Top broadband ISPs deny P2P shaping

Telstra, Optus and iiNet say they do not know what their users download, nor will they slow their speeds to prevent them from doing so

Australia's leading broadband providers Telstra, Optus and iiNet all deny limiting P2P traffic within their networks in order to increase network speeds and save costs. This comes despite a recent admission from Westnet, along with several other ISPs, that it has been using traffic controls to limit P2P traffic for the past year and will continue to do so.

"Customers buy a speed and download quota from us. We don't examine what they do with it," said iiNet managing director, Michael Malone.

Telstra's BigPond spokesperson, Craig Middleton, said it does not limit P2P traffic and nor did it have plans to in the future.

"We have no policies [on P2P file sharing], but as a content provider (BigPond Movies, Games, Sport and Music) we support the legal purchase of content, not piracy," he said.

Optus was less conclusive.

"Optus uses various tools to manage its network and bandwidth to maximise the performance of its customers' connections," a company spokesperson said. "Optus continues to review and revise its strategies as usage trends change and technical options evolve. Optus does have the capability to prioritise data traffic and may use this capability in the future."

An increasing number of smaller ISPs such as Westnet and Exetel have recently admitted to limiting P2P traffic - the most notable being BitTorrent files. The topic has garnered much debate on broadband discussion forum Whirlpool in the past month.

"The key purpose of the traffic prioritisation tools is to ensure latency sensitive applications, such as online gaming, web browsing, e-mail and VOIP, are not negatively impacted by peer to peer applications," said a posting this week on the Westnet blog.

"An important point to note is that Westnet has not enforced a fixed limit on the amount of bandwidth available to peer to peer applications. The amount of bandwidth available to peer to peer traffic is dynamically limited only when the bandwidth required to service the other applications exceeds expectations," it goes on to say.

"Traffic is the only cost that an ISP has to deal with, explained iiNet's Malone. "If customers download lots, then it costs us more money. Customer usage is going up steadily, but the cost of bandwidth is not going down. The combined result is that traffic costs are increasing at a pretty steady rate" he said. "The issue is just cost management."

However, Malone did not believe that throttling P2P traffic has anything to do with perceived legality issues.

"Australian ISPs are protected from liability as common carriers by the safe harbor provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act. I'm not hearing any ISPs saying that the driver is concern about liability. The rules in Australia are very clear. So that's not it."

The possible limitation of P2P traffic comes on top of download quotas set by Australian ISPs, which may irk many ISP customers. "All ISPs in Australia do limit users who download too much (BigPond is the only ISP in Australia that double dips by hitting uploads as well). We all have some sort of 'download quota' for a fixed price per month", said Malone.

"The problem is the average utilisation. ISPs work out their plans by making an assumption about what percentage of the quotas will get used, on average across the base. In the past, if customers had a 10GB quota for instance, then they didn't use all of it, they might have used (say) 30%. Today that number could be close to 90% on average, but there is no additional revenue. The assumptions have just changed, which has increased costs, but not revenue", he said.

Telstra, Optus and iiNet deny that the problems associated with P2P use on their networks have occurred as a result of over-subscribed bandwidth.

"If ISPs had 'over-subscribed' then customers would be getting congestion on everything. That's not happening at all with any of the ISPs who are de-prioritising P2P", said Malone. "More bandwidth costs more money. So ISPs don't buy any more than they need. If you can reduce the amount of bandwidth, then your costs are less and your prices can be more competitive."

Malone added that he considers the issues of P2P traffic are associated with philosophic argument, rather than reality. "The heavy users of P2P are outraged that their (non time critical) data is treated as lower priority than your web browsing or video conference. And realistically, 97% of your customer base don't even notice. Everyone is happy (except the leechers, who were too happy anyway, at the expense of the ISP)", he said.

"This is a storm in a teacup," he said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Naomi Hamilton

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?