- Bit Torrents will be affected
- Opt-out available by calling 13 7663
- ADSL in Vic only for now
The Fairfax Press have reported that Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications and broadband provider, will begin a trial to slow down internet traffic over Peer to Peer networks, making this the clearest and most impressive leap forward yet for those looking to stamp down copyright infringing downloads. The trial will start from today in Victoria only, and only on a select number of ADSL services (broadband over standard copper telephone lines).
Need unlimited data? Call us for details on TPG Unlimited bundles from $60 a month – 1300 106 571
In layman’s terms, this equates to “Telstra is going to slow down your bit torrents”. Bit Torrents, by far the largest and most popular peer-to-peer file hosting service, is used for several legitimate purposes – the most noteworthy being distribution of new builds for Linux, an open-source operating system for PCs.
But the vast (VAST) majority of traffic over Bit Torrents is dedicated to the sharing of digital media. TV Shows, movies, music, eBooks, adult content, games, software – all of it can be hacked, cracked and shared. For many people, there is little reason to get a plan with several hundred gigabytes (ir unlimited) for any reason but to download this content – if one were to legally purchase even 100 GB of digital content every month from legitimate sources like iTunes or Amazon, that could mean several hundreds of dollars.
Telstra’s reasoning, according to their blog:
The objective of this trial is to identify options and pricing plans for our customers that will improve overall customer experience, to ensure that we continue to offer the best quality service at the best possible price. Network management practices of this kind are common internationally and are already in use by a number of Australian ISPs (particularly on wireless networks).
Telstra has interests to maintain that are affected by the growing use of peer to peer sharing networks for sharing digital media; namely, their interests in Foxtel and other online content services, such as BigPond Music and BigPond Movies. But that shouldn’t obscure the fact that almost all congestion on fixed line networks is due to some ‘bandwidth hogs’ trying to download the entire internet in an evening.
But likening the reason for the trial to the measures taken for wireless networks is a bit of a stretch. Wireless networks are, by their nature, shared. A tower radiates a signal to a wide area, and any valid device (with the right SIM card) can access that to connect to the web. ADSL is a single line connection back to a telephone exchange, which plugs directly into a port. The port is connected to a big mainframe. The mainframe is connected to a high capacity fibre optic link, carrying all those connections to the wider internet. At some point, all those connections are shared; but they’re shared on high capacity trunk lines. The sharing on a wireless network is done immediately, and is wholly dependent on local factors. Telstra (and all other wireless carriers) absolutely must ration data on a wireless network to ensure stability of services for all; on a wired network, they could just activate more fibre lines.
How data consumption works
At a certain point, offering ‘unlimited’ access comes down to some basic calculus. If the average speed of a customer line is, say, 4.3 Mbps, then even running that connection at top speed, all the time, 24/7 would consume just over 1000 GB a month. So at the exchange, if you’re going to connect 1000 homes, you need to provide capacity to the exchange for about 4.3 Gbps. That’s not easy, but it’s nowhere near ‘difficult’.
Telstra, in fact, has the greatest ability to offer this, thanks to their superiority in fibre runs all around Australia.
Telstra has been pushing mobile broadband connectivity for years, relying on the superiority of their network to Vodafone’s and Optus’, and on the fact that their monopoly for fixed line services is drawing to a close (thanks to regulation and the NBN). Customers are reporting to us that in areas where other ISPs have no problem delivering ADSL broadband, Telstra says they can’t and offers Mobile Broadband only – often at much higher cost, with less data, and great instability.
If Telstra were to scare off ADSL customers on huge 500GB plans, that would leave non-heavy data users, who could more easily be convinced to go wireless. If you’re only using 5 GB a month of your 25GB ADSL plan, why not pay the same for a 10GB mobile broadband plan – and get the benefits of mobility?
It also means that all the capacity could be re-routed from telephone exchanges to feed more and more mobile towers, further putting Telstra’s network superiority out of reach from their competition.
The benefits to the customer are dubious. What if they change their habits, and start using more data – for illegitimate or legitimate means? Software updates can be several GB in size. Gaming is a huge consumer of data as well. Remotely logging in to work requires stability that mobile service would have trouble delivering, even if a tower was to be built in every front yard in Australia.
The Telstra throttling is automatic to some customers in Victoria, but you can opt out of the trial by calling Telstra on 13 7663. But if you don’t want to take chances and want to go with another provider (and you like to consume a lot of data without worrying about being slowed down) then your best options are:
TPG (1300 106 571). TPG’s Unlimited data plans start from $59.95 (total bundle price) and connects to about 70% of homes. They are Australia’s largest wholesaler who also offer Unlimited plans. They own their own international submarine cables and peering exchanges as well, making them the best suited to deliver services for people who like to bring the bits.
iPrimus (1300 137 794) iPrimus offers Unlimited data plans from $70 a month (naked) to about half the area covered by TPG’s network. They own their own domestic backhaul networks, and operate all of their customer service, tech support and sales from Melbourne. This on-shore strategy makes them the best provider for customer service, that also offers Unlimited data.
Dodo (1300 192 775) and Club Telco (1300 138 155) – Both are part of the Eftel group, and offer basically the same plans for Unlimited data:
$60 – if your exchange is part of the Eftel network, which is about half the size of Primus’,
$70 – if your exchange is part of the Optus Wholesale network, which is just slightly smaller than TPG’s,
$90 – if you’re in a regional or rural exchange where Eftel and Optus are unavailable, leaving you with Telstra Wholesale
This means that both ISPs have the lowest availability for cheap Unlimited access that they themselves control (an important distinction), but it also means they’re about the only ones who can provide Unlimited data to many rural customers.
Telstra has drawn a clear line in the sand here. Executive Director Michael Lawrey didn’t hint that he wants to get rid of bandwidth hogs – he said it very explicitly. In a speech in Dublin in 2011, he threatened to ‘cut off downloaders of illegal content”. He is also on the record as saying that the Fair Use policy, which is open ended, has barely been tapped as a source of legitimacy to monitor and control traffic. And in the same source, when it was suggested that 80% of Telstra’s traffic was from p2p and similar activity, Lawrey was reported to have said;
(if the carrier's proposed system) "cut out 80 per cent of the non-value adding traffic – good…I'd rather not have those 80 per cent as customers. I'd rather someone else had them as customers,"
A lot can be read from the idea of someone paying for a service and using it to it’s full potential being classified as ‘non value adding’. It might just mean that these users cause more harm to the network than their monthly subscription is worth. Or, it might mean that these customers are less likely to be enticed by Telstra’s own content delivery systems, which includes Foxtel. Either way, there are plenty of other ISPs, such as those listed above, who would likely be very happy to obtain 80% of Telstra’s customers.
Please call us on 1300 106 571 if you need assistance finding an ISP that’s right for you.