Telstra contemplating speed-based plans, hits back at P2P criticism

The telco has attempted to clear the air on trials it will be conducting, which include throttling speeds on peer-to-peer networks, following backlash from consumers

Telstra is considering introducing speed- or application-based ADSL plans, it has revealed in a blog post aimed at busting the "myths" around its P2P throttling trials, following backlash from the public.

Telstra said it will be conducting two trials. A ‘customer experience trial’ will include testing whether application-based speed-tiered plans could be introduced by the telco in the future.

A 'traffic management trial' will test peak traffic and could include throttling speeds on peer-to-peer networks.

While the public has been critical of Telstra's intention to throttle speeds on peer-to-peer networks during the trial, concern has also been expressed about introducing speed-based plans.

Consumer advocacy group, ACCAN, earlier this week said it was concerned about the introduction of speed-based plans for ADSL because it had the potential to produce a “second class Internet connection” for those who couldn’t afford faster speeds.

But Steve Waddington, CEO at ISP Exetel, said there is enough diversity in the ISP market for consumers to choose how they receive a broadband connection.

“I think every service provider should be free to decide how they deliver the bandwidth to their customers and customers will decide if they like one offering or one way of doing it over another way,” he said.

While Telstra said it is undertaking the trials to “inform Telstra’s future product and pricing decisions”, it has come under fire for the peer-to-peer throttling trial.

Earlier in the week John Lindsay, CTO at iiNet, slammed the telco, saying it was just trying to avoid upgrading its ADSL network due to the NBN being rolled out.

Lindsay said Telstra is also just using the trial as a way to “ease in” the practice of throttling peer-to-peer networks.

“They are starting to take their customers on a journey. They know what the end point looks like, but they don’t want to describe it too clearly just yet for fear of scaring off the profitable customers,” he said.

“Calling it a trial is a nicer way of introducing the concept and the technology into the business.”

Telstra has defended the trials, stating at this stage, it is simply looking at the impact of slowing peer-to-peer traffic, such as BitTorrent, as it is not “time critical”, compared to VoIP and video streaming, and “so might be slowed without significant consumer detriment”.

It said legitimate peer-to-peer traffic, such as Skype and gaming services, would not be targeted in the trial.

Deep packet inspection

Telstra will be using deep packet inspection for the trial, which identifies the characteristics of each data packet to determine the type of traffic.

However, deep packet inspection can be problematic, according to Exetel’s Waddington.

Exetel throttled peer-to-peer networks in 2008 and stopped the practice a couple of years later.

Waddington said while it did free up bandwidth and was a cost effective solution, it also added another layer of complexity to managing the network and relied on complex algorithms.

“There was quite a lot of hands-on management to manually manipulate those tables and allow legitimate or non-P2P traffic through,” Waddington said.

He said the deep packet inspection Exetel used was unable to detect all legitimate traffic. For example, some gaming protocols weren’t known as legitimate and so customers complained about throttled gaming speeds.

Exetel stopped throttling peer-to-peer networks in 2010 when the price of bandwidth dropped and it became harder to implement.

“Four years ago we were paying around $200 per MB for bandwidth and when that got down to $50 it didn’t become cost effective to try and save bandwidth, as opposed to the cost of the hardware and the equipment that you needed,” Waddington said.

“Also, the ability for P2P clients to use stealth techniques and obfuscate the protocols they we were using [meant] it stopped it being as effective as we’d seen in the past.”

Like the outcry over Telstra’s trials, Waddington said customers reacted angrily to the throttling, but the company had no choice.

“People hated it … [But] it was something that allowed us to control our bandwidth and allowed us to keep our plans competitive,” he said.

“If you look on our forum you can probably see the amount of moderated [and] deleted posts [where] people used fairly direct language to express their views on what they thought.”

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More about: ACCC, iiNet, Skype, Telstra
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Comments

Daniel

1

I think It's pretty poor for Telstra/Bigpond to claim it' expansive in regards to bandwidth.

So rather than the fixing the situation, including any and all congestion, they rather piss their customers off by implementing P2P throttling which will effect legitimate applications/games.

So Instead of the good of the customer, it's now back to good old days of the shareholder and pay packets for them selves, this is another reason why we need the NBN to succeed no matter the outcome of the 2013 Election.

This is just pure laziness and both ACCAN and ACCC should just sanction something against Telstra.

If they are not willing to fix the Network including any congestions, why did recently, including as of April of last year say that Coalition's plan would be helpful for Telstra?

Coalition Plan, P2P Trial would be disastrous for it's own customers.

ihatetelstra

2

i like exetels comment. we slowed half our customers traffic down 'to remain competitive'.
how is it competitive if other providers allow their customers to use whatever they like at full speed and exetel dont?
i know people who dont use p2p on telstra and will leave as a result of this intrusion into their online life

Justin

3

Exetel controlled their bandwidth costs with p2p shaping. Meaning they paid less, which in turn costs their customers less. TBH at the time 99% of what alot of us did wasnt affected, just the idiots torrenting on default ports.
Telstra doing this is no real surprise however. They have not invested in their network at all and to upgrade it would cost far too much without massive govt money, as we are seeing in some areas where the NBNco is coming in and having to do massive repairworks.
Bring on the fibre. Bring on cheaper bandwidth as a result. Bring on the future.

CharlieM

4

...Telstra have not upgraded their network??
They have just spend several hundred million converting their entire core network over to the latest and greatest kit :/

Dont get me mixed up with the telstra loving luddites out there, im all for seeing the NBN come along, and more real service level competition aimed squarely at telstra...but cmon man, dont lay a claim at their feet thats not true, thats just unfair.

invaliduser

5

Justin you do realise the cost of bandwidth is generally controlled by the premium paid on overseas data-links and generally not the local infrastructure.

AL

6

Telstra customers are already paying a premium compared to other companies and now this...

Kat

7

IMO, they should be prevented by LAW from doing this. This is sheer greed, nothing more.

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Tags: Australian Communications and Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Exetel, Steve Waddington, National Broadband Network (NBN), Telstra
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