Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: More than a little odd

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  • Warwick Sickling,

    I've had no trouble accessing the NZ Herald website over the last few days. Maybe it's yet another Ihug-only issue?

    Since Nov 2006 • 1 posts Report

  • James Clark,

    The Herald website is dead slow via Xtra - and also via Starhub Singapore.
    On a hunch I enabled the Adblock plugin on Firefox and added wildcards for the obvious culprits. The site is now responsive. I have verified that ads are the culprit by enabling/disabling Adblock.

    While I wouldn't make a habit of cutting off a site's ad revenue (pa.net: your ads are safe) I think than when they make a news site unreadable then they are fair game.

    My guess would be that the site hosting the advertisements is not particularly well connected.

    exile • Since Nov 2006 • 18 posts Report

  • Simon McCallum,

    Hi all,
    Well in addition to bombarding my work phone, it happened at home from about 7 to 8:30pm.

    Let me be quite clear about this, I do not believe that there is any sort of organised corportate attack on me. I think it is much more likely to be a young guy either inside or outside the company who is having some fun at my expense.

    I would like to focus on the concept of Net Neutrality. The idea the we should pay for the amount of data that we use, and the speed of supply, rather than selecting the content of packets and selectively offering service. The only reason for selecting specific programs is to discriminate. Vodafone also have a "no VoIP" policy on their 3G mobile plan. Once we accept packet shaping based on the content of the packet we start down a dark path to some of the stuff happening in South Korea. In the US this is part of the Save The Internet debate

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report

  • Geoff,

    More likely a stealth faxer has got onto you. But even for that is does sound extreme.

    Porirua • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report

  • Hamish,

    Hey Simon, love your work!

    Of course, this is just an extension of all the other traffic shaping and management techniques that have been throttling us back for years - except that now Telecom is taking a directly anti-competitive approach to Skype.

    I used Skype for the first time yesterday to Video chat with my sister in China. The call quality was better than a number land-line call, and for free - and I'm an iHug user.

    Now that there are more options I'm inclined to say the Telecom is welcome to impose whatever restrictions they like on their users, as long as the users are educated on how that will affect them.

    If a customer decideds they will not use Skype then it might make sense for them to choose Xtra. But I don't think that Xtra has made enough of an effort to make those consequences clear.

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report

  • Hamish,

    Sorry, can I get some clarification - can (and is) Telecom shaping all internet traffic that moves through it's network, or are we talking specifically about Xtra customers?

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Perhaps you've been put on a Republican robocall list, Simon?

    http://www.kxmb.com/getARticle.asp?ArticleId=63191"> KXMB

    Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report

  • Simon McCallum,

    Telecom can shape all traffic. I have not claimed that they are shaping all traffic merely that their terms and conditions for Go Large include p2p shaping. Those are the published terms and conditions rather than talking about what might be happening inside the network.

    Oh, and by the way it is still happening at work this morning. A denial of service attack on my phone one call at a time, most bizarre.


    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report

  • Hamish,

    Telecom can shape all traffic. I have not claimed that they are shaping all traffic merely that their terms and conditions for Go Large include p2p shaping.

    Cheers - that's good to know. (Wasn't saying that you said that, just wanted to know). :D. Doesn't anyone know if Orcon's all you can eat plan (I forget the name) imposes similar resitrictions?

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report

  • Herr Dummkopf von Kranken-Brainen,

    Even if it is a telecom minion rather than at the instigation of the leviathan itself, they still should be hit with the full force of the law. Section 112 of the Telecommunications Act 2001 sounds on the money:

    (2)Every person commits an offence who—

    (a)uses, or causes or permits to be used, any telephone device for the purpose of disturbing, annoying, or irritating any person, whether by calling up without speech or by wantonly or maliciously transmitting communications or sounds, with the intention of offending the recipient; or

    (b)in using a telecommunications device, knowingly gives any fictitious order, instruction, or message.

    (3)Every person who commits an offence against subsection (1) or subsection (2) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000.

    You are supposed to call 0800 809 806 to get Telecom to look into it, but I reckon a call to the plod is also in order.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    'traffic shaping' is a slippery slope - and a steep one at that - basically a top where all packets are created equal and a bottom where you ISP decides which ones they like.

    For people like me that use VOIP to 'go to work' (I work for a US company but live in NZ) it's a scary possibility and makes us less competitive in the larger world.

    The real problem is that NZ telephone pricing is quite insane - I can call Auckland from any tiny town in India for 1/3 of what it costs me through Telecom from Dunedin - and my US VOIP account (via Vonage) will let me call for less, and will let me call all of the US and much of Europe for free (marginal above the $25/month I pay for the service)

    The days when there was a real cost difference between a local call and a long distance one have long gone, roll on naked DSL so I can get cheap local termination for my Asterisk box - next step should be real US-style portable numbers within NZ (including cell phones!)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Dominic S,

    I'm a regular P2P user, and I signed up for the Go Large plan knowing that Telecom was going to be quite strict with the shaping on this plan.

    Major ISPs throughout the world have been shaping peer to peer downloads for quite some time. Most of the protocols favoured by the technically competent have had obfuscation/encryption implemented for long enough that it's a viable option. I'm using it, and not seeing any shaping at all. And it's pretty well known amongst heavy downloaders that that's what you do to avoid shaping, so, Telecom's policy in this area is punishing anyone but the heaviest users.

    As far as I'm aware, Skype has similar obfuscation implemented and enabled as part of its protocol. It has a reputation for being notoriously hard to block and shape. And really, that's certainly in Skype's interest - they know that the biggest ISPs are often owned by the same people who own the infrastructure.

    So, what I'd like to ask Simon: is Telecom actually blocking Skype, right now? Or is the press release just motivated by the fact that they're blocking other forms of peer to peer communications? I don't see Skype on the list of shaped applications, so is it just the fact that, as the press release says, "they are able to" block applications that has us worried? And if they're not blocking Skype now, isn't it a bit of a slippery slope argument to say that blocking BT, ED2k, etc., will lead to blocking VOIP?

    I mean, I agree that network neutrality is very important. I just don't see (ineffective) P2P shaping as particularly threatening to neutrality - yet.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report

  • Dominic S,

    'traffic shaping' is a slippery slope - and a steep one at that - basically a top where all packets are created equal and a bottom where you ISP decides which ones they like.

    I'm not sure how to state my position on this. Should I say that I don't believe the slope is slippery, nor steep? Or should I say I think that the slope is very, very long? Or should I say that I don't really think there's much of a slope? Or should I say that going from what Telecom is shaping now to actual VOIP blocking would be more like falling down a cliff? Probably all of the above.

    Essentially, I don't think that Telecom's current shaping policy implies more rigorous shaping policies in the future. Nor do I believe that more rigorous shaping policies in the future imply that Telecom will adopt unfair practices. I think each devolution on the 'slope' is less likely than the last.

    And most of all, I think that all of this is a bad way to argue against what Telecom is doing. If you don't like their traffic shaping (and, really, who does?) then it should be enough to simply state the reasons why: we'd prefer to tell Telecom what we want to do with our bandwidth and if they don't like it they can sod off. I don't think it's honest to say you don't like X because X might lead to Y which might lead to Z, and Z is really really bad!

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report

  • Peter Martin,

    Shaping? Skype? I live in Dunedin. I have expended time and money and have gone onto Xtra's broadband. When the first 'upgrade' came along to 3.5 mb...I stayed at an average of 1.7. Numerous emails and even a technician came to the house to check things out. The result?...an explanation that the exchange couldn't push it out any faster and a suggestion I drop back a plan.

    Now with all the brakes off...my speed has decreased to an average of 1.2 mb and we are back in 'negotiations 'with xtra as before.

    I wonder if Telecom has simply not invested in software and hardware...and we are just being lied to. Certainly this is third world stuff.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report

  • TracyMac,

    The Herald is abysmally slow here in Ozland. Interestingly, while my home connection downloads it fine (eventually), when I access it at work, the main stylesheet doesn't come down, so all of the formatting is blocked (other than the tables). Same Firefox brower, same Adblock extension running in both places.

    At work, the proxy blocks anything not on port 80/443, so I'm wondering if The Herald are doing some wierd stuff with protocols. If I were truly motivated, I'd run some kind of network sniffer to find out... but I can't be bothered.

    Anyways, it's been that way for the last couple of weeks, so something definitely changed around that time.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report

  • Clarke,

    The problem with the Herald site was, of course, the banner ads being run by the muppets in advertising. Pick a page with a banner ad and you had a 30-second wait (on my 7Mbit connection). Pick a page with no banner - such as the generic Contact page - and it loads in 3-4 seconds.

    They seem to have more-or-less fixed the problem by reverting to the old style of banner ads, but if experience is anything to go by, things will be up and down as the aforementioned muppets use their customers as beta testers for more dumb ideas.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Simon McCallum,

    Just an update - my phone is still ringing constantly. And the Universities email system is currently also having problems.


    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 9 posts Report

  • Keith Ng,

    Far be it for me to argue for Telecom's evil ways, but I can see why they're doing it.

    As a regular bittorrent user (I'm downloading right now), I have more things I want downloaded than I have bandwidth/traffic (i.e. My demand grows to fill all - and I mean all - available supply). I want as much as I can download as fast as I can download it.

    If I was properly uncapped (and traffic was reasonably priced), I'd be at max speed all day, every day.

    Sure, in the perfect world, I'd be able to do that, and just pay for the traffic, but in the real world, an ISP can't provision on the basis that it's going to be actually providing for, say, 20% of its users maxxing out while still providing normal service for the rest.

    Hmm. Actually, that doesn't sound as unreasonable as I'd first thought. I guess it just comes down to our network being shite.

    But at any rate, my point is that bottomless P2P users will chow down any and all available network capacity - so why not discriminate against them when network resources are scarce?

    VOIP is another story, of course. That's just Telecom being evil, and another reason why the company shouldn't be allowed in the internet market.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report

  • Hamish,

    ...my point is that bottomless P2P users will chow down any and all available network capacity - so why not discriminate against them when network resources are scarce?

    Simple: why offer "full speed, always-on" broadband if you are not going to let anyone use it at full spead, all the time?

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report

  • Matt Perot,

    But at any rate, my point is that bottomless P2P users will chow down any and all available network capacity - so why not discriminate against them when network resources are scarce?

    To me, the issue is less about discrimination and more about who does the discriminating. If discrimination is necessary at all, then it should be legally regulated and conducted in a transparent manner.

    In fact, that's pretty much my attitude to most aspects of the Internet debate in New Zealand. It has to be regulated. And I'd also love to see government investment in network infrastructure.

    Deutschland • Since Nov 2006 • 13 posts Report

  • Keith Ng,


    Say I want to download a Comedy Central clip @ 40mb. Having full speed on that is great - I download it, I watch it, done. But the problem with P2P is not just that the files are big (say, 3 gigs for a season of... um, uncopyrighted homemade content), but that I can set many, many to download at once, and even when they've finished downloading, the programme will then expend bandwidth sharing it back out.

    It's designed for people to just leave it on and for it to chow up bandwidth (aka. maximum utilisation). That's the distinction between P2P and normal usage, which is very much finite.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report

  • Callum Valentine,

    From my point of view, as an unapologetic bandwidth hog, if I am paying for unlimited full speed broadband internet I would expect there to be an infrastructure in place that would allow me to use that service 24/7 for whatever nefarious purposes without it affecting other customers. I should not have to curtail my usage because of Telecom's lack of investment to ensure fat profit margins.

    Having just arrived back at home from a year in Dunedin I have just experienced my first day on Go Large. Bit torrent is severely handicapped, despite encryption. This may be something to do with the awful, awful modems xtra give away with custom xtra firmware which don’t allow you to map ports unless you telnet into them.

    The only value for money I feel I am getting out of GoLarge is due to their not being able to stop FTP traffic, and luckily I have a friend hosting one locally. I accept Xtra wanting to keep peak hours (4pm-12am) fast for all, and I have adjusted my utorrent scheduler accordingly, but I cannot seem to get any bandwidth outside that time.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report

  • Andre Alessi,

    As a gamer, I'm personally less concerned about the possibility of p2p applications being managed independently of other uses of bandwith (I use them a lot, but I don't care so much about getting 100% of speed with them instead of 50% speed) than I am about interleaving, which adds around 50ms latency to my games (and VoIP by the way.)

    Telecom doesn't currently have an option to turn interleaving off, but Telstra apparently does.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report

  • Hamish,

    *must resist urge to be really sarcastic* :D

    I'm no n00b and I stand by my point:

    Xtra offers "full speed, no cap". The litmus test for their advertising would be if a user could, in fact, use the service as stated.

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report

  • Sam F,

    A friend of mine reckons that Xtra's 'all you can eat' plan is limited to around 700mb between 4pm and midnight, and simply runs his bittorrent outside those hours.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report

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