You probably won’t notice it, but your “unlimited” broadband plan is carefully packaged so that your ISP has control over the amount of data you can download and the speed by which you can do it.
Traffic throttling, also known as traffic management or traffic shaping, is a practice by which an ISP manages the finite amount of bandwidth for its customers. It restricts the bandwidth available for heavy downloaders so their online activity does not disrupt and lower the connection speed of other subscribers who are moderate internet users.
|Image Credit: Scott Beale|
Traffic Throttling and Net Neutrality
Net neutrality is the concept of looking at the internet as something that’s completely free of restrictions and not governed by a single organization. Net neutrality purports that web traffic should be equal. Some people think that traffic throttling is a violation of net neutrality.
Contention ratio refers to the number of people who use the same connection or the local telephone copper line. For instance, a contention ratio of 30:1 means that 30 people use the same line and share the available bandwidth.
The more users hogging the line, the slower the connection speed. Some costly broadband deals, usually designed for businesses, have contention ratios under 20:1.
If you are an avid player of online games, latency or time delay is a factor that figures highly when you choose which ISP to go with. Low latency ensures that you are able to keep up with the real-time sequence of your game play. The same applies to VoIP or internet telephony. If your bandwidth is throttled, your audio quality suffers when you make calls by way of Skype, for example.
Effects of Traffic Throttling
Theoretically, the practice of traffic throttling can be used by certain organizations against their competitors. A company can block or limit traffic originating from specific applications or application types. For example, Virgin Media was accused of targeting Humyo, an online storage website, for traffic throttling. Moreover, popular video-on-demand services putting enormous strain on network infrastructures are also likely targets of potential throttling by ISPs.
If you notice sluggish connections, it means your ISP is throttling your bandwidth. This ensures that heavy downloaders do not encroach on the available bandwidth for moderate web surfers.
The main benefit of traffic throttling is to prevent some internet users from hogging the finite amount of bandwidth shared with other users. So, if you are simply browsing or checking your email, then you probably won’t notice any difference in the quality of your online experience. But if you download and upload heavily, your connection speeds may become sluggish.
K. Ong is the author of this article and warns us not to take the claims by some of the providers like o2 broadband too seriously when they claim to supply unlimited internet.