Should We Add Bandwidth Hogs To The Myth List With That Impending Exaflood?

from the life-ain't-so-bad,-you-know dept

While telco lobbyists (or paid “think tank” commenters) have a long history of pushing the totally bogus concept of an “exaflood” of traffic that will take down the internet, more recently they’ve been pushing this idea of “bandwidth hogs.” That is, they say that even if there isn’t really a big threat to backbone bandwidth (which they had claimed originally) there is still a problem with “bandwidth hogs” at the last mile, using up way too much bandwidth. And, for that reason, they insist that ISPs should be able to cap and meter broadband, to make sure that the “low level users” aren’t subsidizing the “bandwidth hogs.” There are two big problems with this claim. First… in none of the experiments with metered billing have the “low level users” received a discount. Instead, they’ve kept paying the same amount, and it’s just that the ISPs have tried to jack up the rates on higher bandwidth users.

But, an even bigger problem may be that the very idea of “bandwidth hogs” may be a myth (found via Slashdot). Benoit Felten is smashing that myth, in noting that there are certainly some folks who use more bandwidth than others, but contrary to claims from ISPs, he hasn’t seen any evidence that they’re causing any harm or congestion on the network. So he’s presented a challenge to telcos to send over data that he can analyze to prove him wrong.

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Comments on “Should We Add Bandwidth Hogs To The Myth List With That Impending Exaflood?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

He needs to come spend some time on Bell’s network. You can set congestion levels pretty much with the end of school until reasonable bedtime for the ado crowd (10PM). It’s incredible to watch available bandwidth drop (my 20meg connection often can’t push more than 2 meg at best) and it is entirely as a result of network congestion.

The school bell rings, and my connection goes to crap. It’s pretty obvious what is going on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

My current ISP (Comcast) is not having any bandwidth problems. I can download anything fairly quickly. My connection is nominally 50+ mbyte/sec, but my actual download speed is more like 1 to 2 mbytes/sec, just about regardless of the time of day.

On the other hand, my last ISP claimed a download speed of 10 mbytes/sec, but my actual download rate was 150 to 300 kbytes/sec until after about 11 PM central time, when it would vault to 500 kbytes/sec to 1.5 mbytes/sec.

“Bandwidth hogs” may be a myth, but in the daytime there are lots of people using the internet and slowing things down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not megabytes per second, it’s megabits per second… 8 bits to a byte.

So a 50 megabit connection can only download at a max speed of 6.25 megabytes per second, general network traffic affects your download speed as well as your distance from whatever server you are downloading whatever from.

Jon Bane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Your problem is your provider over-sold the connection and NN people are all using their connection. Not 1 person taking up all of the bandwidth.

The only way 1 or the top 5% of the users could cause congestion for everyone is if A) They oversold the last mile or B) They have a HUGE bottle neck at one of their POPs.

Either way, caps don’t fix it. More equipment fixes it.

KevinJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Do you understand what they mean by “bandwidth hogs”? I know car analogies are kind of hit or miss but I’ll try one anyway. Think of your internet connection as an interstate highway. Many interstates slow to a crawl because of the sheer number of cars that are trying to get somewhere during rush hour. This is similar to what is likely happening in your area, so many users are trying to browse the internet through the routing hub you are on that it slows down dramatically. This can happen even if all of the users are using about the same bandwidth.

Now lets put a large truck on the interstate, and lets have that truck carry an oversize load that covers all of the lanes of the highway. Even in moderate traffic there will be a backup of traffic behind this truck because traffic has a hard time getting around it. The equivalent would be a single user using so much more bandwidth than the typical user that they slow everyone else down, that is a “bandwidth hog”.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The huge flaw in your analogy:

Many interstates slow to a crawl because of the sheer number of cars that are trying to get somewhere during rush hour.

If the highway had a reasonable (i.e. FAST!) speed limit, this congestion would not happen.

lets have that truck carry an oversize load that covers all of the lanes of the highway. Even in moderate traffic there will be a backup of traffic behind this truck because traffic has a hard time getting around it.

Again, speed limit. AND on our mythical electronic highway all traffic moves at the same speed, to rather than a large truck, your analogy should be a ‘fleet of cars’ (or something to that effect).

Seriously, what your talking about is flow rate and pipe size (see plumbing) or voltage and amperage (see electricity). The solution in either case is “Stop trying to shove so goddamn much shit through your pipe/wire and it won’t break.” If you sold access to your plumbing to 100 people and you KNOW it can only handle 20 people using it full time, should you cross your fingers and hope nobody needs to REALLY use it, or should you perhaps build out a little more pipe?

KevinJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I had a feeling that analogy might be a miss. Oh well.

But the point I was trying to make is that the first AC was confusing the ‘too many people on the network’ with ‘one user hogging everything’. But with either case, it’s as you said, they need to go ahead and build out the infrastructure more instead of just charging us more for using it.

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“… they need to go ahead and build out the infrastructure more instead of just charging us more for using it.”

If they build out the infrastructure more they WILL charge you more to use it.

Building infrastructure requires people, materials, time, and money. All of which is paid for by the customer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No, actually I understand the difference. The number of extra people online at 4PM isn’t the issue, the issue is that it is prime time for new downloading. So the students get out of class, head some, and start up their next downloads, listening to streaming, etc, and generally clog things up. It isn’t that there is so many more people, just that the people are using pretty much the max bandwidth all the time.

It has only happened recently in this area, which suggests that only a few new clients are using significantly more bandwidth than the average, and are glogging up the system locally (the blockages all come within the first couple of jumps).

Adding more infrastructure would be nice, but really, without the bandwidth hogs, there wouldn’t be an issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You have no idea what you’re talking about. The problem cannot be anything other than the number of extra people online at 4PM. Honestly what do you think is different about the bits that Johnny Teenager is pushing through his modem than the ones you, J. Getoff Mylawn, are pushing? Are his packets bigger than yours? Is that why they’re “clogging things up”?

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“… or should you perhaps build out a little more pipe?”

Easy to say, hard to do, and expensive at that. And those costs would be passed on to you.

Besides, EVERYONE does this. Electricity, phone, water, planes, trains, buses, highways, grocery stores… EVERYONE models use and provisions enough to handle baseline load plus the average peak plus a safety factor.

You can’t build any system on the off chance that everyone (or even the vast majority of people) will flip on all of the lights, make a call, and turn on all of the faucets all at the same time. The costs would be prohibitive.

Mark says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“EVERYONE models use and provisions enough to handle baseline load plus the average peak plus a safety factor.”

Very true, but the fact remains that the ISPs are basing their baseline load on outdated data from a different era. In the modern internet savvy world the new baseline is much higher, but they have refused to adapt their model.

Instead they create fictitious characters or just throw up their hands and scream ‘WOLF’ to the nearest congressional delegate within earshot to help them with re-structuring their ‘unlimited’ contracts.

mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You obviously have no grasp of tcp packets. Each packet travels individually, not one-user-stream-at-a-time. Therefore, this user will send a packet, then you will send a packet, then another user will send a packet. You really can’t have a “bandwidth hog”. You can have network congestion, due to overselling, bad hardware, bad packets, etc. but not because ONE user uses it all!

Josh (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes and the obvious conclusion is that you are on shared bandwidth with other people in your area and the amount of internet activity dramatically increases when school is out and other people are getting home from work.

This isn’t caused by bandwidth hogs. It’s because you don’t have dedicated bandwidth and have to share with more people for that time period.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Are you sure that’s not at least partly to do with Bell’s traffic throttling practices? I know they admitted to the CRTC that they had multiple different throttling levels for different usage periods during the day. I’m not sure if that’s changed at all since then, but I definitely notice my speeds go up considerably during the workday and then back down overnight like clockwork – too extreme and predictable to be a simple matter of congestion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This would be an interesting argument IF the U.S. wasn’t so far behind in broadband. The reason there is a problem is due to a lack of competition thanks to telcos and cablecos lobbying the government to restrict competition. The solution? Either open up the existing infrastructure (cable infrastructure) to competition OR allow companies to build new infrastructure and require that new infrastructure be open to competition ahead of time (or perhaps give a ONE YEAR monopoly on any new infrastructure built, with NO extensions, but even during that one year anyone else can build their own new infrastructure and get a one year monopoly on any infrastructure they build).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“He needs to come spend some time on Bell’s network.”

and you know darn well that if you ask almost any regular employee who works at these corporations they’ll tell you that price has very little to do with cost and the fact that the equipment required to handle the traffic gets cheaper and cheaper and costs keep going down also doesn’t affect price very much.

Dementia (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So what you’re saying is it’s all the school kids that are causing the problem. Ok, let’s run with that for a moment. Exactly how many school kids are there? 200, 300, or more like 3000? What you’re seeing isn’t a few bandwidth hogs, but a large number of users suddenly joining the network. Guess what, that means it’s either a hardware limitation or the isp oversold the bandwidth. Most likely it’s a combination of the two. Either way, it isn’t bandwidth hogs, it’s simply an isp that isn’t willing to reduce their short term profits by investing in their infrastructure which would, long term, increase their profits.

Anonymous Coward says:

The whole issue is a strawman set up by ISPs to disguise the simple fact that they oversell the capacity of their networks. If ISPs advertise unlimited use, then they need to build out their networks to make sure they can handle the capacity they sell.
That’s like buying an airline ticket and finding out that you have to pay more (or again) for a seat because the airline (through no fault of yours) oversold the flight.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Funny. You don’t leave them any option.

You say “If ISPs advertise unlimited use, then they need to build out their networks to make sure they can handle the capacity they sell.” True. They have put themselves in a pickle by advertising “unlimited” for years.

So now, the ISPs want to put in caps, so as specifically NOT to “advertise unlimited use”. But you don’t think they should be able to do that, either.

Benjie says:

My ISP has been good, for the most part

Other than a lack of communication between the corporate tech support and my local tech which resulted in corporate saying a problem was on my end and local tech was having an area wide issue.. it’s been pretty good

Charter Communications here.


My actual speeds sustained via bandwidth testers and any site that can let me saturate my up or down:

2.1mbit up
5mbit down. but 20mbit burst which is 10seconds long and refreshes every 30 seconds.

really weird watching my bandwidth meter when downloading large files. I’ll see it burst up to 20mbit and hold for ~10 seconds, then slows down to 5mbit and hang for ~30 seconds, then it jumped back up to 20mbit again for another 10 seconds.. rinse and repeat

30-40ms pings to New York and Los Angeles during peak hours, even when downloading 4-5mbit.

I’m in a small city for 8k people and pay $40/month for this, so not too shabby

jilocasin (profile) says:

Impossible to be a "Hog"

It’s impossible to be a network hog. The problem is simply one of overselling.

No matter what application you are running; email, web surfing, HD-video streaming, bit torrent, you can only use as much bandwidth as the plan you are on. If you have a 3Mb/1Mb ADSL connection you can’t magically start using 100Mb/1Mb just because you start up a bit torrent client to get/share Fedora 12.

The problem is that until recently even though you may be on a 3Mb/1Mb or even a 50Mb/5Mb internet plan, there just wasn’t that much to use it for. Most people would use a fraction of that amount and only for a short time. Traffic was very bursty. Now that we have P2P, and video streaming that isn’t the case.

Suppose the ISP has 100Mb of available bandwidth (we’re just going to consider downstream and I’m making these numbers up to illustrate my point). They could sell 1 100Mb plan, or 10 10Mb plans, or 100 1Mb plan, ideally.

Previously most people were only using 0.1Mb on average, with an occasional spike to FTP something, reading their email, surfing mostly html web pages, IMing each other. So they sold 1000 1Mb plans and then ‘upgraded’ all of these people to 5Mb plans. Small bursty amounts, other than the occasional slowdown, not really a problem.

People discover P2P, bit torrent, streaming video, now people start using the 5Mb they have been paying for. Opps. The ‘average’ user is using 2Mb instead of 0.1Mb. The technically inclined are actually using their full 5Mb. What do you think happens? 990 users all trying to use 2Mb at the same time (1980Mb), 10 users are trying to use 5Mb (50Mb). That’s 2030Mb of bandwidth, but the ISP only has 100Mb.

So what do they do? Build up their service to 10,000Mb? Naw, just ‘network manage’ people back down to 0.1Mb and blame it on the nasty ‘bandwidth hogs’ that are trying to use their full 5Mb. P2P, bot torrent, etc. will FLOOD the INTERNET. “We must stop them before it’s too late!!!”

I call B.S.

The problem is that people are actually trying to use the service they were sold. There aren’t any ‘hogs’ and no one can use more bandwidth than they’ve paid for. The only pigs in the pen are the ISP’s.

Fatduck (profile) says:

There are two types of idiots in this thread:

1. Idiots who say that ISPs are “lying” by selling you a 10-mbit plan when you sometimes get slower speeds, and should just “build more infrastructure”

2. Idiots who say that people who download files, or stream video, are “clogging things up”

If the ISPs built their networks to ensure that every user could access their full advertised bandwidth 24/7, internet access would either be a.) incredibly slow, or b.) incredibly expensive. Deal with it.

Despite what your Senator may think, there is no difference between downloading an MP3 file, an email, a webpage, or a video. Internet traffic doesn’t slow down because someone’s trying to squeeze big files through a pipe. That’s idiotic. Traffic slows down because routers get overwhelmed with requests and have to queue them.

If a “bandwidth hog” is someone who has their internet connection running at maximum effort for large portions of every day, it can only affect other users if there are MANY BANDWIDTH HOGS. One person downloading as much as possible 24/7 can only have a very tiny effect on the overall traffic. The REASON routers are becoming more strained is not because a few people are downloading tons of material, but because video streaming, downloading, etc are becoming MORE COMMON, meaning it is easier for the AVERAGE PERSON to run their internet connection at high usage levels (because of continuous streaming, downloading, whatever). Your internet connection slows down because of the increased usage by AVERAGE USERS, not by “bandwidth hogs.”

kirillian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Bad analogy. Unlike the super highway, there’s no squeezing on the internet. Packet sizes are constant. The problem is queuing. ISPs are using old, outdated numbers to determine how much bandwidth they can sell from their infrastructure. They’ve oversold far beyond their capacity. They may have sold based on previous users’ bandwidth usage numbers, but now that users actually utilize their bandwidth, their numbers are far off the mark and not useful for today. They’ve made a contractual promise to provide that bandwidth for consumers and are now trying to get out of it by claiming that “bandwidth hogs” are eating up the bandwidth.

The truth is that the AVERAGE USER is now a “bandwidth hog” to the ISPs. Good luck trying to sell that to Congress – hence the coining of a new term.

Anonymous Coward says:

Upgrading infra-structure.

People think it is really scary and pricey to upgrade and what not and that can be the case when they add more “lines”, physical lines that will have to be burried.

But on the real world that is not going to happen, what really happens is that routers(nodes) get cheaper and can handle more traffic, you just change the blade and the upgrade is done for an entire neighbourhood.

We all know that ISPs don’t put a 100 households on a node no they put a thousand or more.

What I do think is really going on is that ISPs don’t want to be dumb pipes they want the put infra-structure in place to discriminate traffic so they can charge people for different things.

– Access to google $5 dollars.
– Access to email $1 dollar.
– Access to youtube $10 bucks.
– Access to VoIP $50 a month.

They want to launch their own services and get money for it and they don’t want to compete with others.

Caping the usage is a great way to do that. Shortly after you will receive some promotional letters stating the new service that you can have for just a few dollars.

Some people say metering bill is fine and I don’t think they are users because if a recall it correctly 54K was metered and subject to traffic like any other network and I remember that people didn’t use it all that often because the rates were high and you could easily pay a thousand dollars in bills charges if you stayed online playing any game that is why when people started the “all you can have for a fixed price” it exploded and AOL got left behind.

Metered probably kill the things people want most today like video streaming, internet radio, online gamming.

Anybody wants to go back to the time when we had to start a download after midnight because the rates were lower then?

But this time it will be worth, it will not be a time rate but a “packets rate”, with no real competition. They can charge whatever they want and you will have to pay. I bet it will hinder a lot of services.

Video conferencing, tele-commuting puff! forget about working from home and using the internet it will not be worth it unless you pay the special package that will cost a $999 dollars with a rebate if you sign right now!

Svante Jorgensen (profile) says:

ISP's are to blame

If there is not enough bandwith for the data that customors consume, then the ISPs have sold them something they can’t provide, and they have to upgrade their equipment.
If you buy a 10Mb/10Mb connection and use all of it, then you are suddenly a “Bandwith Hog”?
That is about as stupid as saying that you are a Bread Hog if you buy a bread and eat it all in 10 min.

I know that the only reason why ISPs can sell connections at the price they do, is that most people only use a fraction of their bandwith on average. But if they don’t, then thats the ISPs problem, not the consumer, FCC or anybody else.

If I dont have that much money this month, can I pay only half of my connection fee? – No didn’t think so, so go get me what I paid for.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: ISP's are to blame

“If there is not enough bandwith for the data that customors consume, then the ISPs have sold them something they can’t provide, and they have to upgrade their equipment.”

Or, start selling something they CAN provide. You know, like a capped broadband subscription.

Why is everyone here assuming they MUST maintain their “unlimited” offers as part of their comment’s arguments? Making that assumption limits the solutions to the issue to “build more infrastructure”. Which is, of course, what we as consumers want…but most of you aren’t also willing to pay for it.

Infrastructure, unlike digital media, does not have a marginal cost of zero. The economics of “FREE” don’t apply the same way here.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Bandwidth caps

WRONG! You can argue that a service should spend whatever is needed to provide enough bandwidth (a ridiculous argument, but ????), but I have PERSONALLY seen the effects of people who hog bandwidth. It usually turns out to be teenagers simply trying to impress their friends, but I have seen my bandwidth SEVERELY depressed when the provider is unable to throttle the abusers!

Fortunately, my providers are draconian with such people now, and my bandwidth is reasonable (and yes, they are both continually increasing the available bandwidth).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bandwidth caps

“You can argue that a service should spend whatever is needed to provide enough bandwidth”

I don’t really care what they spend provided the government doesn’t grant monopolies. But they do. If a service doesn’t spend enough and if they charge too much a competitor will simply come in and destroy them in a free market. But we don’t have a free market.

In fact, I used to have DSL. Back at my old house I was able to get 3 Mb/sec for $30. We moved to a new house about a block away. This house is further from the poll or something (at least that’s what I was told) so the max bandwidth I can get with DSL here is 1.5 mb/sec and it costs $25. Our phone company said that they might be able to fix it by running a new line but there is no guarantee it will work and it will cost money. Several months later TW offered a 15 MB sec connection for $30 but it’s a promotional offer, it’s only for 1 year. After a year it’s $55 / month (we’re still within the year). $30 is okay for 15 – 20 mb/sec but it shouldn’t cost $55 (but alas, TW cable has a monopoly on our cable infrastructure. In fact, back many years ago they didn’t and cable was only $30 a month. However, TW eventually bought out our local cable provider and got a monopoly and ever since then cable prices shot through the roof. I don’t watch much T.V. but the cable is for others who live here, if it were up to me there would be no cable). So we took it and quit the DSl. Eventually our ex DSL providers started calling us and kept on trying to re – sell us DSL under some lame pitches, “our connection is better, its more secure, you have to share your connection with cable but with DSl you get your own connection” which I think they just made up because I have my own IP address). They kept calling and when asking if I had any complaints about the DSL service we had I told them about the connection problem. They offered to have someone go over there and fix it, ONLY after I switched to a competitor. I told them not to bother, I’m not switching back, at least not right now.

This WHOLE time they were able to fix the problem but they didn’t do it ONLY due to a lack of competition. Competition comes in and all of a sudden everything is fixable.

BTW, I’m not saying TW cable is any better (they’re WORSE), but there is no real competition here. What choice do I have? I hate Monsanto for basically monopolizing food (ie: getting patents on the genes of just about any piece of food easily available to the public) but I still have to buy food. What these corporations are doing isn’t right, they have no regard for morality whatsoever, and people need to wake up to it and resist.

Bri (profile) says:

“First… in none of the experiments with metered billing have the “low level users” received a discount.”

Thank you! This seems to be missed by most. No ISP said let’s charge our low tier users $10/month and our high tier users $60/month. Instead they said, let’s keep charging our low tier customers the same rate and jack up the rates for everyone else. So in essence they are saying, although we advertise unlimited at a certain rate we only think low end users deserve that rate. It is also a clear indication that they don’t really care about their customers as they would have you believe.

Of course we all know what this is really about, a content delivery shift from cable to the Internet. These providers are simply poising themselves to reap HUGE profits as “normal” Internet usage becomes excessive Internet usage.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

I Disagree With The Article

First, let me say I agree that there is inadequate competition for broadband in the US, which is the source of most of our problems. Secondly, I agree that it is shady that “in none of the experiments with metered billing have the ‘low level users’ received a discount.”

I hate the notion of ISPs inspecting my packets to determine which are “good” and which are “bad”. My P2P could be life-saving x-ray images while your email could be a Nigerian scam. Three strike snooping, RIAA snooping, or other meddling is not appreciated by me.

I think ISPs should treat all content soruces equally, and not favor their own content or partners.

But after that, I disagree. I think it entirely fair and democratic that heavy users pay more for their increased traffic and burdens on the network.

I think it’s fair that if someone wants their packets to have priority during a congested time, they could perhaps pay for the privilege.

I think caps, metering, tiers of service, and managed traffic can all be done in a fair manner, and would be done as such if there were competition to keep ISPs in line. The most competitive telcos in the world, in Europe, have WAY lower prices than us, but they do have limits.

Mike, you seem to be afraid of these tools (caps, metering) because they are usually used in an unfair manner. But much like file sharing networks, or VoIP, or the economics of free…these are just tools. They are neither good nor evil. If they were deployed in a healthy competitive market, you would see the lightest Internet users getting cheaper rates, not just the heaviest getting surcharges.

And I think most of you commenters are talking out your @#$ when you say that the “bandwidth hog” is a fictional creature. How many of you have seen ISP logs showing usage per person, and identifying the top 5% of users? In my work a few years back with a wireless ISP association, I saw about a half dozen different ISP’s data. Every one of them showed clear, obvious, jump-off-the-page, undeniable visual confirmation of the supposedly mythical “bandwidth hog”. If the hoggiest 5% of your customers are generating 50% of your network traffic, would you not consider that a hog? The numbers were startling. Lots of you out there probably feel like you are being accused of being the “bandwidth hog” – you’re probably not! Even if you’re a geek and a heavy user, it’s probably not you.

This is no indictment of those bandwidth hogs personally. They’re just running apps using the connection they bought. If they bought “unlimited”, then fair enough. But you have to be fairly one-sided in this debate not to see that the ISP might want to do something to revise the nature of the deal with these people. Deals can be re-negotiated, you know. The ISP can ask for different terms if the user wants to renew/continue service.

I don’t know if these US fixed ISPs are at full capacity or close to it. But someday, they probably will be. At that point, they are faced with the need to either reduce traffic, or improve capacity. And if the top 5% are consuming 50% of existing capacity, the right economic solution would be to pass the costs of increasing capacity on to them. If their bandwidth-intensive activities warrant the extra cost, they will pay it, and capacity will grow. If their bandwidth-intensive activities are trivial, and were only being done because it was free, they will reduce usage to some lower cap.

Mike, I still don’t understand how we can agree so often on how economics drives issues, yet disagree every time on this one.

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