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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 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.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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