back to article Virgin Media rubbishes P2P throttling rumours

Virgin Media has today strongly denied a charge it is running secret tests with a view to introducing new bandwidth throttling hardware to target peer to peer and Usenet downloaders. The claim was made on Friday at Cableforum, a message board often frequented by staff and former staff of Virgin Media, or its forerunners NTL and …

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Flame

Speaking of "Bollocks"....

"The firm's CEO Neil Berkett was widely quoted in April describing the net neutrality debate as "bollocks" and arguing that networks will have to be reconfigured to cope with increasing bandwidth demands."

Reconfigured? how about upgraded to actually supply the service you appear to offer? What genius came up with the logic 'oh hey, our customers want more bandwidth, I know! Lets give them less!'?

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Bronze badge

Hmmm....but surely?

Having been through their website looking for info in the past I have a little bombshell for them....

"During busy periods, we also reserve the right to manage the amount of bandwidth allocated to certain applications (such as Peer-to-Peer file sharing). Controlling the amount of bandwidth allocated to certain applications helps us provide the best possible experience for the majority of our customers. "

From the Traffic Management page of the Help http://www.virgin.net/helpme/broadband/faq/basics_traffic.html

So if they say "Our policy does not discriminate internet traffic by application" whilst their Help section says the reverse that will make one or other statement a lie won't it? Am I being too simplistic here?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Hmmm....but surely?

Hi,

Your link is from the Virgin.net site, which pertains to Virgin's small ADSL business, not the cable network the article refers to. Thanks,

- Chris

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Stop

Talking of "bollocks"

Virgin Media have continued to avoid the question about engaging in prior testing of Phorm on its customer facing network.

I have twice asked Neil Berkett to provide written confirmation that VM have not behaved like BT and tested Phorm on their customer facing network.

My first letter was replied to with a print out of the VM "webwise" page and a handwritten note scribbled on it advising me to look at the page.

I replied with the kind of polite put down such an inappropriate response deserves and repeated my question.

This time the response was from another Customer Contact drone.; It apologised for the unprofessional way the first response was conducted and ignored the question completely by going on to repeat the contents of the press release VM issued to clear up its supposed dealings with Phorm (and which had already been read to me by a contact in Berkett's office previously), saying that Neil would love to have replied to me personally but was too busy to give me the answer I needed. Or some such bollocks like that.

In other words they still haven't answered the damn question.

Why not? What are Virgin Media suddenly so touchy about. Neil Berkett's office were happy to call me when I first started quizzing them about their involvement with Phorm. When I start asking pointed questions about any secret testing they suddenly shut up shop.

COME ON VIRGIN MEDIA! HAVE YOU DONE A BT AND TESTED ILLEGALLY OR NOT? IT'S NOT DIFFICULT - JUST ANSWER YES OR NO!

If they can't provide a clear confirmation that they have never tested Phorm on their customer facing network, the logical reason for so doing must be because they already have.

Which is it Neil?

Virgin Media - giving more bollocls to their punters every day.

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Alert

They do not throttle P2P!

They don't have to throttle P2P, 'cos they throttle EVERYTHING between 4pm and 9pm EVERY DAY, regardless of it's traffic type!

Much as I hate VM and have just left them for Sky, I genuinely believe them this time!

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I know I'm sidetracking a little, but.

Virgin Media has a monopoly on cable connections in the UK, I thought when the cable network was rolled out we had regional monopolies in an effort to encourage competition. Isn't this exactly what was not supposed to happen to the UK cable infrastructure?

If the smaller regional monopolies still existed then wouldn't there be more room for debate on the way the networks should be run, and therefore more effort in keeping the network speeds up while at the same time charging a reasonable price.

eg, if I was with Telewest and had 2Mbps, and a guy in another area was with NTL and had 10Mbps, assuming we were both paying similar amounts I'd want to know what Telewest were playing at.

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. :)

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Stop

I dont blame virgin

To be fair i cant blame virgin they do state in terms and conditions what they are about.

It might be well hidden but its there.

Personally i wouldn't touch any ISP that employs throttling of this type at some time you will regret signing up to them.Virgin,Plusnet Tiscali Bt et al they have forums full of people with complaints about service,and many relate to having deep packet inspection on the line,high pings, applications not working etc etc

I was one who suffered with Plusnets ellacoya system Never again !!!!

I would rather do without the net than have to go cap in hand to get applications to work.It makes a mockery of net neutrality when they decide what you can use and when.The whole thing is just a way to prioritise what they deem important to them ,whilst telling the customer as little as possible.

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Gav
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Why do people gripe about this?

Never can follow why people always gripe about ISPs limiting P2P traffic. If they're doing it, they're doing it for very good reason, not just to annoy P2Pers (no matter how much fun that is). Bandwidth is a limited resource. P2P is often an automated process generating constant traffic at a greedy rate. It's got to learn to be nice and share the bandwidth. If I'm in the middle of downloading a web page and having to wait because some P2P process is transferring yet another Gb of video to an unmanned box on the other side of the world, then I'm perfectly happy for my traffic to take priority.

Stamping your feet and demanding more bandwidth isn't going to magically provide a solution. Demand always expands to occupy the increased bandwidth and before long we're all right back at square one. And P2Pers will still be wailing because they're being prevented gobbling up the lion's share of the bandwidth.

And the argument "I was promised unlimited bandwidth and unrestricted speed, and so I will demand it" is getting pathetic. No matter how foolish ISPs were in promising such a thing, people were morons if they believed it. No commodity is unlimited. Having a tantrum about not getting the impossible makes you look like a immature 10 year old.

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Anonymous Coward

Uhh....

Many VM staff have confirmed that ALLOT is now in place on the ex-telewest side of the network and again staff have confirmed trials are being run, so to the anonymous coward you really shouldnt believe a company which has lied so much about it's STM side of things...

And its 10am-3pm STM AND 4PM-9PM STM (Overnight STM is in trial stages, also)

Why does the person responding act like they have always used ALLOT? it's only just been installed on the network and that is a known fact, i feel a little annoyed with the register here for posting someones name from a forum through here, VM could trace that back and they could end up in trouble.

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Haven't be able to get above 50Kb

on torrents for weeks and the n00bs say they aren't throttling. 2mb for £18 <---- mommy my bum hurts. Time to move on methinks!

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Coat

usenet throttling?

let's just say while I understand the need for ISPs to manage bandwidth, I myself have been ,ahem....monitoring several large usenet downloads via virging cable and I have seen no drop off in speed. The current policy is not to go nuts during peak hours. Seems to work out mostly for the best as I game heavily and download heavily and have only been stung a few times before Figured out the rules. It pisssed me off a bit that unlimited means unlimited at such and such time but its do-able. There are larger issues with virgin media that have yet to be resolved so I'll wait and see how those turn out.

mine's the one that says atl.bin on the back.

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DPI and SSL

Can DPI work on encrypted content, like SSL-encrypted downloads?

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BBC iPlayer

I think a lot of this throttling is coming from the BBC iPlayer which is claimed by ISP's to take about 65% of the network bandwidth.

I don't see why we should be limited by B/W when using legitimate p2p applications which is what I mostly use my internet connection for.

If they are going to throttle my connection then I want a discount on my service. It makes no sense to offer a 20Mb connection and then to only allow you to get 25% of this during the period that you most use it.

If this continues then I'm off to another ISP (assuming others are not rolling out similar activities)

What am I really paying for and actually getting.

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usenet isn't limited or throttled

as someone who easily does over 200gig's of usenet downloads every month I can with 100% so they do not throttle the speed of usenet transfers.

I'm on 20mbit and never get below 1.5MB/s, at night and mid morning I regularly get the full 2.2MB/s

Personally I have no problem with the way they use the 4pm till 9pm usage limit as it means I can go all out any other time, they don't seem to care about max usage as I've had some pretty crazy months when it comes to total usage and received no letters.

I'd prefer a set 4-9pm timeframe then a total monthly cap or single app throttling and no max limit

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It get's worse and is so depressing.

When in this country will i ever wake up to find that the tide has changed and Government and business start put less restrictive practices are in place? Seems that everything is getting worse in some way or other?

VM charge me £37.99 per month, for that I don't expect restrictions. But they do restrict, STM started off for just a few hours in the day, - hmm that went well says they, lets just increase it now a few more hours, hmmm that went well also, lets make it overnight now... it will be 24/7 by Christmas.

Their whole business model is retrograde, rather than making any attempt to provide what they say they can they shoehorn their customers into with these awful schemes.

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Stop

No need to throttle

The Virgin Media connection is so slow anyway, I am not sure if I would notice any further throttling. I do not use any P2P or other bandwidth leeching services, no iPlayer, no 4OD with Kontiki Krapware but there are still regular times of day where many websites are completely unusable as sessions time out in the time it takes a page to load. It is frequently faster on my 2G mobile connection than on VM to the same site.

Of course if they do want to get rid of the leechers choking up everyone else's bandwidth that may be no bad thing but protocol specific is not the way to do this as it will not be long before protocol or service specific turns into the very worst of the net neutrality fears. How long before VM don't throttle customers who have 'opted in' to have crapverts hosed at them via Phorm?

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Re: DPI and SSL

SSL & encrypted downloads will stop your ISP from examining the contents of packets but not your usage behaviour.

But most SSL & encrypted traffic is low bandwidth. If they see many connections to lots of different IP addresses they'll assume its p2p traffic and throttle you anyway. Unless you use a VPN tunnel like Relakks (now possibly at risk because of Sweden's new spy laws) your p2p software will still behave the same way.

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It surely is rubbish

You wouldn't need DPI for squashing Usenet, just restrict bandwidth on port 119, and their own newsservers.

Pretty much all newsproviders offer multiple ports and SSL, which renders all DPI utterly useless.

And anyone smart enough to know and use newsgroups will move onto SSL within minutes, making any attempts to DPI usenet access and complete and total waste of time and money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Usenet isn't limited or throttled

I can verify 100% that It certainly is throttled (along with anything else you care to mention) on whichever part of the ex-NTL/TeleWest spaghetti I live on.

... unless I've got a dodgy modem that instantly drops download speeds to 500KB (or whatever it goes down to) after a period of downloading at full-belt (2MB).

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@The Cube

That's absolutely what's going to happen. VM is going to install hardware to track every page you go to, and if it's a website that uses Phorm advertising and doesn't see a request for the appropriate ad image within a few seconds of you accessing the page, you'll be throttled. It'll cost an absolute bomb and VM doesn't and wouldn't make money on page advert views so there's no profit in it, but they're just Evil(TM) enough to do it just to piss you off.

Does anyone else find the world a depressing enough place as it is without the need to indulge in paranoid fantasies?

Oh, and if there's a problem with your connection speed, I'd moaning to tech support might get more results than moaning to El Reg.

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How would I know?

The bandwidth I get is such a pile of cr@p, I'd never know if they were throttling my bandwidth.

Wouldn't it be better if they spent the money on improving the network, or on data security!

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Anonymous Coward

The Stench is Appalling

The stench is rising fast and at this rate we really are going to find our 'rights' and liberties grossly reduced and abused at every turn and the power to do so is being handed over to commercial concerns. That is a truly appalling situation to allow to develop.

No ISP in this country is elected in a 'democratic' vote. Now they are happily probing away at every turn and undermining personal rights. There is no way to fix this other than doing the following:

1. Politicians need to wrap their heads around the concept that an ISP is a conduit, a pipe, for traffic - nothing more. That *needs* to be legally framed as fast as possible. If that isn't done then ISP's will by default end up (have already started to) electing themselves as yet another police force, a commercial one at that and one out with direct control of legally elected representatives of the people of this country. Once that is done at least control will be back where it belongs *and* it will be accountable - as it stands just now ISP's are not accountable for anything.

2. Those (so called) 'fair use' policies in contracts need to be outlawed and ISP's legally bound to only subscribe traffic it can truly manage to deal with. In that way ISP's are forced to publish real rates and don't have any interest in throttling because they sign up what they know they can manage and no more. That gets the greed factor out of the way and we can settle for a better time - so too could the ISP's.

It really is that important. The internet and access to it is something that is way too important to allow to pass into the hands of commercial non-elected interests. The mess of this just now is as nothing to what it is going to be like if this is allowed to continue. But even at that there will come a day when the politicians will pay.

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Linux

@Gav

"Never can follow why people always gripe about ISPs limiting P2P traffic."

Of course the ISPs have to manage their own bandwidth.

I think the thing people are mostly complaining about is that ISPs are discriminating on protocol, not usage. I can quite happily download some big Linux distro over HTTP, FTP or P2P, so why should the P2P option be discriminated against when I am putting the same load on the network for each?

(Tux 'cos I mentioned Linux.)

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Play them at their own game

Maybe it's time the country, as a whole, together make a change to OUR end of the agreement.

I will pay up to £(enter price of broadband package here), the actual % of this I will pay will directly represent the % of the speed of the package I receive.

If I'm paying £20pm for 8Mb/s, and I only get an avg of 6Mb/s, then I shall only pay £15pm for my connection for that month.

An individual attempting this would fall flat on his face, and be disconnected, a large % of the ISPs customers doing this, at the same time, would give them something to think seriously about.

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Coat

To Gav

I can appreciate why you get so angry at P2P'ers, I bet it's soooo frustrating when browsing thehun and having to wait for those niked pics to display.

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Stop

Dear Author -- Newsgroups is Client-Server, not Peer-to-Peer in nature

Dear Author,

Please note that Usenet, NNTP "downloads" between readers and servers are not P2P.

P2P is much more network friendly than NNTP in that it divides its work across multiple paths, with some protocols (e.g. BitTorrent) avoiding congested paths while favoring those that are not. Like all client-server applications, NNTP will try to power its transfer through a congested route.

I still agree with the gist of the comments. While the best way to download heavy media files is via P2P, Internet users ought to be able to use the modes that they wish to use without any inspection or interference from their ISP or the transit providers.

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To AC @ 14:42

"i feel a little annoyed with the register here for posting someones name from a forum through here, VM could trace that back and they could end up in trouble."

Virgin Media are more than aware of the CableForum site and the guys who post on there.

The Reg are doing nothing more than attributing a quote to a forum user - to get from that username to a real person would require them to demand the information from the admins at CableForum and they won't hand anything over short of a court order.

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Anonymous Coward

hmm, DSL at leased line prices?

"ISPs legally bound to only subscribe traffic it can truly manage to deal with."

For the sake of arguement

1 x BT 160Mb pipe = £10k/month

160 / 8Mb = 20

£10k / 20 = £500/month

So to break even on simple 1:1 net access your 8Mb service becomes £500/month. Any more business plans? I'm sure Messers Sugar, Gates or Trump will be interested ;)

a.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Chris Savage @ AC

I think paying the percent that you get is a great idea to make the point but as you say difficult to get off the ground (though maybe not impossible).

That said, funnily enough through P2P, I see that there are some 'broadband cooperatives' around and quite a bit of discussion on the web of the possibility of forming such. That too might be way to kick the profit (greed) motive out of the issue. I agree with AC, control over access to the internet is way too important to be allowed to fall into the hands of commercial interests and that's how it seems to be shaping up now.

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Re: Why do people gripe about this?

Well, why is it P2P that's the problem? If I spam with Word documents, that will use a LOT of bandwidth. If I use BBC's live streaming video, that will use a LOT of bandwidth. If I use a videophone a lot, that will use a LOT of bandwidth. Games? Same.

Are you trying to tell us that it is JUST P2P that's the problem? That if 100% of their customers didn't use P2P that VM would have enough bandwidth?

Bollocks.

It's the amount of data that is a problem. But it's only problem because we weren't supposed to be USING broadband, just paying for it.

And if they didn't have the bandwidth to offer the "rich experience" of broadband, WHY THE FUCK DID THEY SELL IT TO SO MANY?

So P2P is irrelevant, ANY use of large amounts of bandwidth is a problem for Virgin Media. P2P is merely one example.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Dear Author -- Newsgroups is Client-Server, not Peer-to-Peer in nature

Hi Robb,

The article does not say that Usenet/Newsgroups is peer to peer. They are listed separately in the very first sentence, and again in paragraph seven. Thanks,

- Chris

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Happy

Hey,Reg! Buddy!

How would you like to volunteer as Register for a per-cent-payment strike against Virgin!

You know - Maul the hand that feeds it!

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Oh its the old 'we have no plans' chestnut again

They have no plans to do so, until they do. Just like they had no plans to introduce STM throttling, until they did.

Alex Brown (the VM employee tasked with implementing STM throttling) is on record saying that providing they have only reviewed the options then it is not a plan, so feels that he can say 'there is no plans to do X' when in reality it may have been discussed a great deal already.

"Which was the case while we were reviewing options. Plans are just

that - what we do once a decision has been made." (Quoting Alex Brown, Virginmedia.feedback Newsgroup post 31.5.08 10.44am)

Disingenuous is a good word.

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

I don't get why ISP's won't just admit that they're throttling. They're pretty much all doing it, so customers who don't like it won't have anywhere to go. I'd be much happier with Orange if they'd just admit they're fiddling with my torrents (Which they are, quite blatantly). How hard is it? Just appeal to the stupidity of the masses: "The reason we're throttling is because of p2p users sucking up all their bandwidth with acts of piracy and illegal porn" Then anyone who complains is either a pirate or a pervert.

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re: hmm, DSL at leased line prices?

That's BT's rate.

Take a look at the wholesale rate of an OC48. 1:1 at 8meg works out to about £80pcm (from memory). Get a bigger SONET connection and it's cheaper still.

Now, what they CAN do is NOT sell 8meg if that is too expensive. If they can't provide, don't sell. After all, if you can't GET 8meg in use, why buy it?

What they can do is sell it pro-rata'd based on how often the pipe is saturated (and therefore not possible to get everyone on full usage). So they may have to have a contention ratio of 4:1 to get this (most people will still be emailing or browsing the web) but if they think they can get 5:1 they can be more profitable. If they can't get 5:1 they'll lose money and be less profitable. One that does 1:1 will either have to ask for 4x the money or lose money each month. So people will leave unless they MUST have a provisioned pipe. This will mean the Free Market will have people move to providers that have a reasonable contention ratio and the market will have providers providing the value that their customers need.

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Flame

hmmm

@ Mark

what planet are you on... playing games uses same bandwidth as P2P leechers? my arse mate. what the hell games are you playing?

the simple fact is that the P2P and usenet crowd have screwed it for us all (i used to use p2p but cant be arsed now)

people like the one above constantly dling 200gb of warez a month (cos you surely arent obtaining 200gb of legitimate content...) are the reason we have throttling.

we are all to blame. we all just hammered napster back in the day dling anything that sounded good.

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Pirate

Imagine how simple

Imagine how simple their "throttling" would be, if they had shipped routers that forwarded PREC, and simply "throttled" by enabling "PREC-based weighted random early drop" in their core net. Most applications today should be able to set the correct QoS flags in their packets.

Instead, most isp's have (at best) used a router that atleast can forward packets between the inside and outside interface. Usually one that has "100 mbit" rating, because the nic-chip is a 10/100 chip.

If the ISPs really want out of this minefield, they NEED to make sure all parts of their network actually handles QoS properly. With a properly tuned network, p2p _CAN_ coexist with other applications. In peace.

//Svein

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Pirate

Metering is just a matter of time

The freetards are going to have to face up to metered broadband. Bandwidth has a cost and is not an unlimited resource. The ISPs pay variable costs to BT and resell at a fixed price - that's not a sustainable model. Before too long one of the big ISPs will move to a metered model with minimal 'line rental' and a guaranteed quality of service. This would work better for most users who would get nice fast email and browsing at less money than they pay now. The pirating freetards will move to another ISP until they change their charging model.

In time, when the network gets big enough we might see fixed price again but not for a few years. There's no other commodity that's sold at fixed price - the mobile networks all have transparent usage caps above which they charge, fixed line has only moved to a 'all calls included' now that the voice data is becoming insignificant compared to data.

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Stop

I wonder how....

.. they explain the abysmal service then. There's got to be some reason ;)

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wait for the announcement

Like with the daytime "traffic management" they recently introduced....... expect Virgin to deny p2p traffic shaping for a few more days and then announce its rollout next week

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Paris Hilton

oversubscription

True P2P was the reason why shaping was brought in years back, but now the battlefield has changed, iPlayer could easily compete with P2P for straining BT pipes. Irrelevent if someone is downloading 200GB a month, surely that's what he paid for? Don'tforget it is a combination, P2P, viruses, spyware, iplayer etcetc. There is no way any ISP could argue that they don't oversubscribe, all ISP's do. At the end of the day if I am paying for 8meg i want 8meg, not 1/2 a meg between 9-5 then a speed increase at midnight. Simply really, they are all making lots of money off us without increasing bandwidth capacity. If you shape you can free enough bandwidth without buying more pipes.

I bet Paris gets full speed

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@Liam

Yes, games can use more than P2P.

How?

A P2P person can throttle their use.

A game played MUST move ALL the data required.

After all, you can't play WoW on dial-up, but you CAN P2P on it.

Slowly, yes. But you *can*.

Where were you when they were handing out brains? In the playpen?

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Anonymous Coward

Well ...

VerminMedia are right in one thing ... they do talk bollocks

Loads of people will vote with their direct debits over this and then they'll have no customers to go with their fancy 50mb (but not during peek times or if using p2p or playing online games) connections.

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Anonymous Coward

Bandwidth is NOT the issue

"Bandwidth has a cost and is not an unlimited resource".

Really? How much is that then? Is that because it's a series of tubes?

Bandwidth is in the gutter cheap. It's network management that's the issue.

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Alert

Virgin still has customers?!?

More fool them.

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Coat

How to Lose Friends and Fail to Influence People.

I quote from a Virgin brochure that popped through the box today (useless ferking waste of trees really):

"Spread the word about Virgin Media and get a £50 credit on your bill for every friend you introduce."

I'm sure they're out of their bloody minds.

Mm, weren't we just strapped for bandwidth since, well, since Branson took over?

======================================================

That bit of the brochure announcing ExTenDeD THrottLing must be in here.

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After a little experimentation...

After a little experimentation, the trottling software my ISP is using appears to be IP address based, if I DHCP release my connnection, wait 10 seconds then re-connect I get a new IP Address and full speed again; anyone else care to try...

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Anonymous Coward

Protest Please

As the issue is intimately interlinked with that being discussed here I hope that everyone reading will do the decent thing and sign the E-Petition at the following webpage:

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/LawyerISP/

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Anonymous Coward

And Another Two Here

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispdownloadspd/

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/save-the-net/

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