back to article Google preps net neut dowser

In an effort to identify traffic discrimination by American ISPs, Google is prepping a suite of network analysis tools for everyday broadband users. "We're trying to develop tools, software tools...that allow people to detect what's happening with their broadband connections, so they can let [ISPs] know that they're not happy …


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  1. Chris

    I used to care.

    Now I don't. As long as I can download some porn here and there, browse the intertubes, get my patches and updates, and maybe watch a streaming video here and there I don't care how it gets to me or what QOS flag it has. (Assuming I don't have a rate hike)

    Man my job has made me jaded. Technophile to luddite. If only I had a cattle prod like the BOFH.

  2. Eddie


    Google is opposed to the breaking of neutrality NOT because of the impact on the surfers, but, in my opinion, because it blows their business model out of the water - who would want to (pay the current rates to) advertise via a search engine, if half the folk would not get access to the results that were presented - it would seriously reduce the megabuckage of the google conglomerate.

    Wait until Google promotes use of its cache to circumvent ISP restrictions on site access - but that would only lead to Google being a less favoured site.

  3. ImaGnuber

    Consumer Choice

    "Net neutrality forbids consumer choice. The consumer can't say 'Please prioritize.'"

    I feel myself tense up whenever some corporate yob claims to be promoting freedom of choice - as it usually turns out to mean nothing more than 'you are free to choose from whatever limited selection of profit-maximising crap we choose to offer.'

    Maybe I'm just jaded. Maybe it's a good thing I've got plans for the weekend.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    But freedom of choice between members of a limited selection of profit-maximising crap is better than no choice at all, isn't it.

    I also fail to see what is wrong with profit-maximising. Surely this is what all commercial bodies are attempting. And surely if someone actually offers the service(s) consumers really want at a price they are prepared to pay then everyone is happy: the consumers get what they want at a price they are happy with and as more and more consumers sign up then the company maximises profits.

    The real question would be how to implement net-non-neutrality. The more people pay the less they will be prepared to accept many of the things we now just put up with, such as adverts, or slowdowns or outages or subsidising other people's P2P stealing, sorry downloading of Linux distros or the like.

    And much more so if you meter it. If I get a strictly fixed download limit, or am charged per byte or a mixture of the two then I am certainly not going to be happy at effectively paying to download ads or crap flash stuff or arty pages or animations / pictures etc.

  5. Frank
    Thumb Up

    Understanding is needed to get the best outcome

    There are many issues here but I believe that many people are misunderstanding the exact meaning of the various terms used.

    Data Prioritisation: My streaming video feed gets priority over your e-mail delivery. Your VOIP call gets priority over my Torrent download. Sounds fair to me but see Net Neutrality.

    Traffic Shaping: ISP *has to* apply traffic 'management' methods of some kind to ensure that people who are using a high percentage of the current bandwidth don't 'spoil the experience' of other customers. This is all because the ISPs oversold a badly planned capacity in the first place but we're stuck with it so let's try to solve it sensibly.

    Net Neutrality: The ISP delivers data in a way that is neutral with regard to its source (except for any data prioritisation considerations, which must be established public standards). The main point here is that ISPs want to make more money -naturally- and they will do that by giving priority to traffic that makes most profit for them. They can do this by giving priority to that traffic which they or their commercial friends are selling (ISP owned streaming video appears to have fewer glitches and lag effects than another source of streamed video, as an example).

    This technique can be used to blow a competitor out of the water by choking data packets so that a competing service appears to the consumer as a laggy piece of junk. The ISP can also run a protection racket by charging a company (such as Google) to ensure that its content is delivered smoothly to the customer.

    I'm sure many will disagree with what I've said and my 'definitions' are not truly definitive of course. My main feeling about the ISPs when I read about this subject can be summarised as:

    'I paid you for a delivery service, so damn well deliver and don't delay my traffic from X because they haven't paid you a 'tax' or entered into a 'commercial arrangement' with you. The post office don't look inside my letters and packages to adjust delivery delay according to their own commercial interests and they don't charge for delivery based on the value of the content, so why should you?

  6. Simon Painter

    Here is what I want...

    Transparency at the user end.

    If the BBC are good enough to provide content online and I am paying my TV license then I should be able to access that from any connection where I am paying for the ability to view streaming media. I do not expect my ISP to double dip into the honeypot and take from me and from my license fee.

    If I pay £6.99 for a broadband service that is only going to be a half meg and can pay £20 for a 6 meg service then that's fine. If a company offers me a six meg service with no caps for £6.99 but actually delivers a half meg service then that's wrong.

    I don't mind ISP's offering traffic shaped connections so long as they are clear that they are shaping the traffic. If they offer a basic web and email package with no add ons then that's cool but if I buy the package that should allow me P2P then I want that and I want it without hidden shaping.

    Too many ISP's are using (relatively) old kit and charging low rates because they restrict the users rather than investing in the network. I am good with that so long as the users know the difference between a £6.99 connection (or one that comes 'free' with their Sky, mobile phone or cable TV) that is contended to the hilt, capped at a level consistent with light use and shaped to prevent use of P2P or VoIP compared with a full speed pipe which you can fill with whatever you like.

    Google's tools could help achieve this because people will begin to see what they are getting for their money. If you buy a service and find that it is contended to the hilt and certain services are blocked then just change providers and vote with your feet. I recently moved from because the traffic shaping was becoming unworkable and now pay the same ammount to a provider who give me ADSL2 service (up to 24 meg but I get a reasonable 15) with a static IP, low contention and no caps. The hardest part of migrating the service was getting through the hoops you have to go through to persuade the scum at that you are entitled to ask for you MAC code as they know they can be difficult about it and still not fall outside the rules of the impotent regulator.

  7. Keith Williams
    Thumb Up


    Right on. I pay for a certain access rate. My content supplier(s) pay for a certain access rate, no one inbetween should mess with it.

  8. The Rock

    RE: Understanding is needed to get the best outcome

    Yes, but the post office do charge based on size, weight, destination and priority. If I sent a caged elephant to my buddy in Scotland every day, and it cost me the same as your birthday to your granny did... I think you would be a little annoyed (since it would raise the cost to everyone, and elephant distributers could act with impunity). Data packets are not analogous with mail parcels, I would suggest that proportional network usage (or something else, I havent had a smoke and thought about it) is...

    I'm 100% for net neutrality, and agree with many of your points, but im also againt bogus analogies.

    At the end of the day, it IS selfish of me to download every episode of friends via bittorrent, when that affects your checking of emails. The current system isnt perfect, so lets not pretend it is.

  9. Kevin Kitts

    I don't trust ISPs or Google on this one...

    ISPs I don't trust because they can throttle anything they want, when they want. I prefer net neutrality to letting any company have this power. If you want to prioritize the classes of data, then make a new protocol so it gets applied across the board, and not be adjustable to the size of someone's wallet.

    Google I don't trust because this latest concept is similar to sites like says if you think you're paying too much for auto insurance, then check out our site - we'll check several other sites and return the lowest price for you (never mind that *they* choose which companies they price-check with - collusion, anyone?). Progressive gets paid based on the companies they choose, go figure. Google is going to do something similar; they'll tell you that your ISP sucks. Then, when you get fed up, you can search Google for a replacement ISP (generating more advertising income). Can you trust their judgement of Google, given this fact? Really?

    I'm not an open-sourcer by any means, but in this case, I'd have to have the source available before I believe anything Google would say about my ISP connection. They have a vested interest in telling you that your ISP sucks.

    Mine's the coat with "Just say no" on the back...

  10. Frank

    @The Rock

    What you say is true and my use of the post office analogy falls down on the size/weight/destination/priority vs. cost factors. My point was the neutral way in which the post office treats them once they have accepted them into their system.

    As for the the size/weight etc analogy, the ISPs have set up a load of pipes of various capacities which they contracted to operate, and then sold them at fairly fixed costs. Then and only then have they stood back and said 'My god, people are throwing elephants into them!'

    The current system is a long way from perfect and I worry that 'vested interests' will use power/influence/money to make it more perfect for themselves, not for the end-users who are the people who truly pay for it.

  11. J
    Black Helicopters

    Frank got it, methinks

    And I can see all kinds of abuses, "censorship" and other nasty things going much more legit than they are now. Such things are probably already occurring, but it would get much worse, I believe.

    @Simon Painter and "voting with one's feet"

    Very well, but what power does the consumer have when there is only ONE choice in their area? Here in the US, it's what I have seen in the four places I have lived so far (all in the metro Richmond, VA area, maybe real cities have it better, although I know the smaller areas have it worse). Usually there is only one provider of whatever you want. Cable? You're stuck with Comcast or whatnot, the other providers don't go there (or vice versa). DSL? Then your can choose between Verizon... and Verizon. Satellite? Etc. etc. The conspiracy theorist inside me says they do it purposefully and in mutual agreement, but who knows?


    "But freedom of choice between members of a limited selection of profit-maximising crap is better than no choice at all, isn't it."


    "I also fail to see what is wrong with profit-maximising."

    You lack imagination, that's all. There are good things, and bad things. And I'm still to see it proven (probably not even possible to have such proof, but at least some strong suggestion would be good) that the good things compensate for the bad ones in a way that improves the general happiness of *everybody* (and not just the money people).

    Fanatical market worshipers would be funny, if they were not so sad.

  12. Disco-Legend-Zeke
    Paris Hilton

    We only sell one speed: As fast as we can make it.

    The faster an ISP delivers its packets, the sooner the network is clear.

    In the days of mega byte downloads, it makes sense to prioritize so that VOIP gets there in "real" time. telesurgery, teledildonics? some applications just need to be immediate.

    second is "live" broadcasts (when is multicast gonna get fixed.?) attended program downloads, searches, web pages. Internet 1 stuff.

    third is unattended downloads: the movie you are gonna watch tommorrow, Microsoft Update, etc.

    but within that little bit of order (we ALL hate voice delay) customers should get conteit as fast ast it can get to them.

    The last mile is still a monopoly, or a duopoly, but Mesh Forming MIMO's will soon make the last mile free. Providers will compete on the high end for backbone throughput.

    paris, cause im too high maintainence for any other girls.

  13. Chad H.

    What if

    what if these companies really cared about consumer choice? Each company could give us a choice: you can have our unfiltered vanilla service, or you can choose to go onto a certain traffic prioritised service, and within reason, chop and change between them. So those who dont want they tv viewing disturbed can have a prioritised service, and those who want real consumer choice (ie whatever they decide they want to run) can have that.

    I bet they'd claim its too hard (read- can't use standover tactics on googles deep pockets)

  14. ImaGnuber


    "But freedom of choice between members of a limited selection of profit-maximising crap is better than no choice at all, isn't it."

    Well, no. Crap is crap... and crap is what you generally end up with, in my experience, when you have a limited number of suppliers who have agreed to a set of rules designed to suit themselves. Inevitably these rules, characterised as being for the consumer's benefit, always seem to increase the cost to the consumer while offering less.

    My ISP is a small independent providing excellent service at a better price than the big guys* - but it could be forced to increase its prices (or be squeezed out) by the big guys it buys bandwidth from if they get the rules they want.

    *Strange that my ISP buys bandwidth and resells it for less than the rate charged by the big guy to its own customers - and my ISP provides better technical support and a cap 10 (or more) times higher, depending on the package, than that offered by the big guy for similar rates.

    "I also fail to see what is wrong with profit-maximising"

    Nothing - when it is combined with quality. Unfortunately profit-maximising seems to have become a euphemism for reducing quality/service to increase profits.

  15. James Butler

    Larry Flint is Right!

    And so is Frank ...

    The REAL problem is BitTorrent, and all torrent technology up to this point. There is no need to kill the goose just because one of her chicks is a greedy mother****er. Just kill the chick. If Ford produced a vehicle that took up 5 lanes of any highway just so some schlub could have the biggest, baddest road hog available, it would quickly be banned from the streets without needing to set up another tariff system that throttles everyone's driving needs. There's no God-given right to use BitTorrent.

    BitTorent is a GROSS bandwidth hog. Really terrible, selfish programming. Streaming hi-def video uses a small fraction of the bandwidth that even the smallest torrent download uses, because torrent transfers attempt to use literally the entire spectrum of bandwidth available to any one connection. It's completely banned at any sensible workplace because when someone is downloading a torrent the rest of the network grinds to a halt until the download is finished.

    Until people stop thinking of the Internet as yet another television delivery system, there will be inappropriate expectations of what one should be able to do with it. Use your television for tv, rent DVDs for movies like everyone else, and use your Internet for Internet. Plenty of bandwidth to go around.

    And I have no problems whatsoever with ISPs killing torrent traffic altogether. Make that particular method completely unusable, and you're on your way to smooth sailing for the rest of the users.

    It's really that simple.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Bit-torrent as a bandwidth hog

    Yes, Bit-torrent can be a bit of a selfish bandwidth thief, but that's why there's a throttling option in nearly all Bit-torrent clients. And it's banned at most sensible workplaces because most sensible workers aren't spending their time downloading large files from a large number of bandwidth limited sources, where Bit torrent comes in most useful.

    I'm not going to argue that everybody's using it to download Linux distros, because obviously most users are grabbing the latest DVD-rip or their porn of choice. But there are perfectly legal uses, and as such I see no need to discriminate against it, or any other types of file-sharing, as its not as if people aren't using Limewire anymore. Should we throttle all FTP packets because some people are downloading warez from their private server in Sweden at full whack?

    James Butler: "..use your Internet for Internet." What exactly is your definition of Internet? 'Cause I had the notion the term stood for "interconnected networks," not a series of protocols defining how data is delivered. Inappropriate expectations indeed. What about those upstart web-pages eh? They weren't on the internet when I was a lad.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Don't not be evil

    Has been google's operational motto for quite some time.

  18. Peter Leech Silver badge

    Bit-torrent as a bandwidth hog

    > "It's completely banned at any sensible workplace because when someone is downloading a torrent the rest of the network grinds to a halt until the download is finished."

    And because it has no legitimate business use in the average office as most companies don't want their PC's used to download illegal copies of anything.

  19. James Butler
    Thumb Down


    True ... it was a different series of networks, pre-1990, but that doesn't mean that BitTorrent can go around gobbling up every bit of available bandwidth. And it's not just a _little_ selfish ... it literally stops a T-1 in its tracks ... one torrent. That's pretty bad.

    Do you know of anyone who actually uses the throttling option? Not bloody likely.

    There is simply not going to be enough bandwidth for everyone to run torrents 365/24/7, regardless of how much fibre gets laid.

    Those that run torrents are already practicing net non-neutrality by forcing their way to the front of the line, in effect claiming that, "My traffic is more important than your traffic." I think it's perfectly reasonable for ISPs to proclaim, "No, it's not."

    True ... there are perfectly legal uses for getting a big file more quickly than 3Mbps will allow, um ... I guess ... can't think of anything pressing, at the moment ... but this doesn't mean that BitTorrent and its ilk should be stiffing normal web traffic just because they can.

    There are also perfectly legal reasons for owning a bazooka, but common sense and society have determined that those reasons are best kept out of the reach of everyday citizens, for better or for worse.

    Next time post your name, AC ... or are you ashamed that your argument sounds like a spoiled baby who cries for more candy? And if you can't tell the difference between how BitTorrent or FTP or web page access behave, then you really shouldn't be in the middle of a discussion about protocols, then should you?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    so what

    So Big Ed says we own the pipes, so we can do whatever we wanna..... I guess he forgot about all those shareholders out there and the day-to-day bloke paying his monthly bill for a phone. It's easy to see why; he wants to sell his u-verse TV stuff and it's not going over good if his stuff isn't top-o-the-heap priority-wise. Since he blew all the money on buying the old AT&T and old BellSouth companys he didn't have any money left for laying fiber all over like FIOS (Verizon)....oh wait, easy to get more money - just screw your employees out of their jobs they been doing the last 20-30 years and send all that over to India, Manila and wherever else you can dump it and hope to crap their 100% job turnover don't screw you in the end. Now they're hand-in-hand

    shoving folks out to IBM and IBM is screwing people by sending their work to Brazil on the cheap so they can shaft more folks.

    Getting my coat...they ever get my name i'm out of a job, too

  21. Robb Topolski
    Thumb Up

    Commenters, How did Google earn a Bad Rap here?

    The neat thing about this controversy is that it doesn't matter if you believe that Google is evil or if Google is good. If we have a neutral network, Google's motives are irrelevant.

    As to the notion that a neutral network means that a customer has no choice as to the congestion-time prioritisation of his transmissions, that's simply horse-hockey. Nobody supporting Network Neutrality believes this. Network Neutrality means that the USER has the choice as to priority, not the NETWORK.

    The "Type-of-Service" field has been in the IP header since the beginning. The end-hosts applications can (optionally) set it (customer chooses). The mid-network gateways can (optionally) obey it (network operator support).

    The Founding Geeks created what we now call Network Neutrality by the way that they designed the network. The network is neutral because it doesn't know how to be otherwise.

    It has flourished under that design!

    Who is stupid enough to believe that the Internet Protocol as specified in the Internet Standards is somehow not supposed to be done on the Internet?

  22. Jim

    @James Butler

    "Do you know of anyone who actually uses the throttling option? Not bloody likely."

    Errr... Yeah. Me. I may be the exception but there you go.

    Why attack one protocol when it is the users not the technology. You can max out a T1 with FTP and HTTP downloads too (so long as the other end has allows it) and how many of those clients allow you to throttle bandwidth use? Why not pick on streaming media? Get 10 users listening to a 128kbps audio stream and there goes your T1 again (approx).

    "There is simply not going to be enough bandwidth for everyone to run torrents 365/24/7, regardless of how much fibre gets laid."

    Agreed but banning one protocol will just shift the load to another protocol, then another, then another... You see where I'm going with this? The problem is not any specific protocol but inherent human behaviour - self-interest and greed.

    Bandwidth capping and/or throttling can alleviate this issue much more effectively than an outright ban, with some rather obvious caveats.

  23. AB

    @Bazooka Butler

    > There are also perfectly legal reasons for owning a bazooka, but common sense and society have determined that those reasons are best kept out of the reach of everyday citizens, for better or for worse.

    Possibly you could use your bazooka to distribute large Linux distros to enemy combatants quickly and efficiently?

    Seriously though, you are picking on BitTorrent unfairly, as AC and Jim point out. You can't modify human nature by tweaking QoS settings or packet-shaping, and banning bazookas just means people will find other ways to blow stuff up, y'dig?

  24. dabotsonline
    Thumb Up


    ... has hit the nail on the head, I feel.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    comic book store guy writes...

    "The network is neutral because it doesn't know how to be otherwise."

    Possibly the most idiotic comment I have ever read at The Register or any other technology website.

    Anthropomorphism is best left to children and simpletons. Let's not second-guess what the network "knows" or "wants". The network is whatever we ask our engineers to create, bounded by the laws of physics and economic practicalities. The Founding Geek himself, Robert Kahn, doesn't want to outlaw experimentation or network diversity. So if we want a better network, capable of handling VoD and VoIP, and future applications, we need to design it.

    But you want to legislate so that doesn't happen.

    Move over, Robb. You've had your 15 minutes of fame, and now your ignorance is really showing through.

  26. Paul M.

    Jim, AB: Making excuses for lousy code

    "Seriously though, you are picking on BitTorrent unfairly, as AC and Jim point out. You can't modify human nature by tweaking QoS settings or packet-shaping, and banning bazookas just means people will find other ways to blow stuff up, y'dig?"

    Hard-wired evolutionary adapations is irrelevant, and lets the culprits off the hook. Put your fictional idea of human nature is. You can, quite easily, modify human *behaviour* by providing economic incentives and legal or financial disincentives.

    Y'dig so far?

    Provide the incentives and engineers will devise less disruptive protocols, and people will use them, because they work better.

    see >> Why BitTorrent causes so much latency and how to fix it <<

    Bittorrent destroys shared network connections today, and needs shaping. Tomorrow's P2P will be better if you demand it.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    "you are picking on BitTorrent unfairly"

    No we're not. You're not understanding the problem properly.

    Let's completely ignore the question of legality/morality of P2P content.

    Let's just look at the behaviour of applications and protocols in a congested network (and, by definition, some part of the ISP or the carrier's network is going to be operating close to capacity for some non-trivial proportion of the time, or the ISP/carrier is burning money and on the way to being out of business).

    Classical single threaded Internet applications behave in a "community friendly" way if packets are lost or delayed. Multi-threaded apps (download accelerators) largely do so too, give or take.

    The P2P protocols I've seen don't do this graceful degradation when congestion occurs, indeed largely by design *can't* do the graceful degradation associated with single-stream TCP apps. So what's the answer? If it is accepted that something needs doing, and the existing apps aren't going to change their designs, and the existing tiny proportion of troublesome users aren't going to change their habits, you're into the land of "deep packet inspection" (expensive kit at ISPs), because the P2P abusers aren't interested in self-regulation. (Another option is PAYG tariffs, which is the option I've chosen: all my traffic is treated equally by my ISP, because I pay per GB, and all GB are equal on that basis).

    As for multicast: forget it, it's not really relevant, even if any worthwhile proportion of consumer kit supported it properly (El Reg promised an article on multicast many weeks ago, where is it?)

  28. Somme1

    @James Butler

    > True ... there are perfectly legal uses for getting a big file more quickly than 3Mbps will allow

    You show a complete lack of understanding of how torrents work - or indeed how networks work... it doesn't allow you to download at a rate faster than your broadband connection allows. If you have a 3Mbps connection, you can't download any faster than 3Mbps (in fact given latency, protocol overheads and general ADSL or Cable line quality you probably won't even get close to 3Mbps) and if you have paid for a 3Mbps connection then why can't you use as much of the 3Mbps as is possible.

    I haven't used torrents much (not at all in the last 12mths at least and when I did I used the throttling option - you're not the only one Jim), but at least I understand know torrents work (for example if there are not many seeders then without using the throttle option the download speed is more likely to be around 3-14Kbps).

    If the ISP is selling 3Mbps connections but their backbone can't support the number of 3Mbps connections they have provisioned, then the only people who have cause for complaint are the customers. The ISP have no right to turn around and complain that the customers are using an application that uses the full bandwidth they paid for.

    I think the central issue of this net neutrality argument comes down to this:

    - the ISP is selling a pipe and should have no say in what protocols / applications their customers use to shunt data through the pipe (in either direction)

    If I don't want to use VOIP, email, youtube etc, but I do want to download gobs of stuff (using whatever protocol I choose), then that is my choice... I've paid for the bandwidth, and I expect to be able to choose how to use it.

    I don't think anyone is against the ISP using QOS to "prioritise" certain types of traffic like VOIP that need as near to realtime as is possible, but after that, we don't want the ISP saying how we can use the bandwidth we pay for. And we don't want the ISP holding content providers to ransom either - essentially trying to charge both ends of the pipe.

    While I'm sure charging both ends looks an attractive proposition to ISP's it basically amounts to extortion (we don't care that you already paid your ISP for your bandwidth, unless you agree to pay us too, we will make sure our customers can't access you properly).

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