With demands on the average users internet connection in recent times there has been an increasing stress on ISPs networks to provide the best service possible and many have turned to solutions like traffic shaping and throttling. The main culprits of this are streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and of course Youtube which have steadily increased the average traffic around the world. Unfortunately the average speed both nationally and globally is trailing behind this trend. Moreover with resource intensive protocols like torrenting and gaming becoming more mainstream by the year these ISPs are finding it difficult to keep up with their customers.
Throttling and shaping aren’t the only way that ISPs have tried to maintain quality however. Some opt for a monthly download cap. Those who don’t, usually employ a fair usage policy which is really just another name for a very high download cap. Most fair usage policies are actually quite fair, requiring users to download anything between 100GB and 1TB(1000GB) per month before a letter is sent out or surcharges applied. This however does not really solve the issue entirely.
Daily internet usage peak hours are at lunch time, and the evening, just after people get home from work usually. This means that while the ISPs switches and overall bandwidth may be sufficient at all other times of the day there is a noticeable bottleneck at these times. Not all ISPs suffer from this however, even with similar amounts of customers and traffic. How is that possible you ask?
Traffic shaping is one of the most effective methods of ITMP (Internet Traffic Management Practices) that increase quality and lower latency overall by either delaying or stopping certain datagrams (packets of data sent from you to the server and back). This may sound like a bad thing but it’s actually not that bad. It will mean that from time to time you may notice a page load slower or will take a few seconds to respond then suddenly it will load. This gives the ISPs hardware breathing room to accommodate everyone, essentially, without compromising the overall quality of service.
Throttling is a step further than this. It works from a similar principle as traffic shaping however it also puts a rate limit or cap on what speed data can be transferred to or from your computer. This can be an annoyance to those trying to stream video in HD or for those who torrent large files. Some ISPs just focus on throttling torrents for two reasons. The first being obvious, 95% of torrent traffic is of copyrighted material. The second is that due to the way in which clients like BitTorrent and uTorrent work they are highly resource intensive even compared to Netflix at the same download speed.
It is worth noting that every few months an exchange or hub gets upgraded and there is a steady wave of fiber wire being laid so you can expect to see the noose loosening if you are one of the unfortunate few who experiences internet slow-downs at the hands of your ISP. You should be asking yourself now “how do I know if my ISP is consciously throttling me or just under a high load?”
Check out Glasnost, a free online tool that will run a few tests on your connection which will give you a full analysis of the various services you use day-to-day. Be sure to check it out if you feel you may be with an ISP that employs these methods. It is good to know if you are considering changing ISP and of course it’s just good to know.