Unified Communications Featured Article

Two Sides of a "War"

January 30, 2009

Cox Communications has announced its plans to management network congestion, classifying all traffic as time-sensitive and not-time-sensitive. During peak congestion, time-sensitive traffic will get priority.

Google, on the other hand, has unveiled a tool for consumers that will let them diagnose whether their ISPs were toggling back their Internet access.
ISPs continue to argue that network management is necessary to preserve quality of experience for most users during times of peak congestion, while some application providers fear the development of ISP assured delivery mechanisms that will raise their costs. And though each side emphasizes the public policy and end user benefits, the debate really is about business models.
If ISPs cannot create new value-added services to enhance voice and video experience, for example, they also cannot create better-performing branded services for themselves, and also make it more expensive for rival services to keep pace without paying money to ISPs to participate in such programs.
There is a somewhat cynical angle as well. If ISPs cannot provide the local equivalent of content delivery, then some wealthy application providers will be able to create those features themselves, and gain advantage over rival application providers who cannot afford to build such infrastructure.
Cox will classify all traffic on its time sensitivity, not the owner or source of the traffic. Since it doesn’t discriminate based on source, the network is still "neutral" for all content providers and users. Also, users benefit when they want to use real-time services, especially voice and video.
Google, for its part, is working with Open Technology Institute and the PlanetLab Consortium to provide end users and academic researchers with tools to monitor their access connection.
Network Diagnostic Tool provides a sophisticated speed and diagnostic test. Glasnost, a separate tool,  attempts to detect whether an Internet access provider is performing application-specific traffic shaping. Currently, users can test if your ISP is throttling or blocking BitTorrent. Tests for other applications are expected to follow.
DiffProbe, not yet available, attempts to detect if an Internet access provider is classifying certain kinds of traffic as "low priority." 

Gary Kim is a contributing editor for unified communications. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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