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Report on Web-Surfing Speeds Finds Pervasive Throttling 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the slow-down-cowboy dept.
Stirling Newberry writes "New York Times has a report on web-surfing speed tests that their reporter ran using Glasnost, a tool that mimics the bittorrent protocol and measures the results. BT in the UK was among the worst. From the article: 'In the United States, throttling was detected in 23 percent of tests on telecom and cable-television broadband networks, less than the global average of 32 percent. The U.S. operators with higher levels of detected throttling included Insight Communications, a cable-television operator in New York, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, where throttling was detected in 38 percent of tests; and Clearwire Communications, where throttling was detected in 35 percent of the tests.'"
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Report on Web-Surfing Speeds Finds Pervasive Throttling

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  • Gassy (Score:5, Informative)

    by EEDAm (808004) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:53PM (#38049470)
    I think the OP is unlikely to be reporting on the web throttling capabilities of BP (British Petroleum as was) but more BT (British Telecom)?
    • Re:Gassy (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:58PM (#38049526)

      Yea, from what I've seen, BP lacks the capability to successfully throttle down the flow of anything.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        The only thing from BP I'd like to see throttled is their board of directors.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          Addendum: my above post may be misconstrued as undue hatred or malice towards BP. Rest assured, I would just as readily strangle any executive who works for British Telecom as well. Thanks and apologies if there was any confusion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have BP Internet. They don't throttle which is nice, but when something breaks, a torrent of bits sprays everywhere. And it takes their support forever to fix it, and then they just walk away, leaving you to deal with the giant mess.

    • No, BT stands for bit torrent, silly. They obviously wouldn't discuss British Telecom in the same context -- that would just be confusing.

  • Depends on the time (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:55PM (#38049482) Homepage Journal

    My ISP clearly states that they throttle P2P and Torrent protocols if necessary. After midnight, there's less people using their connection, hence less throttling.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Same here.

      If traffic is too much on servers, not throttling them would degrade other services as well.
      I'd hate it if I wanted to check up on, say, Slashdot, but the page was loading at 56k speeds because half the country was watching / torrenting the latest episode of whatever show, as an example.

      Throttling is a necessary evil until the ISPs, which are also evil (well, the corrupt ones), get off their ass and actually use our monies to upgrade the lines at a reasonable speed and not slow just because they a

    • by Ant2 (252143) on Monday November 14, 2011 @02:52PM (#38050830)

      Lately, Comcast has been depositing nearly 100% of the checks that I have sent to them. If they continue to cash my checks at this rate, I will be force to throttle back the check writing to 50% of the invoice amount. During times of peak demand of my money, it is only fair to other utility providers who also require a portion of this limited resource. With throttling in place, which should only affect the top 1% of my creditors, everyone can continue to enjoy "unlimited" payments.

  • by SSpade (549608) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:04PM (#38049592) Homepage

    Any article that starts off with the problems of a web page not loading, then goes on to explain that it's because ISPs are throttling a different, completely unrelated protocol is either very confused or intentionally deceptive. It's the NYT, so "confused" is a fair bet.

  • Probably... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:05PM (#38049604) Homepage Journal

    Probably a defect in a Clacks tower along the Grand Trunk.

    Damn you, Reacher Gilt!

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium&yahoo,com> on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:23PM (#38049790)

    If they throttle you so your bandwidth does not exceed the agreed upon bandwidth speeds then it should be no big deal. If they shape you below your agreed upon speeds because "it is busy time on their network" it is theft.

  • That low eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by itchythebear (2198688) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:23PM (#38049798)

    I'm not surprised at all that ISPs are throttling internet speeds. If a cable company throttles netflix and youtube data then that increases the probability that people will get frustrated and just watch cable tv (especially the advertisements). If Verizon deprioritizes VOIP traffic to reduce call quality then that increases the probability people just go back to using P.O.T.S [wikipedia.org] (which they conveniently sell). Maybe my tin foil hat is a little to tight today, but I think the only real way to prevent this kind of stuff form happening is a decentralized internet.

    • by bonch (38532)

      Maybe my tin foil hat is a little to tight today, but I think the only real way to prevent this kind of stuff form happening is a decentralized internet.

      The way to prevent businesses from doing things you don't like is to stop being their customers.

      • Re:That low eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RazorSharp (1418697) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:50PM (#38050082)

        That might work in a big city where multiple options exist, but rural customers don't have that luxury. Often there is only one option available, or very few; usually the cable company and the phone company - neither of which will be reasonable on price unless you bundle with their other services (that you often don't need/want).

        So basically, the options for "stop being their customers" include:

        1. Don't use the internet at home. That just isn't feasible for most, or they wouldn't be shopping for an ISP in the first place.

        2. Move. Again, just not feasible for most, especially considering the state of the housing market and the fact that most people who live in rural areas don't want to live in a city.

        Not to mention the fact boycotting a cable/telephone monopoly isn't going to hurt their business in the least bit. And this isn't exclusive to the countryside - suburban areas are also often limited by monopolies on telecommunication services.

        • That might work in a big city where multiple options exist

          I live in NYC, and I have no real options. It's Time Warner Cable, dialup, or cell phone networks. Dialup and cell phone networks aren't real options.

  • by mcalchera (1518515) <mcalchera@uky.edu> on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:31PM (#38049902)
    I'm an Insight Communications subscriber in central Kentucky. I noticed a month or so ago that during a period of higher-than-average internet usage, my connection speed was being slowed. I pay for 20Mbits. At the worst, with a wired connection I was only getting around 1.5Mbits. This was after moving ~10GB in ten days or so. Hardly excessive usage by most standards.
    • by Machtyn (759119)
      I'm also an Insight Comms customer in Louisville. I was going to come on in defense of them. But as I think about it, with their recently being acquired by a bigger provider and I having noticed suspect reduction of quality on line (for my 10Mib/s subscription)... I'll have to look into this a little more. However, what other choice do I have? Bellsouth/AT&T? DSL maxes at 6Mib/s and most people don't even get that.

      Do remember that you pay for service "up to" 20Mib/s.
      • by weweedmaniii (1869418) on Monday November 14, 2011 @02:57PM (#38050872)
        I am a former employee of Insight and here is their dirty little secret. When customers complained about speed issues for example they went to XYZ.com and their speed was slow, we directed them to the only "official speedtest site" which was on the Insight Broadband homepage. What customers didn't know was it never left the system they lived in. For example if you are a customer in Lexington the test went to the Lexington headend and back, so the speedtest levels were almost always at or above the "advertised" speed. So it never went out where the system might be congested or throttled by the company.
        • That's stupid. If you're only going to accept the results of your chosen "official speed test site", why bother making it even do a stacked test? Why not just have the site spit back entirely artificial results each time?

          I mean, if you're not going to allow an unbiased judge anyway...

          • Because then you can tell them that their connection is fine and be technically telling the truth. Their connection IS fine it's the core network that isn't ;)

            Not that I agree with such tactics but I can see the point in them...

  • Advertised service (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:46PM (#38050038) Homepage Journal

    Telcos like to cry about heavy users, but at the same time they brag about the capabilities of their service. Just don't try to use the service as they've advertised it.

    Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all advertise that you can watch streaming video over their data networks, but then cap data and cry foul because people want to stream video. AT&T ran an ad campaign about the original iPad launch and how you could watch video over their network on the iPad, and then two weeks after the iPad launch they ended unlimited data because they didn't realize people would stream video over the network.

    ISPs brag how fast their network is, and talk about downloading large files, streaming video and playing games. But God forbid you want to do any of those things with the service you're paying for.

    These companies are subsidized by my tax dollars to build infrastructure. They charge more for less service than their counterparts around the globe. They advertise a service and then complain when people buy and want to use the service.

    And while people would scream foul if Google got into the ISP business (despite allowing a Comcast/NBC/Universal merger) frankly I would welcome some competition.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Netflix + public transit commuters = what was AT&T thinking? If I had unlimited data on a smartphone I'd even pay the Apple tax to buy a video out cable to watch Netflix in a hotel room.

  • by _0xd0ad (1974778) on Monday November 14, 2011 @02:01PM (#38050224) Journal

    Sometimes, firing up a bittorrent client and downloading something will rapidly cause my internet to slow to a crawl... I'm talking pings of 2500+ to google.com.

    However, capping the upload speed to something ridiculously low (10-30 k/sec) seems to fix the problem.

    It makes me wonder if the upstream pipe is just saturated with all the connections made in the P2P network.

    Furthermore, it doesn't always happen. Sometimes it does just fine with higher upload speeds, so it must have something to do with time of day and/or network conditions.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Sometimes, firing up a bittorrent client and downloading something will rapidly cause my internet to slow to a crawl... I'm talking pings of 2500+ to google.com.

      However, capping the upload speed to something ridiculously low (10-30 k/sec) seems to fix the problem.

      It makes me wonder if the upstream pipe is just saturated with all the connections made in the P2P network.

      Furthermore, it doesn't always happen. Sometimes it does just fine with higher upload speeds, so it must have something to do with time of day and/or network conditions.

      Well, if you had bothered to google how bit torrent works, or proper settings, you'd find that they suggest capping your upload speed to half your upload speed.

      For example, i have DSL, with like a crappy 70k upstream. I run my bittorrent at 35k UPstream cap. And as long as I'm not getting greedy and trying to download a bunch of shit at once, my connection if fine.

      If i'm playing EQ2, i cap my download at 350k, and i can play eq2, download stuff with utorrrent, no problem.

      Most bit torrent programs suck

      • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

        that they suggest capping your upload speed to half your upload speed

        But my download speed is generally 200-500 k/sec (during off-peak times can reach 1 m/sec), and capping the upload speed only seems to help once it's been set to some ridiculously low speed, much less than half of the download speed.

        • Cable tends to be 1/5 of the download bandwidth allocated for upload. Check your bandwidth with a speed test and then multiply the upload result by 0.90, then cap it to that. The extra 10% wiggle room is for DNS lookups and other traffic. Just be sure to check for the bits/bytes problem between different tools.

          - Toast

        • by lgw (121541)

          that they suggest capping your upload speed to half your upload speed

          But my download speed is generally 200-500 k/sec (during off-peak times can reach 1 m/sec), and capping the upload speed only seems to help once it's been set to some ridiculously low speed, much less than half of the download speed.

          Admittedly, the original quote could have been worded better, but it wasn't that hard to understand. You do realize that your max upload speed is very small compared to your max download speed on most consumer ISPs, right?

          • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

            Yes, I was thrown by the wording and assumed he meant to say half the download speed.

    • "However, capping the upload speed to something ridiculously low (10-30 k/sec) seems to fix the problem..."

      After monkeying around with BT settings over the last year or so, I've come to the conclusion that Comcast is simply applying a different cap to P2P bandwidth.

      I encountered the exact same threshold that you did--30kb/sec Upload. But there is a caveat--I can exceed that cap in the middle of the night.

      Here is how it usually plays out. I have my BT upload capped at 30kb by default. At night I can slowly j

  • As has been pointed out here, none of the power companies, telcos, and ISPs could provide 100% of all customer's maximum usage at the same time. Throttling isn't in and of itself bad. The issue is if an ISP throttles, say, my Netflix download not because of congestion, but because Netflix competes with their services.
  • by PPH (736903) on Monday November 14, 2011 @02:31PM (#38050592)

    If the broadband operators throttle during heavy traffic times to manage their network, that's one thing. But if they throttle BitTorrent while their 'partner' web sites or streaming video services are still running full speed, I'd be concerned. Very concerned. The former is just a means of keeping a rickety network from collapsing. Yeah, its false advertising if they promised you certain up/download speeds (but only at odd times when no one else is on line). But if its a means of driving business to their preferred services (or crippling all the others that won't kick back part of their revenue), its time for the antitrust people to step in.

    Anyone know of a test suite that looks at simultaneous BitTorrent/commercial site download speeds?

  • I'd like to know if the bandwidth throttling happens to normal users, or people trying to download pirated videos and music. I could care less about the latter, but the former is quite troublesome.

  • by jc79 (1683494) on Monday November 14, 2011 @06:52PM (#38053602)

    For those in the UK who suffer from throttled connections, there are some alternatives. I am a very happy customer of Be (part of the Telefonica group) who provide an uncapped unthrottled service with a static IP for less than £20/month. I get 18Mb/s down. On the same line with BT I got 12Mb/s, capped and throttled for the same price.

    This [ispreview.co.uk] is a good resource if you've not found it already.

  • When you pay for a service that not only is advertised to be what it says, but also shows you on your monthly bill, the payment for that service, are you not obliged to fork up that service, and if you downgrade it, are you not subject to legal action, and being this is a nation wide problem, should the government not step in (as they do when they hear about price fixing) and set them straight with fines that are so massive, not only could the government get out of debt quicker, but once or twice would be e

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