interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

This is How Throttling Works…

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on August 21, 2009

No Usage Based Billing

No Usage Based Billing

A lot is happening. The word is spreading… Ok, there’s a new CBC article with some lively comments:

(Go CBC go!)

Petition spurs CRTC debate

Although I don’t know if you’d call it a debate really.

There are 3,590 signatures on the dissolve the crtc internet petition when I wrote this.

I’ve added a heap of new links to the sidebar.

The information on throttling was just sent in, found in a forum on Broadband in a forum for CRTC haters.

One of the users provides this very interesting bit of information on how Bell’s Internet Throttling will actually pad the supposed Usage Based Pricing:

Bell Canada

Bell Canada

this is how throttling works

1. Bell, Rogers, Cogeco drops a percentage of packets to slow down how fast you can upload or download
Packets that never make it to its destination.

Result, you send or receive a 5-gig file and they charge you for over 7-gig.

With UBB in place [Bell Canada] not only charges you for the [bandwidth], they are charging you for the [bandwidth] they just threw away on you.

(in simple terms, they are dropping +30% of the packets and making you pay for the packets they drop)

In TSI’s case this is now a triple dip.

TSI will add this to your bill courtesy of Bell Canada.

2. Since Bell, Rogers, Cogeco can’t calculate B/W properly as seen throughout their own forums, and since Weights and Measures Canada (another Industry Canada branch) refuses to step in, people are being over-charged on B/W. This is a known fact that can be seen in these forums.

Result: quadruple dip.

–Thanks to Industry Can for that explanation found at CRTC Haters Help Mlerner Cram for Interview on CRTC

Okay I’ve been busy so I never understood the mechanics of just how Bell’s throttling works before.

My understanding of Bell Canada’s justification for “throttling” was that there was too much traffic online. If the way they achieve this is by cluttering the internet up with garbage obviously that’s not the case.

So if it works this way it’s fiendishly clever because first they throttle the customers by flooding their connection with garbage, and now with Usage Based Billing (hah! misnomer or what!) they’re going to be able to charge us not only for the bandwidth we use, but for the garbage they deliberately dump into the bandwidth we are paying for.



And no one is regulating it? And Bell Canada doesn’t really know how much bandwidth is actually being used?

How can they possibly charge us for something called “Usage Based Billing” if it isn’t? I certainly don’t trust Bell Canada to pull the figures for my internet usage out of thin air. Until Industry Canada’s department of Weights and Measures Canada gets in there verifying the numbers, Usage Based Billing can not possibly be implemented.

I’ll have to look into this one a bit more.

11 Responses to “This is How Throttling Works…”

  1. […] #1. What We Can Do To Stop Usage Based Billing #2. Thing One: Speak Up #3. Dissolve the CRTC? #4. This is How Throttling Works #5. Usage Based Billing: A Glossary #6. Usage Based Billing: The Misinformation War #7. Usage […]

  2. […] #1. What We Can Do To Stop Usage Based Billing #2. Thing One: Speak Up #3. Dissolve the CRTC? #4. This is How Throttling Works #5. Usage Based Billing: A Glossary #6. Usage Based Billing: The Misinformation War #7. Usage […]

  3. lol said

    Wow so much FUD in this article. Not a Rogers employee, but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense, and guess what, carriers all pay on usage, broadband customers can to. You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.

    • Lol the Troll is spreading misinformation again… Although protesting that it is “Not a Rogers employee”, Lol the Troll‘s email address is through an offline “holding company” website with a Rogers IP address. Certainly looks suspicious.   Lol the Troll claims that “carriers all pay on usage”. Either Lol the Troll truly doesn’t understand (intelligence is not a pre-requisite for troll-dom) or is being disingenuous. Bell Canada is a “carrier”. Who does Bell Canada pay “usage” to? No one.

      Admittedly, Rogers is also a carrier. Rogers doesn’t usually have to pay for internet access on it’s own cable, but there are some parts of Canada where Rogers is forced to go through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access System (GAS), so I expect at those junctures, Bell is charging usage to Rogers. You would think that Bell and Rogers would be able to play nicely together, but neither share very well, and though they seem to work in conjunction at times, both want to be the only Canadian Internet monopoly.

      The Independent Service Providers… that is to say, the Independent ISPs that Industry Canada mandated into the Canadian Internet market in order to provide Canadian consumers with access to competition, must purchase access to Bell Canada’s GAS as well. My understanding is that the Independents are ISPs not carriers. They do in fact pay a great deal for their internet access.

      The Independent ISPs have contracted for blocks of bandwidth access with Bell Canada. Bell Canada was able to set the excessive prices they wanted, and the Independent ISPs agreed to pay the high prices Bell Canada set.   So Bell Canada is being paid for the bandwidth the Independent ISPs get through GAS. These independent ISPs do business by packaging the bandwidth differently than Bell Canada does. Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth that these ISPs re-sell to their own customers.

      Usage Based Billing would mean that the Independent Service Providers’ customers would be forced to pay Bell Canada for “usage” that has already been paid for. The Independent ISPs are fighting against UBB because they don’t believe that their customers should have to pay more for the same service they get now. Usage Based Billing will also force the Independent ISPs to use Bell Canada’s pricing system, which will unfairly shackle their business model and most likely put them out of business.

      Lol the Troll also attempts to discredit me personally as someone who doesn’t pay for my own Internet connection. Lol the Troll is accusing me of being an unproductive young person, without life experience, living in my parents basement, presumably off my parents.

      First of all, a young person living in their parent’s basement is not necessarily unproductive. And age does not always bring life experience.   Considering that Lol the Troll made a second post with the same type of denigration on About UBB and Me a page that very clearly says who I am, it is reasonable to think that Lol the Troll just wanted to try to discredit me, not caring about accuracy.

      If you’re interested in reading more about Internet trolls, you might like my new blog post Trollbusters

  4. Eirescott said

    I’m beyond pissed-off. I just upgraded to Bell Max 16 – which is supposed to give me UP TO 16 Mbps. This in itself is false advertising as you NEVER EVER EVER EVER see 16 Mbps. Of coursd “up to” is extremely ambiguous!

    I’m “up to” 100,000 years old. There should be a DEMAND that Bell – and all ISPs – at times give you the actual “up to” rate. That said, Bell also offers Max-12 – which is “up to” 12 Mbps. WELL, isn’t it funny that I NEVER EVER EVER get this speed either.

    Bell may say I am slower because of a plethora of reasons. The TRUTH is it is because they don’t give me close to what I should get.

    Since I have had my Max-16, I have performed several tests using AND Bells OWN speedtest service on their site. I have an average download speed of around 4 Mbps. YES FOUR.

    There are MANY MANY MANY times I am getting less than 3 Mbps.

    If I am using utorrent, I can’t even get online MOST OF THE TIME. AND my torrent downloads – from dozens and dozens of seeders – is often around 30 Kbps.

    Bells web page gives you your download speed followed by a message of how long it would take to DOWNLOAD A SONG and A MOVIE and something else.

    Again, misleading advertising. It doesn’t say anything about the source of these movies and songs – just that if you were to download such, you would accomplish the task in the stated amount of time.

    This is ALL COMPLETE BULLSHIT – and I have had MORE than enough.

    I have had shitty and virtually useless internet service from Bell for over three years solid. I often can’t use the internet because it is very slow. I never get anywhere close to the advertised speed and I am paying for this service with difficult to find money.

    VERY PISSED-OFF fed-up customer; Eirescott

    • [note: when I talk about throttling I mean Bell Canada’s version of throttling as described in this blog, which is not the same as Wikipedia’s.]

      It’s great to hear from someone who knows how to measure things like this. Like most Canadians I don’t have a clue about this type of testing, which is part of why this issue is so important, and why Canadians need an effective regulatory body. The CRTC is supposed to be the watchdog that makes sure the game is not rigged against consumers.

      I’m still angry about the CRTC “Net Neutrality decision” :

      “It approves all of the throttling practices that ISPs currently engage in. It requires consumers to prove something funny is going on and consumers don’t have the means to figure out what ISPs are doing and they don’t have the resources to bring that to the commission’s attention.”

      John Lawford, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

      I started this blog because I was angry when I learned what Usage Based Billing was. It is just flat out wrong for Bell Canada to be able to double the internet costs of people who aren’t even their customers. Particularly without offering any added value. In a free market that never happens. (I’m with one of the Independent ISPs that Usage Based Billing will probably put out of business, so Bell won’t even have competition anymore… then it will get MUCH worse). The more I understand about the technical issues the worse it is.

      Something that shocked me was that the CRTC has no problem with Bell throttling their own customers. Apparently the reasoning is that if Bell Canada customers are unhappy they can go to the competition. This argument is absurd when you consider the fact that plenty of Canadians who only have access to one service provider. If there are two in your area, the other one will most likely be Rogers, and my understanding is that they are much the same as Bell Canada. There is very little meaningful competition. Lately I have been hearing about customers who switch ISPs being stuck with huge cancellation fees. Which is nothing less than another rip off.

      Yet the CRTC doesn’t seem to know this.

      The fact that the level of service that Bell and Rogers advertise is not what they actually give sure sounds like false advertising if not out and out fraud. I don’t understand how that can possibly be justified. As you point out, you don’t get even close what you are paying for. If I pay the pizza parlour for a large pizza and they give me a small, that’s fraud. Of course, if the Pizza guy made an honest mistake and I call him on it, he’ll give me a refund and stop doing that. Bell and Rogers sure aren’t rushing to make it right.

      Second, throttling anyone, their own customers or anyone else’s sure sounds fraudulent. It does not matter what customers are downloading, people are paying for a service that is not being delivered. Why doesn’t the CRTC understand this? Don’t they live in the same world we do?

      In the first place, Bell Canada should not get to dictate what you use your internet connection for, any more than the electric company can dictate what appliances you may use. If I pay the pizza parlour for a large pizza and they give me a banana, that’s fraud too. Even if they make the argument that they have too many customers, and since I’m too fat so they have to give me a banana instead because if they give me the pizza I’ve paid for it might interfere with the pizza parlour’s ability to provide pizza’s to other customers.

      The CRTC exists to regulate telecommunications in Canada for the benefit of Canadian consumers. We are supposed to be protected from having to pay unreasonable rates. Considering Canadians pay some of the the highest rates in the world for what is at best mediocre internet service, the CRTC has not done that. Implementation of Usage Based Billing will make Canada’s internet rates the most expensive in the world, which will be bad for our small businesses and our economy.

      Meanwhile, the CRTC is making bad decisions. I was really shocked by Jesse Brown’s interview with the CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein, who admitted that Bell Canada offered no proof that the internet is too crowded (which is why they claim to need throttling) and generally sounded like someone totally isolated from the real world.

      A huge part of the problem is that most people (like me a few short months ago) don’t know about this or understand it because the media isn’t covering the story. I started this blog to attempt to translate computerspeak into English so non-technical people could understand the jargon and the issues. As I learn more my posts have strayed beyond UBB to look at related issues like Net Neutality and A.C.T.A.

      It certainly looks as though the CRTC does whatever Bell Canada tells them to. Which is why I think the CRTC needs to be dissolved. I recommend visiting and signing the petition. And getting everyone you know who will be affected by these issues to sign the petition. Because one thing is clear. If the Independent ISPs go, Bell and Rogers will just get worse.

  5. Jules said

    Wow. Lots of incorrect info here.

    Let me also begin with my support. I agree that information exchange should be free from censure and interest group-control.

    You should be more careful, however, when addressing the more technical side of things.

    1. The practice of dropping packets is not used. Many protocols like VOIP (Vonage) are intolerant of packet dropping of the caliber you describe.

    2. Traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling are NOT the same thing.
    a) Bandwidth throttling is simply an imposed rate limit on your overall incoming/outgoing traffic. The effect is limited speed. Without this mechanism, ISPs could not offer different service levels.
    b) Traffic shaping is the complex prioritizing of traffic based on type. For instance, most ISPs place a lower priority on bittorrent traffic than on regular http web traffic.

    These concepts are all described in fairly non-technical language on wikipedia. No disrespect intended, but lets all please do some reading and research before posting stuff like this, or we’ll all propagate the “tin foil hat” image.

    • Laurel L. Russwurm said

      Sorry Jules, I fear you’ve missed the point. A huge part of the problem with this issue are the differing definitions of the jargon.

      You might want to look at:

      What Wikipedia calls “throttling” is not the same as what Bell Canada calls “throttling”.

      What you are calling “Bandwidth Throttling” sounds rather like what I’ve heard called a “cap”, except it isn’t bandwidth speed, it is bandwidth quantity. As far as I know Bell Canada is not yet capping the customers of their wholesale customers, although they may well be capping their own customers at this time. As I understand it Rogers currently caps their customers and when customers exceed the monthly cap they are cut off for the rest of the month.

      What Bell Canada is calling “throttling” is in actuality packet dropping. It is why they need DPI to do it.

      It is precisely because i am not a techie that I do research until I have a grasp of the subject. If I should make an error I am always willing to learn, but you haven’t offered any information to make me doubt the veracity of my sources.

      Should you have evidence to the contrary I would be very interested in hearing it.

  6. […] #1. What We Can Do To Stop Usage Based Billing #2. Thing One: Speak Up #3. Dissolve the CRTC? #4. This is How Throttling Works #5. Usage Based Billing: A Glossary #6. Usage Based Billing: The Misinformation War #7. Usage […]

  7. @Ed: I agree with your definitions of “Policing” and “Traffic shaping”, but neither is what Bell Canada is doing.

    “Policing” drops packets when a bandwidth threshold is exceeded, while “traffic shaping” queues packets during high bandwidth use and releases them when bandwidth use reduces. No data is lost with “traffic shaping”. (Cisco, Comparing Traffic Policing and Traffic Shaping for Bandwidth Limiting)

    “Policing” and “traffic shaping” are protocol agnostic; all traffic is equally affected. Neither “policing” nor “traffic shaping” requires DPI.

    Bell Canada’s throttling does neither. Bell uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to identify peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic (CRTC filing), and most likely the Bittorrent protocol in particular. Bell Canada uses Sandvine’s equipment for DPI and throttling. With throttling, a forged reset is sent to the client for a percentage of transmitted packets. The client needs to re-establish the connection, as well as re-transmit the lost data (Robb Topolski first discovered the use of forged reset packets). Since Bittorrent transmits as much data as it receives, the re-transmission costs are significant.

    In the US, this practice was ruled illegal by the FCC .

    “Policing” and “Traffic Shaping” sound like industry weasel words to make it sound like they’re doing a good thing. “Policing”, “traffic shaping” and “throttling” all degrade service for the party being policed, shaped or throttled. Of the three, Bell has chosen to use “throttling”, the technique that’s most disruptive to its customers.

    –Bob Jonkman

    (SOBAC Microcomputer Services is a technical consultant to this blog)

  8. Ed said

    I’m all for your cause, but want to make sure that your terminology is correct so you dont get discredited for having wrong info. Your definition of throttling is off – you’ve got it confused with ‘policing’ which to my knowledge none of the ISP’s do for residential purposes. Policing is when you drop all traffic above a certain rate. A good analogy for policing is when you have a bucket with a hole in it. If you try to fill it with water faster than the hole can drain the excess water simply spills over the edge. Throttling is also known as shaping – when you force the traffic to conform to a certain speed by pushing it through a bottleneck. No traffic is lost, its all just delayed in a huge queue. This forces your computer to automatically stop trying until the congestion frees up. A good analogy is when you’re on a highway and there is suddenly 4 lanes of traffic into 1 lane because of congestion. You all make it through but its throttled to about 20km/hr through that one lane portion. If it was policed or if the comment above was correct – you’d have cars being blown off the road 🙂

    So this means as much as we’d like to cry foul that a 4 Gig transfer takes 7 Gigs because of dropped packets.. its not so. However you have to remember that they count traffic in both directions so all the ‘chatter’ required to move that file will add up to a noticable amount if you add both directions traffic. Its never as simple as just cutting up the file into tiny portions and transmitting it.

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