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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Net Neutrality: Is Your ISP Shaping Traffic Now



 In my previous post I have discussed about Internet censorship in India, in this post I wish to discuss bandwidth throttling and how to find out if your ISP is slowing down transfer speed despite you paying for it. According to The Hindu, Airtel and BSNL have been found to throttle Bittorrent traffic. However, this data is couple of years old and probably doesn't include your ISP information, so here are some tools to find out if your ISP is cheating you.


Glasnost

This is a simple web-based tool to check if your ISP is throttling traffic from your application. It lets you test traffic from P2P apps such as Bittorrent, standard apps using HTTP, POP, IMAP4,SSH and NNTP protocols and also Video-on-Demand.

To test your ISP just visit this webpage and start testing. (Java 7 required)
Here are the screenshots of the results of my tests. Thankfully my local ISP ( Ortel ) doesn't seem to be interfering with the traffic at all.

Bittorrent

HTTP
Video

Neubot

Neubot is a network neutrality bot which after installation, runs in the background, periodically performing transmission tests with Measurement Labs's M-Lab servers. It emulates HTTP, Bittorrent and raw TCP tests and publishes them as public data. Download link as well link to its source code and the location where raw data are published, can be found here
Neubot also uses a web interface to display results of its periodic tests on your terminal. 

Speedtest Result Using Neubot
Bittorrent Transfer Result Using Neubot
The tools mentioned above are mainly for broadband service but as we know well the world is moving swiftly towards mobile Internet services. 
Every service provider shall ensure that the minimum download speed, specified by it in the data wireless plans, is available to the consumer for not less than eighty percent of usage time [3A(2)] 
Of course "not less than eighty percent of time" condition would make it difficult to prove if the speed is as promised by the provider but since the authority has not specified any benchmark for the parameter minimum download speed, there is just no way to establish if the consumer is getting service with a much lower speed than subscribed for. With my EDGE subscription (my network doesn't provide 3G yet) I should expect 256 kbps ( EDGE should support 500 kbps) but the average speed I experience is 60 kbps. I find no reason to expect telcos will abide by whatever regulations TRAI comes up with. So I tried finding out about ISP practices vis.a. vis net neutrality.

NDT Android Client

For some reason, the link from Google search result to Measurement Labs location for NDT (Mobile Client) return "page not found status". However, I was able to find the app (NDT for Android ) at Google code repository.  Do note, since this is not available at Google Play, you need to turn off security setting on your Android phone to install this .apk , do it on your own risk.    
Using the tool I tried testing three different services, Airtel, Aircel and Reliance GSM. Here are the screenshots. 


On Reliance, the test never completed 
Aircel


Airtel 

Now I don't have enough knowledge to interpret the the test results given above except the rate of data transfer and the firewall, the bit about "Network Address Translation box modifying IP address" does bother me as it prevents end-to-end connectivity which does affects certain applications. I strongly suggest you read up this Wikipedia section to understand if this architecture degrades quality of service and threatens net neutrality. 


Before signing off I should mention another network testing tool called Switzerland.

Switzerland Network Testing Tool

  Created by Electronic Freedom Foundation, Switzerland was one of the first tools to be released that checked if your data packets travelling over IP networks were being forged or injected and returned the modified packets to you. Switzerland is Open Source,you can read all about it and find the download link here. However, I don't think the codebase has been updated recently, I suggest you give a try only if you are on Linux. On Windows 7 64-bit with Python 3.4.3 I had already spent a lot of time updating code (I am not much familiar with Python but it was mainly syntax issue) to download latest WinPcap and NTP which were additional requirement for the application to run on my OS.

So why am I listing the tool here ?
Firstly, because it is by EFF, the only party in net neutrality debate to be purely non-profit and it claims to give you complete control over testing process. So I sincerely hope, some alpha-geek reading this does the necessary tweaking and points me a resource to get the binaries from ;)

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