Aussie ISP Wants to Ban P2P Traffic on Off-Peak Hours

When it comes to Australian ISP stories, Australia isn’t exactly void of a number of horror stories. Things like particularly low monthly bandwidth caps and only being able to download during certain hours of the day to name a couple comes to mind. Now, one Australian ISP wants to further push out all forms of p2p traffic by banning that traffic during “off-peak” hours.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The news comes from IT News Australia where they cite an Exetel company posting which explains the plan.

“We will simply ban P2P traffic in the 12 midnight to 2 am period if the user elects to make that an ‘off peak’ period.” John Linton explains, “The penalty for selecting that period as ‘free’ and then using it for P2P downloads will be the removal of the free period completely for that customer or termination of the service.”

“Unlike every one of our competitors (or at least I assume this is the case) we have never been concerned about making as much money as possible from providing our services – we have always been driven by the objective of providing the best possible value. One way of doing this is to make use of the ‘dead’ bandwidth that exists on virtually very commercial network (though I have known of at least two exceptions) in the early hours of the morning.” Linton also said, explaining why the company is mulling this. He continued, “Typically on an efficiently utilised network such as Exetel’s this costs us (at our current size) well over $A150,000 a month and the bandwidth is completely wasted. Simple solution offer it to your user base at no cost to them – how, over a five year period could you fail to make that work?… away $A150,000 a month worth of services…..not a problem in the world. We couldn’t do it – rather than using the virtually unused 3 am to 7 am period to set a schedule of downloads our user base insisted on starting them at one second past midnight EVERY night and, for over 90% of those users their downloads were completed by 12.30 am EVERY morning. Could they be persuaded to start their downloads after 2 am?……nothing we could do for five plus years could make that happen.”

Perhaps the sad part of all of this is the fact that there was frustration over customers actually using what they paid for. If a company offers a popular service, then suddenly stops it altogether, no doubt there’ll be anger within the customer base.

Many Australian file-sharers make use of schedulers that either download during certain times of the day or certain times of the month to try and maximize their allotted bandwidth caps. In fact, sometimes users resort to an alternative form of file-sharing, blanks and postage, to help bypass the caps while still getting what they want. One wonders, if bandwidth problems haven’t been solved by now, exactly how much investment is being made in the underlying infrastructure in the first place in Australia? In addition, what happened to caching traffic to help save bandwidth for the ISPs anyway?

Linton seems to think that there is only a tiny fraction of p2p users actually using that bandwidth in the first place. He concluded, “One of the unprovable ‘business school myths’ (similar to the “every unhappy customer etc” nonsense) is that EVERY service provider would be better off without 1% – 2% (depending how unlucky they are) of their customers.”

So it seems that they think there’s no problem cutting people off if they try using p2p. Given more businesses use p2p solutions, this could only serve to hurt the overall Australian economy. If a small business such as a vidcaster uses BitTorrent to distribute their shows, sorry, but some ISPs don’t allow it. It doesn’t matter if you are selling the content, making money off of ad revenue, or even if you are legitimate at all. The ISP will have non of it.

It’s unclear if banning p2p traffic on peak hours will actually be implemented, but Exetel has already expressed interest in carrying through with it.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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