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  • Internet, News, Telecommunications - Written by on Monday, February 11, 2013 11:19 - 68 Comments

    BitTorrent “not time-critical”: Telstra defends trial

    news The nation’s largest telco Telstra claimed over the weekend that BitTorrent-style peer to peer traffic on its network was “not time-critical” and so could be slowed on its network “without significant consumer detriment”, in an extensive statement defending highly controversial plans to trial several new network management practices.

    Last week 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, and since that time, groups as diverse as the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network and iiNet have severely criticised Telstra over the trial, which raises network neutrality issues similar to those which have been extensively discussed in other countries such as the US.

    In a new post on the company’s Exchange blog on Friday, Chambers followed up his initial comments by attempting to address what he said were the “common questions” raised since his last post. In response to the issue of why Telstra was targeted peer to peer networks in the trials, Chambers denied Telstra was targeting any one specific form of Internet traffic.

    “We’re testing a range of different options for a range of classes of traffic services under these trials,” Chambers wrote. “One of the options being examined under this trial is the shaping of specific services (including some P2P traffic types including Bittorrent) in certain circumstances and within certain times. The key characteristic of Bittorrent peer to peer traffic that is relevant to our network traffic management trials is the fact that most such traffic is not time-critical – for example, compared with VoIP or video streaming – and so might be slowed without significant consumer detriment. Other types of P2P services (eg some gaming services, Skype etc) will not be targeted for shaping this traffic management trial.”

    “Our sole objective in this trial is identifying options for improving our network management to ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best quality service for their needs at the best possible price.”

    In one sense, Chambers’ comments are accurate, in that those setting quality of service policies on networks generally consider services such as IP telephony and video delivery to need much higher network priority than P2P services, which are generally used for file-sharing purposes (whether legitimate or not).

    However, the idea of shaping certain types of network services on a broadband connection, even P2P services has been rare in Australia historically, with ISPs and consumers generally believing that the full capacity of a broadband connection should be able to be used at any given time. This belief has a conflict with Chambers’ claim that P2P services were “not time-critical”.

    Other answers which Chambers provided to commonly asked questions about Telstra’s trial were not as controversial.

    For example, the telco noted that it recognised that P2P technologies had a range of legitimate uses, and while it did not condone copyright infringement, it was not collecting information about copyright infringement as part of its trial, throttling P2P traffic at the request of copyright rights holds, or sharing information about alleged copyright infringement with rights holders as part of the trial.

    “This trial isn’t about piracy, it’s about getting smarter about the way we manage our networks and better matching the characteristics of our products and services with our customers’ diverse needs,” wrote Chambers. “Telstra has consistently stated that the only circumstances in which we would (and in fact legally can) identify our customers to third parties is if required to by law.”

    Chambers also denied that the trials raised the kind of ‘Net Neutrality’ issues which had been raised in the US, as ISPs sought to give priority to certain kinds of content running over their networks.

    “The Australian telecommunications landscape is very different to America,” the executive wrote. “The absence of infrastructure access regulation in the United States means that consumers have few alternatives should their ISP adopt network management practices that do not suit their needs. In Australia, access regulation means that customers are able to choose from a large number of ISPs with a wide range of network management practices. Competition will ensures that ISPs offer products with network management practices that best meet customer needs. If an Australian ISP applied network management practices that were not in customers’ interests, these customers would vote with their feet and move to an ISP with different network management practices.”

    “In countries with access regimes like Australia’s (eg the UK), regulators have generally not seen a need to regulate these practices as the discipline of the market protects consumer interests. The key issue for policy makers and network operators in the Australian context is ensuring effective transparency of network management practices to allow customers to make an informed choice about the network practices applied to the services they buy. Telstra is committed to giving our customers all the information they need to choose products and services with the characteristics that best meet their needs.”

    According to Computerworld, Telstra chief executive David Thodey also defended the trial in a press conference with journalists last week associated with Telstra’s financial results session at the time. “It’s been a little bit over-hyped because we’re really only just looking at how we can manage the traffic on the network better,” Thodey said, according to Computerworld. “There really isn’t anything heinous here at all.”

    opinion/analysis
    I’m thinking of posting my extended thoughts about this Telstra trial in a separate article perhaps later today or tomorrow, so I’ll hold off from publishing opinion/analysis here until I can get those thoughts in order.

    Image credit: Telstra

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    68 Comments

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    1. Wyld
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink |

      Bittorrent is a protocol. This “judgement” would need to be applied to the specific application using the protocol, and not the protocol itself.

      There are video content applications that use bittorrent, for example.

    2. chunk
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink |

      Lame arse Tel$tra…

    3. Steven
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink |

      Not time critical…
      http://live.bittorrent.com/

      I can wait all day for that iso I need to diagnose/fix/redeploy a machine.

      Bittorrent is and always be for pirating stuff it has no other use.
      It’s not like we internally use Bittorrent too for pushing out updates/recovery images.

      Of course Telstra isn’t trying to save money at the cost of net neutrality.

      I’ve never needed a file *now*, voip is the only time sensitive application.

      • Guest
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink |

        steven steven steven. how little you know about the internet. there are plenty of legitimate applications that use p2p as the update method, mainly games. Until you actually know something about this topic, please keep your uninformed mouth shut.

        • Trevor
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink |

          Guest, learn to read and keep your caustic over-reactions to yourself – Steven is being extremely sarcastic, as is patently clear from the numerous examples he gives of both legitimate uses for bittorrent and the time sensitivity of that data.

        • PhilH
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink |

          Guest guest guest, how little you know about sarcasm… once you figure that out, you’ll realise you and Steven are in agreement.

      • Zwan
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink |

        Agreed, its only used for piracy.

        People who cry about linux iso’s I just laugh at. They get mirrored everywhere, you soul source isn’t going to be bit torrent for such things.

        I don’t care about Telstra’s packet discrimination, it benefits me.

        • chunk
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink |

          People who paid for their allocated allowance should be able to use it to their advantage as they please. Crippling peoples internet only makes customers angry.

        • PointZeroOne
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink |

          I know a lot of PC games, specially MMOs that use bittorrent to push out updates.

    4. GongGav
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink |

      There are torrent variations that ARE time critical. Do a search for (I think its) tstream protocols, and you’ll find they are torrent files that download the file in order. Meaning you can effectively stream the file and watch it live as you download.

      How is this ‘trial’ going to differentiate between tstream and torrent connections? FYI, the BBC was one of the organisations pushing the tstream approach some years ago.

      Should also add that it hasnt really taken off (at all), but the point is that there are applications of peer to peer torrents that ARE time sensitive.

      Add to that our soon to be fast broadband connections are ideal for streaming (and expected to be one of the main uses for it), and there is an easy to make connection between your internet connection speed and how you use it.

      Will they throttle peer to peer with NBN connections as well? My guess is that “in certain circumstances” means “when we detect it”…

    5. Ron C
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink |

      It is like slowing the speed on a road because of load increases instead of upgrading the infrastructure to allow the same or better speed.
      I bet they do not throttle back the cost of the services on the trialled MARKS opps I mean customers.

      • Damien
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink |

        Actually it’s more like saying that drivers of Toyotas can only go at 60k while all other road users can drive at 100 on the freeway.

        • myne
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink |

          Not really.

          QoS is more like putting sirens on emergency vehicles.

          At intersections (routers), all other traffic must wait to allow emergency vehicles pass.

          Both share the same speed limit.

          In this case, it’s deprioritising bittorrent below that of normal traffic. I guess you could say that normal traffic gets the “carpool lane” while bittorrent has to stay in the non-carpool lanes.

      • Goresh
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink |

        Actually, what is proposed is more like banning house removalists from blocking 3 lanes of the freeway during peak hour.

    6. Thomas
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink |

      Hogwash.

      http://labs.bittorrent.com/ The company behind bittorrent are moving the technology into uses for live broadcasts and instantaneous file sync.

      How the hell will Telstra have any clue which is a p2p live broadcast and which is the latest episode of Game of Thrones we still can’t pay to download in Australia when it comes out in the US?

      Telstra are completely missing the point, they’re a carrier, they have zero, none, nill rights to dictate which IP technology will work best over their network. Customers pay for a speed and a chunk of quota. What the customer does is entirely up to them and forms part of the democratising effect the Internet has, interference by Telstra in traffic flows damages the fundamental operation of the net at some level, might be small but it will still do harm over the long term.

    7. Brendan
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink |

      Without some kind of (expensive) process to perform deep packet inspection, there’s no way to identify what any content might be.

      So, Telstra is reverting to the “shotgun” approach of targeting all p2p torrent traffic. There are numerous applications where p2p is used to distribute entirely legitimate content; anything using it for legitimate video or audio distribution is going to have a very bad day as a consequence.

      • GongGav
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink |

        Its not actually hard to detect P2P traffic. Depending on how you look at it, you’re either connecting to zero servers, or tons of servers, either of which is a relatively simple check when there’s data flowing from one to the other. Its a bit more complicated than that, but fundamentally thats all it takes.

        But as you say, without DPI, there’s little to no way to detect the contents, and even WITH DPI, its going to take human intervention to determine if its legal or illegal P2P traffic. Which is going to happen after the event, so for the purposes of this discussion will be pointless.

        Its a shotgun approach as you say, and one thats cheap and easy to implement. And from the telco’s perspective, a cheap and quick way to reduce network traffic back to what they desire as preferred operational levels.

        They dont want lots of traffic, they want traffic to be spread out. And there is less chance of P2P being time sensitive than any other (much harder to figure out) traffic their system has to deal with. That doesnt mean P2P doesnt have time sensitive capability, but there’s less risk of it. Wouldnt surprise me to see them offer P2P non-throttling as a paid option in the future.

    8. Michael
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink |

      “Bittorrent is a protocol” is an oversimplification. Bittorent is a packetisation and distribution method for files to be delivered (and shared) without a central source. The means an operation of Bittorrent (like other P2P methodologies) are quite obvious (i.e. many many unicasts and half-connections) and easy to identify by means of almost any DPI device. Whilst its true that Bittorent is used for delivering “real-time” content, its built-in inefficiencies for doing so (given the unpredictable timeliness in content availability) make this far less popular than other means of distribution.

      What most people who are complaining seem to forget is that available bandwidth is not infinite. Does Telstra have plenty of bandwidth? Yes. Is Telstra selling that bandwidth profitably? Undoubtedly yes. Is the amount of bandwidth they have available growing at a fast enough rate to cater for the growth in consumer consumption? Hell No! And that’s the point that is being made. Mass consumer consumption of data is far more than doubling each year and if actions aren’t taken, we’ll wind up in the same boat we were in shortly after ADSL came out (where up to 80:1 contention ratios were not uncommon in some areas) with massive congestion issues. We are already starting to see this in many regional areas (anyone here from the Central Coast?) and the pithy answer “well Telstra should just run in more bandwidth” just doesn’t fly.

      Chambers is quite correct in focusing on time-sensitive and non-time sensitive traffic as a means of demarcation. Both those traffic types are growing exponentially for completely different reasons and thus have to be addressed very differently.

      Time sensitive traffic is growing mainly due to the growth of legitimate IP-TV/IP-Movie services which chew up horrendous amounts of bandwidth when delivering HD or full HD content. Video Conferencing is also on the move, particularly with decent VC clients being built right into people’s television sets and this is also a big bye muncher. VoIP is also growing exponentially, and it’s probably the most sensitive traffic of all but at least each session consumes a relatively miniscule amount of bandwidth.

      Non time sensitive traffic is pretty much everything not delivered in real-time and this is growing just as quickly. The traditional culprits of Email, P2P and software patching have been joined by monsters like full software distribution (e.g. Steam, every single Linux distro, etc.) and online storage (e.g. Dropbox, Skydrive, etc.). These all demand vast amounts of bandwidth and will take all they can get.

      The purpose of traffic shaping of any sort from a carrier perspective is to ensure the reliable delivery of the first sort of traffic at the expense (albeit as minimal as possible) of the second. That is not a blow against Net Neutrality, that is Net Sanity and is what is practiced on pretty much every business network in the world (we usually just call it QoS though that’s again an oversimplification).

      That Telstra is looking to deal with these issues now, before people start getting juttery video and dropped phone calls, shows that they are planning for future demands, not that they are “screwing everyone over”. Most ISPs do it, some tell as about it and other don’t but ultimately, the only alternative to traffic shaping will be crappy real-time content for all users (taking us back to 2001-2002).

      Incidentally, the NBN won’t make these issues better, it will likely make them far worse since so much content comes from overseas. Having high-speed pipes into everyone’s home is wonderful but that will only exacerbate the load on our international links; particularly P2P traffic (which unlike other content types is just as voracious outbound as it is inbound).

      • Paul Thompson
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink |

        ‘the pithy answer “well Telstra should just run in more bandwidth” just doesn’t fly.’ is your opinion. While Telstra are recording record profits, increased by almost 10% since last year, it will remain an opinion that is hard to justify.

        One of the things I can clearly remember from my IT degree was that issues of priority are based on the perception of the end user. In other words, it is the end user who should have the say on what they want prioritised and what they don’t. If I want a file via P2P and someone else wants it via FTP, why should they get it faster? Are Telstra also going to throttle FTP? Or will they be reimbursing the person who owns the FTP server when I decide I also want to use FTP now that my P2P is throttled?

        Lastly, I don’t think anyone should be justifying the use of DPI.

        So why would anyone think it is a good idea for Telstra to do this? Oh right, because the idea of them upgrading their network ‘doesn’t fly’.

    9. chunk
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink |

      People who say P2P is just for pirating software, ignorance must be really bliss in your wold.
      People pay for their service and download limits they should be able to use their internet connection as they please.

      Telstra just cannot be bothered to upgrade their infrastructure so instead they punish their customers by charging a fortune for it,

    10. Trevor
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink |

      As Telstra are a profit driven commercial entity, everything they do is driven by bottom-line objectives. That means essentially reducing costs or increasing margin. This is an attempt to reduce costs by increasing network performance without additional costs or investment in infrastructure.

      On the surface it may even appear to be a reasonable argument (if you ignore the fact that some ptp traffic is indeed highly time sensitive). But take it to its logical conclusion – at some point, you have so much ‘time sensitive’ network prioritised traffic that your non-prioritised data just backs up so it doesn’t even get delivered until the network conjestion eases (off-peak). Great for Telstra, but a pretty apalling outcome for users.

    11. Tinman_au
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink |

      DPI wont work on encrypted bittorrent clients, so the smart ones will go with that.

      Also, will Telstra consider applying “access regulation” to their cable if this “trial” gets expanded to all their customers?

      One unintended take-a-way I get from this is his dig at the US telecoms, the one Malcolm points to as a great example for us to follow…

      • nonny-moose
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink |

        as i understand it Exetel found this out themselves when they were messing with peoples packets, and ultimately found people were downloading what they wanted anyway, using encrypted tunnels to get their BT packets through unmolested.

        basically Telstra are looking at needing DPI gear which will not grab all of the people they claim are causing ‘congestion’ anyway. its an expensive way to solve the issue and benefits almost noone. if they spent some of their (mountains of) money on simply getting bigger links every customer would benefit from it. from here it looks like a solution in search of a problem, and if there is genuinely a problem – they seem to be acknowledging there is not congestion across the board, but in certain ‘pockets’ was the terms i heard it put – they arent being too bright about solving it.

        it looks very much like an ideological move rather than a business sense move – for whatever reason Telstra seems to feel it needs to wave its ‘we’re doing something about those filthy pirates’ flag, and ultimately that isnt customer service but service to someone outside of their business. the GoT point comes up again – if they want to do something about that, say (i dont think its that targeted but more broad, but for examples sake) do a deal with content owners to bring it to Aussie consumers legitimately. if they want to spend money on the problem, i can get behind that one. otherwise they are just spending money to chase away customers rather than lure them in – but then again, im not running Telstra am i?

    12. Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink |

      It’s funny how people complain about this without really thinking it through. Sure there are time sensitive p2p applications. However many of these use slightly different initiations in the protocol, hence can be isolated. The comment about an iso download is the fairest point I’ve seen against this rate limiting. Chances are that would be a standard bit torrent client and hence would be slowed. But by how much?

      Without further details the impact can’t be assessed. It could be as simple as using different priority queues on the telstra routers. With the overall impact being very benign to the download but substantial to any VoIP. In terms of VoIP vs video, a broken frame here/there vs choppy voice.. I’d take the broken frame.

      The details given are too sketchy to really judge the impact. It just seems like people are more willing to blast Telstra yet again, though many ISP’s already have QOS in place to do the pritoritation of traffic already – including p2p.

      • Trevor
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink |

        Ben if the argument was only about prioritisation of VoIP traffic then I would probably agree with you. But when you start prioritising video-on-demand and you have an exponential increase in demand for such data, it isn’t much of a stretch to envision a time when such prioritisation does have a dramatic effect on download speeds of data such as ISOs (particularly if they’re multi-GB DVD images). I too have occasional need to get fast access to ISOs because I can’t possibly carry a disc (or even images on USB) for every possible scenario, and the ability to download a full image to provide the required support within a reasonable time frame while on-site is the difference between real-time support and ‘offline’ after-hours ‘next day’ response. Traffic prioritisation has the potential to dramatically affect people (‘legitimate’ use or not, of course completely ignoring the argument as to how or why Telstra or anyone else gets to determine the definition of ‘legitimate’). I can only hope that this helps more people wake up to the business practices of Telstra and take their business to an ISP who is prepared to actually provide better and more compelling services in order to increase profits.

      • Adam
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink |

        I wonder if they will just do QoS instead of Shaping. To me I think this is a win for all as it should not significantly impact people who are using the technology but will allow for non-p2p traffic to be transferred sooner across the network (read: suffer less impact from p2p).

        Since Telstra is already charging uploads and downloads, it would seem to be a kick in the teeth to also make p2p shaped to a point to be unusable (also, probably reduce their profit on selling more data!)

      • Iain
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink |

        Whether something is “time sensitive” is a value judgement best left to the paying end user.

        One user might be eagerly waiting on some data downloading through a p2p client, while another could be downloading a movie from itunes to watch the next day.

        I have no problem with the prioritisation of a local voip/video offering, but I disagree with favouring say http over “unknown” protocols over transit links.

    13. Adrian
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink |

      Telstra could let their customers choose the priority of their bittorrent traffic the same way every other ISP does – create an off-peak download/upload cap. Deep Packet inspection should concern every Telstra user. I think this is a plan to drive the high torrenting customers away to other ISP’s to avoid the resulting fallout from AFACT – hence the high profile of this trial. In my experience it’s rare that Telstra does anything where the primary benefit is for their customers.

      • Michael
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink |

        If Telstra wants to drive high torrenting customers away that’s their prerogative.

        The truth is that no ISP wants the leechers.

        • chunk
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink |

          Its pretty funny when people call users who already paid for a certain amount of monthly allowance “leechers”.

          They paid for it so they are entitled to use their allocated allowance as they are pleased.

    14. Michael
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink |

      As an addendum to anyone who hasn’t bothered reading the full posting. The following statement was sent by Telstra to the ACCC:

      “Telstra’s goal is to optimise the customer experience by managing congestion on its ADSL network through price, investment and technical means. Traffic on Telstra’s ADSL network has on average doubled every 12 months for the past four years, driven to a large extent by growth in demand for real time entertainment. Without continued congestion management further growth in traffic will result in more congestion at peak times, negatively impacting on the customer experience.’

      Pretty much sums it up. Several posters seem to think that Telstra only cares about their bottom line. They are a business so of course they care about their bottom line. To do so, they must balance the cost of a service vs. the value of service such that they can offer a service profitably without losing customers.

      Telstra is Australia’s most expensive ISP and yet is still the largest. Even if you take out subscribers in hard to service areas I think you will find that Telstra is still number 1. A large reason for this is that their are our ISP in terms of overall value, performance and service. As people demand more for less, they will no doubt migrate to ISPs that trade off performance and service to provide better “value” (although I use that term advisedly if you’ve ever had an outage with a budget-service ISP). There is certainly a vocal minority complaining about Telstra but that certainly isn’t representative of their actual customer base; I wonder how many people complaining are actually Telstra customers? (if not, then complaining becomes trolling since the issue has zero effect upon them).

      • Paul Thompson
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink |

        Can you please declare your interest in Telstra? Thankyou.

        There are several issues with your post. Here are a couple:

        “Without continued congestion management further growth in traffic will result in more congestion at peak times, negatively impacting on the customer experience.”

        This is presented as a false dichotomy. P2P throttling or congestion. Of course, we all know that there are alternatives – like improving the network to handle extra traffic.

        “I wonder how many people complaining are actually Telstra customers? (if not, then complaining becomes trolling since the issue has zero effect upon them”

        This is just dishonest. Firstly, it affects their choices. Every non-Telstra customer is a potential customer, you would do well to remember that. Secondly, Telstra is the famous 800 pound gorilla, and what the incumbent monopoly does has the power to shape more than you seem to be admitting.

        It looks like there is a troll here, and that troll is you.

        • GongGav
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink |

          I’ll disagree with Michael over plenty of issues, but on this one I think he has a point.

          Forgive me if I’m wrong, but all Telstra have said is that they are going to throttle P2P traffic. They havent said by how much (if they have, my bad), or at what times, or any of a range of details that might influence peoples opinions.

          I dont like it, I think its a breach of privacy myself, but as P2P traffic is the biggest data hog, and in general peaks at a time when other time sensitive options are desired, I can see why Telstra would be trying to push some of that traffic to less congested hours.

          Like power companies, its cheaper and more effective for Telstra if the network burden is spread over a days 24 hours, and not peaking at the same time every day. If they just throttled bandwidth to 50% of your max speed (and only in peak hours), then nobody would actually notice.

          Those DL’ing the latest Peppa Pig episode are going to get it a couple of minutes slower, and those with time sensitive needs wouldnt be negatively impacted.

          If they throttled to 10% of max speed, then the users have a problem. I think most here are assuming the worst case scenario.

        • Michael
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink |

          Sheesh!

          My interest in Telstra? Well I did work for them as a contractor once 13 years ago and again 17 years ago but other than that I’m just a happy customer.

          I have worked with (and subscribed to) other ISPs but both my phone, internet and mobile have become too important to me to try and balance economy over reliability and after one too many outages I decided to spend a little more to get the reliability and performance I want and need.

          If there is one mistake that Telstra made perhaps it was to focus on “P2P” rather than high-consumption/low sensitivity traffic in general within their statement. My guess is that they knew more people would understand “P2P” than would understand “high-consumption/low sensitivity” or some derivative thereof.

          Ultimately I think that many of the posters here are right in that the final policy adopted will likely be one more akin to QoS than shaping particular traffic but – as the original post stated – this is a trial and the ubiquitous nature of P2P traffic makes it a good target to get useful statistic from.

          • Trevor
            Posted 11/02/2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink |

            ” I have worked with (and subscribed to) other ISPs but both my phone, internet and mobile have become too important to me to try and balance economy over reliability and after one too many outages I decided to spend a little more to get the reliability and performance I want and need.”

            That comment demonstrates just how little you must have ‘worked with’ other ISPs. Bigpond have never been a particularly reliable ISP and the cost you pay having to wait hours to get through to a support telephonist who has no technical training and will make you spend the next three hours of your life following the procedures laid out in their step-by-step trouble-shooting manual is a sick joke on the term ‘support’. I’ve seen countless people stuck in the nightmare that is pair-gain limbo with no legal recourse to get ANY Internet connection, even though they are charged full rates by Telstra for copper line installation and rental. I’ve seen Telsta deliberately delay or outright block other ISPs from installing or maintaining equipment at the exchange while prioritising Bigpond network upgrades, to the point where other ISPs have no option but to resell Telstra DSL if they want to add more customers. Anticompetitive practices like that are one of a slew of reasons I will always do my level best to help as many people as possible move away from Telstra, but at the end of the day it is in most people’s best interests because they will have a better, more consistent, better supported and almost universally better value experience elsewhere.

        • Goresh
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink |

          “Of course, we all know that there are alternatives – like improving the network to handle extra traffic.”

          You say that like it is a trivial, free exercise.

          Currently data usage is doubling each year. That’s twice the infrastructure as last year, four times the year before, eight times the year before and the same looking forwards.

          If you feel happy with the idea of doubling what you pay each year then gold plating the network, as per the electricity supply network is an option.

          Also bear in mind that new infrastructure has to be amortized over many years. How many years does Telstra have left before the NBN makes this new infrastructure obsolete? So forget doubling your bill, you select the multiple.

          And remember, like the electricity supply, this gold plating is to cater for an hour or two each day. The rest of the time you can torrent to your hearts content at the full rate you can get.

          Disclaimer, I own Telstra shares and am not agreeable to them throwing money away.
          Disclaimer, I am a Telstra customer who uses torrent but am prepared to wait an extra 10 minutes for that download if it means my data bill doesn’t go the way my electricity bill has.

          • nonny-moose
            Posted 12/02/2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink |

            a)they dont have to buy much, given NBN is coming. and b) they dont have to buy for the whole network – just for those self admitted ‘pockets’ of congestion. if we were suggesting to buy more capacity to service 2x growth youd have a point, but i dunno about the other folks here, im certainly not (tho i do say carping about having to do so while already having loaded pockets is a bit rich. Telstra love to trumpet their network is best of breed and thats why they can charge for it but thats pretty hollow if they arent willing to maintain its best of breedness).

            in this case i think asking for a targeted intervention isnt too much to ask. and telstras refusal for even a targeted intervention and instead slugging everyone using a certain class of data with the throttle stick is bad optics, at best.

          • Paul Thompson
            Posted 12/02/2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink |

            Actually I don’t say it like it is a trivial or free exercise. That is your imagination at play. I say it as a blunt refutation of a presented false dichotomy.

            I don’t mind if people support Telstra’s plan – but I don’t like sloppy logic, or rampant imaginations for that matter. If you are a fan of either then you are on the wrong site.

      • Iain
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink |

        Neither the protocol involved, nor the traffic profile of the application being used, dictate the sustainability of an ISP plan.

        If their plans are unsustainable then they should reduce their quotas or come up with a strategy that doesn’t make value judgements against how their users choose to consume the quota they are paying for.

        • NBNAccuracy
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink |

          What is the difference between making bit torrent traffic low priority and making VOIP high priority? Do you complain about that? It makes other things slightly slower, why not? Whether the VOIP packet is high or low priority you will get it, why must it be given the same priority as other traffic when whether you get in now or in a few seconds usually makes no difference?

          • Michael
            Posted 12/02/2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink |

            There is a large difference between making one item low priority and another high priority. If there were jjust two items in the queue it wouldnt matter, but….

            • NBNAccuracy
              Posted 12/02/2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink |

              Yes, but when there is a congestion who should win? The unfairness is that bit torrent wouldn’t have 1 packet sitting there, it would have 10s or 100s to the other person 1 to 4 (typically web browser will use about 4, most sites restrict connections to avoid one user hagging all the bandwidth as happens with bit torrent). If all were equal the bit torrenter would recieve the majority of the band width for a task that isn’t real time.

            • NBNAccuracy
              Posted 12/02/2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink |

              BTW, I’d like to see the bit torrenter who doesn’t have their own internal traffic prioritised. Most BT programs with yield to other programs on the same PC. If the torrenter has half a clue and uses their connection for things, or have flat mates that threaten to do them boddily harm for hogging the connection, will have their local network drop the priority of BT connections on their network connection.
              I guess the greedy state of mind is par for the course with the sense of entitlement to other peoples IP.

              • Michael
                Posted 13/02/2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink |

                Nothing wrong with giving time critical applications priority, but by throttling you introduce the scenario where you are throttled where there is no alternate traffic.

                If I am up late at night I do enjoy being able to download files at 2.4 mb/s

    15. Dan
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink |

      I’m out of worms! Did you open all the cans Renai?!

    16. NBNAccuracy
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink |

      Not to get into the what is contained in bit torrent packets. P2P is a very greedy protocol. By greedy I mean you are using multiple streams to move the data. If all data streams are treated equally, bit torrent is getting a much bigger share of the available bandwidth. Say you are seeded from 10 sources, on a congested connection and you are competing with one guy trying to watch a single stream video. Congrats you got about 90% of the bandwidth, he got 10%. Ask anyone who shares a house with a bit torrent how fairly the bandwidth usage is. See how many people limit their own BT bandwidth so they can do other things such as browse the web. BT is gready.

      • Trev
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink |

        Wasn’t the µtp ‘protocol’ in µtorrent meant to fix all this?

      • GongGav
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink |

        This is what I was getting at above. Its not technically difficult to identify users connecting to multiple streams at once, and chewing bandwidth. Personally, as the biggest users for years have been P2P connections, I think the better option is to just put a ceiling of connections across the board. Make it 10, 15, 20, or whatever number you want, and leave it at that.

        Base it on capacity limits if you like, to recognise that larger limits still need access to bigger pipelines, or the company risks false advertising charges. Solves the problem, without killing off the time critical issues some can have.

        Thats probably the biggest risk here. They artificially cap the speed of P2P to something like 100 k/s, then it can probably be shown that the advertised plan cant be met for the standard user. As in being online at the most common hours (say, 4pm to midnight), at maximum rate.

      • Iain
        Posted 11/02/2013 at 9:28 pm | Permalink |

        It’s not a protocol that is swamping a network, it is users choosing to download large amounts of data using whatever means they prefer.

        If a user downloads 1 gigabyte of data per month, using a p2p protocol, could you accuse that user of contributing more to congestion than another user who downloads 12 gigabytes via itunes?

        why should the p2p user be punished with slower downloads?

        • NBNAccuracy
          Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:18 pm | Permalink |

          It isn’t just the volume, but the method. On a congested connection bit torrent, because of multiple downloads is greedy. Here’s an example.
          It’s evening, it’s congested, you can normally download at say 1MB/s, while congested your single stream download or streaming video may max out at 0.4MB/s. You download two things at once, you get a bigger share, say 0.7MB/s combined. With but torrent you manage with multiple streams to still max out your connection at 1MB/s. You get a bigger share of the bandwidth simply the the multi stream nature of bit torrent.

    17. raymond
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink |

      “Our sole objective in this trial is identifying options for improving our network management to ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best quality service for their needs at the best possible price.”

      are they trialling backhaul upgrades? and really “all off our customers” includes those using p2p doesnt it?

      of course the “at the best possible price” just means that cant be bothered spending money to actually provide the service people are paying for – much like they couldnt be bothered paying for maintenance of the network itself.

    18. Brendan
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink |

      Ultimately Telstra are wrangling with the same thing other ISPs have; what to do with a large chunk of capacity eating traffic. They will have figures and a decent idea of what a lot of the traffic is.

      Torrents have always been a soft target because it’s a hungry, inefficient set of protocols that have a bit of a bad rep and have a percentage of usage that’s perhaps a bit iffy.

      But it’s also true that p2p traffic has and is used for all manner of purposes. To claim you can trivially separate out p2p traffic is a bit of a con, without using DPI or some other method to reliably tag traffic.

      Upshot? A lot of false positives ending up in a de-prioritised state.

      It’s not the end of the world, but it’s pretty much an admission that capacity is currently an issue (to a degree) for Telstra and they need to find solutions that aren’t just adding more capacity, backhaul etc.

      ISPs manage traffic all the time; however it’s always interesting when this topic comes up. When you consider the NBN build underway, this sounds a bit like buying some time to avoid spending money on the CAN.

    19. Abel Adamski
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink |

      I have had my suspicions for some time the big T is starting to have some capacity issues with backhaul, transits, but especially routing and switching and throughput. The extra volumes and burst volumes from that shiny new 4G network is an additive (1.5Mill can download higher peak volumes than equivalent ADSL2+). The peak Volumes from the NBN especially the Rural wireless once they offer it (I expect a reasonably high uptake for a 25/5 even with their compulsory line rental) as it will be used for the volumes rather than their Wireless options.
      Why they would not be averse to being given the NBN with all it’s latest HiTech infrastructure throughput and switching.

      To be fair that capacity issue is one all the Telco’s and isp’s will be facing, especially as the NBN ramps up. IMO This side of the infrastructure upgrade will as private sector need a high rapid ROI, so there will be pricing pressure in initial years with the isp’s, tpg has an advantage with it’s Pipe N/Works and overseas cable

      • Michael
        Posted 12/02/2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink |

        Telstra own wayyyy more infrastructure than tpg, both domestic and international. If they were having problems with traffic from nbn (which has less than 5 percent of the customers they have on 100mbit cable) everyone elses network would be on fire.

        • Abel Adamski
          Posted 12/02/2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink |

          Michael
          And they have way more customers, remember tpg owns Pipe Networks and one of the major overseas cables. What overseas cables do Telstra own?
          The NBN would only be having a minimal effect AT THIS time, however that exploding 4G customer base will definitely be affecting peak volumes (1.5Mill and rising with download rates well above average ADSL, even average HFC rates especially at peak periods)

          It is the routing/switching and data throughput capacity of their core infrastructure plus their backhaul and transit networks

    20. Abel Adamski
      Posted 11/02/2013 at 11:49 pm | Permalink |

      The other factor is the Media product aspect

    21. Michael
      Posted 12/02/2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink |

      The legitimizing of bt is always hilarious. Yes there are other uses for BitTorrent but 99.9999 percent of traffic is piracy. As the post said of you dont like it, move isps (which independent studies have shown probably already throttle you more than telstra)

      • Guest
        Posted 12/02/2013 at 2:32 am | Permalink |

        Indeed.

        “People who say P2P is just for pirating software, ignorance must be really bliss in your wold.
        People pay for their service and download limits they should be able to use their internet connection as they please.”

        Maybe ISPs could get people to sign a stat dec to say they will not use P2P to breach copyright – and those people won’t have their P2P throttled. Let’s see if that changes network utilisation.

        That might work. No problems for those people not pirating. A win/win solution.

    22. PeterA
      Posted 12/02/2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink |

      My comment from the previous article stands. With a slight amendment.
      Doesn’t Telstra charge uploads? If so, then any quota you see is already affected by upload capacity.
      Tack onto that what the user wants to download should not have any more priority than any other user. I don’t care if it is VoIP, if I ask for torrent piece 3 I want that at the same rate as someone asking for an iTunes download next door and we should equally compete for capacity with the VoIP caller at the end of the block.
      Unless the voip callers paying more for prioritisation why does the torrent user get the short end? I don’t buy an ISP for anything other than giving me my internet connection.
      I ( certainly don’t ask my ISP to make value judgements on my tcp connections and how urgent they are. That is up to me to decide.

      If I download too much, lower my quota. Give me an off peak quota if you don’t want to drastically change the value proposition. But don’t decide for me what I want. That is why I bought a computer and not a TV, it is my choice what data to consume.

      • Chunk
        Posted 12/02/2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink |

        Well bloody put PeterA…

    23. Paul Thompson
      Posted 12/02/2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink |

      As Telstra are a content provider, is there some kind of conflict of interest with them deprioritising network traffic which they are not the provider of?

    24. Walter
      Posted 12/02/2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink |

      Nothing more then a BandAid solution from Telstra this wouldn’t need to happen if they had reinvested and upgraded their infrastructure in pace with technology it will work but for how long?

      You need to put a BandAid over that Pic Renai.

    25. Ronson
      Posted 12/02/2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink |

      “Telstra and other internet service providers could be investigated if they slow down file-sharing programs like BitTorrent in favour of providing their own video content to customers, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says.”

      http://www.afr.com/p/technology/accc_takes_aim_at_internet_slowdowns_DNxYfamGg7IZdqO1IcZC1L

    26. Stephen H
      Posted 12/02/2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink |

      So what is Telstra doing with all that money it makes from BigPond subscribers? They charge more than anyone else, surely they can afford a decent network backbone?

      Or is this just the company preparing the network for its own and its partners’ content? How’s that Foxtel on Demand business going lately?

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    29. Nick B
      Posted 18/02/2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink |

      We have lots of ISP in Australia, true, but they generally on selling Telstra’s network.. I would also point out there are stil large area’s in Australia that are only covered by Telstra.

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