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Networking The Internet United Kingdom Games

UK ISP To Prioritize Gaming Traffic 196

nk497 writes "A UK ISP is now offering a broadband package just for gamers, which will prioritize their traffic to give them an edge over rival players. Demon Internet has also set up direct networks with gaming companies to boost speeds, and is promising lower latency and a higher usage cap than standard packages. 'Looking at the usage of gamers, it's actually more akin to a small business,' the company said. While paying to get specific content streamed more quickly may worry net neutrality campaigners, Demon says it has enough capacity for its own customers and that's who it's looking out for."
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UK ISP To Prioritize Gaming Traffic

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  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @07:13PM (#33328338)

    This prioritizing of gaming traffic would be illegal if Net Neutrality existed.

    You see how seemingly "good" laws can cause unintended and harmful consequences?

    How do you figure that? You're assuming that the consequences of banning this would be harmful. There are two cases to consider here - one where the ISP is operating at 100% bandwidth, and another where they are operating below that.

    If the ISP is operating at 100% bandwidth, then this becomes a zero-sum game. The gamer's packets being prioritized come at the price of other paying customers' packets being de-prioritized. In essence, the other customers are not getting the bandwidth they paid for. The ISP transmits the same number of packets, they collect the same amount of money from regular customers, and they collect more money from the gamers. In other words, the ISP does the exact same amount of work as before, but collects more money.

    If the ISP is operating below 100% bandwidth, then the gamer gains nothing. His packets travel out with the same latency as regular customers' packets, so he gains nothing by paying extra. Again, the ISP does the exact same amount of work as before, but collects more money.

    So in both cases, the harm comes from offering to prioritize gaming traffic for an extra fee. At its heart, that's what Net Neutrality aims to prevent - ISP using their monopoly position over your network data to extract more money from you while they do the exact same amount of work. Net neutrality encourages ISPs to solve bandwidth problems the correct way - by adding more bandwidth. Except for illegal traffic (spam, copyrighted downloading), prioritization encourages ISPs to solve bandwidth problems the wrong way - by not adding more bandwidth when they obviously need it, and taking bandwidth some customers have legitimately paid for and should get, and giving it to someone else who paid more.

    Now, if ISPs wanted to lower prices for people willing to have their bandwidth degraded, while raising prices for people wanting to have their bandwidth prioritized, thus keeping their revenue the same, then there's no problem. But no ISP is going to do that because it involves them doing a whole lot of work implementing all this for no net revenue gain. The whole reason prioritization (of legal traffic) makes economic sense to ISPs is because it's essentially robbing from Peter to pay Paul, without Peter knowing that he's being robbed, and Paul is willing to pay extra for the service.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @07:32PM (#33328450) Homepage

    Do you really want to have a gaming fee and a voip fee and a youtube fee and whatever "extra charges" tacked onto your bill for each service you want to work well? The way technology is evolving, you can effectively make gaming worse but not upgrading the normal connections and only upgrade those that pay extra, pretty soon it's almost a requirement. Yes, this is part of delivering an "Internet service", if access to one part of the Internet - in this case game servers - is too poor you must upgrade everyone. You can't charge people extra for getting decent rates to EU or Japan or Australia or the WoW server. They can't say "Well if you want good access to THESE servers you must pay extra."

    There should be some room within Net Neutrality legislation to prioritize classes of traffic, I'd say three is sufficient:
    1. Realtime (VoIP, gaming etc.)
    2. Interactive (Web etc.)
    3. Bulk (P2P, FTP etc.)

    They should not be able to collect additional fees, but they should be allowed, but not required to prioritize up the first and prioritize down the last. What I am concerned about is that this won't be simply a "gaming" fee, next up it'll be by what game it is. Suddenly you have a "World of Warcraft" fee or "Warhammer online" fee or "Age of Conan" fee. All priced to fit supply and demand so they can profit as much as possible. Would you like that? I wouldn't.

  • by netchipguy ( 1010647 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:00PM (#33328568)
    It's not as simple as whether the ISP is running at 100% or not (i.e. your packet will get through, or not). Some apps are very sensitive to latency (voice, gaming, etc) while most are not.
    The switches have buffering which gets emptier, fuller, emptier, fuller. When it runs out of buffering, i.e. your 100% situation, packets get dropped, and TCP "backs off" to try to avoid that happening again in the immediate future. In fact, Random Early Discard (RED) protocols will drop the odd random packet, with increasing probability as the buffer fills, to let TCP know to backoff.... before LOTS of packets start getting dropped. If you do get to 100%, it shouldn't last long.
    However when your time sensitive packets are in the same queue as it gets emptier, fuller, emptier, fuller, then even if the buffers never fill, you still suffer from increased latency... and also latency variation (jitter), which can be even more problematic (when do you decide the packets never coming and you need to fill in the gap?). Furthermore, you'd like to avoid dropping these time-sensitive packets with RED (which of course would be another "non neutral behavior"). That's because these kinds of apps generally send a steady stream, they will sorely miss the data in that dropped packet, and anyway they won't backoff in the face of drops, defeating the whole purpose of RED.
    Enterprises who use IP Telephony will usually put that traffic at a higher priority (and, for that priority, disable RED). Not because their gigabit LANs are at 100%... they do it because it makes the telephone calls almost as robust and low-latency as "fixed lines".
    The whole Net Neutrality debate would perhaps get somewhere if people agreed on what they were talking about. There's too many very different ideas bundled into the same name. The version that makes it illegal to willfully delay/block/etc will get 90% support. The version where it's illegal to prioritize ANYTHING is much more debatable. Those who have actually rolled out services over shared medium (IP telephony, video conferencing, etc) will have a lot of information to share on the latter.
    Simply throwing bandwidth at the problem is not (yet) a viable solution, since folks are still figuring out ways to use all the bandwidth they can get. It's like saying "I don't need background threads and foreground threads, just treat them all the same and make the CPUs faster". Sounds nice, in theory.
    Think of a service like Skype. Assume we want that kind of innovative service to prosper. This absolutely requires that service providers don't block/delay Skype packets. Meanwhile, to hit the quality and reliability of "fixed lines", some way to mark that small number of packets as "important" would help A LOT.
  • by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:29PM (#33328922)

    I was on them from about 1995-1998, I remember someone I know leaving them saying that "30%" packet loss isn't worth paying for, that was in the 1990s.

  • by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:41PM (#33328958) Homepage

    Yes, there are some nitwits who try and conflate net neutrality as being in conflict with QoS or Tiered ISP service levels like offering (slower lite vs regular vs higher speed connections), etc, etc, but that's not the "net neutrality" that net neutrality advocates are interested in.

    Having read an online post where the owner of an ISP bragged about slowing down P2P connections and laughed about customers thinking the problem was on the peer's end rather than on the ISPs end, I tend to take a more expansive view of the concept of net neutrality. Call me a nitwit, if you will, but I think the concept of neutrality should also prohibit those kinds of shady behaviors. Go ahead and use QoS to ensure equitable access to bandwidth for all your customers, but don't cripple certain protocols under the guise of improving quality of service for others.

  • by ksandom ( 718283 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:54PM (#33328998) Homepage
    If we had enough capacity in our wallets, we wouldn't *need* to prioritize anything. Businesses and people need scarcity to survive. It's gives us something to overcome. Without it, we'd be fat and lazy, and would hardly achieve a fraction of what we do. Managing that scarcity is an essential part of surviving.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @10:55PM (#33329230) Homepage Journal

    If they are not overselling their network, they should not need to prioritize traffic

    If they are not overselling their network, then they are selling T1 connections, not residential connections. Imagine an ISP that splits your service into 256 kbps guaranteed and the rest oversold. The protocols you choose would go into the "guaranteed" bin, while things not quite as sensitive to short-term network performance, such as torrenting or someone else's web surfing, would go in the "oversold" bin.

  • by SakuraDreams ( 1427009 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @06:15AM (#33330588)

    Something like this is happening in South Africa. Here one of the biggest ISPs released the first uncapped residential product which was originally not shaped very aggressively. They also released a business product which costs almost 4 times as much, this product was on contract and was totally unshaped. Prior to this residential offerings in SA were mostly capped - at limits ranging from 1 to 10 GB/month. The residential product's shaping increased dramatically as more customers came onto this semi affordable plan. Initially very little was shaped but as time went on all one click hosts, all P2P traffic and all newsgroups traffic became so badly shaped to become dial up at speed during business hours and perhaps up to 80% of line speed at 3-4am. Line speed here is 4 Mb/sec. Gamers also started to complain of poor latency. People who used VPN tunnels were in effect unshaping themselves so the ISP decided to terminate the accounts of those who appeared to download too much over VPN. Finally the ISP offered their business package on a month to month basis at the same price to gamers and heavier downloaders but at about 4 times the cost ($270 per month). In SA the customer also has to pay a $57 line rental fee if you're using the fastest line at the moment, 4Mb/s, whether or not the ISP shapes you or not. The ISP initially offered a rather unshaped experience but now offers a very shaped on and in response provides a solution almost 4 times the price which is out of the league of most gamers.

  • Re:Citation Needed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by paeanblack ( 191171 ) on Sunday August 22, 2010 @03:01PM (#33333478)

    "Net Neutrality" is too vague of a term, and it means different things to different people, depending on their agenda.

    Car analogy time!

    Option 1: All vehicle traffic is treated equally

    Option 2: Vehicles are regulated differently based on external characteristics
        -Trucks drive in right lane and pay more tolls based on weight/length/# of axles
        -Emergency vehicles are given priority

    Option 3: Vehicles are regulated differently based on traffic-relevant characteristics
        -High-occupancy vehicles are given a private lane

    Option 4: Vehicles are regulated differently based on non-traffic-related characteristics
        -Fed-Ex and UPS bid for priority treatment in traffic law
        -Vehicles pay different amounts based on who and what they are carrying and what the owner can afford

    On a government-owned road network, Option 2 has the most universal support. We're generally OK with certain private companies (ambulances) getting special treatment. We're also OK with large trucks having to pay more and still get less access. Sometimes we're OK with Option 3, but sometimes not. Option 1 seems silly, and Option 4 is abhorrent.

    Unfortunately, "Net Neutrality" refers to everything other than Option 4. That lumps all the most sensible, but still very different, options under the same umbrella, which makes the term completely useless for discussion.

    When someone claims that traffic for VOIP, VOD, gaming, etc, should be treated differently than bulk downloads, they get thrown into the same "anti-NN" crowd as someone who claims Time Warner should not have to carry traffic from because they are a private business. That does not help the debate.

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