Friday, March 21, 2008

Traffic shaping, network management and other broadband carrier issues

Traffic shaping, network management - it doesn't matter what you call it because there are parties on both sides of the argument that are bound and determined to shout and be heard above the opposition.

The worst part? I see and feel for both sides of the discussion. On the one hand you have people using their connection for perfectly legitimate reasons (but come on...we all "know" that the vast majority of bit torrent traffic is illegal downloads!! blind denial of this simply makes the rest of your arguments carry less weight!) who have signed up for "X" amount of bandwidth to use (for the most part) however they please. They simply expect their connectivity to work, no matter what. For the most part, I can't disagree with that stance.

On the other side you have the service provider/carrier that has been making investments over time and is adding customers to their network as fast as possible. They have a mission to make every customer as happy as the other.

So where do the fights start? Well, the service providers say that at peak conditions 90%+ of the network traffic can often be attributed to a very small number of users (those bit torrent fiends!!) and they want to make sure that everyone else isn't brought to their knees by these scurvy dogs!

The flip side - users simply say that the service provider should build bigger pipes if they can't support what is currently being requested, that they signed up for open and equitable access to the pipe and the carrier can't indiscriminately decide that their traffic isn't as important as someone else.

When do the rights of the few outweigh the rights of the many?
When do random decisions to block certain kinds of traffic shift into a decision to block access to certain kinds of content....China anyone?

With both sides of the argument screaming away on this topic I FINALLY read something that, in my mind at least, finally makes sense of how to approach this and it's wrapped up in a concept called "fair queuing" or "max-min fairness" - read on for more info.

r.

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