Are some ISPs choking the supply of broadband? Yes, according to the people at Vuze. Depending on who you are, interrupting and slowing the flow of traffic might be described as either network management or traffic throttling. Vuze, suppliers of a peer-to-peer video delivery service using the internet, have a vested interest in ensuring traffic flows freely. Otherwise there will be degradation in the quality of their service. Late last year Vuze petitioned the FCC, the American regulator, to set rules for fair management of networks. Their concern is that arbitrary interventions may create an unfair market, with some services severely impeded whilst rivals are allowed to flow without obstruction. Vuze have followed this up with a network monitoring program, which they say highlights excessive throttling by some ISPs. They created a plug-in to monitor network interruptions suffered by their customers. The first batch of Vuze results on interrupted network communications, covering January 1 to April 13, is now available. The results are startling, with the median reset rates varying from 2.53% at best to 23.72% at worst. This would seem to support their conclusion that some ISPs are using false reset messages to throttle the internet.

What moral do I draw from this story? It is too early to reach a definitive conclusion on whether network throttling is happening and how much of this is primarily intended to slow internet traffic. What we can conclude with certainty is that telcos can no longer hope to hide the truth of their performance from their customers. As the world gets more wired, it gets easier to check the wiring. Time was telcos only worried about regulators, but with so many businesses and entrepreneurs now having a stake in the internet, an increasing number will emulate Vuze and gather data to protect their interests. Simple techniques like the one employed by Vuze can be used to highlight anomalies and objectively measure performance. The truth is out there. Telcos better beware, or they risk being caught in their own net.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.