Is the Internet getting strangled?

By Ian Urie

I've decided to move on and leave my ISP.
For months now, I've been noticing a major slowdown in my connection.
Mail server faults, 404 messages on my browser, and really poor performance generally.
If I decided to stay up after midnight and download some files, the situation would improve, but was still less than half of what my connection was capable of.
Service became a pain as well.
Hanging for up to an hour on a phone (just to get through) trying to get some answers helped crystallise my thoughts.
Time to move on.
So, who to go to, and what exactly did I want?
I headed over to ThinkBroadband (formally ADSLguide).
I first checked my ISP (Eclipse) in the users forums to see if I was, maybe, over-reacting.
Surprise, surprise, the natives were revolting!
When I went with Eclipse, they were in the Top 3 consistently for speed, reliability and service.
No longer!
Eclipse was taken over by Kingston.
Anyone who has browsed the forums on ADSLguide may remember them.
They have a captive market in an area of England, and are generally reknowned for poor results (not business ones, I hasten to add).
Another factor appears to be the BTmax product. This is the 8mb product and has been the cause of lots of gripes regarding performance.
ISP's advertise 8mb download speed and fail to mention that it depends on distance from the exchange and line quality, just to mention two factors.
So, it would seem that I wasn't alone in wishing to leave Eclipse.
How do you go about it?
Again, I would stress that anything you wish to know, broadband related, is the time to head over to ThinkBroadband.
I surfed a while and discovered that I needed a MAC code (Migration Authorisation Code).
An email to customer services sufficed for that. Be aware that a MAC code does not cancel your service!
The MAC code is normally valid for 30 days, so it gives you time to assess your situation and if you decide not to move, it will lapse at the end of the thirty days. Some ISP's are now thinking of charging for a MAC code due to the number of people requesting them and not using them.
A MAC code normally takes 5 working days to arrive as well, and you may have to pay for the remainder of your contract with your ISP.
Right, my needs for my new ISP.
I wanted a 8mb connection, one month contract (although this isn't a must), no migration fee, ability to move on with a MAC code if it all went sour again and unlimited downloads. The unlimited downloads wasn't because I'm all that heavy a downloader, more that I hate being curtailed.
I checked through the ISP's on offer.
A one month contract severely limited the number of firms.
Most ISPs would love to keep you for a minimum of a year.
Since the advent of BTmax, their (BT) downloads limits have became the norm for ISPs.
Unlimited has became the minority option. If you truly want unlimited, you will need to read the terms and conditions thoroughly.
Nearly all the ISPs have a "fair use" option added. Basically this says that a few users are soaking up the available bandwidth and causing congestion for the rest. To combat this , they limit the amount you can download.
Another favourite is "traffic shaping".
This appears to be what I had fallen foul of.
ISPs can block or  restrict different protocols of traffic e.g. news, P2P, etc.
In my case, the final straw was downloading headers from a newsgroup at  1.4kb/s, when my connection is capable of above 700kb/s. Taking 15 minutes simply to find out what's in a newsgroup when I can download a Linux iso in less than that time isn't "shaping" , it's abuse.
ISPs also have the ability to prioritise connections. I was on the highest level with Eclipse (much good that was).
So read very carefully.
Pricing is dependant on the conditions above and can vary wildly.
Looking at results can also help your decision. When I joined Eclipse, the top 3 were normally Zen, Nildram and Eclipse consistently.
Zen and Nildram have remained there.
Their pricing and contracts should show you why.
Their pricing has deterred the major downloaders, they also deterred me for my needs.
However, if you want great results, you get what you pay for.
Resellers are also the norm nowadays. Entanet resellers are getting major reporting for good results.
Cheap pricing, and few bandwidth restrictions are the selling points.
Will this continue? Who knows.
In the end, I made my choice and it will depend how happy I am with that choice before I report back.
I did manage to get a 1 month contract albeit with a download limit. The ISP in question says it doesn't perform throttling, so I'll see how that goes.
Now, for the title of this article.
If Britain's ISPs are throttling performance, will it have an effect on the Internet?
Of course it will.
Growth areas of the Internet at present, and indications are that this will continue, is streaming. This is where you will pay to download a movie, or music. If your connection is being limited (some are wanting to use P2P to distribute their media), the effect is lost. Why pay for a movie if you can't watch it in a reasonable time. An example could be YouTube which streams all those videos. Most companies are hoping you stream your music off the net instead of using a radio. There's also  Voip, Skype etc.  As these  options mount, bandwidth is being used at an increasing rate. ISPs are still selling products with a 2gb limit. This is fine for email only, but try and use YouTube or one of the competitors for a few hours and watch that limit get very close. Messengers also use bandwidth, especially as everyone sends pictures, files (Windows has share areas for Messenger), not to mention webcams.
Something will have to give.
The knock-on effect will kill these fledgling businesses.




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