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Bell’s Own Data Shatters P2P Red Herring

By Doug Groves on 26 Jun 2008

Bell Surf

About a week ago, the CRTC demanded that Bell release to the public by June 23rd information that would prove it’s claim that P2P throttling was having a negative impact on it’s network. Some, but not all, of that information has been made public. Many details are being kept from public view for ‘competitive’ reasons. Even the scant evidence released shows exactly how flimsy Bell’s case is.

One would assume that the company would release the most damaging evidence, but their claim is that over a 2 month period, 2-5% of their network links suffered some sort of congestion. They do NOT say whether that was a sustained range of fluctuation, or brief bursts of congestion. They then pull out the old “it’s like a highway” canard.

In revealing the details, Bell explained in an accompanying letter that “while these numbers may seem low to the average lay person, they are significant to network traffic engineers such that it is important to consider the number of congested links in the proper context.”

If only a single link in the network is congested, end users may still experience slowdowns or dropped connections, the company said, because the situation is similar to the road system — where if one major artery is backed up, all connected roads will also have problems.

“Just like a single traffic roadblock can hinder drivers going to multiple destinations that pass through the road that is blocked, a very small amount of congested links can seriously affect a large number of high-speed end-users’ traffic,” Bell said.

…as quoted from a CBC article. On a simplistic level, the ‘highway’ analogy can be helpful to the ‘lay person’, but in this case it’s shorthand for company spin that obfuscates HOW traffic works.

Since Bell has no interest in actually enlightening their customers, I’m going to take a moment to show why the analogy falls apart:

1) Data packets are the cars of the ‘highway’. They travel at 1000s of kilometres per second. If they didn’t, a person in Toronto wouldn’t get an email from his friend in Australia a second after the Australian hit send. It would be impossible for someone in Toronto to play a decent game of Call Of Duty 4 with someone from London England. Somehow people are doing it every day.

2) the ‘internet highway’ can re-route you in an instant if there’s congestion. Imagine if the 401 HWY is blocked up, and magically, a second highway appears before you, with no cars on it, and your car is automatically sent onto the new route. The ‘congestion’ Bell claims is more of a dead seagull at the side of the road than a 15 car pile-up (even if it was sustained congestion over that two month period – which they haven’t made explicit).

3) Bell is claiming that torrent traffic is the equivalent of a convoy of 18-wheelers blocking the poor little guy. As we previously reported the numbers show that gaming, web streaming, and email each hog more lanes than all torrents combined. These numbers come from Ellacoya (now a part of Arbor Networks), a traffic shaping company that Bell is invested in.

All of this, when combined with Bell’s congestion claims, should completely dis-spell the myth that P2P is crushing the internet.

The throttling issue isn’t the only thing we’ve been facing lately, with the Bill C-61 amendments to the Copyright Act having been tabled, and possibly becoming official after the summer recess. At least we have all summer to mount an opposition to said bill (I know I’m assuming everyone is opposed to it – after all I don’t think the RIAA or MPAA are reading this). That’s a whole other article though, and I’d respectfully point you to Michael Geist’s site, as he’s been doing some amazing coverage on the issue.

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