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#402880 - 19th Apr 2010 8:38pm ISP and Download FAQ
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I guess i'm writing this to try and set the record straight with ISPs and broadband. Am I qualified to write this? Well I live and breathe internet as I run a team that manages the network for two large organisations.

Virgin/NTL contend and 20:1, most other providers are 50:1 especially those on ADSL. That means there are 20 people sharing the bandwidth that they advertise e.g. 10mbit/sec. So download speed isnít everything.

ADSL is asynchronous which means that the download speeds are greater than the Upload speed. Internet performance can be affected by a number of factors and what the ISPs advertise is often crap . Some of the things to consider:

1) if you're not downloading huge files or streaming media and just use your connection to browse the web, then you won't need massive download speeds. For normal web browsing youíd struggle to tell the difference between a 2mbit/sec link and a 10mbit/sec link

2) Torrents (Pirate Bay etc). ..Most of the time a torrent wonít max out your connection (as it depends a lot about who youíre downloading the torrent from), so entry level broadband would be sufficient.

3) There are other factors that dictate the speed of download of torrents, adjusting the number of half open connections your computer will support will help. There are a number of articles on the net you can follow to adjust your routerís settings to configure it for the behaviour of torrents. Search the net for ďoptimize torrent speedĒ for guides.

4) Traffic shaping. Isnít particularly easy to do and torrent clients are quite clever at getting round it. I would recommend turning on ďtransport encryptionĒ. This encrypts the data to make it far more difficult for your ISP to analyse (and restrict)

5) Proxies. ISPs like to cache pages on their servers (proxying) so they donít have to pay the additional bandwidth charges; the internet is merely an agreement for ISPs to route each otherís traffic. NTL proxies used to be a big problem with rapidshare. ISP web proxies wonít work for torrents.

6) Reliability & Customer service. All that I need to do is know my internet connection works; I donít want support from the ISP under normal circumstances. If youíre an advanced user, you might not be too concerned about an ISP that is deemed to have poorer support if your connection is reliable. I know how routers work, so I donít need anyone else to tell me.

7) Monthly limits (caps) Ė Iíd stay well away from these if youíre downloading large files/torrent or watching streaming media (iPlayer etc)

Being Watched .....

Can the ISP know what Iím downloading? Well this depends, if the traffic is strongly encrypted, then no. But they will know the destination of the data.

Does the ISP know iím downloading torrents? By the behaviour of your connections, then yes.

VPNs Ė Virtual Private network is a way of tunnelling data across a network so it canít be snopped on. If ISPs block torrents then users can establish VPNs to countries where torrents are legal, so in effect your computer would make a connection to a server that would download the torrents for you (a proxy).

Torrents typically work on trackers Ė This tells your computer who else has the data for your torrent. DHT (Distributed Hash table) is a way of avoiding central trackers. Trackers can be either public or private. To download from a private tracker you may need to become a member either by fee or recommendation.

What about PeerGuardian? All peer guardian does is block connections from a list of KNOWN addresses (MPAA, record companies etc). All they would need to do it trace downloads from an UNKNOWN connection (like EMI just ordering a standalone ADSL line). I would recommend using some kind of filtering to give you basic protection. These feature is now included in uTorrent (ipfilter.dat), so you could do away with PeerGuardian altogether.

Streaming media....Consider the days of dial-up ten years ago, streaming media wasnít really an option, but the likes of the BBC and SKY wonít offer super high quality streaming if most people donít have the broadband to support it.

Hidden charges....Always watch out for the length of your contract and read the small print. A lot can happen in 18 months!

I find it an insult for someone to charge me for something I donít want or need. Consider the requirement to have a phone line to use ADSL. I get calls on my mobile and someone placed a telephone on my desk in work that doesnít cost me line rental. NTL/Virgin may be a little more expensive than some others, but you donít need a phone line to use it if in a cable area.
If there is an option of going with entry level broadband, then I would suggest taking it, you should be able to upgrade later if the speed isnít good enough. Do it quick though as changing your package will often reset contract periods.

Why donít ISPs block more? File sharing accounts for large amounts of internet traffic. Users would simply leave and go to other ISPs who didnít block.

What about cheap offers? such is life, you get what you pay for.

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#402892 - 19th Apr 2010 9:42pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: Neil_c]
MattLFC Offline
Wiki Master

Registered: 14th Aug 2004
Posts: 22315
Loc: Moreton/Beirut/Mobile
o2 broadband is about as cheap as it gets, and no you dont get what you pay for, you get a hell of a lot more. No caps, limits, traffic shaping, peer preferencing, complete neutrility, and is actually what id consider broadband (ie. fast both ways).

24/7 freefone UK customer support that is usually answered in under 10 seconds, multiple communication methods (sms, email etc) keeping you informed of everything from billing to planned maintenance to unscheduled/suspected outages on you DSLAM/exchange/area, and many additional services such as email-text (which is potentially saving my business hundreds of dollars per month) free web text to name but a few. You say you don't need customer support because you know how to use a router?? Is your ISP a business ISP? Do they provide you and SLA with your service, a load balancer and multiple redundant leased lines, maybe even fibre connections? Because if not, then im afraid you will have at least one, and most likely multiple SPOF's - in which case you will from time to time have outages - I dont know about you, but I dont want to be waiting for 45 minutes to speak to an Indian that I cant even understand. What about billing queries, changing anything on your account, do you want to wait in queues for this, or in a lot of cases actually have to pay for the call to do so?

So the argument that you get what you pay for, which I interpret you are referring to as pay more to get better services, pay less and get crap service, is seriously flawwed.

You are not really explaining anything to me since my business is pretty much an ISP, and you are explaining too complex for the average Joe Bloggs to understand. I cant quite make out if you are slating or praising NTL/Telewest/VM, but I do see its the only provider you make repeated reference to. And please don't point out that ADSL is asynchronous, whilst making no comparison with DOCSIS/euroDOCSIS, which is also asynchronous as it seems pretty unfair to all ADSL ISP's. Indeed, the current offerings from Virgin Media are bizarre with regards the downstream:upstream ratio, o2 (and other ADSL2+ ISP's) leave them for dead in this respect. In fact, if anything, I think you will actually find that one of the major drawbacks of the DOCSIS technology standard is upstream bandwidth limitations - the "real" reason why contentions on VM connections have to be so low - because if even a fraction of the people on a single UBR started uploading at full pelt, it would have major implications with regards downstream speed for all users. This is one of the few area's where DAVIC and even copper based DSL technologies have a significant advantage over DOCSIS.

With regards phoneline rental, what internet service do you get from Virgin Media for £16.50 per month? Im interested, because if you are on o2's ADSL network (all major exchanges on Wirral are unbundled by o2 now the last time I checked samknows), you can get o2 Standard and o2 Landline - 8mbps down, 1.3mbps up, no interference or caps, 24/7 freefone customer support, and all the extra's for £16.50.

I should also point out, you forgot to mention throttling - there is little point in having a wonderful 50Mbps VM connection, if they unfairly throttle your speed once you've used it more than they think is acceptable - and this can be in a matter of minutes at high speed.

And after all that, I posted this on a nice slow o2 EDGE connection on my HTC TouchPro2 because Heswall does not seem to have UMTS haha

smile

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#402897 - 19th Apr 2010 10:39pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: MattLFC]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I agree with most of your points, but I'm not trying to slate a particular ISP. £16.50 per month is a reasonable amount to pay for an internet service. The point I'm making is that like anything, it depends on what you want to do. Why would you need a low contention ratio or fibre connection if you just looked at web pages?

Furthermore, the service from the ISP connectivity is only a part of the performance that you actually get for browsing/downloading etc. This is the main point that i'm trying to make. I have a 250MB sync fibre connection at my disposal and I don't typically get any better performance browsing web pages than what I do on my home connection. There are so many factors, DNS server response times, load on other parts of the internet and even the way web apps are written to name but a few.


I have made reference to caps/monthly limits and agree with your point; what's the point in having the high capacity link if you're going to get it restricted in some way either by traffic shaping or limit.

The technology used to deliver connections will always evolve, but cost/benefit is always a factor. Consider that fibre is a standard for connecting large corporate sites, but there is a return towards copper with the competive pricing of LLU.

You accuse my post of being too technical, but yet you mention DOCSIS and ADSL performance. Both DSL and DOCSIS keep pushing the limits of speed on copper/coax. Is it not competition that drives things forward? That one day an updated speed cap via TFTP is downloaded because someone else is offering the same or more for a lower price?

Whilst an ISP may be unlimited or be very competitive today, tomorrow might be a different story. Pipex, NTL, Zen & Tiscali have all changed their offerings over time. Things change so it's worth keeping an eye on the market to get more value for your money as and when these offers become available.

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#402901 - 19th Apr 2010 11:05pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: Neil_c]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
The point you make about customer service is an interesting one. Having two resilient links taking seperate routes into the network onto routers in a HSRP pair, into resilient firewalls etc etc. That's all fine and often required for very large commercial organisations, but for home all small biz, it's probably uncessary and doesn't justify the cost/benefit.

But as you will know, a business needs to consider the internet as a service and more than just the connectivity (internal web server, proxies, email systems, gateway of last resort, firewalls etc).

I know the customer service of my home ISP is crap, but like I say I don't ring them that often. The service has gone down once in 8 years, so I'd consider that pretty reliable. Should that situation change and I don't percieve that I'm getting value for money or it's more hastle than it's worth, then they'd get dropped and I look at forums to see what offers are out there.

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#402904 - 19th Apr 2010 11:27pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: Neil_c]
MattLFC Offline
Wiki Master

Registered: 14th Aug 2004
Posts: 22315
Loc: Moreton/Beirut/Mobile
I wasnt aiming my post at Joe Bloggs, I was speaking to you, and I know you understand what I mean tease

I strongly agree that o2 are comptetive and in my own opinion, the best ISP I have ever used (and I have used a lot), but I am awaiting thier downfall (the problem with the industry is the good apples always turn sour sooner or later).

They've been strong for over 2 years now, and their service is essentially a refined version of Be*, which we all know was the ISP for geeks for many years, so hopefully long may it continue.

Contrary to how I may seem on the boards all the time, I have long been a firm believer and admirer of cable since I first started delving into it all and eating it constantly back in the Nynex days, it is by far the best mass-market technology that presently exists in the UK marketplace, however the amalgamation of the cableco's was far too slow (god bless NTL for finally sorting that out) and when it eventually happened, the differing systems and formats in use caused years worth of delay, and since the rediculous 8.1billion pricetag NTL paid for CWC and the telecoms crash led to both NTL and Telewest suffering chapeter 11 in the early 2000's, both networks have been victims of severe under-investment. They merged years too late, and have seen piss-poor implementation of their technologies, backed by other major failings with regards customer service and a constantly changing roadmap, which has left the company with no clear direction. They are getting there now, and DOCSIS 3 should help matters, however BT's Infinity network is hot on it's heels and with regards upstream, will provide a much more complete service. If and when BT or VM ever get to the point where they launch a full FTTH network (afaik, Infinity isnt actually that, the last 1/2km is still copper) then we really will see a connected Britain. But that will bring with it obvious problems such as peering, lack of IP transit and I suspect LINX will start to have serious problems lmao.

Ive always hated the numbers game ISP's play with consumers, we will give you 9999999Mbps and they will only give 1888829Mbps lol - who gives a damn, its the details and the price that concern me. However, unfortunately, we live in a world where all this techy terminology (which is ultimately required) makes it very hard to explain to consumers the benefits and drawbacks of service a vs service b, and when you start decyphering the information, it quickly becomes very boring for most people, or they still can't grasp what you mean.

At present, id say I would get by on a nice 2Mbps connection myself, I don't "need" to be pushing 200KB/s up and 1.7MB/s down... I mainly surf the net and send emails if im totally honest. However, I do download the odd Blu-ray here and there, and seed a lot of stuff for UK Nova, probably more because I can than because I need to, but it shows how it opens up the possibilities. Uploading a YouTube video is quite often what many users would define as "painfully slow" because their ISP is bragging about nice downstream numbers, and giving them an unimpressive upstream. Say the average upstream is 400Kbps, if a user can benefit from 3x this bandwidth for no extra charge, then it has to be worth it?

From a business perspective I do seriously require the ultra-fast upstream, however the average user does not have these requirements, so that should be discounted. I guess the main point im getting at, is its costing me nothing more to have an ultra-fast and reliable service, and such a service can remove boundaries and make things nicer and smoother for people - for a normal user, I wouldnt say go and pay £10 more just to get the odd YouTube video uploaded faster - but for the same price, its something to consider (but as you say, consider other factors in decision).

Its a minefield out there, and thats why I recommend o2 over and above any other ISP at present - even without any discounts, you are paying an exceptional price for probably the only honest, no-bs and un-interrupted consumer level service. Ive never seen an ISP get every element of their service "just right" before o2 came along, in the days of NTL and TW they were "just right" with everything except customer service (having been a mod on the former nthellworld.com forums, I had first hand dealing with the fallout day-in, day-out), however nowadays, their customer service may have improved (though not to the level of o2), but other, serious factors with regards their actual service, are what concern me.

I look at it like this...

o2 LLU area - o2 no question.
No o2, but Virgin Media - VM no question (on the basis of their technology alone).
No o2 LLU or VM - your in the brown stuff lol.

The only excptions would be other services that the user already subscribes to and throw in for free a basic internet service as an additional extra, if the userh was a very basic user and did little else but browse (Sky with their "free" broadband service for example).

And one important rule - avoid Orange, BT Total Broadband and TalkTalk like the plauge - all 3 services have either a single or multiple serious issues, be it customer service, actually getting a connection, over-pricing, stupid capping etc... There is other ISP's who undoubtadly fall into this category, but these are the most popular ones and we would probably be here all day listing them if we started haha!

smile

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#402921 - 20th Apr 2010 12:23am Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: MattLFC]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9545
Loc: Birkenhead
In the pre-ADSL days, with some dial-ups you could reverse the asynchronous connection temporarily whilst uploading, so you had fast up, slow down. Its hardly rocket science for that to be built in automatically on ADSL, but you might need low attenuation figures or higher output capability.
_________________________
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates

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#403057 - 20th Apr 2010 7:25pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: diggingdeeper]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I guess I tried to write my post to be neutral and balanced. Looking back it didn't quite turn out that way and I wish I would have sent it to you for review before it was posted for comment. As you can guess, I use NTL at home, but in a moment of madness I ordered TalkTalk. This was because I had a TalkTalk landline at the time.

It was the worst experience in my life (i'm still scared from it now). I paid an extra £5 per month and got £5 a month's value worth of broadband. Tried to cancel and the cheeky b*stards tried to tell me I couldn't even though it was it was on a free trail. They argued with me and compared themselves to Demon and NTL. In the end I threatend them with cancelling the DD mandate and they caved in. They lost all my business that day, including the phone for forever more.

I think the cable story was a bit of a shame, they could have done a lot more so much earlier on, wiping the floor with the competition, but they never got their fingers out in time. The lack of investment is hugely apparent and at one point I was concerned it would end up like Reddifusion!

The thing that concerns me now is how this digital bill will end up in practise, but for everyone one person trying to enforce something, there are 1000 finding ways around it.

I remember in the early days of ADSL, BT wouldn't support connections that where a certain distance from the exchange. So I ordered satellite broadband for a customer. Speeds were great, but latency! Signal had to travel a few times the distance of the Earth's circumference. Terminal services was useless.

I guess we've now ruined this thread for the non-technical reader lol.


Edited by Neil_c (20th Apr 2010 7:27pm)

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#403062 - 20th Apr 2010 7:42pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: Neil_c]
diggingdeeper Offline

Wiki Guardian

Registered: 9th Jul 2008
Posts: 9545
Loc: Birkenhead
Originally Posted By: Neil_c
I guess we've now ruined this thread for the non-technical reader lol.
There is nothing wrong with having discussions at all levels, if people don't understand then they have the choice of remaining ignorant (in the correct English use of the word as oppose to an insult) or looking it up and asking questions, their choice.
_________________________
In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. Socrates

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#403067 - 20th Apr 2010 7:53pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: diggingdeeper]
Neil_c Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
good point :-) I guess it's hard for techies to avoid descending into the deepest level of technical detail. Some interesting points discussed though.

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#403101 - 20th Apr 2010 9:16pm Re: ISP and Download FAQ [Re: Neil_c]
scoops Offline
Smartchild

Registered: 27th Oct 2008
Posts: 531
Loc: Lurking
I don't claim to be a techie but I was able to follow enough of the discussion to get the gist of it. Interesting topic and at least it didn't descend to "my pipe's fatter than your pipe" wink lol
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If it's stupid and it works, it ain't stupid.

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