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Shocker, provider that tells customers it manages P2P traffic found managing it
Wednesday 16 November 2011 11:36:42 by Andrew Ferguson

The Glasnost tool for checking whether a particular connection appears to be traffic managed with respect to BitTorrent traffic is not new, and Torrent users are also past masters at avoiding management too. The New York Times leads with a web based headline of "Putting the Brakes on Web-Surfing Speeds", which appears to be based solely on Glasnost testing, thus falling into the common mistake of assuming the Internet is just about web browsing.

BT made a comment to PC Pro about the 'revelation' that 74% of tests carried out on BT's British regional network indicated P2P traffic management. The spokesperson took the obvious line that the research appeared out of date, with NTL, Opal Telecom, Telewest Broadband, Carphone Warehouse, Tiscali UK and Pipex all being mentioned, suggesting the data was out of date, where upon the response from the Max Planck Institute was that the provider naming was down to 'legacy registrations', which we take to mean that IP addresses are still registered to old trading names. Attributing back to an ISP based on an IP lookup, may in the UK result in BT Wholesale White Label services being attributed to BT Retail. The traffic management carried out by BT Retail is distinctly different to any management (if any) carried out by BT Wholesale on its white label services. Providers buying IPStream and WBC services normally have their own IP blocks, but the White Label service can result in BT Wholesale handling the connection end to end.

BT Retail makes no secret that it manages peer to peer traffic at peak times, and most UK providers who employ traffic management are fairly clear it happens. The extent to which management is experienced will vary based on what other users are doing, and the fact that traffic often flows through different routes in an ISP depending on where you live.

Interestingly the original print version of The New York Times article had a different title "Slowing Broadband to Curb the Hogs" which was published on 14th November 2011. This sums up the more common reason for throttling, in that the small number of people trying to build their own video archive of everything ever made available online who queue up masses of material in BitTorrent clients and leave it running 24/7. While there are other applications that chew through masses of bandwidth e.g. iPlayer and OnLive, generally people are watching/interacting and do this for perhaps just two hours a day. The impact of P2P throttling on the apparently favourite pastime of downloading Linux ISO images is really not a big issue for the Linux community, as many distro's are also available via HTTP mirrors.

The reality of traffic management is that if it is done right, and not used purely to squeeze another 10,000 users onto an already crowded pipe, it can help ensure that peak time performance (i.e. latency) for time critical applications like online gaming and video streaming/conferencing remain acceptable. As a general rule, the first indications of a provider hitting capacity limits in a part of its network are the gamers complaining of jitter/variable latency, which given the amount some spend on gaming hardware/software you can understand them being so vocal.

The UK broadband user is lucky to some extent, compared to other countries, as the UK has a wide range of providers to pick from, and with Sky running an unlimited, unmanaged network while it attempts to increase customer numbers, the fact that other big providers use traffic management can be avoided without a massive impact on the wallet. Though past history suggests, that unlimited networks that are attractive price wise, do hit a point where bandwidth growth exceeds network investment, the great guessing game is always when will it happen.

Comments

Posted by awoodland over 5 years ago
The reality of traffic management is that you can't have your cake and eat it. If you want low prices then something has got to be sacrificed to make it feasible.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
Love the article.

"..their own video archive of everything ever made available online.." otherwise known as saddos. I have this vision of kids gathering together in the playground to compare notes and see whose archive is bigger or who had the most client hits.

Sad. Very sad.
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Oh my, we are defensive of BT throttling aren't we. xD
Posted by driz over 5 years ago
On some level I think I'd rather ISPs changed tack here and actually started having monthly limits + slower speeds for the rest of the month like Australian ISPs instead of managing everything.

Fortunately I'm with Be so at the moment don't need to worry about this sort of thing.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Personally I'm happy that P2P is throttled selectively as it means I get a better user experience and don't end up subsidising the pirates!
Posted by PhilCoates over 5 years ago
" The impact of P2P throttling on the apparently favourite pastime of downloading Linux ISO images is really not a big issue for the Linux community, as many distro's are also available via HTTP mirrors...."

Very funny and very true. One of the things people are certainly not downloading as they fill up their archives are Linux ISOs!!!

Oh but I forgot! I have been told off on other threads because criticising the downloading of copyrighted material is the same as agreeing with net censorship or somesuch bolloc*s!!
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
Based on Linux' penetration of the desktop market I reckon most downloads are people running speed tests :D
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
On one forum somebody says that they use their sky connection for over 1TB a month for downloading copyrighted material and are proud of it and would refuse to go to BT as they would traffic shape all of that.

To be honest I don't think anybody wants that sort of person on any network as they clearly take the mick.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
"the apparently favourite pastime of downloading Linux ISO images" - that's just code for downloading p0rn.
Posted by Firefalcon over 5 years ago
Oh look its Phil again with his close minded view of the world and internet at large. P2P traffic management negatively impacts many MMO's, stuff like onlive, steam, etc. Virgin media forums are full of people complaining about PSN/XBL/onlive/etc, ditto for talktalk and co.

Throttling is just them being lazy of upping capacity to relieve congestion.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
No reason for P2P throttling breaking PSN/XBox Live, other than badly implemented systems, and issues with CPE provided by provider
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Firefalcon that is just a VM problem its (Xbox Live issue) been like that for must be 8 months and they still haven't figured out how to fix it. No other issues with other ISP AFAIK
Posted by PhilCoates over 5 years ago
'Oh look its Phil again with his close minded view of the world and internet at large....'

I hardly think half a dozen posts on this site gives you any clue as to my view of the world but the internet is full of 'experts' i guess.
Posted by Magsy over 5 years ago
I never understood why we suffer both usage limits and throttling, it should be one or the other.
EG. I have been given (a measly) 40gb and I want it all _now_, then I should be able to no matter what protocol because ultimately I've bloody paid for it per gig.
When on 'unlimited' then fair game, it is a sensible thing to do but this is providers having their cake and eating it.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Surely if you want it now P2P is the worst way to do it, as it relies on peers having the content and leaving their connection up and running.

Is it not faster to use a HTTP/FTP download, with manager to allow resumes/multiple gets.
Posted by otester over 5 years ago
If you are on a traffic managed ISP just use a VPN/Seexbox, I do this on an unlimited Three modem.

@andrew

Depends if you want copyrighted content or not.
Posted by psdie over 5 years ago

@andrew: "Is it not faster to use a HTTP/FTP download, with manager to allow resumes/multiple gets."

No - it's not :] P2P is a strongly efficient data exchange mechanism compared with downloading from a single host ("client-server"). That's why Skype (+ other SIP VoIP), the original iPlayer (until they ran into throttling issues), Spotify et al use P2P instead of client-server, despite not being traditional P2P download clients.

Cont'd ..
Posted by psdie over 5 years ago
.. Cont'd:
A P2P/BT swarm is just a very efficient means of exchanging data as quickly as possible from anywhere in the world, automatically routing around slow or unavailable peers and selecting those with the highest throughput. You need a *big* HTTP/FTP server to cope with similar demand at similar performance levels.

Of course though, TB appears to have adopted a firmly anti-P2P stance recently, in contrast to that of many of its readers - sponsor pleasing perhaps, as P2P is more expensive for ISPs?
Posted by otester over 5 years ago
@psdie

Just look at TB's own copyright policy.

Copyright is favored by control freaks.
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