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Morality of Throttling a Local ISP?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-would-larry-do dept.

The Internet 640

An anonymous reader writes "I work for a small (400 customers) local cable ISP. For the company, the ISP is only a small side business, so my whole line of expertise lies in other areas, but since I know the most about Linux and networking I've been stuck into the role of part-time sysadmin. In examining our backbone and customer base I've found out that we are oversubscribed around 70:1 between our customers' bandwidth and our pipe. I've gone to the boss and showed him the bandwidth graphs of us sitting up against the limit for the better part of the day, and instead of purchasing more bandwidth, he has asked me to start implementing traffic shaping and packet inspection against P2P users and other types of large downloaders. Because this is in a certain limited market, the customers really only have the choice between my ISP and dial-up. I'm struggling with the desire to give the customers I'm administering the best experience, and the desire to do what my boss wants. In my situation, what would you do?"

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bill, don't throttle (5, Insightful) (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204615)

This is not a hard problem. You can not maintain a reasonable oversell ratio unless you have low average usage. Yes, one way to get that is throttling, but it's difficult to do that in an effective way that won't piss off your customers.

What you should do is tell them they get 40G/mo or whatever, plus a usage fee above that, and let the customers throttle themselves if they want to. If you want to be a nice guy about it, you could give them the option of being auto-throttled or suspended if they approach the limit, so they don't get an unexpected bill. Of course whatever you do, you'll need to revise your terms of service.

Voila, you maintain low pricing and good performance for everyone, because the p2p guys will police themselves now. If you have customers that routinely transmit hundreds of GB because they're a professional video editor or something, then they won't mind paying for the bandwidth.

Re:bill, don't throttle (4, Insightful)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204667)

From the tone of the article, it doesn't sound at all like subby has the freedom to change the ToS or implement hard caps.

In my opinion, the best solution is to strongly throttle large bandwidth usages (P2P, FTP and NNTP streams, etc) during the periods of near-capacity, and automatically relax the filtering during off hours. A simple email or letter to your subscribers to announce the change, and everybody will be happy. As a bonus, the notification of the changes will help to encourage your subscribers not to attempt to circumvent your filters, especially given that it's so easy for any modern downloading client to schedule for off-peak hours.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204759)

>>>it doesn't sound at all like subby has the freedom to change the ToS or implement hard caps.

That depends. If the original contracts said "unlimited time" not unlimited gigabytes, then yes the ISP can move to a metered model. I'd implement relatively easy limits like "100 gigabytes maximum" with $1 for every gigabyte over the limit. This would catch the most egregious users, and any extra dollars can be used to add more lines to handle more people.

Oh and to justify it to the boss, I'd cite the recent court case which states ISPs may not discriminate against P2P traffic. i.e. It's effectively illegal to filter traffic, but not illegal to implement metered usage such that customers reduce usage voluntarily.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205225)

That depends. If the original contracts said "unlimited time" not unlimited gigabytes, then yes the ISP can move to a metered model. I'd implement relatively easy limits like "100 gigabytes maximum" with $1 for every gigabyte over the limit.

This actually penalizes the guy who downloads a heck of a lot, but he times his downloads so they always run from 11 pm to 5 am.

While it rewards all those folks who download a 10th that, but always max out the link from 4:30pm to 9:00pm, with P2P, and streaming download, at the same time all the other subscribers are trying to surf the web and get decent performance.

Usage-based billing doesn't make any sense -- ISPs often get burstability pay for a CIR, to the 95th percentile.

Consumers should too... That is, you should be able to burst your connection to download files, for certain amounts of time.

Each subscriber should individually agree to how much bandwidth they get to use on a continuous basis, and how much, and how long they will be allowed to burst, before either being billed or capped.

It shouldn't cost you, unless you stay bursted (I.E. max out your connection all the time during peak hours)

And to be consumer friendly, they should provide better terms for off-peak hour time, to actually reduce the number of even normal downloaders.

Re:bill, don't throttle (4, Informative)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205269)

$1 per GB is a little steep, isn't it?

These guys [] only charge $0.10/GB.

Your suggestion seems like the best way to go. Up here, Telus(big ISP) has caps at 10GB, 60GB, 100GB per month based on how much you're paying.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Insightful)

bigcmoney (535532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204973)

I run a similar sized WISP. All I do is use NFSEN to see who is using the bandwidth, and then give them a call. Almost all the time the customer's kids are doing the downloading, or they have a virus. This level of service really makes the customer appreciate doing business with you.

Re:bill, don't throttle (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205113)

Wow, that's something new.

Instead of a typical Ask Slashdot that should have been Ask Google, this is something new. It's an Ask Slashdot that should have been Ask Dr. Laura or maybe Ask Dear Abby. I'm about to just remove all Ask Slashdot stories from my index. I'd rather not do that but I am close to giving up on seeing anything worthwhile (IMO) come out of this section. None of these Ask Slashdot submissions are actually challenging or creative these days, just a bunch of people who either won't do basic research or today, people who think "Morality and Business Ethics" falls under "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters" just because a computer is involved.

Here's the real question that is being asked: "I work for a business and my boss has required me to do something I don't want to do - what are my options?" That question is the same whether it's a local ISP or a bakery. It kinda reminds me of the way some politicians think that fraud is somehow a whole new crime requiring brand-new laws just because it's done with a computer. There needs to be a name for this sort of faulty thinking though I wouldn't be surprised if there already is.

Anyway so I'm dissenting and questioning the purpose of this entire submission. I believe that's a down-moddable "offense" around here, ever since the mods seemed to take a "sit down and shut up" attitude towards anyone who questions them or the decisions of Slashdot's editors. None of them seem to care that you explained yourself and gave good reasons for why you are questioning the submission either. That's real democratic and egalitarian guys, keep up the good work.

The funny thing is that when this same thing happens in politics, that is when people who question (i.e. the government) are punished or sanctioned for no other reason, most of these same mods would agree that it's a very bad thing then. Questioning the Slashdot editors and moderators is the same thing as questioning a country's government, because on those ARE the "government", it's just on a much smaller scale with lower stakes. There is something wrong with you if you think that one of those is okay while the other is wrong - that's called situational ethics and it's an evil thing. The reality is that both are both wrong, the only difference is scale. The people who abuse the moderation system here on Slashdot have a lot more in common with governments that hate free speech than they may care to admit. From a cynical perspective, one could say that they are exactly alike, only the politicians are much more "successful".

It really makes me wonder how such moderators would feel if they had to live under such a standard all the time, anytime they wanted to express something, where they'd be punished anytime they disagreed with the status quo no matter how calmly or how reasonably just because someone didn't like the fact that they disagreed - my bet is that they'd quickly lose their willingness to inflict it on other people. That, by the way, is how you determine if a standard is truly good and has a solid basis in reality. If you would have no problem having it applied to you all of the time, then it's a good standard. If you would have a problem having it applied to you all of the time, then forcing it on anyone else just because you have a little authority (here, that means mod points) is the very definition of hypocrisy. No one on this site should need me to tell them that yet there seems to be a lot of ignorance surrounding this issue.

Re:bill, don't throttle (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205125)

From the tone of the article, it doesn't sound at all like subby has the freedom to change the ToS or implement hard caps.

That depends on how "limited" the service area actually is. If the customers only choice is between the author's ISP and dial-up, maybe they don't have that many sysadmins to choose from either.

You will be suprised how often a good suggestion is taken, especially one that will keep customers relatively happy.

The choices those consumers have may not always be so limited. Depending on your relationship with management, you might get heard. You never know unless you try. Don't mention "morality" though, because management doesn't know what that means. If you put it in terms of customer retention, you might end up as employee-of-the-month.

Of course, all this depends on if your company is a locally owned independent or one of the big telecoms. If it's the latter and you really feel a moral quandary, your best bet is to get that resume polished up right away. There are a few businesses still run by decent people, and you might get lucky.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Insightful)

volsung (378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204671)

Amen, but to add to this: If you are going to institute some kind of usage billing, it is *absolutely* critical you give people the tools to monitor their usage. At a minimum, there should be a web page that customers can view their current usage (no more than 24 hours old) relative to the quota. For bonus points, give people the ability to get email updates when they pass predefined levels, or if their one-day usage exceeds some value.

Add a free period (5, Insightful)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204763)

I had a situation once where my bandwidth was metering during regular hours but free from midnight - 7am. Any smart heavy user will set up their downloads to happen during the free period and take the load off the network during peak hours. I've never understood why more ISPs don't do that.

If you just tell people they have a 40G cap then they'll feel entitled to use it whenever they want, and you really can't argue with that.

Re:bill, don't throttle (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205319)

Perhaps... there is another possibility. Tell them their billing is usage-based, set the limit.

But let them exceed it in practice, a little bit, without getting a bill, as long as their usage isn't terrible, and isn't during the times of congestion.

That is to say the "limit" is primarily a discouragement against excessive usage, you _do_ have measurements of their usage, but rarely call them on it, or you only call the most severe offenders.

The policy would be, if they go to far overboard, call them. Either:

  • Warn them that their metered usage has exceeded the limit and offer to either (a) try to sell them more bandwidth, i.e. either a permanent upgrade or a special deal for this month, (b) offer to turn them off/cap them for the rest of the month, or (c) allow them to choose to be billed for the overage...
  • Warn them that they are approaching the limit, and remind them of what the fee will be, should they exceed the X gb limit, put it in writing also.

Get an e-mail address for your subscribers, and make sure they are aware you will be also sending them an e-mail if they are approaching their bandwidth limits.

If they exceed the bandwidth limit before you get a chance to notify them, make that usage "complimentary", i.e. even though their agreement says they'll be billed, you'll be writing it off in practice, most of the time.

Re:bill, don't throttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204711)

If you have customers that routinely transmit hundreds of GB because they're a professional video editor or something, then they won't mind paying for the bandwidth.

Sure they would not mind that *you* are going to change a contract they signed and pay more!

Get less for more money! Of course... great idea!

Is this Corperate America speaking?

Re:bill, don't throttle (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205355)

Sure they would not mind that *you* are going to change a contract they signed and pay more!

Cable ISPs will rarely sign contracts with customers promising them a certain amount of bandwidth or level of service to the internet.

That is essentially a SLA, and if they have one, I would expect they're already paying heavily, and in that case, yes, the ISP would have absolutely no business shaping or in any way filtering or analyzing their traffic, except to route it, except as required to implement RFC 1812.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Interesting)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204803)

Yep - that's how they do it here in Australia and despite all the flak we cop on Slashdot about our metered ISP accounts, the user-pays system actually avoids a lot of the problems you see with ISPs overseas.

- P2P throttling? Not here.
- Artificial speed shaping or restrictions. Not here, unless you surpass your monthly limit on a flat rate plan.
- Forbidding servers on residential connections? Not here.
- Deep packet inspection and other traffic manipulation? Not here.
- Bad contention ratios. Not here (on the good ISPs at least).

The 70:1 contention ratio in the summary is pretty shocking ... good ISPs here (iiNet, Internode etc) have 10:1 or less and buy more bandwidth proactively, before they actually need it. They can afford to do that, and keep their links running at 50-70% capacity, BECAUSE it's a user pays system. Additional bandwidth use means more revenue for the ISP and hence it's attractive to them to keep their pipes un-congested and fast.

The other advantage is that light users can pay pretty small amounts for a basic connection. My parents just use email and so I put them on a TINY 1GB per month plan. They never even use more than half of that, and the cost savings are significant (consider that they pay only 20 bucks a month, but larger plans of 50, 100, 200 GB per month cost 60-100 bucks).

So if you absolutely cannot upgrade your links, the "bill, don't throttle" approach is more attractive. It's less work than setting up packet shaping infrastructure and rules, won't affect the large majority of your customers, and will make sure that top 5% of leechers keep their habit under control a bit better (or pay for a higher account, which means more money for you!).

Oh and one last thing. Don't bill for excess usage - just shape their connection. Because if Joe Sixpack gets a virus and their connection downloads 100s of GB without their knowledge, they are not going to want a huge bill. The way most ISPs do it in Australia is after you reach your monthly limit (say, 80 GB at 24 Mbps), they'll shape your traffic to a slower speed (e.g. 128 kbps). That's still fast enough to browse the web and stuff, but will ease backhaul congestion due to P2P etc.

Re:bill, don't throttle (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204999)

That's still expensive. I was paying CAD$25/mo (currently about AUD$30) for a 6Mb/s down 800Kb/s up on a DSL connection in Canada, 100GB limit. I could have had no limits if I didn't care about latency (they used lower quality peers/transits or something).

ADSL2+ 20Mb/s by 1Mb/s with 15GB usage seems to about AUD$80-90 (at least here in Victoria). If you don't qualify for ADSL2+, you might get 8Mb/s by 384Kb/s and 15GB for AUD$80. 384Kb/s upstream is pathetic, and the first time I'd seen that for a decade. I've seen numerous people with 64Kb/s upstream, which is mind-boggling - you don't know how much affect upstream has, until you lose it.

Re:bill, don't throttle (1)

kingturkey (930819) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205293)

Are you just looking at Telstra's pricing? Those are not realistic prices. Try Whirlpool's Broadband Choice search [] . I count 11 plans that have more than 16GB for less than $50. That's in Brisbane, but if anything there'd be more choice in Victoria. Then there's plans with large off peak quota that aren't included in the search, like Exetel's [] 6GB+54GB for $40.

Re:bill, don't throttle (4, Insightful)

PhoenixAtlantios (991132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205097)

P2P throttling? Not here.

Exetel do [] , and we know of this only because they've been vocal about it; other ISPs may do it with more subtlety.

Forbidding servers on residential connections? Not here.

The Whirlpool broadband survey 2008 [] disagrees (search for "not allowed to run server", optus certainly restricts it).

So while the majority of ISPs don't do it, you shouldn't make out that it's all sunshine and roses in bandwidth cap land; some of the larger ISPs (Telstra and Optus) measure both uploads as well as downloads when considering your monthly bandwidth cap too (which seems to be an effective way to reduce p2p since you'll hit your cap that much faster by "giving back").

I agree that shaping connections rather than billing for excess usage makes more sense for ADSL/Cable connections though; it's much less daunting to get throttled as opposed to being charged extra. Internode have implemented a "Data Block" system that allows you to purchase chunks of bandwidth to extend your monthly cap in a pinch if you're about to get throttled (i.e. it isn't cost effective to do regularly) which could be worth looking into later on.

One more thing, if you do implement caps you'd want to look into some sort of monthly usage meter that's easily accessible to your customers. Net Usage Item [] is an example of a Firefox addon that tracks usage from various ISPs that helps people avoid overrunning their caps.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204885)

I agree, but with the caveat that you have to do what your boss tells you to do. By all means, present this idea to the boss, but be absolutely sure that you are complying with the requirements of the job you are assigned: after all, in this economy, you do not want to give your boss a reason to fire you.

You will definitely have to consult your boss about this, and you would be remiss in not telling your boss to send the TOS to your company's attorney and have him advise on the legalities regarding whatever plan you and your boss ends up deciding on. You don't want your company to get sued and you don't want anyone to say it's your fault because that would be another reason you might get fired.

In the end, look over the TOS, and if your boss asked you to shape it and shaping doesn't meet with the TOS, by all means CYA and ask your boss to send his request to you in writing. Preferrably signed. Digitally signed e-mail might be okay, too. Just make sure you have some proof of what you were ordered to do, because you want to be sure if there is any fallout from the shaping that you can prove you were just doing as ordered.

It bears repeating so I'll say it again: always CYA.

Re:bill, don't throttle (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205217)

be absolutely sure that you are complying with the requirements of the job you are assigned: after all, in this economy, you do not want to give your boss a reason to fire you.

Listen to morgan. He's absolutely right.

If you do decide to bring this issue to your supervisors, try to put it in terms of customer retention or make up some stuff about how they can save money. Most management doesn't know any better.

But by all means do NOT mention morality. Management is trained to be suspicious of such things, and you'll be on the shit list. Don't mention anything about "providing good service" either. That's a sure sign of weakness to them and you'll be out of a job. It's got to be dollars and cents or at best they'll ignore you.

Re:bill, don't throttle (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205015)

If you do throttle, do it by tweaking the QOS not by a hard rate limit. I'd suggest raising the QOS of some known time sensitive protocols (VOIP / online gaming...), and lowering the QOS of the customers who download the most in a given period. That way your bandwidth hogs can still flood your pipe and use all the available bandwidth, but they won't impact other customers.

Re:bill, don't throttle (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205131)

There's really very little moral question here, you are selling a service. The quality of the bandwidth you use, and whether the same amount of bandwidth is available in bulk heavy usage, for bulk file transfers, as for normal, expected usage patterns, is your call as an ISP.

And for the most part ISPs don't buy a bit of internet bandwidth, for every bit of subscriber bandwidth. This practice is not oversubscription (per se), you should calculate the expected usage patterns for your average subscriber, and multiply by your total number of subscribers, and add 'safety' factors for flash crowds; as for P2P applications and "bulk data transfers", you should do the math there as well, and determine, what proportions of your traffic are P2p transfers.

Keeping usage of heavy users under reasonable control just as much about providing everyone a quality service, as it is about 'saving on bandwidth bills' -- because, even if you add more bandwidth, downloaders will manage to eat it, if you don't put something in place.

And ISPs all over the country are taking measures to limit P2P's usage, so a few users don't get to hog all the network resources, or to overutilize.

This is not so much a justification based on the theory "everyone is doing it", but more a justification based on "your consumers probably expect you to do this" (do your best to block, prevent, or control, excessive usages from other subscribers that would degrade their services)

What you should do is tell them they get 40G/mo or whatever, plus a usage fee above that, and let the customers throttle themselves if they want to....

He only has 400 customers. There's not enough play here to provision capacity on demand, if a few users want to heavily use the service, he may need to get commitments for this to be affordable.

They can stay below those monthly limits and still cause major problems, if they happen to all be on at the same time fully utilizing their pipe fairly continuously.

Also, consumers will rightly be concerned about the possibility of malware or unwanted DoS attacks artificially inflating their bandwidth bill.

There are a lot of good things to be said for using technologies like NBAR and policing to reduce the flow of unwanted traffic.

Actual general shaping is not recommended, as it will very possibly degrade proper operation of the service, for non-bandwidth-hungry users.

You're stuck. (5, Insightful)

numbski (515011) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204641)

Here's the thing - you have no choice. Do the shaping.

That said - form a compelling argument for doing the right thing, and present that to your boss. Don't defy him, but give him a reason to reconsider. In the meantime, do as you're told. You can always undo shaping. Don't screw your employment in the interim.

Re:You're stuck. (5, Insightful)

ssj152 (803281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204717)

Better read the current terms of service first - yanking the rug before changing the terms of service frequently leads to lawsuits. Be nice to the pointy-haired one, but point out the likelihood of legal problems here. Also, I liked the first responder 'seanadams' suggestion as an actual solution - if there is no way to actually get the bandwidth upped.

Re:You're stuck. (0, Offtopic)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204839)

Karma: Chameleon (mostly due to the fact that you come and go).

Nice. :D

Re:You're stuck. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204897)

Agree 100%. You're getting paid for this work. It doesn't matter how much you admire Casper the Friendly Geek, it's neither your right nor your job to contradict your boss's decisions. If your customers don't like the service, they'll find alternatives or drop his service, and then he'll either deal with the revenue loss or improve.

Make the business case for it. Feel free to refuse to do anything actually unethical or illegal that he asks you to do. This is neither, so suck it up. Or, alternately; you're suggesting that this is a really small market. I assume that means there's not that much tech know-how in the area. That gives you another option; if you really care that much about not throttling, quit. It'll take him a while to replace you, and that's months and months more that your users can illegally download Battlestar Galactica to their hearts' content.

Oh, man! I need to go watch the latest BSG I downloaded!

Captive customers (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205205)

If your customers don't like the service, they'll find alternatives or drop his service

This is a last-mile monopoly. The "alternative" is more than likely unacceptable: 0.05 Mbps dial-up.

Re:Captive customers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205387)

"This is a last-mile monopoly. The "alternative" is more than likely unacceptable: 0.05 Mbps dial-up."

But then he might consider he can do better and start a competing service.

BS. (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205117)

He has no choice but to honor the contract they've made with customers.

If, as most cable companies do, they've contracted to provide "unlimited" service, at "xx Mbps rate", then that's what they need to provide.

If such is the case, then throttling anyone is fraud.

very few cable companies contract to provide that (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205417)

I've never seen a cable-ISP contract that provided service at a specified rate in Mbps. You can get those contracts as a business user, but they're not the standard ones home users have. Usually home contracts say something along the lines of "up to xx Mbps; actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed".

The good of the many (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204647)

Outweighs the good of the few... or the one. Throttle.

Quit and... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204649)

start my own ISP, reselling third party bandwidth. If the market is that limited and poorly serviced, there is money to be made by providing a decent service. You will be happier and as the owner you also stand to make more money.

Re:Quit and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204663)

With what capital?

Re:Quit and... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204833)

Never use your own money, if the idea is any good, other people will give you their money.

Re:Quit and... (1)

corprew (24232) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204683)

This suggestion ignores the last mile costs, which is probably the reason that dial-up and cable are their only options (no dsl available, etc...)

It probably wouldn't be effective for him to be another dial-up provider.

Non-competition clause? (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204713)

This might be problematic if his work contract has a non-competition clause. It is also fairly likely that his new business venture would fail (most do).

And not everyone is cut out to be an independent businessman.

I presume... (2, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204989)

...blackjack and hookers would also be involved somehow?

The choice is simple (4, Insightful)

Bandman (86149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204673)

Petition for your boss to do the right thing.

While you're petitioning, do what your boss tells you.

If what your boss tells you to do is unethical, quit, and tell him why in your resignation letter.

Re:The choice is simple (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205037)

What is the right thing? You seem to be implying that shaping isn't and letting customers go at it. Maybe the business model doesn't support that, or gives more customers a poor internet experience than would be affected by shaping.

Re:The choice is simple (4, Insightful)

MeanMF (631837) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205139)

Exactly... If there's a business case for buying more bandwidth, then write it up and show it to the boss. Are people dropping the service because they're fed up with slow speeds? Are there people who would be willing to pay more for higher bandwidth? Do the customers even notice or care that speeds are slow at times? Is 90% of the bandwidth being used up by 1% of the customers? If you don't know the answers to these questions, whining to the boss isn't going to get you anywhere.

Re:The choice is simple (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205249)

If what your boss tells you to do is unethical, quit, and tell him why in your resignation letter.

Because quitting is so effective. Whats to say the next fool won't just do what he asked? It's much better to just do what your told, but fight the cause with reasonable logic and persistence. You never know, the higher-ups may not share the same opinion, especially if you highlight legal issues. One may end up with the bosses job even, if he's out on his ass for triggering litigation.

Re:The choice is simple (1)

chillicane (834120) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205357)

in this economic climate, i wouldnt be quitting, just make sure the onus for the decision is squarely on your bosses head.

Upstream (1)

lordsilence (682367) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204691)

How does your upstream contracts work? You could try and see if you can buy traffic per 95th percentile with a commit instead if you need the burst capacity . Then throttle the worst offenders if you notice your 95th percentile going over your commit.

Re:Upstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204843)

Changing the billing method doesn't always make it cheaper...

Well, he gave you a direct order. (1)

cadu (876004) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204697)

well, first of all you should be worried about doing what your boss told you to do, if he wants shaping, shaping it said that the locality doesn't helps, if they can't use your solution, it's dial-up....i presume you're also using your own ISPs broadband connection...

you could also {if you're a downloader} set up shaping for everyone else and secretly {oops!} set up a rule for your login/pass that'll bypass the firewall rules, so free internets for you dude :P

i know i'm a filthy ass but that's what i would try to do, protect my job (just answer stuff with "yes, sir!") while taking benefit :P

Quit (1)

PottedMeat (1158195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204739)


Re:Quit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204923)

Second that. Life is too short.

Is throttling really cheaper? (3, Interesting)

TheSunborn (68004) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204765)

Is throttling really cheaper?

Have you tried to compare the price of just buying more bandwidth with what it will cost you to setup and maintain the packed shaping?

Re:Is throttling really cheaper? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205251)

Have you tried to compare the price of just buying more bandwidth with what it will cost you to setup and maintain the packed shaping?

Management won't care about that. They're just worried about quarterly numbers. Their preference will be to fuck the customers and let tomorrow take care of itself. It's the way things are done.

handling the BW hogs (1)

bugi (8479) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204769)

So long as you're not singling them out by content or otherwise subjecting them to your (your boss's, your company's) conflicts of interest, then I think you're fine. Just follow some of the other fine suggestions here to do it responsibly.

Re:handling the BW hogs (1)

bugi (8479) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204875)

I would be remiss however if I did not point out that 70:1 is a nasty high ratio.

Here's an idea, provide a sustained rate (more or less guaranteed for each user) and a burst rate (the rate inherent to the hardware). Any bits leftover after satisfying the guarantee can be allocated by whatever method to the bursties.

throttling (strangling) a local ISP? (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204781)

Am I the only one who read the title and had an image of strangling a local ISP executive?

Unfortunately, my "local" ISP choices are Time Warner and AT&T, and, despite the miserable service, their executives are out of my reach.

Re:throttling (strangling) a local ISP? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205265)

Am I the only one who read the title and had an image of strangling a local ISP executive?

Yes, but now that you mention it, that might be the most moral choice of all.

Striking a balance..... (4, Insightful)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204793)

You honestly know in your heart that most of the P2P traffic is illegal so throttle it BUT only implement the throttling between the hours of say, 8am to 10pm or midnight. Send out an email to all customers stating that due to the abuse of a minority of users, P2P throttling will take place between the hours of 8am to 12 Midnight to ensure a high level of service to other users.

The P2P boys will quickly figure out what is going on and they can set their clients to download from Midnight to 8am. That way, there's plenty of bandwidth when Joe Average wants to check their Facebook and when businesses are operating and the bandwidth through the night which is mostly unused is utilised better. Everyone wins.

Re:Striking a balance..... (5, Insightful)

z0idberg (888892) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205059)

due to the abuse of a minority of users,

If they signed for and are paying for unlimited internet access then where exactly does the abuse part come into it?

Re:Striking a balance..... (0, Flamebait)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205219)

The abuse comes in when they're soaking up all that bandwidth for illegal purposes.

Re:Striking a balance..... (5, Insightful)

meerling (1487879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205151)

As they don't know what the P2P traffic is, you can't say it's illegal. Statistically, it probably is violating a copyright, but that isn't sufficient justification for singling out the P2P traffic alone. That would be like sending everyone in your city with a drivers license a traffic ticket, because you just know that virtually all of them will speed, roll through a stop sign, or commit some other traffic violation this year.
Besides, he didn't even mention what kind of traffic was going on during peak hours, just that the company is (my interpretation) screwing customers by oversubscribing them 70:1 (his statement).
It's possible that their biggest traffic spike is youtubers. Until someone does an analysis, you just won't know.

Quit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204797)


Your boss is a jackass and needs to go bankrupt.

High Traffic Users Shift Activity to Diff Time (2, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204807)

For a 400 user ISP, there is presumably only a dozen or so high traffic users...

Privately, encourage them to shift some of their activity to off times, such as late morning and middle of the night - explain to them it will help other users, plus help them too in they'll get better speed while helping to keep prices low.

If not enough voluntary compliance, then try enabling aggressive throttling / shaping during day / evening, but allow unthrottled speed during off-hours for high traffic users.

Presuming the ISP has access to multiple providers, then another option to consider is evaluating how much the ISP is paying for bandwidth - see if there are better options and/or if contracts can be renegotiated.


time of day (1)

__NR_kill (1018116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204815)

Count their traffic but allow for unlimited downloads during the lowest periods of the day. Everybody would be glad to download torrents during the night and surf the net during the day.

Or... Do nothing. (2, Insightful)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204825)

You don't want to punish customers for how much they download so much as when they download.
The guy who downloads 100Gb overnight when no one else is online? He isn't a problem.
The 100 users who all connect and download from together at peak hour? They are the problem.

So you want to allow people who don't use the net when everyone else is using it full-speed access. And you want those who use the net at peak hour to be slowed down.

The way to acheive this?
Do nothing and let congestion shape them.

Re:Or... Do nothing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204951)


he has asked me to start implementing traffic shaping and packet inspection against P2P users and other types of large downloaders.


Do nothing and let congestion shape them.


Fired. Not doing what the boss says is grounds for immediate dismissal. Perhaps the boss hasn't told the employee all the reasons and details. But it isn't the employee's position to "ask why". It's the employee's duty to do what the boss says, without question. As a part time sysadmin is NOT management.

Re:Or... Do nothing. (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205027)

It's the employee's duty to do what the boss says, without question.

That is so VERY true, as so strongly reinforced thru slavery and the Nuremberg trials.

Re:Or... Do nothing. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205105)

The employee has the right to cease being an employee at any time.

Re:Or... Do nothing. (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205069)

It wouldn't be much of an ask slashdot if we couldn't give suggestions outside of what his boss wants him to do.
Needless to say, he can at least discuss who he wants to shape with his boss - shape the large downloaders or those that download at peak hour?

Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27204829)

The problem is that there may be civil and even criminal penalties for committing fraud, so please consult a lawyer.

Screw morality. Get pragmatic: prioritize traffic. (5, Insightful)

hessian (467078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204849)

Morality is a tool for the herd to feel more important than their leaders. Instead, get pragmatic: how can you make this business work for most people?

You probably want heavy downloaders to use another service, anyway. You might even consider setting up two plans, one for ueber-users and one for normal users.

However, I would prioritize traffic. Email, web, SSH, et al come first; after that, all p2p protocols in order of usefulness.

You need to define your business audience. If it's people who are going to check the mail and web surf, and 5% of your customers are p2p users, cut out the p2p users and focus on the people you want to serve.

Re:Screw morality. Get pragmatic: prioritize traff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205063)

>However, I would prioritize traffic. Email, web, SSH, et al come first; after that, all p2p protocols in order of usefulness.

That's why I do all my usenet and ftp over SSH.

Re:Screw morality. Get pragmatic: prioritize traff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205295)

>>Morality is a tool for the herd to feel more important than their leaders.

That attitude is why America is in the hell-hole it is in. Morality is the compass. Try it, you might just be amazed.

Re:Screw morality. Get pragmatic: prioritize traff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205365)

I agree that shaping and prioritization should be done, but I have to wonder about your priorities.

I would prioritize traffic. Email, web, SSH, et al come first; after that, all p2p protocols in order of usefulness

Web and *interactive* SSH yes, but email?!?!?! Email?!?!?! SMTP should come *LAST* (but be given a guaranteed slice, even if

Seriously - for regular text/HTML email with no attachments, they'll likely be sitting in the queue longer than they'll be delayed by shaping, and if a 10MB attachment takes 15 minutes instead of 10, who's going to notice?

Don't shoot yourself. (1, Insightful)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204853)

Your boss understands his customers and the contracts in place. Your boss understands the political consequences of changing his service under the feet of his existing customers. Your boss has lawyers that understand the legal ramifications of his decisions.

If this is an error in judgement, his customers will let him know by either (1) suing him, or (2) withholding payment, or (3) leaving the service. All three mean less revenue for him no matter the outcome.

Your job is to do what he asks within the law. If you think he is asking you to break the law, talk to your personal lawyer for advice. If you have a moral issue with him, gracefully resign.

Don't stick your neck in the guillotine.

Re:Don't shoot yourself. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205403)

I don't see why you assume this. For many of us, correcting our boss's errors in judgement is not only part of our role, it's protecting the company and our own jobs.

Look at the business case (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204857)

For the company, the ISP is only a small side business...

This is not an ISP problem; but a business problem. How does maintaining a small ISP enhance the primary business? Can expanding the ISP business enhance the primary business? Will implementing rate limiting and traffic shaping bring unwanted negative attention to the primary business? Can you make a business case to the owners indicating costs and profits for not implementing traffic shaping?

This is not a technical problem. If the you cannot answer the questions I have listed, can you find another person in the company who can answer these questios? If the other person is interested, team up to make a pitch to the owners.

Re:Look at the business case (1)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204977)

Considering that you are likely the Cable TV vendor and being an ISP is a method to keep your customers on your wire and not on Satellite you should lean on your boss again to keep your customers from jumping ship.

Throttling? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204891)

Throttling, as in hitting with a stick?

I'd say it's only moral to do that to Comcast or AT&T. The local guys usually don't deserve it.

Re:Throttling? (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205169)

I've found most local guys are more dastardly than the big ones. Have you ever had rural broadband before? I've gone through 4 small fish ISPs so far in my various apartments and houses over the years. The best? Comcast without comparison.

Look at the terms of service... (1)

MFHFozzy (525991) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204933)

I would say it all depends on what the terms of service say in the contracts you sold the customers. When did it become ok to charge people for using their broadband ("always on") connection as much as they want? I know my contract has no text about how much i can use my connection.

shape and/or prioritize that traffic (5, Insightful)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27204939)

Im wondering what you have for backbone that you are 70:1 oversubscribed. If you deploy 768/256 connections with 400 customers sounds like a whopping 3 T1 lines (~4.5Mb/s). if you do a more standard 1.5MB thats 6 T1 lines(~9Mb/s).

Maybe you should look at your upstream provider and see if you can get a fractional T3 to replace the T1s if my math is anywhere near correct. You will likely have a longer contract to sign but you may be able to pull in 10Mb/s for less than you currently pay. Then you could try to match the current expense.

There are other ways to trim back your backbone usage. Consider a cluster of transparent proxy servers. You can get pretty aggressive with the cacheing mechanise in squid and you can easily balance the cluster with DNS and not have to worry about session awareness as clients also cache DNS temorarily so each client will use the same proxy for their browsing session.

Certainly some sort of QoS will work for you and lessen the need to directly throttle.

If you just throw some proxying in there and give http and https higher priority and do some packet inspection to sniff out the P2P traffic and drop it down a level you will put off the inevitable need to grow your bandwidth for a while.

if my math is correct on 1.5Mb/s cable, you look like you have a per users upstream cost of just $7.50 each. That is pretty low. Too low.

Re:shape and/or prioritize that traffic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205107)

Your math sounds right to me.

Now, instead of that fractional T3, why not look at FIOS if its in your CO area.

Don't you love the idea of FIOS powering a cable cos internet?

400 / 70 = what? (3, Informative)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205033)

400 divided by 70 = 5.71.

I have no problem with you scheduling low-latency traffic over filesharing traffic, filtering, or whatever, but it seems a little short-sighted that it only takes 5.71 users to completely muck up your network. (I.E if you sell 1mbit connections, you could "theoretically" support 420 customers on a 6mibt pipe (6*70=420 at a 70:1 oversell ratio).

Make what the customer wants available... (2, Informative)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205035)

on your network. I mean if you can identify the most popular stuff that they want and cache it within your network you could reduce your upstream bandwidth costs.

I think P2P is servers used this way are a great tool helping ISP's reduce their upstream bandwidth costs. My ISP does it and, for example, has mirrors of Fedora and Ubuntu update repositories plus a whole library of popular downloads that I don't get charged for if I use their servers to download (and it's faster too). Furthermore their servers will download files via P2P and make that available to all their other users.

Morality? (-1, Troll)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205039)

Since when is curtailing illegal activity a moral issue? This is contractual at best. Issue a notification to all subscribers of the change in TOS -with a definite implementation date- and just 'git 'er done'. Oh, and those of you who claim that P2P has 'legitimate' uses (other than downloading your favorite distro), cite examples of how you personally employ P2P for 'legitimate', personal, use.

Re:Morality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205133)

just because people CAN use it for illegal purposes it can ALSO be used to legal purposes. so are you saying the use of P2P shouldnt be allowed because its POSSIBLE to use it illegally?

you know you can get child porn on the regular internet as well. i think maybe you should stop using your internet all together.

slashdot as well. people could possible link to child porn and since the possibility exists, get rid of it.

that is your line of reasoning isnt it?

Re:Morality? (1)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205335)

You're a troll, but I'll bite.

If you can't think of any legitimate uses of P2P, you're not thinking. You exclude linux distros for no valid reason, yet without bittorrent most of those distros would be dead in the water from hosting costs alone. Wikileaks doesn't have the bandwidth to host some of the massive file dumps that they've released, but torrents allow everyone to see the malfeasance of their elected officials. Warcraft is far from the only game that uses torrents to spread the load on patch days; can you imagine millions of gamers frantically downloading a single file from a single server at the exact same time? publicdomaintorrents hosts classic out-of-copyright movies as a historical archive, without torrents there's no possible way they could afford the bandwidth and remain free. hosts CC-licensed music, again with bittorrent, making a free service possible.

Torrents ain't just for your warez and porn, actionbastard.

Re:Morality? (1)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205373)

I'm of the opinion that there is far more illegal P2P traffic than legal.

Morality?? HA! (3, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205055)

There is no morality for throttling. It's done for either technical or business reasons.

Tell your boss you quit ... (2, Insightful)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205061)

Or to get more BW.

By your description, you are The Man when it comes to this, he won't fire you, he is forced for more BW. He can't replace you because you refuse to teach your follower if it goes that route, and in effort he would loose the ISP business.

What stuns me, people are ALL UP FOR THROTTLING! Give me a break! Everyone here recommending it is either shooting themselves on their legs due to sheer ignorance or working for a anti-net neutrality party.

To really start saving BW, think about caching, you can rather easily implement transparect proxy using squid and simple routing rules, and your customers won't notice a thing even if WWW traffic is cached. On that size it sums up to quite considerable amount of data.

You can consider other caching methods too, but you can also implement QOS, prioritize SSH and WWW, and immediate increase in service quality achieved, given you use powerfull enough routers.

Any kind of throttling beyond mere QOS is plain and simply EVIL.

Re:Tell your boss you quit ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205385)

Everyone here recommending it is either shooting themselves on their legs due to sheer ignorance or working for a anti-net neutrality party.

Or maybe the unfairness today of a very small percentage of users taking the bandwith of the vast majority supercedes the nightmarish future visions of what might happen down the slippery slope that you try to draw in the sand to scare people.

I also find it funny that slowing down P2P is bad while you recommend speeding up WWW instead.

Remember, you've got a job now (3, Insightful)

davmoo (63521) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205065)

What would I do? I'd start by doing what the boss says. This is a really bad time to have to look for employment elsewhere. If you don't do what the boss says, customers of your former employer are not going to start sending you money to live on because you did the "right" thing but lost your job.

Then after things have been at least temporarily taken care of, research better alternatives and present them to your boss.

Forget ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205077)

I had a great job... working for a govt ownde company. however I chose ethics and would do things like refuse to modify auditor reports to lower the number of open helpdesk cases and to fix network issues with $10 Cables rather than $100,000 capital works projects. Now that boss still has her job and I scrape together what I can by cutting odd bits of code. In this economic climate... I recommend keeping your head down... no ones life is likely at stake here. DonÂt rock the boat. Acting ethically has never done me good in business !

Jaded !

You're asking the wrong person... (1)

fruviad (5032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205135)

Don't ask Slashdot, ask yourself:

    "What would the BOFH do in my position?"

Then profit.

Do what your boss says... (1)

Foldarn (1152051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205191)

It's a crappy economy right now. Your job is to implement what your boss asks and the REAL ethics question is whether you feed your family or not. In an idea world, tell your boss to go shove it. Right now, IMO you need to say "I'm on it, boss." and continue on implementing packet shaping, et al.

Will It Matter? (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205259)

> we are oversubscribed around 70:1 between our customers' bandwidth and our pipe.

I assume that's theoretical. If your actual traffic was 70x your pipe you'd have a very different complaint.

So what is your actual peak usage vs. your pipe? And what's the portion of that due to high volume users? And if you throttle them, will it make enough of a difference?

Your boss assumes the problem is P2P etc., while it may well be business users (you may not have that classification, but don't tell me nobody there works from home). Or it may be people watching shifted video, and throttling watchers would be a bad move for a cable company.

I think you owe it to your boss to find out before implementing any throttle just who is going to be affected. If you just throw on a throttle without finding this out you could cost him some valuable customers and PR. Throttling may or may not be ethical, but testing before implementing is what a responsible employee would do.

The Answer: (2, Insightful)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205261)

The answer to this, and many such sticky situations in IT, is to update your resume` and leave town.

The way I see it, you're screwed if you throttle, and you're screwed if you don't throttle. Some of the solutions given sound good and well on paper. But then again, so does communism.

Legal loophole.. (4, Interesting)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205263)

Check the contract your customers sign. there's usually (if the lawyer who wrote it up was worth his salt) would have a clause in the contract stating "The ISP can change he terms of the contract with 30 days notice." or words to that effect. All the OP needs to do is set up a mail shot to all subscribers telling them of the changes to the contract will come into force in 30 days and wait..... Then dump all the complaints on the boss's desk. The reality of him loosing about 10%-20% (pulled out of the air guestamate) of the customers might make him rethink and that's when you suggest a few alternatives (Just make sure you do a lot of fact finding and homework on the issues before you talk to the boss).

Re:Legal loophole.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205347)

Mod parent up. The local ISP is subject to your requirements, and if there's an agreement in your contract to enforce bandwidth limits, or that there's a set bandwidth limit in the contract, enforce them.

Well the boss might not like it, but... (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205289)

Your best option is really to just tell the boss you need more bandwidth... the fact of the matter is that you're selling something you don't have, and that's just not good business. The alternative is that the company can face the distinct possibility of alienating paying customers, who are unlikely to respect any internal distinction between the cable service and ISP and might abandon, or even sue, the one for the sins of the other.

Giving the best experience (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205329)

is too vague a term: does that mean ensuring a few don't hog all the bandwidth ? Or instituting a free-for-all where, on the contrary, a handful of heavy users degrade the experience of "lighter" users ? Have you actually looked at how much of your bandwidth the top 5 or 10% of your subscribers use ?

At home, I hate it when uTorrent screws up my warcraft lag; the 'rents are unhappy when their daily dose of skyping with their 3yo grand child is choppy; and I do notice when webpages take a handful of seconds to come up.

So, to me, offering the best experience means actually capping the bandwidth, QOS, and shaping the traffic. I'd guess it's mainly a question of balance, though.

Shoot the Boss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27205359)

And then buy more bandwidth.

I'm Sorry but what? (1)

Rik Rohl (1399705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205375)

Do what you're fucking well told. If you don't like it, then quit and set up your own ISP.
But in the meanwhile you work under the direction of your manager.

The industry already has a solution (1)

galebovitz (938668) | more than 5 years ago | (#27205413)

Comcast got in trouble with the FCC for traffic shaping P2P bandwidth. They implemented a change to the service agreement that places a monthly limit of total bandwidth usage of 250GB. Exceeding that limit gives Comcast the right to suspend your service without notice. Their service agreement allows the terms to change with 30 days notification. I believe the change gave me 90 days notification. I upgrade and update my linux systems and run windows update service on my wife's windows system. I frequently download movies from Amazon via TiVo. I have not exceeded this limit. Seems like a fair alternative.
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