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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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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
quote:
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.


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