The number of total Internet user is rapidly increasing these days as the Internet has become probably the biggest source of all types of information, entertainment and news. Most of the Internet users aren’t quite curious about their ISP and how they are treating him. The maximum number of average Internet users do not realize (or even do not care) whether their Internet service provider is actually giving them what they have paid for. Only a small portion of them who make large downloads should have already noticed that at certain times or for certain functions, Internet gets much slower than average. Most of the total network transfers are done by them. We can assume that 10-15% of Internet user cover up almost 80-85% of data traffic while only 15-20% (more or less) bandwidth is used by the rest 85-90% user. Thinking about it, the Internet Service Providers (ISP) began a few ways to re-shape it by limiting the bandwidth for certain protocols that used to transfer large files over the network. These are the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) protocols used widely by many people such as Torrents, eMule or Ares Galaxy. Some providers also limit the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), another type of protocol used to make file transfers between servers.
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This technique is called Traffic Shaping (Also known as Packet Shaping) which literally means managing computer network. Although most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) deny using this method because it is illegal and it will create negative thinking among the users. You will not notice that your ISP is applying this technique if you do not do heavy downloads and use internet only to access your email account, read some blogs, watch some videos or do social communicating. But while you are downloading large files via Torrent or use some famous online file sharing site like Rapidshare or Hotfile, you might notice that your transfer rate decrease hugely.
So why do Internet Service Provides do traffic shaping? Say for example, those who uses shared network knows that when multiple people are connected at the same time the speed of your connection is reduced because network capacity is divided to those users through multiple computers. The same happens with Internet access in general. So let’s say by connecting our computers to the Internet, we are getting connected to a huge shared network used by lots of other people. If there are a lot of people using the network at the same time, the average capacity it is reduced because the total capacity remains the same and at the same the total user increases, simple math. The network providers need to fulfill their contracts with customers. When they sell plans 3MB or 10MB, the customers would probably like to have that speed when opening a page or watching a video in a streaming site. As said before, almost 85-90% of customers do not use file transfer protocols usually, so if your network provider limits speed in P2P protocol, only 10% of user may suffer while the rest enjoys complete access.
If you don’t know yet, the data transmission made through the Internet is done in packets. The internet speed has a little to do with the number of packets being transmitted. To better understand, let imagine an analogy between the data traffic with vehicles. Let’s say accessing the internet usually, you are carrying a number of packages well enough to fill a car. Fast access like reading email or using Twitter/Facebook would transmit packets similar to a motorbike. Now, to download movies or large files need a heavy truck. If there are many trucks going the road, the speed of cars and motorcycles will decrease. Although the trucks are only 10-15% total of vehicles on road, if they are carrying a lot of transit then other heavy vehicles will also get affected. Now, if there is a way to limit the transit of trucks (for example, trucks with heavy loads are forbidden to run during peak hour), traffic flows better for all other vehicles. In most metropolitan areas, trucks are prohibited from transiting during peak hour. Considering this analogy, we can imagine why the ISPs do it. By limiting the transfer protocols made by few users, it ensures a smoother flow of internet traffic for most.
There are some programs and techniques used by ISP companies to shape internet access. For example, providers may limit the use of some transfer protocols. Generally Torrent or P2P clients use only certain ports access. By limiting access to these ports, Internet Service Providers ensures that only a few data will be transmitted with these protocols. This limit is done randomly by losing some of sent data, forcing to limit bandwidth usage. Another way is to limit maximum usage in certain times (e.g. per 24 hour), when a user exceeds this maximum usage then he or she will get a timeout (Either he/she won’t be able to access to internet for some time or the data transfer rate will be significantly reduced – Similar to Fair Usage Policy). Also ISPs may limit bandwidth on certain places based on geo-location.
Of course there are contractual issues to force ISPs to always offer the desired data packet anytime. However, all contracts provide agreement clauses saying that a minimum speed of access is guaranteed while usually 10-15% of the contracts are valued. It is clear that providers refuse to practice, but users can prove it by analyzing their network speed over different protocol.
There are several ways to prevent the limitations imposed by the Internet Service Providers. Although some of them are real complex as they require basic or higher knowledge about network architecture and connection technology. Here are some simple but effective tips to ensure a higher download speed. The first thing you should do is test your connection to see if she really is suffering with Traffic Shaping. You can test your connectivity under different protocols using Glasnost Project. To do this, simply visit the site, click on any protocol you want to test and click on Start Testing. The test takes approximately 8-9 minutes and check if the provider limits access to the tested protocol. If this proves that you are a victim of Traffic Shaping, you can change some settings for your program.
As most of the traffic shaping is done for P2P protocol, we will show you how to defend it using P2P programs. The first thing you can do is to use traffic encryption of your P2P programs. This makes it almost impossible for the providers confirm that you are using these protocols. Depending on the application you are using, there are different ways to enable the function.
BitTorrent and uTorrent: Go to Options > Preference, then select BitTorrent from the left side panel. Under Protocol Encryption, select Enabled for Outgoing and then click OK.
BitComet: Go to Tools > Options and from the left panel, select Task > BitTorrent. Now from Protocol encryption (avoid BT protocol being blocked), select Always and then click OK.
Vuze: Click on Tools > Options and first click on Mode from the left panel and select Advanced under User Proficiency. Then select Connection > Transport Encryption from the left panel and enable Require encrypted transport and finally select RC4 from Minimum encryption level. Then click on Apply.
Internet Service Providers however knows these techniques and may even block any program that appears to use the Torrent protocol. If this happens, you should change your current internet program or service provider. Try complaining to your provider but do not hope that they are going to take action to solve your complain because companies refuse to practice Traffic Shaping. The best thing is to find a provider or a program that allows you to make downloads as you want.
Now what do you think of these tips, were they helpful to you? Do you suffer with Traffic Shaping and what did you usually do to defend it? Tell us here and join the discussion!