As I mentioned a week or so ago I’ve been sitting on some posts that would have been timely had I not messed up my Marsedit settings. I figured this ones freshness date had passed but Yesterday’s post by Mark Evans but mostly the subsequent comments brings me back to the point I’d like to ask of Net Neutrality advocates. Just what are you talking about when you talk about net neutrality?read my slightly delayed (and verbose) post below.UPDATE: Mark Evans is using his connections to get a bit more out of Rogers. —I’ve managed networks in my time. Along with this comes managing users and you get several types of users, I usually drop them into three categories: smart ones, dumb ones and unreasonable ones.The smart ones who generally understand the lingo and while they may not always agree with you at least they understand what the hecks going on. Usually, they’ll get a better sense of what’s happening on the network by calling you up and asking a few questions – you know when they call you for support or help – they need it. They can still be a pain but its more of a conversation.The dumb ones ask silly questions on topics that usually have nothing to do with your network. They are the most time consuming but generally are also the first to admit they have no idea how computers (networks etc) work. They are good in that they’re honest in their need for help, they’re a pain because they need help more often then anyone else.The unreasonable users are my topic for today: These guys have a bastardized understanding of network management (and IT in general) and they’re the loud ones. In short they’ve got a problem they have a reasonable idea where it is. But they don’t have the depth of knowledge to have been given the full knowledge without a lot of frustrating discussion. Yet for them thats not good enough – they have a right to know these details… They are a nightmare to support.. and they will try and push at every turn.I think the majority of the blogoshpere today is filled with these guys. And their moan and groans about network neutrality betrays their lack of understanding in network management and packet shaping. I’d like to make clear in advance that I’m not saying the concerns are not justified: But Just when are those concerns justified? and when are they just noise is todays problem with Net Neutrality Advocacy.Network management (shaping included) is not where the fight is (or should be) to ensure network neutrality.. they aren’t the same thing and I’m worried this may hijack what should be a reasonable argument: industry, carriers and users should be able understand and come to reasonable accommodation on allowing services to be treated the same through network.While the tools can be misused lets concentrate on the current facts.For this I’m picking on Michael Geist – sorry! Not for any one reason just his post is both to the point, fair and accurate. Plus I believe he knows the majority of this and I’m pretty sure he’ll understand what I’m asking for.Lets look at the statements on michael geists blog (I’m an avid reader btw) I’ve cut them in here for your scrolling pleasure:
First, not only is BitTorrent legal in Canada, but a growing percentage of the file swapping on BitTorrent clients is authorized. This includes a substantial amount of open source software development, independent films, and other large files. By reducing the bandwidth available for this application, Rogers is impairing the ability for Canadian artists to distribute their work and hampering the development of open source software in Canada. Moreover, this could lead to a situation where Rogers’ own content is unfairly advantaged over competing content.
Here’s an example of a Lawyer with some technical background trying to explain why throttling is wrong. While Yes, Bittorrent is legal the end user has no expectation of receiving the file during a pre-determined time. Bittorrent(BT) is not a QoS (quality of service) dependent service.Allow me to explain: If I download a song from a canadian artist (Michael’s example) be it 10 minutes or 30 minutes the song will arrive. Though the transactions is slowed but not impaired, not blocked, it still comes through. Meaning if as a service provider I see that and file going down the pipe and I see a VoIP call which should get priority on my network? which one needs the bandwidth now, which one can wait? we know the answer, throttling services BT is a good example of maintaining the QoS for services that are dependent on the network maintaining a level of service. it allows you to physically shape traffic so that at certain times of days you get the joy of surfing unimpeded by you neighbour’s voracious appetite for Lost episodes. For Rogers this is a particularly concerning issues as neighbours are sharing the same pipe.While I agree with Michael that Rogers could be found to providing preferential service for its own products, at this point we don’t have any proof of that (I’ll come to skype in another post – somebody remind me.) People are Wrapping themselves in the flag of net neutrality because the network admins are using shaping to guarantee levels of service for certain services. This should not be what the movement should fight for.What net neutrality should mean is two of the same services get treated within the network equally. Or that a Vonage VoIP call is going to have the same service level guarantee throughout Rogers network to the Backbone as a Rogers VoIP call gets even though it will terminate internally. Thats all. How the carrier manages the network should not impede on this.That is net neutrality. If I’m mistaken then I believe that the fight will be acrimonious and unlikely to succeed. BT is a bandwidth hog. We all know that – saying that “its legal & why are you slowing it down on me” isn’t a valid excuse to legislate network neutrality: BT is not neutral it clogs the network and delays other services.
If that was not bad enough, there is now speculation at my own university that the packet shaping is making it very difficult for University of Ottawa users to use email applications from home. The University of Ottawa uses a persistent SSL encryption technology for the thousands of professors and students who access their email from off-campus. There is speculation that Rogers is mistakenly treating the email traffic as BitTorrent traffic, thereby creating noticeable slowdowns.
This is probably true and the reason is the packet shaping technology that Rogers has purchased from Ellacoya Networks. The Packet inspection signature techniques they use cannot differentiate between encrypted Bittorrent traffic and encrypted or ssl traffic. Ellacoya may disagree, but they are unable to tell the difference, I’ve heard this from people doing carrier trials on their systems. (UPDATE: A Juniper engineer (who has asked to remain nameless) also points that this is due to the inability for Ellacoya to do ‘truly’ deep packet inspection.)It’s funny because all of this is really a problem that comes from users responding to shaping in the first place. They encrypted their traffic – thinking “hahaha now you can’t shape this..” Rogers response: we’ll shape all encrypted traffic. I’ve been told by someone familiar with cable companies that encrypted traffic on their network went from 3.5% to some 60%+ in the past two/three years.The reason we hear less complaints about Bell Sympatico is that its DSL technology. The carrier can provide tailored services right down to each user. Or to the laymen: if you aren’t doing anything else but using BT its quite likely that your speeds will remain faster than on cable only because they can adjust it at a lower level in
the network. The actual amount of throughput to the internet may actually be less. So while Rogers mostly shapes its traffic for the entire network Bell can see you’re only using 10Kbps (or more) of encrypted data and its not bouncing wildly with multiple connections that must mean your using a VPN or ssl – not BT. So we’ll give you that bandwidth. Rogers can’t do this because of the design of the network and the choice of using ellacoya – its pretty cut and dry.
If true, this form of network interference – implemented with virtually no transparency and now affecting basic Internet services such as email – demonstrates why a dedicated consumer complaints commission is a good start, but a place to complain is not enough.
Shaping has now become network interference, while Michael is right there is no transparency we get back to supporting users statement I made earlier…. While the basic services such as email are being affected because of an Ellacoya issue. But regardless this comes back to the point of if they didn’t shape traffic the network would be congested to shit. I mean it – your neighbour would totally hose your bandwidth. Its become a significant issue for rogers with people leaving BT on all night, if they don’t just shape the entire network you’ll never get to use anything.
The solution lies in creating mandatory net neutrality provisions to ensure that essential communications tools such as email are not surreptitiously degraded.
Sigh… and we’re now back at my original quest for what the heck is network neutrality?The users are clogging the pipes and you’re telling carriers they can’t shape traffic. But you want guarantees on your email services… Maybe we should ban encrypted BT? would that work. nope. people would still use it – we all know that.While I know the technology to see past encrypted BT is available – you’re now going to have the CRTC mandate that Rogers buy said boxes and how to manage their network??… thats a great plan… right.So tell me is network management going to mandated by the network neutrality people… I’ll be honest – very few of the net neutrality proponents have any experience in managing a big network (I can’t actually think of one, I know there probably are some.) It’s a bit funny we’ve got a lawyer complaining about his email not working and telling Rogers to turn off shaping which I know will screw everything else up on his connection… sounds like the unreasonable users that I used to support, though I do understand his frustration. I think its probably time for Rogers to come clean and explain to their users a little more on how they manage traffic shaping. It would allow the Network Neutrality debate to be a bit more grounded.