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Dirty little secrets of ISP’s

Dirty little secrets of ISP's

Has there ever been a time where you wanted a speeding ticket? Yeah, me either. But in the ISP game, speed perceived speed is king. And when you type something into your browser, you expect it to return what you ask, yes? Did you know many ISP’s step in to try and “help” you when you don’t search for the right thing? Well, we’ll talk about those and some other items big ISP’s commonly do to game the system.

“Boost”

Power boost, turbo mode. There are a few names for it. Bottom line, these techniques provide temporary speed increases. Comcast is one of the most prolific users of this “product”. What this enables ISP’s to do is offer temporarily faster service to their clients. This happens for two reasons: make larger files download faster and tweak the perceived speed of your internet connection.

How fast is your internet?Comcast specifically sells this to help download large files more quickly. Based on a file’s download size, PowerBoost can kick in to help it feel like it is downloading faster. However, the boost is short lived and generally is either time-bound or size bound. Meaning if you download a 50 meg file, PowerBoost kicks on and lasts for 30 seconds, just for the sake of the discussion. This also works for most speed testing websites. This “product” affects the perceived speed of the internet connection so much the SamKnows, the FCC’s broadband measurement program, specifically notes the effect that PowerBoost has on Comcast customers’ speed.

 

 Network Neutrality

Network neutrality is a very hot topic for internet service providers. What is basically boils down to is a fairness among providers. Not to pick on Comcast again, but an very thorough Level3 network engineer busted Comcast for allowing their Xbox 360 Xfinity app to stream to the Xbox and not count against their data caps and have a higher level of network priority than other traffic. This launched denials by Comcast, investigations by the Department of Justice, and a number of other legal and industry maneuvering.The premise behind network neutrality is that an internet service provider cannot prioritize their traffic over another providers traffic. IE, Comcast cannot say my VOIP (voice over IP) traffic is better than Skype’s and prioritize it higher. They can prioritize VOIP traffic in general to provide a better quality of service for all users of all services, not just their own. This is still a bit of the wild west mentality. Luckily, most providers do not push the network neutrality envelope too much. Yet. That we know of.

 

 An Ongoing Topic

Every few months, a new hot topic rears up so we will do our best to cover those big incidents and help explain them in layman’s terms. You can follow all of these dirty little secret posts here. And if you hear any rumors and feel like you’ve got a dirty little secret about your ISP, let us know. Like our next series: can your ISP read your email?


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