Telstra customers threaten desertion over P2P trial



news Telstra’s plans to kick off a trial that will see it throttle some peer to peer services on its ADSL broadband network have been met with an outraged reaction from its customers, with many instantly threatening to cancel their services and take their business elsewhere if the trial goes ahead.

Yesterday the telco notified customers that it would be undertaking what it described as “a limited trial of a range of technical solutions for better managing network performance”, with the aim of “maximising the customer experience”. The telco’s director of Consumer Wireline, John Chambers, published a post on the company’s Exchange blog noting that the objective of the trial is to identify options and pricing plans for Telstra customers that would “improve overall customer experience”, to ensure the telco continued to offer “the best quality service at the best possible price”.

“One of the variety of options being examined under this trial,” Chamber noted, “is the shaping of specific services (including some peer to peer (P2P) services) in certain circumstances, to determine what impact this has on total overall customer experience of time critical experiences for real time entertainment … The trial will be limited to a small number of ADSL customers in Victoria. All affected customers in the trial areas will be informed of the trial in advance and be given a choice of whether to participate in the trial.”

However, Chambers’ blog post was met by several dozen responses by customers outraged by Telstra’s decision.

“I will cancel my $350 worth of services if Telstra tries to implement this,” wrote one customer. “I joined them as the service has/had the least throttling.” And another added: “Very disappointed to hear that you are thinking of slowing my connection when I’m using P2P. We currently pay a premium for 100GB per month with BigPond. We only ever use about half of that download allowance per month but are happy to pay the extra BigPond costs for its superior speed. If you choose to slow my P2P traffic there is little advantage in staying with BigPond for me. I can get a similar download quota with another ISP for a fraction of the cost of your service.”

“Telstra does realise the stupidity of this trial right?” wrote a third commenter. “You will notify the participants that they are in the trial area and that their P2P downloads will be shaped unless they opt out. So all the people that use P2P will opt out leaving only non-P2P users in the trial thus resulting in no net benefit to the network as those it was designed to affect are not participating.”

Similarly, on the Telstra section on broadband forum Whirlpool, hundreds of posts were entered, with the majority complaining about Telstra’s planned trial or noting ways to technically get around it.

At the heart of the debate over Telstra’s plans is the so-called “net neutrality” concept. In the United States, Internet service providers have argued that they should allowed to classify different types of data on their network and treat them differently; giving video services they sell to customers, for example, a higher level of priority than services such as Google’s Apps platform, which runs on top of their Internet services but does not remunerate them for the privilege.

However, in Australia, ISPs — including Telstra itself — have long argued against the need to implement such features.

In a high-profile article examining the situation in September 2008, for example, then BigPond chief Justin Milne argued that the issue had only come about in the US because ISPs in that country offered unlimited data plans — as opposed to the ‘user pays’ download quota system predominantly used in Australia.

One of the chief arguments for implementing P2P shaping in Australia has always been that the medium — for example, protocols such as BitTorrent — is predominantly used for pirating material online. However, it is also true that many completely legitimate services — such as sharing legal content such as large ISO files of Linux distributions — also takes place using the exact same peer to peer protocols.

“Will you block legal p2p traffic? And how do you presume to know what is probable cause to inspect any such traffic? Just because it is a torrent doesn’t mean it is illegal,” wrote one Whirlpool commenter recently.

Historically, Telstra’s network has been among the best-performing when it comes to throttling of peer to peer services. A study published by US organisation Measurement Lab in October 2011, for example, found the consumer division of AAPT (which offered unlimited plans at that point) was the worst in Australia for peer to peer throttling, with Optus and iiNet coming in second- and third-worst, and Telstra coming in best. The Australian results also showed that in general, the nation’s ISPs throttle BitTorrent downloads less than ISPs in several other countries.

Clearly Telstra was trying to keep this one at least a little bit under wraps, and was taken a little aback by the fact that it was revealed yesterday by the Sydney Morning Herald. Quelle surprise. Telstra wants to quietly conduct a trial on its network to see if it can better utilise its network assets at the expense of its customers. We’ve been here before, and we’ll see this kind of behaviour again.

To be honest, I’m quite surprised that Australian ISPs haven’t already implemented this kind of feature on their networks. The days of the strong, independent mid-tier ISPs standing up for the little guys are clearly gone now (we miss you, Simon Hackett), and we’re now into the days of a handful of huge ISPs dominating Australia’s telecommunications landscape and doing whatever the hell they want, largely.

The best Australian proponents of net neutrality can hope for in this situation is that Telstra’s trial remains a small initiative; that it doesn’t force the rest of its customers to sign up for this kind of network technology compulsorily, and that the other ISPs don’t follow suit. I’m sure I speak for the majority of Australian Internet users when I say that we don’t want Telstra or any other ISP mucking around with our TCP/IP packets too much, thank you very much. Hands off the data we’ve paid you for.

Image credit: Telstra


  1. So software and games also are distributed using p2p systems to cut down on the needed delivery bandwidth during updates.

    • That was exactly my first thought upon hearing of this.

      Blizzard games (World of Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, etc) and World of Tanks are two examples that come to mind, though I’m sure there are many others.

  2. $64mn question:

    What’s the point of FTTH if the largest ISP can’t even provision sufficient backhaul for current rates of data transit over supposedly “obsolete” copper ADSL?

    • They can provision enough. But “enough” doesn’t fit within their business model while maintaining their pricing model. They could provision “enough” but would have to ramp their pricing right up. They’d lose high use customers either way, but this way is cheaper for them.

      But that’s the idea, they want the high use customers to leave so they don’t have to spend the money provisioning “enough”.

        • Are you sure your stuck with Telstra ? I ask because my exchange is Telstra only (no other ISP equipment in the exchange) and yet I’m signed with TPG for a better quota for a better price than I could get with Telstra.

          • Well, last time I checked, the RIM I’m on didn’t support ADSL, so Telstra Cable is my only fixed broadband option.

            When (if?) the NBN arrives, I’m no longer a Telstra customer.

          • Yeah, I’ve looked into it a few times over the years in the hope that something might change….but it never did :(

  3. I left Telstra over their plans to “cooperate” with Conroy’s filtering trials, and it doesn’t surprise me that people would be similarly miffed over this.

    • I left Telstra because they were asshats that were overcharging me $30 a month for over a year. Then refused to compensate me. Their “stuff shut” mentality left a very sour taste.

  4. Although it’s easy to read into this move (and we probably should be), from a technical point of view it actually makes sense. P2P is already dominating network bandwidth, and it makes it hard for ISPs to prioritise various types of traffic due to encryption and other obfuscation techniques. This makes it hard for them to declare QoS strengths (VoIP, video streaming etc) and categorise traffic.
    This Wikipedia article puts it succinctly:

    • If there’s a heavily congested exchange/subexchange, then sure, I’m all for shaping P2P data to allow all of the local residents/users a chance to have a usable connection.

      As a Telstra customer, I’m for the trial, depending on the specifics.

      • see i dont understand this mentality. lets say were on the same plan, weve both paid the same amount for the same amount of quota – what we each do with that quota is up to us isnt it? if what were doing within our quota is impacting on other users then thats a failure of our isp (telstra in this case)

        we all pay for the same service, just that telstra doesnt want to actually provide that level of service because it would cost them money.

        a much cheaper solution is to leak a story about a p2p throttling trial and hope that all the p2p users leave in disgust – plus the bonus exit fees theyll collect from these people. (those people really should stay and wait for the free exit which will be required of telstra if this is ever actually implemented)

        • “see i dont understand this mentality. lets say were on the same plan, weve both paid the same amount for the same amount of quota – what we each do with that quota is up to us isnt it? if what were doing within our quota is impacting on other users then thats a failure of our isp (telstra in this case)”

          So trucks should be allowed to transport loads blocking off the whole freeway during peak hour because they pay registration just like all the car drivers even though there is no need for them to do this as their delivery is not time criical but they can’t be bothered waiting.
          If what they are doing impacts on all the other road users who need to get to work on time, that is the government’s fault for not building 16 lane expressway.

          Of course, HAD the government built a 16 lane expressway, I expect you would be complaining about the $5000 a year registration fees for your car.

          The electricity supply is a real life example. Here they DID build teh 16 lane expressway and everyone is complaining tht their bills went up 200%.

    • iiNet/Internode don’t seem to have any issues with network congestion. Also what about the privacy concern of DPI.

    • No, no, no.

      QoS is bad on the internet with the arguable exceptions of VoIP and teleoperation.

      If you shape P2P with the object of freeing bandwidth, then what next? Deprioritise streaming media? File downloads? So web and advertising loads faster?

      Sorry, but I suspect the real motive is trial piracy blocking and/or logging, QoS introduction or just plain financial.

      The solution is more bandwidth, and for the media organisations to provide content globally at a fair price.

      • I do I agree here (which is why I said we should read into this). I don’t think anyone would trust Telstra with much QoS control anyway (as has been clearly shown).

  5. Precisely because Telstra throttles P2P less than other ISPs, they have attracted all the internet leeches. Distribution of data usage among ISP customer base is extremely lopsided. Something like 5% of users account for 40% of network traffic; 10% of users account for 60% of traffic, etc. Getting rid of that 5% extremities of users might reduce your revenue by 5%, but reduce your costs by much more… resulting in higher margins. Exetel knows that very well.

    • The reason Bigpond has attracted the ‘leeches’ and others as you so eloquently put it, is that BP has been on huge drive to sign up new customers and lock them in for the next few years until the NBN comes to the area.

      They have done this by offering huge quotas if you sign up to bundling.

      Hopefully the ACCC will rule this month on ADSL2 and TW will be force to reduce prices and allow some competition back into the market.

      • Bigpond retail pricing is based on Telstra Wholesale pricing. This is why for many years, Bigpond quotas were very stingy and pricey compared to other ISPs that are able to do ULLS. Bigpond is “expensive” because the aggregated wholesale product from TW is more expensive than ULLS. (Bigpond doesn’t do ULLS for obvious reasons.) This is also why, in the past, ISP plans which are TW resale (aggregated product) are more expensive and less generous in quota than plans based on ULLS (proprietary DSLAMs).

        The reason why hundreds of thousands of customers churned to Bigpond over the past 2 years is because TW (aggregated) product pricing has adjusted sharply downwards towards cheap ULLS due to intensified ULLS competition, so Bigpond is able to make a more competitive retail offering. Still there is a positive gap between ULLS and TW pricing. If the ACCC pushes TW pricing down further even closer towards ULLS, this will make Bigpond retail plans virtually identical to other ISPs in terms of price/quota. Even more customers will churn towards Bigpond because Telstra is the “premium provider”.

        With the sudden massive influx of new subscribers, no wonder Bigpond is in the position to pick and chose which marginal profitable subscriber to retain and which to discard to other ISPs.

        • —-If the ACCC pushes TW pricing down further even closer towards ULLS, this will make Bigpond retail plans virtually identical to other ISPs in terms of price/quota. Even more customers will churn towards Bigpond because Telstra is the “premium provider”. —-

          A caveat on this. Historically, Bigpond has shown that they are able to charge a premium for their service. This is a market advantage for Telstra. Yes, it’s true convergence of TW/ULLS pricing will enable Bigpond to offer identically generous retail offerrings similar to their ULLS competitors. But, I doubt this will happen entirely.

          While the market is prepared to pay a premium for the Bigpond brand, they will continue to try to extract that premium. This is why their Bigpond NBN plans are also more expensive than other ISPs. Instead, Telstra is clearly adopting the Qantas “premium mainline” plus “budget Jetstar” strategy and using a tiered pricing strategy. This is why they are trying to acquire Adam Internet. They will continue to charge a slight premium for Bigpond plans because many subscribers are willing to pay for it, and they will also take advantage of the narrowing premium of TW over ULLS pricing by offering discount plans under separate brandname. This separate brandname will compete directly with other ISPs.

  6. If you think this is ok for Telstra lacking the ability to increase the bandwidth pool, Telstra is in no shape or form to be owning the Telstra Network.

    They are not fit to own and operate it.

    • Actually under Conroy’s newly-legislated strict operational separation principles, strictly speaking, this has nothing to do with Telstra Wholesale which owns/operates the network. This is a matter of the retail arm, Bigpond, not wanting to provision more backhaul from TW but choosing instead to refashion their customer base. Post-Conroy reforms, Bigpond now buys capacity from TW on equivalent terms to other ISPs. TW has no influence on Bigpond product pricing/design decisions and in fact is not allowed to interfere whatsoever due to functional separation.

      So, your anti-Telstra network ownership tirade is baseless :-)

      • I couldn’t give a crap really, present or past.

        Even before the Labor Goverment got in, Telstra Cable had silly plans.

        No excuse for Bigpond (because they are practically still same company).

      • Oh, I didn’t realise Telstra actually sold Telstra Wholesale off!!

        So I guess they have a different board now and everything??

      • I used to work at T$. The whole separation thing was a bit of an in-house joke and if you think T$W is charging T$R the same overall cost that T$W is charging other carriers….I’ve got news.

  7. Smoke and mirrors, and all that sort of stuff… The real issue is the DPI – deep packet inspection. To put it bluntly, this is a dick move by big T to look at what you are doing on their network, and issued under a smokescreen of “network performance” and “stopping the filthy pirates”

    DPI is like the postal system opening your mail before deciding what to do with it (and who to report the contents of it to) by the way.

    • “DPI is like the postal system opening your mail before deciding what to do with it (and who to report the contents of it to) by the way.”

      I guess you have never watched Border Security.
      The postal system opens suspicious packages all the time and report the content to the AFP.

      • No no no no!

        Australian Customs Services opens packages (not mail), and only a few when deemed suspicious, looking for physical goods of ill repute, with appropriate legislated authority.

        An ISP using DPI opens and reads all packets without appropriate legislated authority (because law doesn’t move as fast as technology) which is why the AG is pushing its current Internet surveillance reform package. The two to together.

        • “No no no no!

          Australian Customs Services opens packages (not mail), and only a few when deemed suspicious, looking for physical goods of ill repute, with appropriate legislated authority.”

          Again, you have clearly never watched Border Security.

          Customs IDENTIFY suspicious packages, but ONLY Australia Post may open a package to look inside.
          Suspicious packages are taken to an Australia Post employee to be opened and THEN Customs take over again.

          The law is very clear, any person other than a duly authorised Australia Post employee who opens a mail item is commiting a serious offence.

          • DPI is like EVERY letter or package being opened, not just the suspicious ones. If it was only validly suspicious packets being inspected, the backlash would be far less. But it isnt, its ALL your information. There is no just cause, its a blanket rule, so at some point privacy becomes an issue.

            As you say, with mail the law is very clear that mail has to be opened by a duly authorised officer. The general complaint is that these P2P trials, and filtering in general, takes the inspection process away from a formal process, and makes it the equivalent of anyone being able to open your mail.

            If they were monitoring people accessing specific websites, and reporting on those, nobody would care. But they arent.

          • Customs check EVERY parcel, thats how they identify which ones are suspicious.

            DPI is like a customs x-ray.

          • Ok, granted. It was probably a bad analogy in the first place, but the point is that you don’t want your ISP running an automated system that systematically opens and inpects your data packet to see what it is your sending and receiving. There is currently no law for or against it, and the AG is pushing to create one, which should be seen as an invasion of privacy.

          • TV is never an authoritative source of law.

            CUSTOMS ACT 1901 – SECT 186
            General powers of examination of goods subject to Customs control
            (3) Without limiting the generality of subsection (2), examples of what may be done in the examination of goods include the following:
            (a) opening any package in which goods are or may be contained;

            “Customs and Border Protection can open, examine, take samples from and perform tests on the goods as necessary to verify the nature of the goods or their characteristics.”

            “Some postal articles may be opened by Australia Post on behalf of Customs and Border Protection or the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) for assessment of value or the presence of prohibited or restricted goods.”

            And if you really want to discuss this more, please come here.

          • Let me put it this way.
            What authority do you think the “duly authorised Australia Post employee” has that allows them to open a mail item?
            It comes from Customs.

          • Why would customs have Australia Post open a parcel “on their behalf” if they have the authority to do so themselves?

            A “parcel” is not necessarily a postal item. There are any number of private companies that also transport “parcels”.

            Australia Post has sole responsibility for delivery of your postal article

  8. This is Telstra. Much like American telcos rather than upgrade infrastructure they’d rather downgrade customers instead. I’m not surprised as this is exactly what we’ve come to expect from them. Premium prices for a substandard service. Their customers love this treatment though. Despite the threats I doubt many will leave their comfort zone. Bend over please.

  9. Deep packet inspection is like a prostate exam for your internet connection…..with an absence of glove and lube.

  10. Some years back telcos started counting uploads. History (and especially Australian history) shows that large companies in a dominant position will work out how they can charge you more for delivering less.

    Even better when you can point to a small group as the ones to blame, that’s never been done before.

    • “Some years back telcos started counting uploads.”

      When the internet first started opening up to the public, much of the traffic travelled for free on spare capacity on government networks (in the US at least) . Still, a method was needed to pay the private companies.
      The selling point of the internet was content so the original method was to charge the difference between the inbound and outbound traffic.
      Uploads offset downloads and reduced the cost so they were encouraged.

      Nowadays the biggest cost to the service providers is their own backhaul and that costs teh same regardless of direction (spare upload bandwidth can often be used for downloads over the same physical carrier). As a result, providers statrted charging for it and now it is the norm.

  11. Who was the moron at Telstra that thought up this latest action. Is Telstra management so stupid to believe customers will just accept this? We are already on limited data plans. If I pay for 100GB per month at ADSL2 speeds then I expect to get my monies worth. If they want to selectively throttle my connection then they need to reduce my monthly fee in proportion.

    • Additionally P2P traffic is no different to any other form of data transfer. A packet is a packet whether it be a P2P packet or a download packet. My P2P transfers only last 10 minutes and rarely hit the maximum speed of my ADSL2 connection. My standard downloads on the other hand saturate my connection up to the limit and go for a lot longer.

  12. I wonder if the pressure is being put on T$ from the movie houses that the BigPond movie service provides? Keeping the peace?

  13. “To be honest, I’m quite surprised that Australian ISPs haven’t already implemented this kind of ANTI-feature on their networks.”

  14. All of about .1% would actually leave over this. Which is why Telstra/ Bigpond are considering it.

    Most of their customer base is still mum & dad and the two cross-bred mutts; who will neither know, or care. The heavy-user consumer base is a very mobile crowd, chasing the best deal for the most bytes. They will move on.

    Two birds. One stone. Very Telstra.

  15. Surely an ISP trying this sort of stuff would be open to being sued by users for breach of contract as the customer is paying for an internet connection and the ISP is trying to artificially limit access to certain platforms with still have legal uses?

    • “2.6 In some cases, where we reasonably consider it necessary to improve network performance, we may need to reduce the maximum achievable speed on a high speed ADSL service (but not below 1500/256kbps download/upload) for a period we reasonably consider necessary. If this happens (other than for routine maintenance, restoration, improvement work or short term network outages affecting the service for 48 hours or less), we will give you notice as soon as practicable and if we believe or have reasonable grounds to believe that you are materially worse off from the change, you may terminate your service by giving us notice within 42 days of the date we notify you of the change. If you terminate your service:
      (a) your service will be terminated from the date the change takes effect; and
      (b) you will not have to pay us a cancellation fee but you will need to pay us for any installation fees and cost of equipment we have provided to you that you have not paid us for (as long as the equipment can be used in connection with services supplied by another provider).”

      The important bit in there is that if *Telstra* think you’re materially worse off they can offer you a termination, and that they can reduce the maximum speed. Doesn’t mention DPI or filtering directly, but it’s the closest I can find at first glance.

  16. Hang on; doesn’t Telstra charge for uploads?

    Since they charge for uploads; they already limit the use of P2P by specifying how much you can download. Surely thats the end of it? You can transfer 200gb of data up or down.

    It is up to you the customer to decide if that is Porn, Torrents, WoW updates, Steam updates or funny cat videos on youtube.

    The end.

    (I might be wrong; it has been a long time since I have been with Telstra; do they no longer count uploads???)

  17. Here’s a radical idea. How about designing your networks properly so you don’t have to shape anything? Very 20th century concept I know Telstra, but do please try to keep up. The rest of the world has.

  18. Is Telstra saying it hasn’t got enough back-haul? Because I can think of several solutions for that, none of which is likely to be profitable for Telstra.

  19. ANY service provider that imposes deep packet inspection of Net usage so it can screw the endusers should immediately be made an ex service provider.

    Telstra may be unlikely to understand anything else.

  20. Actually I wonder?
    I noted some issues reported which quietly vanished in Tassie, lousy service on the NBN, poor VOIP etc, both Telstra and NBN stated knew of no reason why and nothing had been reported to them.
    Telstra with their signup blitz and their explosion in 4G services may be pushing the capacity of their internal systems and networks.
    Looking for ways to alleviate the issues short term and possibly avoid major upgrade expense, plus of course the “anticompetitive” aspects of carrying competitors Media and VOIP products.

    Remember that journo whinging about her Telstra NBN being speed limited and Telstra indicated due to exceeding cap which she could not account for, however she did mention she had been using competitors media products . HMMM?, maybe my suspicious bent

  21. Telstra could be said to be in violation of privacy AGAIN! Also isn’t this just a disguised case of digital thievery hidden by the veil of a “trial”.

    I have recently separated all contact (except my work mobile) with Telstra. Moved the landline over to competitor ISP – sure I know some small component goes to Telstra, but I have escaped the annoying line rent only Telstra bills

    Voted with our feet as a family, Telstra is the worst ever utility company. I recommend as many others that can to do the same.

    This company would not know the value of a “fair go” ever and they are indeed a “toxic” telco, best avoided

  22. do a search in Google for the words “BIT TORRENT TRAFFIC THROTTLING”

    Read the article “New Data Exposes BitTorrent Throttling ISPs” from torrent freak dot com, its old (Aug 9 2012 )but there is a link to measurement lab also worth looking at

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