Telstra P2P throttling “unacceptable”: Pirate Party



news Pirate Party Australia has labelled as “unacceptable” Telstra’s plans to trial a system whereby certain Internet services, such as BitTorrent file downloading, would be de-prioritised on its network, stating that the implementation of ‘net neutrality” was “essential” for the future of Australian broadband.

Yesterday, Six months after it first notified customers of its plans, the nation’s largest telco Telstra finally kicked off a limited and completely voluntary trial of advanced traffic management techniques on its network that will see peer to peer traffic through platforms such as BitTorrent throttled. Only a small number of Victorian customers will be involved on Telstra’s ADSL network.

However, the Pirate Party said in a statement this afternoon that the trial raised concerns with regard to Internet traffic prioritisation. “Pirate Party Australia considers that ‘net neutrality’ — where types of traffic are not discriminate against — is essential for modern Australia. The Party’s policy pushes for a ban on screening and prioritising of traffic based on content, source or destination, with opt-in prioritisation if subscribers choose,” the party’s statement said.
“Net neutrality is vital for a free Internet,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Throttling certain services and promoting others will damage any new service or product coming online. Differentiated services is a slippery slope to a situation where companies could pay for their content to be prioritised. The next Google or Facebook, being a start-up would not have access to a comparable speed and would find it more difficult to compete with the more powerful incumbents purely because they could only afford access to the B-Grade Internet. For the Internet to remain a place of innovation any attempt to benefit some sections at the cost of others must be resisted.”
“For example, Telstra owns the rights to stream NRL and AFL games. Being able to prioritise the streaming of their broadcasts would come at the cost of a poorer service for other types of content which would be de-prioritised. Old media and telecommunications companies are always looking for ways to regain control over the flow of information and this gives them a means to achieve it,” Frew continued.
The Pirate Party pointed out that it had been suggested by other ISPs that Telstra was introducing the trial to avoid upgrading its ADSL network. Even if throttling subscribers’ connections may be a way to reduce network congestion without improving the quality of their services or infrastructure, the party claimed, “it is not a feasible long-term solution for growing needs”.
In general, the Pirate Party noted it was “a keen supporter” of a fibre-to-the-premises National Broadband Network,” such as was slated to be implemented under the previous Federal Government’s NBN policy.

“The copper network was built decades ago and was never intended for high-volume digital traffic,” Frew said. “Using it as a cheaper alternative to optical fibre will only be cheap in the short term, it will still need to be replaced and doing that as part of the NBN roll-out makes much more sense than trying to maintain outdated technology, which will need updating much sooner for Australia to stay competitive.”

The Coalition’s NBN policy will see a much more limited rollout of fibre, with lower speeds provided due to the policy’s continued reliance on portions of Telstra’s copper network. However, speeds are projected to be significantly higher than current ADSL speeds for most Australian premises.

I agree with the Pirate Party that FTTP would make this entire issue moot, however we don’t really have that option right now, given the Coalition’s FTTN policy. I’m reserving judgement on the Telstra throttling as a whole until we see the results of the trial (if we do). It may be relatively harmless. As I’ve mentioned previously:

“The difficulty with technology … is that even those systems which we perceive as pure, are actually anything but.

Network neutrality? Don’t make me laugh. Every time you download a packet over virtually any broadband service in Australia, your ISP prioritises it in some way, shape or form. iiNet openly admits its FetchTV service gets priority over everything else on its network (hell, it even requires you to use its own ADSL router to facilitate even greater control by the ISP), Telstra has done the same thing for years and years with its own IPTV services, and I’m 100 percent sure that others such as Optus, TPG and even that God’s Gift to Broadband, Internode, does precisely the same thing. All Telstra revealed last week was a trial that would take that already entrenched that environment just one step further. And it’s even voluntary.”

I think we need to let Telstra try this and see what happens. It may not be worth raising a fuss about this yet — especially if Telstra makes the whole thing completely voluntary on an individual basis.


  1. Renai,

    The important thing to note here is it is very likely Telstra will not get any meaningful data at all from the trial. Those that don’t know what P2P is will go meh and stay in the trial, those that do will opt out. Pointless exercise, no value add data gained. I would hazard a guess that the result of this however will be Telstra creating “tiered plans” based on what type of traffic you use (more expensive for P2P). It’s simply an exercise to get more $$ and not have to upgrade the aging copper.

  2. I agree with the Pirate Party that it is a slippery slope to mandatory packet snooping (disadvantaging smaller players, or worse: censorship).

    I can’t tell if the Party linked FTTP with this or if the author simply put 2 and 2 together to work out that throttling could be an alternative to manage traffic than going to FTTP, but I can tell you this:

    Throttling has nothing to do with FTTP & Copper. Copper is a dedicated link between the Exchange/Node and the customer. P2P, Skype or any other high bandwidth application makes no difference to the Copper, it will simply peak at it’s maximum speed to the customers own personal detriment if they need more bandwidth on the link they have while is being maxed out. All throttling will do is save of Backhaul from the Exchange/Node to the internet. It is purely a BACKHAUL Issue, and throttling saves money on Backhaul regardless of the technology used to connect the individual premises.

    It is for now, a trial to cut costs on Backhaul independent of Copper vs Fibre. In the future, impaired bandwidth for all their customers because they are not upgrading the backhaul? Undercutting competing high bandwidth services because they can’t deliver as fast to mutual Telstra customers? Slippery slope to censorship or doing the Copyright industry’s work for them?

    • Yep this,

      Upgrade your backhaul; or change your plans to reflect the backhaul you have provisioned.

      If you don’t have spare capacity; lower data quotas, and introduce more expensive plans. If you want to discourage people from seeding; include uploads in your quota.

      Preventing people from downloading using the methods they choose because you haven’t got enough backhaul (IE there isn’t enough bandwidth left for people to access streaming services promptly) is unfair to those people who thought they were getting an internet connection of a certain speed with a certain quota.

  3. I’d love it if “copyright infringement” and “P2P/torrenting protocols” were addressed as the two separate things that they are.

    Treating P2P as if it is a crime reminds me of the old bumper stickers from the 1980s: “Skateboarding is not a crime”

    • I think you overestimate copyright in your argument – besides it never being mentioned in the article. P2P is often slated for throttling because 1. It is bandwidth hungry, and 2. It is non-real time

  4. This is a taste of what Telcos will have to do with residential priced NBN services. They are much cheaper than business connections because you are not expected to fill your local pipe most of the time. The telco still needs to provide enough real time capacity between the POIs and it is certainly not free.

    Whilst starting out as a method of limiting expenditure on capacity the telco then have a ‘useful’ tool to limit competitive over the top services where it suits them.

  5. When will humans ever learn that a societal construct built upon a monetary system does not, never has done and never will work? I say this simply because at the basis of the problem herein being considered is also the monetary system. I suppose the majority of humans are much brainwashed and too much of deadheads to percieve this to be so and concur with my sentiment.

    Humans are, sadly, too much into control, manipulation and extortion to develop anything effectively and efficiently. These factors, along with those mentioned in the foregoing paragraph impart to human society and those services available to the populace that which is inferior and deficient.

    • I’m sure you have examples of functioning large scale society not based upon the monetary system that demonstrate how fatally flawed our use of it is?

      No? Damn.

      • He may be ultimately referencing the impossibility of compound growth being a requirement of a healthy economy.
        If compound growth remains a requirement we are going to be in trouble (due to it being an exponential humans will always overestimate the amount of time they have too).

        But, to your point, nope, no one really has any idea what the alternative is :D

  6. As we all know there are plenty of legitimate uses for P2P as in Gaming clients WoW for instance is a 22gb
    download via P2P and thats just the downloading aspect not including upload.

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