Friday, April 11, 2008

The Scope Of Things Today

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

There is a chance to reach a decision, do a deal or confirm an arrangement. It is possible to be certain about how you need to proceed with this next big stage in your life. You're about to seize a big opportunity.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

Despite your best efforts, something on the home front has been less than satisfactory. It is in the process of sorting itself out. A certain problem will soon not be a problem anymore.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

More love, companionship and support will come into your life in the coming days. A revelation is on the way to you. And, given the excellent overall cosmic climate you face, it is one you can only benefit from.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

Given the enormity and intensity of the challenge you face, you can't be expected to be an exemplar of serenity and grace. Your angst, however, will quickly disappear as evidence emerges that success does indeed lie in your path.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Internet throttling defended
'Resellers don't want to invest anything'
ROBERTO ROCHA
The Gazette

The last few weeks haven't been kind to Bell Sympatico. The Internet service provider has been attacked from many sides by those angry with its traffic-shaping policy.

Like other Internet providers, Bell's network is strained by applications that use up a lot of bandwidth, like online video and peer-to-peer file sharing programs. Bell decided to ease network congestion by limiting the bandwidth of some applications during peak hours in the evening.

Bell had done this to its own customers, but recently extended this to its third-party resellers. These are companies that lease Bell-owned telephone lines to homes and offer their own Internet services.

These ISPs claim Bell is stifling competition and acting as an overseer of the Internet, which they feel should be free and unfettered.

Bell counters it's improving the experience of all users by limiting the "bandwidth hogs" that slow everyone down.

The Gazette asked Mirko Bibic, Bell Canada's chief of regulatory affairs, to defend its position and answer questions from third party ISPs and customers affected by its decision.

Why does Bell manage the bandwidth of its third-party resellers?

Those who are complaining aren't leasing lines from Bell. They are buying a white label service from Bell Canada which is essentially a wholesale product they resell. So they're not in control of the network. If they were to lease the lines that go from a house to our central office and install a simple piece of equipment in our central office called a DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer), which the CRTC allows them to do ... they can control their own Internet, have their own speed, and manage or not manage their traffic. They don't want to do that, because they don't want to invest in anything.

What they do instead is they buy a wholesale, end-to-end Internet product and put their brand around it. Then they don't have the ability to manage their own network. It's the same network shared between retail and wholesale. Those ISPs that bothered to invest in their own infrastructure, this problem doesn't affect them. The use of the term "leased lines" isn't quite accurate and I see that in a number of newspaper articles It's a very, very important point.

So if these ISPs run on the same network as Bell Sympatico's network, why was there a lag between the time Bell throttled its own clients' P2P traffic and those of the resellers?

What we're doing is implementing what we feel are objective network management initiatives which actually don't affect the vast majority of Internet users. So 95 per cent of users don't even use P2P and I suspect most don't even know what P2P is. So the hostages are the 95 per cent of users whose service gets deteriorated. We feel we have an obligation to ensure bandwidth hogs don't crowd out the overwhelming majority of users.

When you implement initiatives like throttling on the retail side we found that most users saw vast improvements in their service. But then that bandwidth that gets freed up gets used up again by the bandwidth hogs who are customers of those wholesale ISPs. At the end of the day, it's a real short list of people who are complaining about this.

So if it is these five per cent who are spoiling the party for everyone else, why not just limit them instead of making everyone suffer?

What we're doing is trying to take objective measures. We're not targeting particular people or particular content, we're directing these measures at a particular type of traffic. It's not slowing down peer-to-peer for everyone. ... It's actually the P2P by heavy users, whether or not they're on Sympatico or on the wholesale ISP. And at that, it's only during so-called peak periods. Those who use P2P to a reasonable degree are not affected.

Where is this congestion taking place? Are there regions where congestion is more of a problem than others?

This is not unique to Bell. Other ISPs is Canada are adopting network management practices. ... It's a long-term issue everyone in the industry is coming to grips with. There's the need to continue to invest in the network to match the pace of Internet growth.

Bandwidth just doesn't fall from the sky. There have been highly inappropriate allegations made by some people that Bell should simply go out and invest. We invested $2.4 billion on infrastructure alone. Bell takes investment very seriously. But at some point you have to recognize that there has to be a return on that investment.

Tell us about Bell's deep packet inspection system.

I know a little bit about it, but I'm not at liberty to share who uses it or how it works. ... I don't think we need to get into that kind of detail for the purposes of this interview.

But if you have this deep inspection system, doesn't it affect congestion, since the data has to be analyzed by a computer?

The technology we use doesn't add congestion. We manage to redistribute 50 per cent of traffic at peak periods so we free up capacity of the vast majority of online applications.

Are there problems with false positives? Are there packets that are not P2P but are flagged by Bell's system as P2P?

We reached out to wholesale customers and if they have any concerns or evidence of that, they should pick up the phone and speak to us and we'll examine it and investigate it and address it.

If a small, independent ISP can make a profit providing unlimited, unthrottled Internet access, why can't Bell?

Bell is the entity that is investing hundreds of millions in network infrastructure and is ultimately one of the underlying facilities providers in the country. We're faced with issue of managing exploding bandwidth use. It comes back to the first thing I said. If these folks build and lease a line, they'll have complete control over their Internet.

Now that Bell is offering a limited service at times, does this present a challenge in justifying rate increases?

I'll stick to the reasons we're implementing network management initiatives, and they're very compelling reasons: so that the 95 per cent of users who don't consume inordinate amount of bandwidth aren't held hostage.

This whole issue of throttling was brought to light when some customers who have the tools to measure their bandwidth noticed changes in their speeds. That's when the third-party ISPs brought it up. Why didn't Bell advise the ISPs of these changes?

The answer to that is in the letter from our senior vice-present of carrier services to his customers. I know that letter has been floating around in the blog universe.

But that letter didn't explain anything. It just apologized for not warning ahead of time.

Well, there's the answer.

But that's not an answer. It doesn't explain why they weren't notified.

The tariffs we have in place under which these customers buy services do say Bell is entitled to take reasonable network management initiatives to improve performance of the Internet. We're always open to having a dialogue with our wholesale partners, and we're having those.


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