Broadband providers reveal how they restrict your Internet

Broadband providers are shining a new light on the way they restrict your Internet speeds and services, thanks to a new code of conduct for ISPs.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
2 min read

Broadband providers are shining a new light on the way they restrict your Internet speeds and services. The major Internet service providers have signed up to voluntary guidelines drafted by the Broadband Stakeholder Group that will easily compare the throttling and shaping ISPs impose on Web traffic.

BSkyB, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have signed up to a voluntary commitment to reveal their traffic management. They'll show how often they reduce speeds and by how much, and which of their services are affected.

Many of these companies, which cover 90 per cent of broadband users in the UK, already reveal their traffic-managing practises. The difference now is that the ISPs will show what they're doing in the same format, so you'll be able to easily compare.

There are two main types of traffic management: slowing down your Internet connection, which is called throttling; and slowing down specific sites and applications, which is called shaping. Just last week BT told us it's packing in throttling for BT Infinity and BT Total customers, but will continue to restrict peer to peer file sharing.

The problem with shaping is the ISPs get to choose which sites and services get to work to their best speeds. They could potentially charge companies for that privilege, which would damage the level playing-field principle of Net neutrality. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey was quoted as being in favour of this last year, but he has since backpedalled from such a two-tier Internet.

ISPs have been under fire since a recent Ofcom report criticising speeds. A number of issues have been raised by the report, with Ofcom highlighting the discrepancy between advertised speeds, and the reality of what the average user can get.

ISPs have tried to deflect criticism by focusing on other areas, such as customer service, consistency and reliability. They've also suggested that many users don't even need super-fast connections -- so why bother advertising them?

Does traffic management affect you, and how up-front is your ISP about it? Is it a factor in your decision when choosing new broadband? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook wall.