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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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  • First? really? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:12PM (#29165903)

    Tiscali have been doing this for yonks

  • I use UPC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bhima ( 46039 ) * <Bhima,Pandava&gmail,com> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:14PM (#29165919) Journal

    I use UPC in Austria. I don't think this is anything new. They been fucking with my bandwidth for ages.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:25PM (#29166023)
    In Belgium, UPS which was recently bought by Telenet (both UPC Holland and Telenet Belgium are in fact owned by Liberty Global - check [] ) have been doing this for years now. They provide 25Mbps downstream and 1.25Mbps upstream but most of the time the downstream is capped to what appeared indeed to me as 1/3 of the advertised speed. I had this doubt for quite some time now and this article only confirms it. Are there other users from Belgium who could confirm that? Anonymous for obvious reasons.
  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:28PM (#29166037) Homepage
    At least they don't seem to be filtering by destination ... eg Disney paid something so they get priority of their bandwidth.

    I don't like filtering by protocol: I would get pissed off if my ssh sessions were slowed down.

  • by avilliers ( 1158273 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#29166055)

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

    Most of the insidious scenarios painted by the loss of neutrality do relate to content filtering--ie, Comcast makes a deal with Amazon and gimps the connections to, say, Powell's dodgy enough customers just think Amazon is the place to shop.

    If it's really as described in this case, for bandwidth management, I personally don't think it's all that scary. There are issues about transparency, and for some users this might mean their ISP isn't providing sufficient bandwidth anymore. But IMHO it's not automatically different than simple changing the maximum bandwidth available to a customer.

    On the other hand, if a AT&T gimped VOIP to knock Skype out of business, or Comcast filtered video so you needed their cable services, you could get filtering-by-protocol that was just about as evil as the content filtering.

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

    by Romancer ( 19668 ) <`moc.roodshtaed' `ta' `recnamor'> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#29166065) Journal

    Kinda like the old overbooking of flights.

    I used to see the excuse:

    We overbook our flights to save you money because some poeple don't show. So for that 1% that hurt our business we have to lie and sell you a service that we cannot possibly deliver on.

    Just like the ISPs that overbook their network by selling a service that they could never deliver if all the poeple decided to show up at once and try and use their tier of 10/1.5 or whatever they pay for every month.

    So the bet that not everybody will use the service doesn't pay off when some people regularly try and use what they have purchased. They get turned away at the gate or get 1/3rd of the service they paid for or even just get cut off. All for paying for a service and thinking that they have a right to use it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:46PM (#29166165)

    In case any of you were wondering, Google did not mistranslate step 2). They really do market this as a "speed improvement" for their customers:

    2) These adjustments significantly increase the speed of the higher subscriptions when using newsgroups. According to our statistics, this affects around 1% of our customers who fanatically use newsgroups and p2p

    In other words, only 1% of their users fully utilize the bandwidth that they pay for, and that's still more than UPC thinks is acceptable.

    And to make matters worse, not only the highest plans are limited: also the 30/16/12Mbit links now offer only 1/3 of their previous speeds, and apparently some protocols (like FTP and Soulseek) only reach modem speeds (7kB/s).

  • by stonedcat ( 80201 ) <hikaricore [at]> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:46PM (#29166169) Homepage

    What's to stop me from using port 80 for things other than http?
    Not a god damn thing that's what.

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

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @04:59PM (#29166257) Homepage

    Funny that. Is the 1% P2P users, or is the the new breed of people watching video's online? If I remember the last graph that Teksavvy tossed out of their current breakdown of net traffic, people watching streaming media of all types accounted for around 50% of their net traffic.

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

    by slamb ( 119285 ) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @05:29PM (#29166447) Homepage
    I don't think that's accurate. For starters, your description of the airline's policy is wrong:

    We overbook our flights to save you money because some poeple don't show. So for that 1% that hurt our business we have to lie and sell you a service that we cannot possibly deliver on.

    They sold the tickets to those 1% and get the money whether they show up or not. A more accurate statement would be "we overbook our flights to (save you money and/or make more profit) because we can - 1% of people don't show up, and we can get paid twice for those seats if we lie and sell you a service that we cannot possibly deliver on.

    Second, overbooking doesn't make the top 10 list of things that airlines do to make people mad. Why? They ask for volunteers and offer incentives to be bumped. If no one jumps, they increase the incentive. Even on a small plane that's the last chance to get home before Christmas, someone will volunteer once their price is reached. I would be pissed if I were involuntarily bumped, but so far they've been smart enough to make that not happen.

    In contrast, this ISP is saying that they sold 3X as much bandwidth as they should have, and they are just not going to deliver with no compensation. WTF? How is that possibly acceptable?

  • by dotwaffle ( 610149 ) <slashdot@walst[ ]org ['er.' in gap]> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:03PM (#29166719) Homepage

    Errr, what? Seriously, I'd do some research first - unless you're using really small TCP packets, you should easily be able to manage 20:1 if not 50:1. With a non-acknowledged protocol such as UDP, you can increase that to over 100:1.

    Just because you're using a vastly inefficient method to download your "must-have" illegal TV-rips, doesn't mean we get to blindly accept your facts.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:10PM (#29166783) Homepage
    Everyone have heard the phrase: "1% of the user base who abuse our network".
    But the strange thing is, the "abusers" are still using their internet at less-then or equal to their cap.
    They pay for X Mbs/sec and when they actually use somewhat close to that amount suddenly they are abusing it?
    So exactly how can you abuse a network while following the ruled laid out when you purchased the use of it?
  • Re:What they mean: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jared555 ( 874152 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:27PM (#29166933)

    And of course, everyone in that 1% has to be someone abusing the network.... There is no such thing as a household with multiple people using different computers wanting to watch legal videos.

    Something that always amazes me is that a university with 20,000 students on a 100mbit (or sometimes less) line can manage to do network shaping, etc. correctly but ISPs in even small towns cannot.

    One major thing that the university I go to does: you have to OPT IN to file sharing access. No big deal, you just say I need it for whatever legal reason and they activate it.

    This would also reduce the random kids connecting to file sharing networks (their parents, in theory, would have to activate it).

    It would also reduce the number of people who break into some unsecured wifi network to download because there wouldn't be as many networks that had the ability to file share.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:30PM (#29166957)

    The local land lines in the US are REQUIRED BY FEDERAL LAW to support 80% of their workload at any one time, and their are strict dropped call regulations. The cellular network however is very very guilty of what you speak. They are only regulated to 50% of the load in the best of times, and their are no reg's on dropped call rates.

    When did /. become sucha slow ponderous PoS ?? Page refreshes here and post time have gone thru the roof in the last month. I've been here for a loooong time and it HAS NEVER BEEN WORSE. Preview time runs almost 4 seconds for a refresh.

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

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:34PM (#29167005)

    We have that in Belgium too. Once you're over your bandwidth "allowance", you pay extra; or in parts of 5/5GB (which you need to readjust before the end of the month or you'll get rebilled as you're "altering your plan") or something as x /x KB.
    Once users get through their monthly usage, they are presented to "continue surfing at broadband speed" (most expensive and per KB's), "expand monthly usage" or "continue at 56K".

    People overpay alot for it with this system, some plans only have 20G which isn't too much for a month. If you take into account you pay 20 for "1 Mbps | 1GB" up to 60 for "25 Mbps | 60 GB" (current exchange rate between and $ is 1 to 1,4)

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

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @06:43PM (#29167085) Homepage Journal

    According to the grammar rules of your "dialect", wouldn't it be "bleed's", not "bleeds"?

  • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @07:39PM (#29167415) Homepage Journal

    Could you provide a reference? I tried digging through The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (available here []). Looking through the combined 335 page behemoth (Communications Act of 1934 as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996), I couldn't find the needle in that haystack.

    I've heard different numbers over the years for different parameters. For example, that some phone companies strive for "five 9s" service. That is, 99.999% of the time, when you pick up the phone, you'll get a dialtone. That service level though is still built assuming a given usage model. I've tried googling several different terms but have turned up no reference on the specific point of what the minimum capacity is for a CO relative to the neighborhood it serves, or between the CO and the next level up.

    That said, my point still stands. If everyone in your neighborhood picked up their phone and tried to make a call, some non-trivial, non-zero percentage of them would not get through.

  • Just curious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrailerTrash ( 91309 ) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:38PM (#29167747)

    Is it really 1% of the user base consuming a huge portion of the bandwidth? That figure gets tossed around a lot, and I wonder if it's true.

    We decry 1% of world citizens controlling 90% of the world's assets (substitute your favorite estimate for the 90%), and 4% of the world's people (USA) consuming a vast amount of the energy of the world.

    Do we not care about the disproportionate internet usage because the /. community are the ones doing the consuming? Theoretically, without P2P, would the "experience" for Joe six-pack be better? Or not?

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

    by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:37PM (#29168147)

    ISPs are no different. They purchase bandwidth based on a model of "reasonable" network usage and how many subscribers they have.

    Read the summary again: they aren't throttling all traffic for a given protocol; they're throttling traffic based on what site it's to. This nicely sets the stage for the next phase: charge said sites to un-throttle traffic. Fortunately said sites can play the game too and put up a special page to users connecting from this ISP explaining that the site is slow because the ISP is making it so, and that they can get better service by switching ISPs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 24, 2009 @01:48AM (#29169717)

    This is nothing new - Virgin Media in the UK (aka "Virgin on the ridiculous") have been capping "excessive use" for a couple of years. They cap usage at about 500 Mb per day, so anyone trying to download a Linux install disk gets their usage capped (at 10 - 20 % of their maximum rate) for up to 24 hours.
      Virgin persist in advertising their "service" as "unlimited", when it's nothing of the sort.
    Virgin also advertise their cabled 'net connection as "20 Mb/sec" - in reality it's actually 5 Mb/sec with bursts to 20 Mb/sec on Virgin's own site but nowhere else!

  • Re:Sure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <`moc.eticxe' `ta' `lwohtsehgrab'> on Monday August 24, 2009 @02:18AM (#29169883) Journal

    No, /. (and most net-savvy user websites) gets pissy when they go after the 1% because after all, they agreed to X Mbps, they should get to use that 100% of the time. Whether that argument is right or wrong, the two situations combined (the one in this article and the one I'm laying out in this post) equate to a catch 22 for the ISP. The ISP's only remaining choice is to drastically lower promised speeds, but that's a marketing disaster, and really a technical one as well, since most people do sometimes use the top speeds, but don't do so regularly - makes them happy to have it available when needed though.

    Actually, I get pissy because I purchased a connection advertised as an "unlimited" connection at a certain speed. "Unlimited", as in, "without limit". When they then turn around and say "There's a limit", but still advertise the service as "unlimited", their advertising is not truthful.

    If ISPs want to sell limited internet connections, they have every right to do that, but they should advertise them as such.

    I also don't buy the "We build our infrastructure for anticipated usage..." bit. If this "1%" of users routinely exists, you factor them into your anticipated usage when deciding how much you need to build. Then, you build enough capacity for actual anticipated usage. You don't just ignore those users, hope they go away, and then be shocked and claim to need to throttle when your capacity doesn't meet your demand.

If I set here and stare at nothing long enough, people might think I'm an engineer working on something. -- S.R. McElroy