Bell Canada chokes BitTorrent traffic on someone else's ISP
Rocky VII: The Throttling
On March 14, Bell Canada began throttling peer-to-peer traffic on pipes it rents to third-party ISPs. And it neglected to tell the third-party ISPs.
The mega-Canadian telco has been throttling P2P traffic on its own network since October, but this is different matter.
One of those third-party ISPs is TekSavvy, a small family-owned company that prides itself on providing customers with internet service that's never throttled. When Bell Canada started throttling TekSavvy traffic, an astute TekSavvy customer realized his BitTorrent client was acting funny and alerted the rest of the world with a post to DSLReports.
This TekSavvy customer had once received internet access straight from Bell Canada. He switched to TekSavvy because he didn't like Bell toying with his P2P traffic. But then he noticed Bell was still toying with his P2P traffic.
"Recently, my BT download is limited to 30k," he wrote. "No matter if I am opening 1 torrent or 10 torrents at a time, the total download had [sic] never go [sic] over 30k. Before I decided to change to Teksavvy from Bell, I was able to do 50k with Bell's throttle. I [heard] everybody saying how Teksavvy won't throttle your P2P bandwidth and stuff. It work [sic] great for me at the beginning, but I think that is all history now."
It is history. At least for the moment. After several other customers complained about the throttling, TekSavvy CEO Rocky Gaudrault confronted Bell, and Bell fessed up. Gradually. "Last Thursday [March 20], we first had discussions with Bell management, and unofficially, they said some load balancing might be going on," Rocky told El Reg. "Then on Tuesday afternoon, they officially told us they were throttling our client base.
"They're taking traffic and instead of passing it directly to us, they're moving it to some sort of aggregation point where it gets throttled."
Except that Bell Canada doesn't like the word throttling. It prefers "optimizing." "We recently extended our policies of optimizing our network by balancing the load to include our wholesale networks as well," Bell Canada spokesman Jason Laszlo told us.
"Increased congestion is affecting networks of internet carriers across North America, including Bell," he continued. "And like a lot of other carriers [we think he means Comcast. -Ed] we're seeking to better balance internet traffic during the peak usage periods so that all of our customers can receive the optimal level of service they deserve and rightly demand."
In other words, the company claims that peer-to-peer traffic on wholesale networks is affecting performance on its own ISP. "It's all one network," he said.
According to Laszlo, users will notice a dip in both download and upload times on peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent. "Customers of all kinds can continue to use P2P services. What they'll notice is that they won't work as fast during peak periods, so late afternoon and evening." The company plans to extend the practice to all wholesale networks in Ontario and Quebec on April 7.
After a little encouragement, Laszlo did admit that the company started "optimizing" without telling its wholesale networks. But he also said this isn't a problem. "There are very clear provisions in our contracts with the wholesale networks that allows us to manage our networks appropriately."
TekSavvy's Rocky Gaudrault doesn't see it that way. "The policy they're referring to deals with copper. Not data," he told us. "It depends on how long this goes on. If they say 'We're over subscribing the network currently, and we expect to have everything fixed by this date', then fine. But if this becomes a permanent solution it is no longer a maintenance issue or a quality issue. It is a policing issue. They have given themselves the right to control data that's not theirs."
Is Bell Canada attempting to ensure that TekSavvy is just as unattractive as its own ISP? Gaudrault won't answer. Yet. "It could be viewed in a variety of ways at this point. Again, if it's only a temporary solution, that's one thing. But if it's forever, then they're telling us what kind of clients they want us to have. And that's not their right either."
Gaudrault is now exploring alternative means of providing bandwidth to his customers. "We've been working with Bell for seven of the last ten years," he said. "But this is a slap in the face." ®