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Friday, February 06, 2009

Reverse engineering carriers' network policies

18 months ago, I predicted that "that operators will need to start to divulge more about their traffic-shaping policy. Otherwise they'll find that other people will reverse-engineer it and do it for them."

So I felt pretty self-congratulatory when I saw that Google had announced its Measurement Labs tools this week, which does that yet.

I've said before that I can't get too exercised by the whole Net Neutrality debate. There are some perfectly valid reasons to prioritise certain traffic (eg emergency services, to take an extreme example). There are also some perfectly invalid reasons to differentiate traffic types, and I am still confident the market will work out when that occurs, and punish the offenders where it hurts - their customers base and revenues.

Put simply - if carriers want to be viewed as honest and trustworthy, they need to be absolutely clear on their network policies and how/when they are enforced. Any covert throttling or articifical quality degradation should be considered contrary to consumer protection laws, and dealt with appropriately.


Zed said...

The problem is ISPs do traffic shaping for commercial reasons, not for network engingeering reasons.

Dean Bubley said...


Absolutely it's for commercial reasons, but so what? They still need to be open about it, as otherwise customers will choose an alternative.

Customers know that supermarkets change their layouts around for commercial reasons. And if anyone really cared about "store neutrality", they could easily "reverse engineer" and compare where Tesco's puts the bread & beer in its layout vs. Marks & Spencer.

It's not a "problem", especially as some of the commercial reasons (eg degrading VoIP) are unacceptable - maybe illegal - practices.