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Report calls for mandatory transparency of traffic management
Friday 12 September 2008 14:55:49 by Andrew Ferguson

The report by Francesco Caio into Next Generation Broadband makes a very important recommendation that could potentially help consumers to understand what they are buying and make differentiation between products more obvious.

As part of the recommendations for how to create stimulus that would lead to infrastructure upgrades, traffic management has been mentioned.

"Mandating transparency on traffic management policies for network capacity.

Ofcom should require internet service providers should tell their customers how they manage traffic on their network. This would make consumers aware of the ‘true’ bandwidth they were receiving, and could lead to differentiation of services in which consumers value bandwidth and are willing to pay for them. This might then create stimulus for further investment in network upgrade."

Extract from "The Next Phase of Broadband" report

To some extent Ofcom is partially there with the voluntary code of practice, but as we have previously mentioned a number of providers are not being very quick about publishing details of fair use policies or how their traffic management works.

The extent to which traffic management shapes what people can do with the broadband connections will be a surprise to many. There may be hundreds of thousands of people who just think that broadband is meant to be slow and choppy, and remain unaware until they see the speed with which web pages can open or how reliable streaming video can be on a connection that has better network infrastructure behind it. Unfortunately the adage of 'you get what you pay for' is largely true with broadband; there are exceptions, but these are becoming increasingly rare.

It would be nice to see Ofcom go further than just requiring publication of how traffic is managed, requiring providers to provide details of how they populate their network is crucial. A provider can provide an unlimited service even with the relatively high prices of the BT IPstream and Datastream products currently and not use traffic management, but at peak times the packet loss and congestion would be such that people would be better off with a dial-up connection.

If the current marketing of broadband continues in the UK it will not be long before we see 100Mbps connections that are shaped down to 2Mbps and unless you are a milkman getting up to check e-mail before going out on your round you will never see these speeds. Asking consumers to pay more for a smooth gaming experience on the busiest night of the week, could be a way of funding next generation infrastructure, but this only works if all providers are forced to market their product by the same rules. If one provider can promise unlimited service for £14 a month (but the unlimited means that some services will run very slowly a lot of the time) and another provider says that you need our gaming option for an extra £5 a month to play games at peak times they are not likely to have mass market appeal.

Comments

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Unless everyone does it, Andrew.

And right now, I can see it being very attractive for everyone to do it.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
If it was mandated by Ofcom then it would be different.

To date most providers are volunteering their way out of this part of the voluntary code of practice.
Posted by imbsuk over 8 years ago
As someone else said this is how broadband and mobile network providers operate here, on confusion, offering a vast array of tariffs and products that are nigh on impossible to compare. The end result is that those companies offering unshaped connections and not deceiving their customers suffer. Ofcom as usual will do absolutely nothing about it and concentrate on petty nonsense. Nothing much changes.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
the sooner isps are made to tell customers exatcly what their REAL bandwidth and speed is the better, plusnet and entanet are the only 2 isps I know of that are open about their traffic management. Right now a customer will look at someone like zen and think they inferior to someone like BT broadband because BT broadband dont tell the customer they throttle and shape.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I hate hidden caps, throttles etc etc, but if you can be bothered to read before you sign the dotted line in most cases, be it in small print caps and throttles are mentioned.
If i can pick out providers that give me what i want i fail to see why nobody else can.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@CARPETBURN:I agree..but what are you going to do? Most people look for bargains and expect perfection. It's the way of the world.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
chrysalis: the main problem about Zen and similar, is that it is only available in a very limited area of the UK...

And yes, this whole idiotfest was started by selling at a price not high enough to support the product... And people believing that if you pay peanuts, you will get much more than peanuts...
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
CB of course the shaping details are not in BT's smallprint either I have looked. They simply withold the information. Ukonline I consider open as well since they reveal contention ratio's which gives an idea of how much the bandwidth is shared amongst customers.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
comnut I am not sure what you mean, zen use ipstream so they available in all BT wholesale exchanges, but try reccomending zen to someone they see the high price and would say no, as they consider it equal to something like bt broadband (when it isnt) and as such a rip off. Fully agree about the prices (over competitive market).
Posted by whatever2 over 8 years ago
Posted by andrew ( staff member) 1 day ago
If it was mandated by Ofcom then it would be different.

To date most providers are volunteering their way out of this part of the voluntary code of practice.

Eggsactly.

Ofcom are lacking teeth again.

Carpetburn, can you tell me what the BT protocols are that are monitored, when, what the FUP limits are, an at what times, how much the actual peak contention and remaining bandwidth is please? I can with my ISP.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"@CARPETBURN:I agree..but what are you going to do? Most people look for bargains and expect perfection. It's the way of the world."
yep they are also known as fools.
quote"CB of course the shaping details are not in BT's smallprint either I have looked."
As much as i hate BT terms about shaping are there....
http://tinyurl.com/5rpvpg see item 8... Though they dont state what heavy use is i imagine as the usage limits go up about 5gig with each package i would start to watch my back at around 20gig on option 3... Not rocket science to read terms before you sign up huh ;)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Seriously as much as i would like to see set in stone bright illuminous CAP figures, throttle figures etc etc, in reality they are not really needed if you have the sense to read between the BS speak which some of them spew. Any mention an ISP is gonna cut my speed and failure to give figures or reasons why the simple solution is DONT SIGN UP WITH THEM.
Posted by imbsuk over 8 years ago
What people have to bear in mind that if there is traffic shaping going on, the average person may not notice it anyway if they're only doing their emails or browsing. For the most part most people are probably happy with the cheap services that are being provided.
Posted by whatever2 over 8 years ago
"Though they dont state what heavy use is i imagine "

"Any mention an ISP is gonna cut my speed and failure to give figures "

so, you're not with bt then?
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
imbsuk, thats the attitude the isps adopt and is very wrong, just because the majority 'may not' notice it, it doesnt make it right.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
There's a simple way to tell if an ISP is telling the truth about caps or not.

Does the list contain a throttling rate for port 25 (email). If not, then they're not telling the truth - every ISP out there (and rightly) limits the amount of emails which domestic customers can send. (an anti-spam measure, and one which simply isn't a concern for the vast majority)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote""Though they dont state what heavy use is i imagine "

"Any mention an ISP is gonna cut my speed and failure to give figures "

so, you're not with bt then?"

My god no... Id sooner shove my head in a food blender, Im a Ukonline ADSL2+ user which dispite what some may be about to type is NOT throttled.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
In fact if anything i think ISPs should be made to use the term THROTTLE rather than TRAFFIC MANAGED where they deliberately throttle a certain port or protocol... Traffic management technically should help everyone if its done right. Throttling though does NOT.... To me atleast rightly or wrongly the 2 things are very different beasts.
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