Traffic Shaping, Good or Bad?

Two months ago we posted a story on the new encryption methods to prevent ISP's like Rogers and Shaw from throttling BitTorrent traffic. The encryption methods seem to work, and the three most popular torrent clients support it.

However, there’s still a lively debate going on in the comment section. I will list some of them so you can see for yourself.

Pro Shaping

Bill says: I’m a network engineer for an ISP. We currently restrict P2P applications to 512kbps for all users. And for good reason. P2P applications can cripple a network, they’re like leaches. They consume all available bandwidth for endless periods of time. What I think will eventually happen is users will start having to pay for transfer. No more unlimited connections, You’ll get a set data transfer limit for the month and if you go over your limits you pay more per byte. They already do such things in Canadian and other oversee’s markets.

Just because you pay 49.99 for a 1.5-3.0mbps connection doesn’t mean your entitled to use whatever protocols you wish on your ISP’s network without them provisioning it to make the network experience good for all users involved. If you want truely unrestricted internet, for the bandwidth advertised, you need to buy a leased line from an ILEC/CLEC. I guarentee the ISP’s will figure out a way to limit P2P use and since they own the network, it is up to them to decide what traffic gets priority for their customers. When one protocol consumes 75% of your bandwidth for hours on end, it inhibits all other protocols running on your network..

klaatu, you don’t seem to understand business very well. There is a lot more overhead to running an ISP than buying and reselling bandwidth. It’s not just simply recouping your bandwidth costs each month, hell I get each 1mb for a little under 200$/month on a fiber MPLS network 1 hop from level3. If I made profits off of everything after that I’d be bloody effin rich. You also have equipment, employees, leases, etc to pay for.

Throwing more bandwidth at P2P is like feeding a seagul a peice of bread. Once you feed one all their buddies come a long and eat your whole loaf of bread. The more bandwidth available, the more that is consumed by P2P. Unless you shape the bandwidth accordingly. Every ISP does this, or should I say successful ISP. It’s just a matter of to what extent they take it.

You have to remember there are two sides to everything. The ISP’s aren’t out to make your life miserable, they’re just looking out for the performance of their networks.

Anyway that’s my 2 cents.

Anti Shaping

KM says: Much of the marketeering going on from ISPs revolves around connection speed, especially in terms of broadband versus dial-up. One of the ways the providers get subscribers is by specifically touting the speed of their service over say dial-up, and talking all about the ability to download content at high speeds. Between Broadband competitors, the advertising usually focuses on better speed/price ratios, or service.
The ads tout content content content, download, download, download…

It’s pretty crappy to then sign on and realize you can’t – cause well, you are downloading -too- much. I simply don’t think packet-shaping is ‘fair’ when you are already ponying up money up front for ‘broadband’ which was marketed to you specifically as a tool to obtain content, then you are restricted on the amount of content you can get.

Marketing an ‘unlimited’ service should simply be that – unlimited – and let people pay what they will… I’d happily pay ‘overuse’ charges if it would give me more bandwidth.

One could argue ‘if yer willing to pay more, upgrade your service.’ Well, my particular annoyance at my ISP is that my pipe is supposed to be 1.5mbps and my speeds in terms of d/l tend to be slower than friends on slower rated connections just down the street. I want the bandwidth I’m paying for, and I damn well wouldn’t be happy if I not only got screwed outta bandwidth on the one end, but got charged or penalized for too much downloading on the other with a pipe that’s already slower than it should be.

On top of that, if I ‘overuse’ my connection by say downloading movies at google video and then get my ability to DL WoW content over say BT neutered, what was the point in subscribing to broadband?

I believe eventually ISPs will develop the bandwidth to accomodate heavy widespread use of BitTorrent simply because of stuff like IPTV and HDTV (think FIOS), and the fact that each newer generation of users will grow up more technoligcally inclined and therefore more likely to be a heavy downloader, and this whole problem of BitTorrent might simply go away on its own as the net continues to mature. But that’s a ways away and does nothing to help the short term users of packet shaping ISPs. If encrypting BT helps out short-term I’m all for it.

Pro Shaping

iNET says: As is usual with life, everyone sees things from there own perspective. That’s not a slam against anyone, or anyone’s point of view – it’s just a fact.

I’m an ISP as well, and the fact is, P2P is (from my point of view) a plague – a cancer, that will consume all the bandwidth that I can provide. It’s an insatiable appetite.

The Corvette example was maybe off base, the way we explain it to our customers is like an ‘$5.99 all you can eat buffet’. If you pay your $6, and eat a reasonable amount, no problem. That’s what it’s for. Some customer’s have big appetites, and some have small appetites, and in the end, it’s all supposed to average out. No problem. :)

Where this falls apart with internet usage is that 10% of your users belly up to the salad bar, pay their $6 and then eat 1000 lbs of food. It’s not that the restaurant is mean or evil or stupid, but that’s just not a sustainable business model. If you were the business owner, you’d have an ‘acceptable use policy’ for your All-you-can-eat-buffet, and that’s really no different that what the ISP’s are trying to do.

Where I’m located, T1′s are $1760 per month. We certainly have users who simply can’t understand / believe / fathom that we need to limit their bandwidth in any way, shape or form. However, MOST users also want our network to be fast and responsive, and frankly, if I allow that 10% of users to use up 90% of my network resources – then I’m not doing my job for the other 90% of paying customers that want good, reliable service.

Certainly, if it was just a matter of wiggling my nose and magically adding more bandwidth from upstream, all ISP’s would do it. The fact it, for me to add another T1 is a major expense, and as long as there is the perception that little Johnny should be able to pay his $35 and download at 2Mbs 24 x 7 – that’s a problematic business plan. I understand we’ve all been trained to think that we should get everything for free – but as long as business’s have to pay for their bandwidth costs (or their food costs), they are going to be watching their customers for over-use.

For what it’s worth, we’re clear with our customers on signup – no Server Privileges. We certainly loose some customers, but the ones we have (mostly) understand that we have a finite amount of resources and that we’re wanting to make the whole network as fast and good as we can for all users.

Anti Shaping

By C-Man says: Traffic shaping is not good. If you pay for an internet connection, that’s what you should get from your ISP — an internet connection. Not a connection that will let you browse the web and check email, but little else. If an ISP has issues with the amount of data a customer is transferring, then the ISP needs to address that issue with that customer, and not restrict every user in one class of traffic.

It’s akin to the phone company trying to prioritize phone traffic , e.g., telling you that you can’t call and chat with your friend down the street because Joe Blow has a “better” use for those network resources (say, calling to order something from the phone company).

The ISPs need to keep their hands off content for more than just this reason. If the ISPs can and will throttle bandwidth based on protocol, how can they disclaim any liability for the content travelling through their pipes? If you open the pipe to see what is going through you take on a responsibility for that traffic – and ISPs may start to find themselves being held responsible for their customers conduct.

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