Sorry, optimists. If the net neutrality law working its way through Washington ends up getting approved, that doesn't necessarily mean that ISPs will stop traffic-shaping on their networks. Even the government realizes that; the FCC chairman created the "Open Internet Challenge" earlier this year with the sole purpose of creating apps that detect naughty neutrality-hating ISPs red-handed. That competition's been a bust, but researcher Dan Kaminsky's announced a free new app at the Black Hat conference in Vegas that promises to do the same thing. He calls it N00ter, and that makes us smile.
ISPs are often issuing dire warnings about the unsustainable course the Internet is currently on. They would have us believe they can't afford to make the necessary network improvements. In many places around the world, these companies are making nose about changes in billing and network management that they'd like to see. For the good of all of us, of course. According to ArsTechnica, four major European ISPs have commissioned a study to "A Viable Future Model for the Internet." As you might expect, this involves pretty much everyone giving the ISPs more money.
The study calls out four changes that need to happen for ISPs to remain sufficiently flush with cash to keep us online. First, consumers have to pay more per month. Specifically, about $8 (€6) per month more. Second, large internet companies should pay ISPs about $0.07 (€0.05) per gigabyte of traffic delivered to their network. For traffic delivered to mobile networks, that charge would be an astounding $4 (€3.03) per gigabyte. Next, the ISPs will need to be allowed to do paid traffic shaping for service like Netflix. A site that offloads lots of data would basically be forced to pay so their bits don't get held up. Finally, ISPs should set up more "managed services" that operate from within the ISPs network.
The report is available here (PDF), and it is worth a look. We’re not sure about this supposed unsustainable level of economic pressure on ISPs. After all, one American ISP has enough money to just buy NBC-Universal. The entire thing seems tailor made to fit into the ISPs' vision of the future, and that's really its value here. This report lets us know how these businesses think. This is a look into the intentions of your ISP.
Comcast must have thought no one would notice when, in 2007, the ISP began preferentially slowing or blocking BitTorrent packets on its network. Users quickly noticed that Comcast was up to something; an AP investigation confirmed their findings. Now a class-action that came from that incident has been settled with Comcast agreeing to pay $16 million.
Comcast had at first claimed that it had nothing to do with the slowdowns. Even when they were found out, the issue was explained as acceptable traffic management. The FCC didn’t see it that way, and Comcast was forced to reverse course. However, that didn’t stop the lawsuits from being filed.
The settlement in question certainly doesn’t mean Comcast is admitting any wrongdoing. A Comcast statement claims the settlement is intended to “avoid a potentially lengthy and distracting legal dispute that would serve no useful purpose." Parties to the class-action can expect a rather small share of the funds. Each valid claim will be paid a maximum of $16. It might not be a lot of money, but it is Comcast’s money.
It was no surprise today when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech on Network Neutrality. In the speech, at the Brookings Institute, Genachowski suggested formalizing the FCC’s “principals” of neutral networks, making them official policy. The FCC Chair proposed two specific rules. The first would prevent ISPs from slowing any specific type of Internet traffic. This would, however, still allow for reasonable network management practices. The second rule would require ISPs to be completely transparent about what sort of network management practices they were using.
Network Neutrality has been of more mainstream interest since congressional hearings on the subject began a few years ago. Amidst all the talk of “a series of tubes’, very little got done. Now Genachowski is making his case in no uncertain terms. “I am convinced that there are few goals more essential in the communications landscape than preserving and maintaining an open and robust Internet,” said the FCC Chair. He went on to clarify that the proposed changes would also apply to wireless providers.
For their part, ISPs are almost universally against the changes. They claim that Net Neutrality requirements would prevent them from managing their networks. Genachowski attempted to assuage their fears, explaining that violations of the proposed rules would be handled individually. The FCC will begin seeking public input and feedback at its meeting in October. So, do you feel we need regulation to ensure a neutral Internet?
A report by network equipment manufacturer Sandvine has once again saddled P2P traffic with the blame for hogging most of the precious North American bandwidth. The report pegs P2P traffic’s share of internet bandwidth at 44% - up 3% from the preceding year.
The scales are heavily lopsided as web traffic comes a distant second with 27.3% followed by streaming media with 14.8% of internet bandwidth.
VoIP is expected to grow steadily over the coming few years but it currently consumes the least internet bandwidth, a paltry .2%. Although there has been no consistency in reports detailing bandwidth usage, P2P traffic is logically most bandwidth-intensive.