
I know if I were a customer I would expect to get the bandwidth I _ing paid for.

RE: What's fair?
By masher2 on 11/10/2007 5:30:18 PM , Rating: 3
> " I would expect to get the bandwidth I _ing paid for. "

Ah, but how much exactly did you pay for? No ISP guarantees maximum peak bandwidth 24x7, 365 days a year. And if you want a network capable of handling each and ever user constistently downloading at that peak bandwidth, its going to cost you considerably more than you're paying now.

I pay for the fastest connection my ISP offers, so that bandwidth is there when I need it. I'd prefer that no one ever had to be throttled...but if someone has to be, I'd much rather its the guy running 100 torrent thread around the clock, rather than those of us who use a tiny fraction of what he does. That certainly sounds fair to me.

RE: What's fair?
By GaryJohnson on 11/11/2007 10:19:53 AM , Rating: 2
From reading the forum posts, it sounds to me like they're not throttling the 'guy running 100 torrent thread around the clock', they're throttling everyone who uses P2P during peak hours.

RE: What's fair?
By Ringold on 11/11/2007 5:09:28 PM , Rating: 2
Which still sounds fair to me.

RE: What's fair?
By TomCorelis on 11/11/2007 5:14:01 PM , Rating: 5
What about all the kids patching their World of Warcraft installations? (Blizzard distributes patches primarily via a proprietary bittorrent client.)

What about all the legal movie downloading services that use similar protocols? What about BitTorrent's industry partnerships, if they ever blossom? (

What about all the Linux distributions that distribute via bittorrent and peer-2-peer installs?

What about Joost, if it relies or chooses to rely on peer distribution?

RE: What's fair?
By Ringold on 11/11/07, Rating: -1
RE: What's fair?
By tigen on 11/12/2007 2:01:37 AM , Rating: 5
"I don't do XYZ, so I don't care if that's screwed up"

I don't know what I would do, but that's irrelevant... what matters is what is legal and what people should put up with.

You don't call something "unlimited" and then dick with the service so as to covertly limit it.

Who are you to say what is productive, and that p2p can't be used for productive things?

RE: What's fair?
By gramboh on 11/12/2007 5:40:31 AM , Rating: 3
I'd have the foresight to build a network that isn't crippled by upstream traffic from my subscribers like DOCSIS cable is. I'd build a network like FiOS. The assumption that all users are just going to download a few bytes here and there isn't valid anymore.

RE: What's fair?
By Pjotr on 11/12/2007 6:54:19 AM , Rating: 3
How would you solve the problem of a few users draining resources from the rest of the user base for now?

I would be scared of being sued for not delivering the product I sell and immediatly increase my network bandwidth and possible increase consumer prices to afford it.

In Sweden an ISP was just fined for selling "up to 24 MBit/s DSL" when it in fact only delivered 4-8 MBit/s to one customer. That customer will now get the 8 MBit/s pricing also, even though he is on the 24 MBit/s DSL connection.

Strangling the bandwidth during peak hours is no better, no matter what the reason. If you sell cars with 200 bhp, but strange engine power electronically to 100 bhp during rush hour, you would get sued.

RE: What's fair?
By BikeDude on 11/12/2007 8:23:45 AM , Rating: 2
If I don't have to wait for my ten ton excel to download because some kid downloading a giant WoW patch has to wait slightly longer.. sounds good to me.

A bittorrent client has the potential of using (much) less of the ISP's expensive bandwidth outside the ISP's net. Your huge excel download using http or ftp most likely sucks more bandwidth. (in most cases it will probably be cached by a transparent http proxy, but those solutions have failed to scale in the past and I'd be surprised if they're trouble free now)

The ISP should not prioritize your needs above those of the kid downloading the WoW patch. You pay the same and should both expect the kind of service you pay for. His download is no less noble or just than yours.

However, limiting those who download 600GB a month is an understandable move, but should be made according to which part of the network was affected. If you download 10TB from someone using the same ISP it shouldn't have that much of an impact on other users. (but it sometimes does, since the DSL providers cram too many users on the same DSLAM -- which IMO should be considered consumer fraud)

As a sidenote, a friend of mine used to work for Norway's largest ISP. They noted that their competitor offered better outbound bandwidth for their users, so more of the traffic stayed within their own net... This was a couple of years ago, so things may have changed, but I suspect it still holds true. Give the users more outbound bandwidth, and they will prefer to leech off eachother rather than stroll outside their ISP's net.

RE: What's fair?
By OblivionMage on 11/15/2007 4:06:52 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, my WoW patches are much, much slower then a simple http download. I use Bell Canada for my ISP and live in Ontario Canada.

Especially since Bell praises itself for its rather constant speeds, throttling all P2P traffic is completely unfair.

RE: What's fair?
By emptypockets on 11/12/2007 1:17:48 PM , Rating: 2
While I can agree that the ISPs are trying to give every customer the best possible experience - and therefore limit a "few" to give better service to the "many"...

...why don't they just install new infrastructure that is capable to handle what they promise?

At least they should be honest about what they do and don't use unrealistic "maximum" numbers to promote their services - rather they should advertise with what you really get.


My concerns about this practice of "net un-neutrality" is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, what will be next? You'll have to pay for your emails to arrive today??

RE: What's fair?
By clovell on 11/12/2007 1:58:11 PM , Rating: 1
Infrastructure costs a lot more, and takes a lot more time.

RE: What's fair?
By emptypockets on 11/12/2007 2:28:05 PM , Rating: 2

Charge more for "premium/unlimited" accounts.

RE: What's fair?
By clovell on 11/12/2007 2:37:12 PM , Rating: 1
Like a T1?

RE: What's fair?
By FastLaneTX on 11/11/2007 11:57:56 AM , Rating: 3
I seriously doubt you f'ing paid for the bandwidth you're getting. Full-pipe transit access costs ISPs about $25/Mbit today. Your ISP sells you access at a tenth the actual price based on the assumption you will only use about 10% of it over time. When you violate that assumption, you're no longer paying your way.

Of course, most ISPs don't sell non-oversubscribed residential service because few people are willing to pay $250/mo for a full-speed 10Mbit/s DSL line. Would you? If so, then call them up and offer to let them up your bill in return for not capping your usage.

The only complaint I have against ISPs is calling their services "unlimited" when they're obviously not. That is fraud and they should be prosecuted -- not for the capping, but for not admitting what the caps are.

RE: What's fair?
By FastLaneTX on 11/11/2007 11:59:12 AM , Rating: 2
Note: Above $25/Mbit is for continental US/Canada and probably Western Europe. It's much, much higher in other parts of the world.

RE: What's fair?
By Armorize on 11/11/2007 5:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
What about Japan? I'd like to know how you know this info as well.

RE: What's fair?
By TomZ on 11/11/2007 12:50:24 PM , Rating: 4
That is fraud and they should be prosecuted -- not for the capping, but for not admitting what the caps are.

I think that's just false advertising, not fraud.

And I agree with you - I think ISPs should be forced to disclosed guaranteed minimum bandwidth figures as well as details about any caps. The current disclosure of "up to xxx MB/s" where the actual bandwidth is typically only a fraction and is realistically never "up to" what is advertised.

This kind of advertising might have been acceptable when the technology was new, but the ISPs know full well what kind of service they can guarantee.

RE: What's fair?
By dgingeri on 11/11/2007 12:56:59 PM , Rating: 3
It is kind of like the guy who goes to an "all you can eat" restaurant and eats 10 times as much as any other customer. That restaurant is losing money on a person like that, and they'll typically throw him out after a while. I certainly understand this point.

On the other hand, I don't like being punished for someone else's abuse of the system. I don't use much bandwidth. I usually just surf news and play World of Warcraft about 10-12 hours a week. (WoW uses only about 100kb/s while playing.) However, this interference from Comcast is causing my WoW patch downloader to be very, very slow. I takes about 6 hours to download a 200MB patch. If I were to download it directly, as I have done in the past, it would take about half an hour.

It works like the latest DEA restrictions on Pseudoephedrine : only the law abiding people suffer for the abuse of a few, and those few will continue to abuse the system. I want my allergy medicine, durnit.

RE: What's fair?
By rdeegvainl on 11/12/2007 10:05:13 AM , Rating: 2
WoW uses much less than 100Kb/s. I can play it just fine on a network that averages 10Kb/s, ping at about 300 and this is on the opposite side of the world than the servers are on. Patches take a million years though.

RE: What's fair?
By Pythias on 11/11/2007 3:40:41 PM , Rating: 4
Not my problem if they're taking a loss. Either give me the advertised speed or give me my money back.

RE: What's fair?
By heffeque on 11/10/2007 1:30:40 PM , Rating: 5
It's not the customer's problem that Bell's infrastructures aren't capable of handling the traffic they promise they do and actually don't.

They should invest in better infrastructures not in traffic shaping machines.

RE: What's fair?
By heffeque on 11/10/2007 1:32:26 PM , Rating: 2
when I said the customer's problem I meant that it's not the customer's fault that Bell is underdeveloped.

RE: What's fair?
By MrDiSante on 11/10/2007 1:50:45 PM , Rating: 2
1) God damnit. Now both of the freaking major ISP's in my area (Rogers and Bell) throttle traffic. You think this applies to the DSL lines they lease to other companies who then sell the DSL? And we seriously need government intervention over here. This is just plain old ridiculous.

2) You guys repeatedly spell "Sympatico" as "Simpatico". That's not right.

RE: What's fair?
By mmntech on 11/10/2007 4:01:49 PM , Rating: 2
Cogeco (my ISP) does it as well according to the site, as well as all other major Canadian ISPs. I don't remember them disclosing such things to their customers. Canada is well known for having some of the worst internet service in the world in terms of pricing and customer treatment. It's one of the reasons the iPhone hasn't come here yet, because it would cost $200+ a month for it's online services!

RE: What's fair?
By StevoLincolnite on 11/11/2007 2:10:28 AM , Rating: 2
Move to Australia then complain.
If you live in the country, expect slow speeds, expensive connection, and a small download limit, and only 1 ISP. (Telstra). - And then you are stuck with Wireless 3G (Even thats not available here), Satalite or IDSN.

A friend who lives 100km's away has access to ADSL, choice between several ISP's but he only has a choice between Wireless, and ADSL. (Cable is rather scarce in Australia).
And still Telstra (Our largest Telco) is charging
$99.95 for a 1.5mb connection and a 25gb download limit. (Uploads is counted).

Or... a 256k Connection for $29.95 with a 200mb download limit, charged at $0.15/MB (And thats the cheapest and slowest ADSL plan available).

Or.. for the filthy rich and those lucky enough to be in an area with an ADSL 2+ Exchange you could get a 24Mb ADSL 2+ connection for $149.95 with a 60gb download limit.

Now what I want to know is at what point do you're ISP's throttle traffic? Is there a download limit? Is it much larger than 25/60gb and doesnt include uploads?
Is it cheaper than what the Aussies have?

Is it a 24/12 month contract?

RE: What's fair?
By Silver2k7 on 11/11/2007 4:59:41 AM , Rating: 2
Ouch sounds really bad in OZ :(

Ive got ADSL2+ 24/1 and was thinking that 1 Mbit upload is a little silly.. when i know people in Stockholm who got 100 Mbit and 1000 Mbit fiber connections.

The 24/1Mbit is 349 SEK a month or about 55 USD.

Im not sure if they do throttle P2P here in Sweden but maybe they do cause its rarley that fast. but atleast there are no limits on accounts as far as I know.

RE: What's fair?
By Hoser McMoose on 11/11/2007 6:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yup. The real sad part about this is that only 10 or 15 years ago Canada was one of the world leaders in wireless connections and broadband internet. Now we've gone from near first to near worst.

The reason is quite simple, our major telecommunications companies have near-monopolies, largely enforced by the government. Because of our protectionist policy that prevents foreign competitors we end up with crap and crap (Rogers and Bell Sympatico in my case, and Rogers is FAR WORSE for throttling than Bell is!). Our desire to protect a few thousand "Canadian" telecommunications jobs by not allowing foreign competitors ends up costing all of us money and, as such, it costs us tens of thousands of jobs because companies need to spend extra on telecommunications and have less to spend on hiring people.

If we want better service here the first step is to get the government to eliminate their counter-productive rules governing this industry.


RE: What's fair?
By Tsuwamono on 11/12/2007 7:59:40 AM , Rating: 2
Actually if you do some research there are quite a few really good ISPs in Canada. The trick is to stay away from Bell and Rogers junk. Aswell as Videotron if your in the Iron Curtain(Quebec).

I use and i get 5mb/s for 29.95 + i pay 5$ a month for unlimited bandwidth. Pretty kick ass deal if its throttled or not. I laugh at my friends who pay 90$ a month for the same thing from Cable companies in canada

RE: What's fair?
By siberus on 11/12/2007 9:35:28 AM , Rating: 2 is pretty decent too. 29.95+ tax for unlimited 5mb Service. (pretty sure there using Bell lines though)

Although a few years back I did get a cease and desist notice when I managed to download 100 gigs and upload a pretty astronomical amount too. Said I was abusing the network... A feat I was kinda proud of considering at the time my connection was only 1mb and my router was set wrong so it was blocking my BT . I'm no where near any of that now, average almost 30 gig a month down and 7-8 up.

RE: What's fair?
By wordsworm on 11/10/2007 7:17:21 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the customer's problem that Bell's infrastructures aren't capable of handling the traffic they promise they do and actually don't.

Umm... maybe you missed the article. Yes, it is users' problem, because they're not getting full access to the bandwidth. I could add that Bell is slow as molasses in an Arctic winter. I hated Bell. boo! Perhaps what you meant is 'It shouldn't be the customer's problem.'

RE: What's fair?
By clovell on 11/12/2007 11:41:59 AM , Rating: 1
> They should invest in better infrastructures not in traffic shaping machines.

Infrastructure costs a helluva lot more.

RE: What's fair?
By Tuor on 11/10/2007 11:51:15 PM , Rating: 2
Whenever you see the word "fairly" or "fair share", you know you're getting screwed.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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