Google Takes Stance Against ISP Bandwith Throttling

Google has decided to throw its weight around when it comes to Net Neutrality; the search giant announced a plan to let end users see what their Internet Service Providers do with their bandwidth. What does this matter to you, the aforementioned end user? Inquire inside.

If you are confused about Net Neutrality, check out one of our articles from ’06. Three years later, the net is still neutral, though ISP’s are doing what they can to that away. Not only could ISP’s charge for access to particular websites, but after going to bed with the RIAA, they could simply shut off your ability to use p2p or bit torrent services all together. Google’s plan is to empower users to see exactly what their bandwidth is being used on, or as they put it:

“When an Internet application doesn’t work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP (Internet service provider), the application, your PC (personal computer), or something else?” Cerf wrote in a blog post.

An open, unbiased Internet connection is vital to us in this communication age. Besides, if Comcast is allowed to decide which sites you are allowed to visit, how often do you think it will let you visit one that shines light on its sore spots?
[Reuters]
[Pic: Gaminrey]

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  1. nbs2 says:

    Hooray for Google. More than anybody else, GOOG could afford to pay to benefit from throttling. Hopefully not getting some of that GoogleCash will cause the ISPs to think twice about what they are trying to do.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @nbs2: No kidding…they also need to tackle the eBay monster!

      Btw, I know we got Roz’d for heckling comcastcares in another thread, but this is exactly why they deserve it…they only address problems that generate bad PR that can be silenced by waving a wand. They don’t actually care, they just want to attempt to save face when it’s convenient…

      If they had the cajones to troll threads like this, then I would respect their efforts…but for now, Comcast can still shove it. /rant

    • Dusty Wilson says:

      @nbs2: Google supposedly has unlit fiber all over the country and, from what I hear, the world. If they want, they can probably just light it all and skip a lot of the taxing ISPs.

  2. ThinkerTDM says:

    We don’t need net neutrality legislation; the ISP’s (and the “free market”) are doing a fine job of self regulation.

    (btw, that was sarcasm).

    • Xerloq says:

      @ThinkerTDM: Deregulation would work -if- there were viable competition. Without competition there isn’t a “free” market. The only regulation needed (academically, anyway) is reducing the barriers to entry for competition.

      In my community, Comcast is starting to lose out because DSL prices have dropped and speeds have increased. We have a FIOS system that competes as well, and a wireless broadband system, too. All offer options in the 10Mbps area. I had Comcast before moving to FIOS and I never noticed traffic shaping. Oh, and prices have fallen, too. 10Mbps is about $20/mo. here. If they start shaping, people can easily move.

      Of course, my point goes to the ‘last mile’ internet, and doesn’t treat the backbone (which is where the real problem exists, IMHO).

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        @Xerloq: Unfortunately for me, I live in one of those areas where many utilities are regional, and they’re all monopolies. I have ONE power company, ONE cable/internet company (unless I want 768k dsl for crap).

      • sirellyn says:

        @Xerloq: You have it exactly right. You also have to be able to have other smaller business grab business if the large ones aren’t. So another component for a free market is low barriers of entry.

        If you had that, anyone could just start up another internet company and eventually grow bigger than the big guys if they keep their customers happy.

      • chrisjames says:

        @Xerloq: You mean the only deregulation needed is reducing the barriers to entry for competition. The opposite, regulation, is usually what hinders startups. Well, specific regulation, usually in the form of compliance rules or rights that favor large scale operations or impose large startup costs.

      • TaterTom says:

        @Xerloq: What about start up companies that resell others services? I know this happens with phone stuff, but is there no cable companies doing this? If so or if one were to do this, can the ‘parent’ cable operator throttle the ‘child’ operator’s traffic?

  3. FunkmasterC says:

    Hmmm…So is Google evil or not? After their recent stock options markdown, I’d say yes. But after this, maybe not…

    • audemars says:

      @FunkmasterC: Google <3

    • TheMonkII says:

      @FunkmasterC:

      I feel the need to throw in my two cents.

      Is google evil? Nope. So much of what they’ve done over the last few years points to nay, nay. Cloud computing (vs Microsoft, real evil), free applications, and now this.

      Of all the high tech sites out there, I hold Google above and on their own. They are, without doubt, a company with profits in mind, but not a company that will exercise it at any cost.

      • yagisencho says:

        @TheMonkII:

        Microsoft = ‘real evil’? Really? REALLY really? Starving children, gas chambers evil? Don’t make me Godwin this thread.

        • RedwoodFlyer says:

          @yagisencho: gives me an idea: Didn’t the CEO of another Cable Company (Adelphia?) buy a $15,000 shower curtain? May I suggest a “shower” that he could use it with?

    • intooooo says:

      @FunkmasterC: Google is the next coming of Christ…:D

    • Nighthawke says:

      @FunkmasterC:
      Don’t let semantics get in the way of them cleaning up the mess that the ISP’s have scattered about the place.

  4. mac-phisto says:

    awesome idea! i love google. i mean, i hate that i’m almost entirely reliant upon them now, but i still love them.

  5. axiomatic says:

    GOOGLE… me love you long time.

  6. Trai_Dep says:

    (swoon) Luvs me Google!

  7. intellivised says:

    Three years later, the net is still neutral, though ISP’s are doing what they can to that away.

    Huh?

  8. rockstarjoe says:

    I want to know when Comcast is planning on releasing a bandwidth meter so users can know how much internets they’ve pulled down per month! They said we would get it in January… but here it is almost February and everyone seems to have forgotten. If they are going to cap me at 250GB per month I want to be able to use all 250GB.

    • RonnieDobbs4President says:

      @rockstarjoe: 249GBs of porn?

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      @rockstarjoe: Their “bandwith meter” consists of focus groups in which the less internet-savvy members attempt to shame the one P2P user with outrage because they are under the impression this person is “using too much.”

      (Sorry Frank, you know it’s true!)

      • rockstarjoe says:

        @richcreamerybutter: So it is just an imaginary thing? I think they will have to give customers some way to view how much they’ve downloaded if they are going to disconnect people for using more than the limit. Imagine if cell phone companies did this with your minutes!

        • richcreamerybutter says:

          @rockstarjoe: Well from what I understand, they claim that most consumers would never use that amount, so they shouldn’t worry. It seems they’re trying to psych you out into believing they’re “basically” providing you the courtesy of unlimited access.

          • thrid001 says:

            @richcreamerybutter: If most consumers would not use that amount, then it should not matter very much to them

            • TaterTom says:

              @thrid001: I still want to know how much I use. Applying the cell phone analogy here, Even if I only call my Ma on the weekends to say hi, I want to know how much I’m using, so I can make an informed decision as a consumer.

              Not to mention ensuring that I’m the only one using my service. If they have a provider-side counter, and I don’t have a router that has this functionality, I can count each of the computers up and match it to the provider’s figures to see if someone’s leeching, so I can go buy that signal-blocking paint.

      • Xerloq says:

        @richcreamerybutter: The meter could bite them in the butt when users realize they’re paying $60/mo. to download 1 GB of email and the occasional Youtube clip. It’s like buying a 700 minute plan and only calling your mom on Sundays for 10 minutes to say ‘Hi!’

        People find alternatives, or realize they don’t need it. Comcast isn’t about to help people prove that.

    • ThickSkinned says:

      @rockstarjoe: Have you tried a search to find one yourself. [www.softperfect.com] is what I use.

      Does anyone know if these caps are for download only, or up and down? Currently, I average 150gB down and 200gB up a month. To give you an idea of what I’m doing, I download an average of 7 bluray rips a week, which could be deemed excessive by some. A 250 gB cap should be more than enough for the average user.

      • richcreamerybutter says:

        @ThickSkinned: It should be, though I do know that Comcast was pressured into providing this cap from the original lawsuit (when they were purposefully blocking P2P activity). I doubt they would have voluntarily implemented this otherwise.

      • wastedlife says:

        @ThickSkinned: I use DD-WRT firmware on my router. That is by no means the easiest way to do it, but it is one of the best. This is because it is monitoring at the router level, so if you have multiple computers it keeps track of all of them together, plus any extra traffic that might not be getting through.

        As far as I can tell, there is no safeguard against someone sending you large-packet pings, and since it is being “downloaded” you could break the cap at no fault of your own.

        • Xerloq says:

          @wastedlife: So you need to set your modem to reject WAN ping requests, and find out the IP addresses of the local comast employees homes to send them 251 1GB ping requests.

          • rockstarjoe says:

            @Xerloq: My router is a WRT54G, late version which I cannot install DDWRT or Tomato on, sadly. I’m not about to spring for a new router, and I have more than 1 computer running on my network so a locally installed bandwidth monitor is not a solution.

            And really, I shouldn’t have to monitor my own usage… Comcast is already monitoring everyone’s bandwidth, they just need to make a tool to let us SEE our bandwidth usage.

          • rockstarjoe says:

            @Xerloq: Sorry my comment was a general one, did not mean to reply to your comment.

          • wastedlife says:

            @Xerloq: As the data is being sent TO you, by the time you block it at the router or modem, they have already metered it. Whether or not you respond to the ping does not matter, since that would be considered an “upload”, which they are not metering. Honestly, outbound traffic from users is what they should cap, as that is more limited and would have a greater effect. On any P2P application, I have never come close to saturating my downstream connection. However, upstream can very easily become saturated, especially with bittorrent.

            @rockstarjoe: The mini or micro version of DD-WRT isn’t compatible with your model? And yes, you are correct, just like the phone companies put usage data in your bill, so should comcast. Or, they should have an easily accessible section of their site to give you the info. Also, notifying users when they are coming close should be done, since currently the system is:

            -Go over cap once, throttled for the rest of the month and receive warning.
            -Go over a second time, your service is cancelled.

  9. shepd says:

    If they’re as successful as they were in Canada, just downloading the article is a waste of bandwidth.

    [www.p2pnet.net]

    ended up as:

    [www.financialpost.com]

    I bet most internet users in Canada don’t even realize that most all DSL connections east of Manitoba are throttled. Unfortunately, the reporting on it was extremely poor, and people are taking the Martin Niemoeller approach as most do, sadly.

    I guess what I’m saying is don’t end up another Canada, USA!

    Welcome to the internet: [isen.com]

    • mac-phisto says:

      @shepd: that last link is photochopped, right? please tell me it’s fake. i mean, it’s gotta be fake.

      god, i hope it’s fake.

  10. richcreamerybutter says:

    Sorry to keep posting Wired links, but this month’s issue had an excellent piece on The Plot to Kill Google.

    With this announcement and their upcoming offline email feature, they will be the recipient of my Valentine’s Day card this year.

  11. Gokuhouse says:

    It could come down to ISPs preventing you from doing research on a competing company with your internet connection. Search for anything with the competing companies name and you are down!

  12. lalawgirl says:

    My pet peeve. Consumerist, I’m saddened.

    it’s = it is

    its = possessive

  13. Saboth says:

    I have Comcast (the only game in town). I love how they keep trying to push faster internet speeds on us at outrageous prices, but all that does is get you to your cap sooner. Now, I will never by close to 250 gb, even using Netflix to DL movies, but I am sure in a year or 2, they will ease that 250 gig cap down to 150, 100, 50, etc. Then you will pay an additional 10 a month to raise your cap.

    In the meantime, if you actually use that speed you are paying for, you get your service throttled. That makes NO sense to me. That’s like paying for a large drink, they when you drink 60% of it, the cashier takes your drink and pours half of it out.

    • Xerloq says:

      @Saboth: It’s called ice.

    • karmaghost says:

      @Saboth: Comcast’s throttling is one reason why I decided not to go beyond my 2 week Netflix free trial. I tried watching a few movies/TV show episodes (both HD and SD) and after a while, the program (both on Xbox and TiVo) would stop and tell me that my internet connection had slowed down and that they were adjusting the quality. When it came back up, it was so low-quality, it was unwatchable. This is due, in most part, to Comcast’s policy of throttling your bandwidth if you use about 75% of it for a certain length of time.

      The other reason I didn’t keep my subscription was Netflix’s streaming selection sucks ass.

  14. TheMonkII says:

    Google = Awesome
    ISP’s = Not so awesome.

    Yup, In Canada, we are capped. Bell and Rogers are brutal Internet ?Service? Providers. I am lucky, I get DSL on a Bell line, but from a Reseller that supports Tunneling…Eat it Bell.

  15. Brandon says:

    I wonder if ISPs will start optimizing there network for these special servers that are going to be testings for isp evil secrets? They already do that for most major speedtest sites why not these too?

  16. vastrightwing says:

    Truth in advertising: companies should be required to comply with the Internet specifications in order to advertise “Internet”. For example: Comcast should not claim to offer an internet connection because they outright block many ports, they actively prevent certain data packets or delay them. Instead, they can advertise “We allow you to browse the web and get email.”

    Broadband: Eliminate this term. It means nothing anymore.
    Unlimited: Define unlimited to mean uncapped or unlimited. If there is any limit what so ever, then you can not use this term. It shouldn’t matter if the cap is so high as to be virtually unlimited. If there is any cap at all, then you should not be allowed to use the word.

    To me, real internet means: total uncapped usage with no ports blocked such that I can run a server and have unfettered access to any port I want. Anything less is less: not the Internet. The router should not watch my data, it should not slow my data, it should not inject packets into my data stream. In short, a router should simply switch data packets from one router to another and to the actual destination without any regard to anything.

    • JustThatGuy3 says:

      @vastrightwing:

      Such a service is available to you, but it’s not residential Internet, and it isn’t $40/month.

      • aguacarbonica says:

        @JustThatGuy3:

        I think the point was not that the service wasn’t offered. It was that the definition of “internet” and the different types of services that ISP’s provide is too blurry. I especially appreciate the poster’s point about “unlimited” internet. If there is a cap of any sort, it shouldn’t be called unlimited.

  17. Murph1908 says:

    As more and more sites are starting to feed video commercials, video clips, and other content that we didn’t request, this issue is going to get heated.

    I am all for neutrality. But if neutrality wins, ISPs will counter with usage caps or additional costs beyond various thresholds.

    When you are over that limit, you will be paying for every ad or unwanted video that is forced upon you.

    I would have to avoid cubs.com because they insist on loading and playing a video on the front page on arrival.

    • dreamsneverend says:

      @Murph1908: Hopefully competition will kick in.. Here in the Tampa market both Verizon and Bright House are kept honest because both don’t want to be the one who limits their users first because they will hemorrage customers.

    • Red_Eye says:

      @Murph1908: And if technology was closed forever I would say you are right however…

      With the advent of wireless mesh networking there may come a day when we no longer need a telco to traverse the globe. While at first this will be limited, I expect over the next 5-15 years we will see the telco hold on the world diminish even further as the backbone fades in relevance.

      This is a last ditch effort on their part to get richer is all.

  18. FortyTwo says:

    So the outcome if you discover your ISP is slowing traffic? Call the service provider get put on hold maybe charged and have someone say I am not sure. Only way to reverse the ISP providers marching army on this is to cancel service but then you can’t post clever comments on your favorite blog.

  19. sebadoh128 says:

    The net should be neutral, just like Sweden.

    -Jessica Alba

  20. John Wells says:

    This is Beautiful and very much needed. thanks for covering this guys!

    We really don’t need big brother watching everything we do? (This isn’t China!)
    The RIAA and the MPAA really need to step up their game and put better content protection into place. instead of having the ISP’s police the customers and punish everyone over a few bad apples.

  21. AI says:

    Google could just throw their weight around by blocking their site from ISP’s that throttle. Even better, they could display a Google page listing alternative ISP’s that don’t throttle if you access their page from one that does. No ISP would be able to survive long if its customers were blocked by Google, and they’d have to stop throttling.

  22. acasto says:

    I can’t believe people equate traffic shaping in general with the somewhat paranoid notion of ISPs asserting some kind of China-esque influence over their internet connections. Blocking access to the competition is one thing, shaping the traffic to try and provide an acceptable user experience to the majority of customers is something else entirely. Because of our infrastructure, the only reason so many people in this country can afford broadband is by ISPs overscribing. If you want full-speed unhindered access 24/7 then you should get a leased line. If more people did, the prices would come down and infrastructure would be built up to accommodate which would further drive down prices . Instead, everybody expects some sort of bandwidth charity and demands full-access to a line for a fraction of the original price. It simply doesn’t work that way people.

    • SacraBos says:

      @acasto: Because so far, “traffic shaping” has been some kind of China-esque influence over the internet. Especially with ComCast dropping bittorrent traffic, and other providers “shaping” VoIP traffic that’s not theirs.

    • Saboth says:

      @acasto:

      You act like $50-$70 a month for basic cable speeds is some kind of charity. In most countries, they get 10x that speed for 1/3 that cost.

      High speed internet in America is horrendously overpriced, mostly because there is almost no competition.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @acasto: I support neutrality as far as an ISP not limiting what you can access. But I agree with you that bandwidth costs money too. You can’t give everyone their own T1 connection, but if you have cable it shouldn’t be that low either.

      I also support the cooperation of ISP’s to enforce laws, i.e. copyright laws. No one should be downloading copyrighted stuff they haven’t paid for – it’s illegal.

      So yes, I support ISP’s banning certain torrent files and that kind of thing if those files are illegal in nature. I also think pornography in all forms should be prohibited on the internet.

      • Hawkins says:

        @GuinevereRucker: Yes, let’s ban torrents, and “that kind of thing.” And good idea, banning pornography on the internet.

        I think it would be best if I were the one to decide what’s pornographic and what isn’t, though.

        • HogwartsAlum says:

          @Hawkins:

          Hear hear. I wouldn’t want to be looking up a Rubens painting for a report or to show someone and have it banned because someone thinks it’s pornographic.

          • GuinevereRucker says:

            @HogwartsAlum: I’m not sure fine art can be classified as pornography. Check the definition, and then the statistics on the porn industry and how much money it makes versus art.

            Regardless, better a stricter definition than no sanctions at all.

            • Hawkins says:

              @GuinevereRucker: OK, so then all we need is a way to distinguish between fine art versus pornography. Easy, right?

              We’ll just use the 1964 Justice Potter Stewart definition of obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

              I’m sure you’ll agree with my interpretations, if I’m made the Decider.

              Keep in mind that I kind of dig midget tentacle porn, and find that much of it has significant artistic merit.

            • orlo says:

              @GuinevereRucker: What you advocate requires surveillance to prevent “crimes” that harm no one. And since you want to prohibit dissemination of sexual material you probably should neuter yourself immediately.

            • RedwoodFlyer says:

              @GuinevereRucker: 4 words to define if something is pornography: “Would you hit it?”

      • quizmasterchris says:

        @GuinevereRucker: What if I think GuinevereRucker should be banned from the internet? That would be easier. Ban yourself, problem solved! No more porn exposure.

    • Tiber says:

      @acasto: No one is saying that ISPs should have enough bandwidth that everyone could use 100% of their bandwidth all the time without a hiccup. The problem is lack of disclosure. I have no way of knowing how much they are overselling, or if I could ever actually reach that 3 Mb/s that I theoretically have. Imagine if somebody made a toll highway in New York City and advertised that you can go “up to 70 mph”. You go to get on, and find that this highway is only 2 lanes wide. The difference is, you could see that 2 lanes is not enough, but you can’t see that the broadband lines are too small.

      To get over the fact that they oversell the lines, they spend millions developing new ways to restrict user’s traffic rather than invest in higher capacity lines that they’ll need one day anyway. They then fail to disclose these restrictions, and lie to your face when you ask if they have such rules.

      In short, it’s not THAT they’re overselling, it’s HOW they’re overselling. And I personally haven’t seen anyone say it’s as bad as China.

  23. Mari Walker says:

    WTG, Google! *cheers*

  24. TaterTom says:

    There’s no need to shape traffic that your system is built to handle. Plain and simple.

    I think a proper secondary implementation of this tool should be a collective, and even automatic, public posting of the results. I’d create a special page on my site just for it.

    I would also like to know under what specific conditions I can attain my ‘up to’ speed. How, precisely, can I get whatever they advertise. I think the obvious response is that it depends on the provider’s system load. Good. Now where can I go to see the system load, and what metric must it be under in order for a file within my provider’s network to skim along at the advertised speed?

    Another aspect of speed throttling due to general traffic is, why can’t I use all of my bandwidth until I hit my cap? As I understand their published characteristics on generic traffic throttling, you can only use more than %50 or so of your bandwidth for 15 minutes or so [talking about Comcast]. Wouldn’t it benefit the other subscribers more if you just used the predescribed cap? The hoggers would run out and be SOL for the rest of the month.

    On a side note, could I just move to another country, and not have to deal with this sort of thing? What negative impacts will I face?

  25. wdnobile says:

    Kudos for google, Im officially a fan for life.

  26. Chris White says:

    Time Warner (Milwaukee) has no bandwidth caps (so the customer service told me over the phone) and no rate limiters. I get digital cable, basic HD, and 7Mbps Internet for like $48/mo. I’m not worried

  27. zincink says:

    Dear Comcrust

    You have been nice so far..don’t **** it up.

  28. Geblah187 says:

    I hope Google throttles Comcast. No, seriously, throttling like “physically choking” throttling.

    Google, you are my hero. I better stop writing before Comcast sees this and shuts off my …