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[ih] Secret precedence schemes back then
On Wed, 2009-01-28 at 00:04 -0800, Mike Padlipsky wrote:
> analogy between them and contemporary 'ISPs' must founder on
> precisely that point: today's hardware is so much more capable than
> 'yesterday's' that any attempt to reason by analogy to what used to
> be licit is, i submit, a flagrantly false analogy.
I'm not (yet) convinced. There's no doubt that today's hardware is
vastly more capable than that of the 80s. But today's users are also
vastly more demanding than those of the 80s. And cost needs to be in
the analysis too.
Our old favorites Telnet and Ftp are buried in the shadows. High-def
streaming video, voice telephony, Bittorrent, and graphics-rich
auto-refreshing websites are all over the place. Multiply that kind of
traffic by 10s or 100s of millions of users and you've got some pretty
My gut feel is that demand grows to consume available capacity, whether
its networking or just plain computing. Kind of like Moore's Law, this
principle has longevity. Sometimes my 2009 multi-core, multi-gigahertz,
multi-gigabyte desktop computer seems slower than my 1970s 1-CPU,
1-megahertz, 0.001-gigabyte system was way back when. Same with my
gigabit LAN versus my old 9.6kb lines.
So, as long as you operate near the edge of resources, there's a need
for some kind of policy to decide how to allocate limited resources.
Getting back to the original question about what current ISPs do...
I live in a very rural area, so the only viable Internet connection is
via satellite, which can achieve download rates of about 800 kb/sec. My
current ISP (HughesNet) has a policy for allocating limited bandwidth.
If, in any given day, you download more than about 150MB of data, your
service is clamped to a maximum of several 10s of kb/sec for the next 24
hours. It's like suddenly being on a slow dialup link, going to the
"penalty box" for the next 24 hours.
As long as you're doing "telnet-like" stuff, you can do it forever. If
you insist on watching TV shows by streaming video, you won't do it for
very long before being shut down for 24 hours.
Lest you think this isn't so bad.... I bought a new Imac recently. It
took about 5 minutes to unpack it, plug it in to the LAN, and find the
power switch. It came up fine, and I worked through the setup - user
name, etc. A little later that day, the Internet went dead. After
some investigating, I discovered that my satellite connection had been
throttled down due to hitting the threshold. I can't prove it, but I
think that the Imac, fresh out of the box, of course was quite a bit
behind the current release of system software. So when it found it had
Internet access it simply "phoned home" and got the latest and greatest.
What's a few hundred megabytes after all.
Some types of traffic seem to be always shut off completely, e.g.,
BitTorrent. I've never been able to get a detailed spec of exactly what
the policy is though.
So, this ISP's current policy apparently has two classes of traffic: 1)
things that are simply never allowed, and 2) everything else, which is
allowed as long as it doesn't consume too much resource.
Other satellite ISPs have different policies. E.G., Wildblue has a
similar threshold scheme, but the "window" is 30 days instead of 24
When I was at Oracle in the early 90s, part of my job involved deploying
and managing the worldwide corporate network. This was a bunch (about a
hundred) of commercial Cisco routers scattered all over the world -
basically a private Internet with a single interconnect to the public
Internet. It was a "private ISP", and there were quite a few similar
networks in many corporations through the 90s at least.
We struggled with the users' demands, moving stuff around the world.
Database files are *big*. So are massive multimedia Powerpoint
presentations and PDF documents. These were multiprotocol routers (IP,
DECNET, Appletalk, etc) -- before TCP/IP beat all its competitors to
dust. Some users decided it was convenient to have all their digital
world with them as they went from place to place. The easiest way to do
that was to simply drag this icon from here to there -- moving an entire
disk image from one continent to another. We had to disable AppleTalk
on transoceanic links to stop it.
In that corporate world, policies were basically constrained to whatever
the commercial routers could do. So you could probably get a good idea
of the range of current policies by looking at the manuals for current
commercial routers to see what's possible. Chance are, if something is
possible in the router products, some ISP somewhere is doing it.
So, although modern hardware is very capable, modern users are very
demanding. And it still costs real money to deploy hardware and lease
fiber-optic lines or satellite channels. Money enters into policy - I
can get a larger "threshold" for my satellite service - just pay more
money every month.
It would be fascinating to see a comprehensive survey of ISP policies if
someone had the time and interest to do the legwork. Or maybe people
here can simply describe the policy that they see from their own