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Friday, November 19, 2010

Enforcing traffic management transparency

I need to do a full write-up of this week's Traffic Management Conference, but one theme that came out loud and clear (especially from the regulator's panel) was that any non-neutral network policy management will need to be absolutely clear and explicit to the end user.

Although regulators have generally not had many official complaints, there have been many, many suggestions of illicit traffic-shaping or degradation. I had an IM chat last night about a particular operator's suspiciously-poor broadband performance with Skype, and how that might be proven or disproven as deliberate.

One of the slides in my presentation at the conference yesterday which gained the most attention was the one with the Monopoly-board image of "Go to jail". It's quite possible that telecom executives who allow broadband to be mis-sold may be legally liable, if it is found that secret policies are going to be applied.

I suggested that a certain company with millions of end-points, million of servers, and proven data analytics capabilities should be able to spot any suspicious anomalies in traffic patterns, latencies and so forth. Any "monkeying-about" should stick out like a sore thumb, similar to a bank's anti-fraud systems.

So it's interesting that the BBC is perhaps the first major content provider to specifically say that they were looking at software to help keep the network honest, and inform users about who is to blame if there are glitches.

Of course, if you've been a regular reader of this blog, and customer of Disruptive Analysis' research and advisory services, none of this will come as much of a surprise to you, as it's been on the cards for more than three years - and indeed the EFF has had a tool available for some time to spot miscreant ISPs.

Bottom line is that telcos in markets with liberal attitudes to neutrality will need to be 100% upfront to their customers about policy and optimisation techniques, or else they will get "outed" mercilessly - and perhaps prosecuted as well.

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