Report: ISPs slowing internet service on purpose

A new ISP speed report suggests that the internet continues to have problems maintaining needed speeds where Content Delivery Networks and Internet Service Providers meet. Fees are an issue.

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Major internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Time Warner are intentionally slowing internet service for U.S. customers, according to the Guardian.

The newspaper cites a study by BattleFortheNet, a pro-net neutrality activist internet group.

Degraded service

The report, released on Monday, "looked at results from 300,000 internet users and found significant degradations on the networks of the five largest internet service providers," the Guardian says.

Seventy-five percent of all households in the U.S. are affected, according to the report. The study, run in part by community-based M-Lab Consortium, looked at comparative speeds of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which carry some of the traffic for the most popular and video-intensive websites.


The Guardian cited the study's Atlanta numbers from AT&T and Comcast. The newspaper said that whereas Comcast provided 21.4 Mbps to GTT, a CDN, AT&T only provided 0.20 Mbps during the same time period.

AT&T is opposed to the idea that it should carry traffic from CDNs at no charge to the CDN.

"When a network sends more than twice the traffic it receives, that network is required by AT&T to pay," the Guardian says.

To clarify, that's a fee the CDN pays the ISP. It's distinct from the monthly fee AT&T charges the consumer for the internet service.

Popular websites

Popular websites need to use CDNs partly in order to get the multimedia content geographically closer to the end users. The websites pay the CDN to do this.

And ISPs want a slice of that. The popular website needs to use a CDN, but ISPs don't want to carry that extra CDN traffic without payment.

That's where the argument is, and it's a basic net neutrality issue.

This new study, which I've not seen, probably expounds and, one would assume, provides some kind of evidence, that the noticeable slowdown in internet speed for consumers is originating from the hand-off between CDNs and ISPs. If that were the case, it would corroborate the idea that ISPs are slowing CDN traffic because they're not being paid, or being paid enough.

Earlier studies

This issue has been looked at before.

A study by M-lab in October, 2014 found "clear evidence that interconnection between major U.S. access ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon) and transit ISPs Cogent, Level 3, and potentially XO was correlated directly with degraded consumer performance throughout 2013 and into 2014."

Interconnection is where ISPs and CDNs physically link.

In other words, the CDNs and ISPs, mutually working together, are unable to maintain the speeds where they connect, for whatever reason.

Obviously, you can reckon it's related to money.

The October 2014 M-lab report goes on to say that in many cases "degradation was not the result of major infrastructure failures at any specific point in a network, but rather connected with the business relationships between ISPs."

New BattlefortheNet study

I've requested a copy of the June 2015 BattlefortheNet study—the new degraded traffic report mentioned in the Guardian—but have yet to receive a response.

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