Dec 05 2008

ISP Traffic Shaping

Category: Networks,TelecomsTeknovis @ 8:19 pm

Traffic shaping is the practice of examining IP packets (but not the payload), and treating them differently, based on their characteristics. This usually consists of assigning packets priorities which determine how efficiently they are processed by networking equipment.

Traditionally, all packets within the network have been treated as equals. This worked fine when most traffic required only a small amount of bandwidth for a short durations, as is typical in web browsing and email exchange. So most ISPs were relatively happy to peer together, and carry each others traffic for free.

However, as the Internet has developed people are requiring and consuming greater amounts of bandwidth. Often this bandwidth is required across multiple ISPs’ networks, and ISPs and the intervening carriers, are increasingly charging based on the amount of traffic being exchanged. One of the main causes of significant bandwidth being required is P2P applications.

I read an article recently describing how a Canadian court granted the country’s largest ISP permission to apply traffic shaping on its core network. In particular, the court granted the ISP permission to traffic shape P2P traffic. This will effect both the retail customers and the smaller ISPs who buy wholesale services. The full article is Regulators back Bell Canada choking indie ISP traffic.

As far as I am aware, no Irish ISPs currently do any traffic shaping. However, I might be wrong about this!

My opinion is that traffic shaping will become increasingly necessary in the future to ensure that a minority of customers do not consume the majority of resources to the detriment of the majority of the users. However, I am very concerned about the prospect of traffic shaping being used by ISPs to prevent competitive services such as VoIP being used.

Would you be happy if you knew that your ISP was traffic shaping?

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