Bell throttling P2P and Bit Torrent Protocols: Everyone Loses!


Bell Sympatico, The Great White North’s largest internet service provider for consumers and reseller has officially and openly started packet shaping it’s network traffic to curb the effect of peer to peer file sharing and Bit Torrent protocols. Which is just ridiculous and down right wrong. ISP’s have to stop acting like Cyber police officers and more like utility companies, we have the RCMP and the CRTC to regulate acceptable web behavior. Last time I checked the Canadian law, file sharing and bit torrent technology was perfectly legal.



When I signed up for “High Speed Internet” this was exactly what I wanted. I would like to see downloads as close to 5Mbs as possible, I pay for this service. So Bell sells you high speed internet and the minute you start using it they put caps to limit how much you can download and then they start limiting when you can have your High Speed, no peer to peer in the afternoons and evenings. HELLO BELL! I have a job during the day and I sleep at night, when exactly do you want me use my High Speed? Their claim is that they are trying to protect their network from abusive users who are hampering others enjoyment of FaceBook and YouTube video. Guess what Bell? YouTube and Face are not the Internet.

Last March, Bell’s official position while trying to push out their fibre optic service was:

Our Sympatico Optimax Internet service is the next generation of Internet access which uses the latest in fibre optic technology (i.e. brings your connection closer to your home which provides a higher quality internet connection) to deliver superior quality, the best possible access speed, greater consistency and faster downloads. Optimax will enhance ALL of your online needs, whether you are using P2P, streaming movies or music videos, sharing photos, gaming or simply chatting or surfing the internet! Sympatico Optimax Internet service, with our Full in-home installation, delivers on consistency and simplicity and is truly the next generation of Internet access. Our technician will ensure you receive the best possible speeds and get you up and running before leaving your premise!”

So as successful as they were in getting loads of us to subscribe to their services they start to realize that they can’t handle that much traffic effectively and instead of investing into their infrastructure like other utilities would in order to prevent brown outs or droughts, they simply slow everyone down. Which equates to the power companies reducing water flow by 75% five seconds before the end of the first quarter of the Super Bowl and not letting it up again until after the post-post game show! So in November 2007 they realize that more and more people are discovering other websites than FaceBook and YouTube and they find out the hard way that when a technology makes sense programmers start building it into their new programs.

The official position in November read like this:

Like other ISPs, Bell is taking these steps to improve the experience for a vast majority of client applications. You don’t have to worry about Bell Sympatico sharing accesses with any other Sympatico users. In addition, be assured that Bell Sympatico won’t block any type of Internet traffic or application, nor will they monitor client activities.

What this really meant was:

In order to reduce internet congestion caused by the remarkable growth of internet access world wide, Bell has decided to proactively implement Internet Traffic Management, a new and enhanced technology that will help maintain adequate Internet service levels.
This solution will improve the on-line client experience as well as Internet performance during peak times, for most of the applications, such as:
* Internet Browsers
* E-mail
* Instant Messaging
* Streaming videos
* Peer to Peer (P2P) applications (Limewire, KaZaa, bitTorrent)
* Online Gaming
* Internet Radio
Internet Traffic Management is based on the requirement to optimize network bandwidth resources, and not on the content for which these resources are used.


Did you know that Skype uses the P2P network to make and route it’s internet calls? Did you know that the Opera web browser has included Bit Torrent technology into it’s download client? Did you also know that both Apple and the Ubuntu Linux Distributions are using Bit Torrent technology to speed up their updates? I am also pretty sure that the iTunes store must use it too, because when I buy an album, I usually get it in under a minute. It’s pretty sad that not only am I paying to buy iTunes movies, but that Bell charges me again for the pleasure of getting that movie if I go over my monthly cap but then has the balls to tell me I can only get my movie at 2AM in the morning. Effectively pissing me off with double payment and then ruining movie night altogether by holding back delivery of my purchase! That is like ordering a pizza by taxi and then having the City Council set up a roadblock in your neighbourhood because too many people order pizza on Friday nights! ABSURD!

What is even more ridiculous is that if the water board, the electric company, or even the local phone company were not able to provide you with an adequate service they would receive hefty fines and be made to update their infrastructure. Because packet shaping and net neutrality are first world issues, most regulators and politician don’t even realize that the end user is being ripped off. As a government representative or a member of a regulating board, if you don’t understand the issue it is your responsibility learn about it or o have it explained to you. Furthermore, getting your advice or explanation of the technology from the industry you are trying to regulate is just plain wrong and might even be illegal.

Even if this issue does not concern directly visit www.antiBEll.org read the articles and the take action. Big companies like Bell don’t car about the consumer anymore, their only interest is in pleasing the shareholders and making them money, and these days that means The Teachers Union. Irony? No! Greed? Yes!


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5 Comments on "Bell throttling P2P and Bit Torrent Protocols: Everyone Loses!"

  1. Schultzter March 26, 2008 at 5:45 pm -

    As much as I agree with you, I have to warn you that your comparison to other utilities (electric and water) is a bit dangerous, since even in the United States (particularly California) roaming brown-outs and black-outs are normal during peak-usage times. And even here in Canada, home of the most fresh water in the world, we have bans on watering our lawn and washing the car! I don’t know how Bell mixes my e-mail traffic in with your torrent traffic once our pipes merge somewhere down the stream; but I would expect them to make sure my traffic has relatively equal priority with yours and everyone else’s.

  2. Johnny Canuck March 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm -

    I agree that the utilities can regularly suffer over exertion of their capacities. However they will usually charge you exceeding quota as in the case of the water pipe bans. We all know Hydro will let you eat all you can until the local loop blows, and then charge you for what you used, they meter your consumption and when you stop consuming, they stop making money. So they beef up the network like they did after the Big Ice Storm. <br/><br/>But shaping traffic based on content is like saying bath water is less important than brush your teeth and flushing the toilet. Y

  3. Schultzter March 27, 2008 at 3:43 pm -

    Well, actually filling the bath is different than brushing your teeth or flushing the toilet. Brushing your teeth or flushing requires only a burst of water pressure, whereas filling the tub requires sustained pressure. Fortunately we have flow control: 1/2 inch pipes (actually, 12mm pipes – don’t get me started).<br/><br/>But note that Comcast has apparently given in: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080327.wgtcomcasta0327/BNStory/Technology/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080327.wgtcomcasta0327<br/><br/>Apparently they’re going to implement better traffic management that doesn’t discriminate. I think that’s a good thing. Hopefully they’re doing a dynamic QoS, which is much fairer than arbitrarily limiting certain content between certain times of the day.

  4. stevenmcgurn April 1, 2008 at 9:58 pm -

    Fortunately, Bell has no say as to what happens to the packets once they leave Bell’s backbone, but then these poor innocent packets fall prey to the whims of all the other carriers whims between your computer and their destination (not to mention whatever path they follow on the return trip). The issue I have with packet shaping is that it is marketed as the benevolent strategy to maintain a level of service for all their customers. The problem is that they only throttle traffic that threatens their core business (skype, youtube, …). I’m sure that videos hosted on http://sympatico.msn.ca/ don’t suffer from throttling. If youtube.com pays for bandwidth, and the enduser pays for bandwidth, then they should enjoy NetNeutrlity as far as their packets are concerned, and if they run their own quota dry, then charge them after the fact.<br/><br/>Just don’t tell me its to improve service.