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First European Provider To Break Net Neutrality 343

Rik van der Kroon writes "Major Dutch cable provider UPC has introduced a new network management system which, from noon to midnight, for certain services and providers, caps users' bandwidth at 1/3rd of their nominal bandwidth (Google translation; Dutch original here). After the consumer front for cable providers in The Netherlands received many complaints about network problems and slow speeds, UPC decided to take this as an excuse to introduce their new 'network management' protocol which slows down a large amount of traffic. All protocols but HTTP are capped to 1/3 speed, and within the HTTP realm some Web sites and services that use lots of upstream bandwidth are capped as well. So far UPC is hiding behind the usual excuse: 'We are protecting all the users against the 1% of the user base who abuse our network.'"
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First European Provider To Break Net Neutrality

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  • What they mean: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:10PM (#29165893)

    'We are protecting all the users against the 1% of the user base who use our network.'

  • by tsa ( 15680 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:12PM (#29165901) Homepage

    There must be more intelligent ways of handling this. For instance, someone who downloads more than so many GB a day can be throttled or capped individually. That shouldn't be too hard, I think.

  • by jmknsd ( 1184359 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:14PM (#29165921)

    I thought Net Neutrality was to prevent ISPs from filtering and controlling content, not protocols and speeds?

  • by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:16PM (#29165939) Homepage

    Couldn't they instead perform a kind of load-balancing based on the actual bandwidth being consumed by each customer, regardless of protocol or destination? As far as I'm concerned, that's the only way to do QOS without violating the principle of network neutrality.

  • by isama ( 1537121 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:17PM (#29165959)
    But it's a one year contract wich ends in a few months goddamn! a well, let's look for a new isp.

    Move along now, nothing to see here!
  • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:25PM (#29166017) Homepage

    It's really not a joke, I suspect something like this will happen.

    The only way they'll be able to completely stop torrents and warez downloading would be to cut off internet access entirely.

    Never underestimate nerds who want to fix something, even if they have to resort to TCP/IP over Carrier Pigeon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:37PM (#29166107)

    In the short time that I've been UPC customer, I have been thoroughly dissatisfied with their service. Too many outages, and a paid helpdesk who weren't competent enough to do anything but reading from scripts. Quite the difference from when I was with XS4all- slightly more expensive, but what a difference. Competent people there (met them at HIP back in '97). Never needed the helpdesk as the connection *just worked*. Always. Now that I live abroad, I've got similar experiences. Goodbye BT- I hope you've learned that throttling my bandwidth by 95% isn't the way to go. Vote with your wallet, people- reward good customer service.

  • by binkzz ( 779594 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:46PM (#29166167) Journal
    Actually, UPC is an American company, and they don't have a very good name in Holland for reasons such as this one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:55PM (#29166235)

    They actually have decent infrastructure.

    The problem is that recently UPC started selling up to 120mbps (EUR 70,- per month) connections in a market were nobody can even come close to that. ADSL maxes out at 20mbps. In their advertisements they make that speed a issue.

    In a market like this you can expect the kind of customers you draw in with an offer like this are the ones who actually want to use that speed. Knowing that, making such an offer anyway and then apply bandwidth throttling is nothing short of fraud.

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Delwin ( 599872 ) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:03PM (#29166297)
    That's why I'm glad that my cable company is quite upfront: They tell you not only what speed but how much bandwidth (in GB/Mo) you have. If you go over that they can and will lower your speed to something that allows only web browsing.

    The fact that they told me that up front (and I chose my plan based on my own usage history) makes me quite content even with the caps.
  • by colsandurz45 ( 1314477 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:11PM (#29166343)
    Someone mentioned that they would be upset if their SSH sessions slow down. Well, just tunnel ssh over http []
  • Re:What they mean: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:17PM (#29166379)
    If they overbook your flight they give your money back. If ISPs paid back w/e % you had taken away we'd see less complaints.
  • by ImYourVirus ( 1443523 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:29PM (#29166445)
    They want to cap me to 1/3, then I'm only going to pay 1/3 of my bill. Sure they want to blame (illegal) file sharing for the increase, but that's not the only thing that uses large amounts of bandwidth.

    How about sharing homemade pictures, movies, music, free games, software, etc, not to mention playing games, uploading other types of files not via http, how about ftp, ssh, some other network, etc...

    Some of the several games I play the maps can be 50 megs or bigger, the same goes with patches, hell I've seen some patches that are bigger than a couple hundred megs, oh and what about demo's and such, not to mention getting full games, like through say steam or some other provider, a demo I got was like 600 megs, and several full games are easily greater than 2 gigs, most being around 4 gigs or so, so gaming is easily an excuse (not that you should need one in the first place) for using high amounts of bandwidth and transfer.

    At least they aren't complete idiots from what I read and don't throttle http, because then how am I supposed to watch my 10,000 youtube videos per day?

    Oh and don't get me started on them investing in a better infrastructure, no no that'd cut into their precious bonus's to much, that's one reason right there that most if not all suits (read executives) will ever have any respect from me, because to them it's all about their bonus's and the grunts (read anyone below them) are only fodder for their meat grinders.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:40PM (#29166551)

    60 down and 1 up is a joke. There is no way that you are going to be able to effective use much more than 10 mbps down with only 1 mbps up.

    And since when did net neutrality have anything to do with traffic shaping? Net neutrality is when all destinations are treated equally, not all protocols.

    If you are on a net that has both tcp and udp traffic (the entire internet) you are already making protocol choices.

  • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:46PM (#29166597)

    Technically, "net neutrality" refers to the traffic being completely agnostic about what a packet is--phone, video, http, etc.

    No, it absolutely does not. Net Neutrality only refers to filtering or throttling based on source or destination. Prioritizing VoIP traffic over BitTorrent traffic is not a Net Neutrality issue. Throttling Vonage's VoIP traffic to make your ISP's VoIP service more attractive is a Net Neutrality issue.

  • by Tweenk ( 1274968 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:57PM (#29166685)

    Someone's missing the point of net neutrality.

    Net neutrality means: if I have network access, and some guy has network access, we can connect; the ISP treats my connection the same regardless of WHO I'm connecting with. It doesn't mean the ISP cannot differentiate the quality of the connection based on HOW we connect.

    This is something else: they are varying quality based on HOW they're connecting to others (what protocol). Note that it's not an outright ban, only a rate limit in order to prioritize of HTTP traffic. The only problematic part is the throttling of upload-intensive services. However, it is not a net neutrality issue as long as they are throttling solely on the amount of bandwidth consumed by a service, rather than who pays them most money to have his service unthrottled.

    Remember: Net neutrality is not about unrestricted BitTorrent for everyone. It is about the Internet not turning into cable TV. It is about stopping ISPs colluding with content providers so that they can charge you or deny you access to your favorite websites, in order to ram their own inferior ad-infested versions down your throat. It is about being able to connect to everyone without seeking permission of your ISP or paying extra. It is about Internet access being a binary variable: either you can connect, or you can't. No limited service plans where you can connect only to the ISP's webmail and search engine, and all other webmails and search engines are blocked unless you 'upgrade'. No 'premium sites' you can only use if your ISP has a deal with the content provider that you cannot opt into or out of.

    If you are dissatisfied by your ISP blocking or throttling your favorite website or service, by all means complain. But do not conflate traffic shaping with net neutrality. It muddles an already complex issue, and harms our chances to win this battle.

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:01PM (#29166709) Homepage Journal

    Fun facts: If everyone in your neighborhood with a land line picked up the phone right now and tried to make a call, probably only 10% to 20% of them would succeed. If everyone in the average American suburb all hopped in their car and tried to get on the road to the nearest Interstate, it'd be gridlock. Traffic would move at speeds no where near the posted limits. We're surrounded by shared resources with capacity that reflects typical usage with a reasonable amount of head room for "normal" peaks, but is far from being able to support the maximum theoretical demand.

    Airlines overbook because a certain %age of customers don't show up, and that %age is large enough and stable enough that it makes sense to do so. When too many people do show up for a flight, the airline pays penalties (in the form of travel vouchers and upgrades), so there's incentive to be conservative in the practice. Everyone benefits overall, though. More people get flown from point A to point B. If the airlines sell more seats on a given flight, then they can charge less per seat too.

    ISPs are no different. They purchase bandwidth based on a model of "reasonable" network usage and how many subscribers they have. The major difference, though, is that it's very easy for someone to fall well outside the "reasonable" traffic usage. It's quite possible for 1% of the users to take up the majority of the network bandwidth. And I can see this being considered "unreasonable," and the ISP taking steps to make sure that the other 99% of users have a reasonable experience.

    What I don't like is that ISPs can advertise something as "unlimited" or as running at a certain speed, when it clearly is limited, and the advertised speed is only a peak speed available in small doses. At least airlines are required to disclose their overbooking policy.

  • by Jared555 ( 874152 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:32PM (#29166975)

    Packet inspection. Unless of course you encrypt the data 100% both ways but then they just block port 80 because you aren't allowed to run a web server.

    People talk about using TOR, etc. for P2P but at least last I checked they specifically request that you NOT use TOR for those purposes as it puts too much strain on the network.

  • by Quothz ( 683368 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:33PM (#29166989) Journal

    No, it absolutely does not. Net Neutrality only refers to filtering or throttling based on source or destination. Prioritizing VoIP traffic over BitTorrent traffic is not a Net Neutrality issue. Throttling Vonage's VoIP traffic to make your ISP's VoIP service more attractive is a Net Neutrality issue.

    I agree. The redefinition of network neutrality to include traffic type is a marketing scheme, no more. It allows providers to say "Net neutrality is not bad. We use it to slow down abusive users." This makes the debate about a straw man - it's harder to object to this behavior than real neutrality violations. By making the debate about peer-to-peer and streaming traffic taking bandwidth away from other users, they sidestep the real issue of giving privilege to certain content providers over others.

    Again: The people who want to define network neutrality to include this behavior are not on your side. They want you to use that definition so they can control the debate. If they win the debate, we the netizens lose, and we lose a lot.

    This is an important issue that could well help direct the culture of the technologized* world for a long time - possibly centuries, but certainly decades. Do we want content approved and delivered mainly by large central providers, like with television, or the free-for-all we have today? I choose the latter.

    * Don't you think it's time we stopped saying "industrialized"?

  • by KonoWatakushi ( 910213 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:13PM (#29167261)

    Protocol discrimination is an equally important issue for network neutrality, as it has the same result. While prioritizing traffic by protocol in the name of QOS may appear to be fair on the surface, it is anything but, and will stunt the growth of innovative and competing services on the Internet.

    Think about it; how will a competing protocol, or any other innovative new protocol emerge when it is so disadvantaged? The most popular existing protocols end up with a natural monopolies on the Internet.

    No one should be discriminating based on protocol, and certainly not modifying the payload or disrupting connections. Packets should be flagged with the appropriate ToS bits, and traffic management should be done on that basis instead. IPv6 also provides additional fields in the header for these purposes.

    You should not compromise on your definition of Net Neutrality. Ideally, all traffic would be encrypted and authenticated, as anything less is just inviting abuse. Rather than "traffic management," the Internet infrastructure should be kept modern so that it can handle the increasing load.

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:17PM (#29167283) Journal

    Well technically "bandwidth" is the width of your line in terms of frequency. I don't know what it is for cable, but for my DSL it's somewhere around 500 megahertz with the bottom 8 kilohertz set-side for the voicecalls and the rest used for data.

    50 kbit/s is the *bitrate* that's available over an 8 kilohertz-wide phoneline. Higher bitrates for DSL or cable.

    And the GB/month would be the maximum data allowance, aka data cap.

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:43PM (#29167431) Homepage Journal

    For a subscriber to use such a disproportionate amount of bandwidth, such a bandwidth peak would have to be a sustained bandwidth peak.

    There really should be different plans to cater to the hard-core users vs. the typical users. You have your average web surfer browsing You-Tube occasionally, or downloading the latest stuff off of iTunes or what have you, and then you have the hardcore folks that are streaming HD non-stop. Makes sense to me that you'd want to move the latter guys onto a different plan with different rates.

    ISPs should not call something "unlimited" when it is indeed limited. If there's a bits-transferred cap or some other cap (ie. 10Mb/s peak, 3Mb/s sustained, for example), they should be up front about it.

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:55PM (#29167515)

    If 1% of your customer base was abusing (which I guess means violating your terms of service?) your infrastructure, would you:

          A> Warn them then kick them out
          B> Warn them then throttle their connections
          C> Implement a policy like this

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slamb ( 119285 ) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @11:02PM (#29168715) Homepage

    Whether or not they have the capacity to fulfill all of their commitmants in a worst-case scenario isn't relevant.

    When I said "they sold 3X as much bandwidth as they should have", I'm not talking about a wost-case scenario. I didn't mean "they oversold their bandwidth by 3X when they should not have oversold at all." That's not realistic. I meant they oversold to the extent that users are regularly unable to use more than 1/3rd of their nominal bandwidth. They are not meeting their commitments during conditions they can (and probably have) predicted.

  • Re:What they mean: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @02:32AM (#29169939)

    There are some major differences between all those shared resources you list, and those of ISP's though:

    1. With ISP's, you pay for different speeds. If you pay for (say) 1000kb/s but it is known in advance that you will only ever receive 333kb/s, that effectively means they have just raised their prices by a factor three.

    2. Rather than giving everyone _at least_ one third of their paid-for speed, and then spreading the remainder evenly over the various customers, you are simply capped. In fact I suspect that even that promised one third of the paid-for speed is on an "if available" basis.

    3. The phrase "abuse" is thrown around lightly, and there is a clear undertone of "illegal". These are probably the kind of people downloading illegal movies and childpr0n all day long! Cap them, before they do even more harm! Or... Maybe they have subscribed to a legal movie download service? One that competes with UPC's own TV offerings? (UPC is actually a cable TV provider, that also does internet on the side!)

    Simple fact: UPC is advertising certain speeds [], but not delivering them. And it's not even because of oversubscription (as in the examples you gave), but simply because they don't want to.

  • by sonicmerlin ( 1505111 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @03:01AM (#29170063)
    Alright, I guess I'll explain the true problem with this situation. But first, allow me to post a link detailing Japanese ISP speeds and costs: []

    Yes that's right, KCN charges $58/month for (truly) unlimited 1gbps symmetrical connections.

    Now allow me to quote a news release from a couple of months ago: "The next step towards ever breakneck speeds is commercialisation of 10 GBPs fibre optic deliver. Telecoms firm Oki Japan has successfully tested a 160 GBPs long-distance, high-speed optical connection that delivers the equivalent of "four full movies" worth of data every second. Oki expects it to be commercialized late next year maintaining Japan's bragging rights for some time to come."

    No that's not a typo. That really is 10 GB per second. I just wanted to put things in perspective before discussing this European ISP.

    Now here's the real issue, that for some odd reason none of you seem to realize. This European ISP is claiming that 1% of its users abuse its network, ruining it for everyone else. This has never been confirmed or reviewed by independent third parties. This ISP has never been forced by the government to reveal its actual network data. If you've been following the kerfuffle with Bell Canada as well as the "special access lines" issue in the US, you would understand just how ridiculous this scenario is. For example, when Time Warner attempted to implement usage based billing, caps, and overages, they talked about how "expensive" managing and upgrading their network was. They then turned around and reported RECORD PROFITS during a huge recession to their investors, and their financial statement to the SEC revealed the money they invested into their network had actually DECREASED for the last two years. That these ISPs can bemoan the expense of managing their network while making obscene profits and never revealing raw network data to the government or an independent third party is beyond preposterous.

    Next, peak load and congestion are NOT managed by caps. Caps are meaningless restrictions on users, because congestion actually occurs at peak hours of usage. So Grandma watching her youtube video at 7pm is just as guilty of causing congestion as Mr. Bittorrent User. ISPs purchase bandwidth from backbone providers based on their users' bandwidth usage. They purchase bandwidth at the 95th percentile of peak usage. The idea that they would have to restrict bandwidth consumption by 1/3rd to meet consumer demand is completely illogical.

    In addition, cable companies and telecoms engage in periodic "cycles" of upgrades to account for inevitable increases in bandwidth usage at their various nodes. They have to keep up with the increases in usage by "splitting" those nodes. When a provider decides to implement throttling of protocols, this allows them to delay upgrades for a single cycle. However, from then on they are essentially *stuck* with their throttling, and they are still forced to upgrade every cycle at the same rate as before. Throttling is thus a meaningless attempt to stem the tide of bandwidth consumption.

    Furthermore, backbone and middle-mile providers consistently talk about how cheap bandwidth is becoming. The pace of the internet's expansion has slowed to an extremely manageable 30%/year (as opposed to 200%/year during the mid 90's). Bandwidth has become cheaper and cheaper because internet speeds increase according to Moore's Law ( Part of this has to do with improvements in router technology that occur as components shrink.

    The issue is, and always has been, the last mile. For cable providers, however, "splitting a node" to increase bandwidth provisions to a particular area is not a large expense, especially when you're talking about a national provider.

    The point I'm trying to make is that there is no evidence to back up this ISP's claims. When

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @03:30AM (#29170211)

    I guess they've never heard of a little country in Europe called Great Britain.

    Yes, a country where net neutrality has been broken for nearly 3 - 5 years now. Not only that, but in the UK the government has declared no interest in net neutrality and has given ISPs the green light to do what they want.

    Originally OFCOM, the telecommunications watchdog in the UK stated that it would be unacceptable if ISPs took it to the level of slowing down certain companies sites over others, but even that stance seems to have changed now as they appear to be considering allowing ISPs to hold the BBC to ransom forcing them to pay for the bandwidth they already pay their ISP for and their users already pay the threatening ISP for.

    Britain is not unique in this respect in Europe either, it happens in many other countries here, I can only guess the submitter lives under a rock in his home country and now this has happened has woken up and started to take notice crying blue murder to the world. Unfortunately, the rest of us have been trying to fight the destruction of even the slightest hope for net neutrality in Europe for a few years now.

    Isn't it great when people only cry out when something suddenly effects them? This is why things like this happen in the first place, because no one gives a shit about potential issues. If people across Europe had made a loud point about breaking of net neutrality earlier on it could've been stopped and wouldn't be creeping from country to country as it is now.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @04:21AM (#29170407) Homepage Journal

    If your ISP throttles YouTube down to a speed where you can no longer watch a video without waiting half an hour for it to buffer (hi Virgin Media), then that pretty effectively blocks their content.

  • Clueless (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 24, 2009 @08:21AM (#29171597)

    The OP has no idea of what network neutrality actually means. The cited case has nothing to do with commercially or politically biased censorship, and everything to do with managing system resources to ensure fair access for all subscribers. I'm sure the OP would be amongst the first to complain if (s)he were to fall victim of unfair resource assignment and congestion that results from inadequate bandwidth management.

    The OP should consider attending Network Engineering 101 before posting ill informed tripe.

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