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Topic # 26486 24-Sep-2008 10:23
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I’ve seen so much rubbish here about the cause of the speed problems, so let me give you my opinion _as a clued up Internet user_

It’s an economic problem to do with indiscriminate consumption of a scarce resource. Now that I have scared most of you off, I’m left with the people that should understand – good.

International Bandwidth is a scarce resource, it’s finite and it’s a direct cost for the supplier. In the older days, when Xnet charged users for all bandwidth ($1/gig), they had a fair number of heavy users – but heavy users are a GOOD THING to have. They consumed a lot, and paid for it.

Unfortunately for some unknown reason, they decided that they needed to more fully utilise their international bandwidth, and try and modify customer behaviour to even out their international link utilisation so they put the Torrent plan in place.

What this did though, was put an effectively flat rate plan in place for midnight to 8am. Flat rate plans don’t encourage heavy or rational use, they encourage indiscriminate use. Indiscriminate use is bad. People can (and do) download 3 movies, watch one, delete the other two.

That in itself isn’t so bad, but the methods used for downloading today are incompatible with concurrent interactive use in a flow based fairness scenario. Or put another way, Torrent users after midnight still get decent speeds because they have 100+ connections open at once, all running at 1-3K/sec. Unfortunately because of the way that bandwidth is allocated, the interactive user gets 1 or 2 flows of 1-3K/sec.

Now, I just got off the phone from Xnet and their CSR admitted they have a major problem and said they are adding more international at the end of the month – unfortunately, there is significant research indicating this won’t help, and can in the medium term, make things worse. See Bob Briscoes paper "We Do Not Have to do Fairness Ourselves” linked here: http://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/bbriscoe/pubs.html#relax-fairness

Now, there are a couple of ways to solve this, but they are all difficult, here are some ideas that would work:

- Lose the Torrent account – I know it’s difficult to withdraw a plan, but indiscriminate users are money losers and resource hogs. You DON’T want them on your network. They overconsume your scarce resources and starve the paying users. They’re also price sensitive and I’d guarantee they make significantly less for Xnet through VFX than their other users. Simply removing the 75GB free would solve this problem overnight.

- Plan based traffic fairness. With pay per GB users and Indiscriminate Torrent users in the same Bandwidth pool, the Torrent users will ALWAYS monopolise the available bandwidth and the interactive users (in the midnight to 8am time) will be starved. Moving the Torrent users to their own bandwidth pool would isolate them from the pay per GB users and solve the problem as well – but this is not trivial and involves some investment.

- Document for your existing pay per GB users that between the hours of midnight and 8am, your network is optimised for Torrent users only and interactive use is essentially impossible.


So there you go – the current performance of the Xnet service during midnight to 8am is a completely predictable result of encouraging indiscriminate use by some users and not separating those users from the existing pay per GB users.

As I have said, this is my personal opinion only, and I would welcome and comments or corrections.

 
Regards
Neil G

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  Reply # 166692 24-Sep-2008 10:44
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Talkiet:Now, I just got off the phone from Xnet and their CSR admitted they have a major problem and said they are adding more international at the end of the month

Good to hear they are admitting to the problem because the silence has been deafening in these forums Tongue out

I have now moved both of our accounts away from Xnet over the past 3 months because the performance just went from bad to worse.  Our usage here (on wireless) is only 2GB per month and our kids (at a separate property) use between 10 and 20GB per month.

However, I use streaming video on occasion and our kids are avid on-line gamers.  For both of those applications you need good international bandwidth and a low ping for gaming and Xnet is no longer up to snuff in this regard during the Peak Evening Hours.  For the first 2 years or more after we joined, this was never a problem.  It's sad to see a good ISP drop the ball like this.

I wonder if there isn't a case for having a separate bandwidth pool for the heavy users (say 50GB per month or more) and another pool for those who want decent performance.  It's quite obvious that Xnet need to make some drastic changes and until they do, I certainly won't be recommending any of my friends to sign up with them.

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  Reply # 166694 24-Sep-2008 10:57
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grant_k: Good to hear they are admitting to the problem because the silence has been deafening in these forums Tongue out


I heard a rumour (never confirmed by anyone, not to me at least), they got tired of people complaining, complaining, and never finding anything good to write about.




 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 166702 24-Sep-2008 11:37
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hmm. I thought most of the users complaint they have problem streaming U tube at peak time?

I did not know torrent users download at peak time too?

not a good argument.

Xnet introduce torrent hoping peaktime issue will go away but it didn't, so they have/must to do something!

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  Reply # 166703 24-Sep-2008 11:48
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freitasm: I heard a rumour (never confirmed by anyone, not to me at least), they got tired of people complaining, complaining, and never finding anything good to write about.

I don't blame them for getting tired of people complaining, but the fact is, Peak-Time International Speed on Xnet is a big problem area and it's not going to go away all by itself.  Xnet's management need to be upfront as to what steps they are taking to solve the problem, and then Deliver on their promise by ensuring that the problem is solved, once and for all.

Just keeping their heads down and ducking all the flak isn't going to solve anything.  This is a time for innovative and courageous thinking on Xnet's part, not stony silence.

/rant

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  Reply # 166747 24-Sep-2008 14:21
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There are many new and exciting alternatives that divide bandwidth fairly between users (that are not deep packet inspection)....

Example:

arpanet-architect-bring-fairness-to-traffic-management



In addtion there is smart web caching and even torrent flows can be temporarily cached locally dramatically reducing required international bandwidth.

You would hope Xnet are looking closely at these types of technology.  I would probably be back if they implemented some smarts like this.








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  Reply # 166750 24-Sep-2008 14:41
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In addition to my post above...

1:  Performance declined due to a large number of new customers based on word of mouth on forums like gameplanet and geezkone etc.  This happened many months before the introduction of the the torrent plans.

2:  Un restricted bit-torrent can and will consume all available bandwidth because ISP's don't plan capacity for all users being active downloading as fast as their line can do 24x7.

3:  Perhaps their pricing of $1/gb doesn't have enough margin that they can afford to add additional bandwith in a timely manner.  In my experience they add bandwidth reactively and only when they absolutely have too.

4:  Basically Xnet have a philosophy that is at odds with the pragmatic practical reality of providing an internet service.  Lack of QoS/shaping traffic management ruins the service for average users/gamers/etc.

In my opinion charging per gb is a completely bogus way to charge customers for internet usage anyway.  ISP's pay for international bandwidth in sustained x Gigabit/s. 

If they have a 2Gbit/s link to the US and they have 5000 active customers (all active and using the net at the same time) that should be (extremely roughly) ~420 kbit/s per user available. 

Mr 1000 tcp/ip connections torrenter shouldn't be able to consume 700 kbit/s while Mr 2 tcp/ip connections watching youtube can't get the 5-10 kbit/s they need to watch a streaming flv movie without pre-loading.

It's a basic issue of fairness between users.

I respect their decision to not go with slow, expensive and invasive DPI (deep packet inspection) however practical reality demands some kind of fair allocation of bandwidth between users.

I wonder if we will ever see a truely revolutionary ISP in NZ who markets a plan with a real/expected/planned/average minium sustained speed.  Lets say 200 kbit/s minimum/expected and then up to max line speed (depends on network utilization), no data cap.  The technology to achieve this basically exists right now and it's not that expensive compared to DPI.

Wouldn't this make network planning a heck of a lot easier?  You've added +5000 new customers this quarter you'd know you need to add 1Gigabit/s of bandwidth to maintain 200 kbit/s per customer.  You could price your monthly fee high enough to cover costs and make a fair margin and you would market yourself as the only consumer ISP with fair allocation of bandwidth between users in NZ

I would much prefer to pay a fixed monthly cost for subscription to an ISP with a policy like this as opposed to the hot and cold system we have at the moment. 

The only ISP in NZ that I've seen with a philosophy heading in this direction is Actrix, however disapointingly they are using a daily mb/gb limit.
http://www.actrix.co.nz/page.php?id=144

What's so hard about a semi guaranteed/planned/expected minium speed with the max speed determined by bandwidth/active users?  It doesn't appear to be rocket science!


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  Reply # 166760 24-Sep-2008 15:09

I (along with many others) believe that by simply moving the Torrent plans 75GB free to the times 3am->8am will drastically reduce the problem for people that use the internet during lateer hours (ie: after 12).


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  Reply # 166768 24-Sep-2008 15:28
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Kyro: I (along with many others) believe that by simply moving the Torrent plans 75GB free to the times 3am->8am will drastically reduce the problem for people that use the internet during lateer hours (ie: after 12).



That is a short term solution and it just moves most of the problem but not all of it.

People can and will still torrent during normal hours given it's only $1.00-1.5 per gig.  Cheaper than going to the movies or renting a video by far.  Maybe they don't want to until tomorrow. 

Lets look at a contempory example... The first Heroes Season 3 episode aired last night in the US, around 30min after airing you can start downloading it via bit torrent.  At 450-700 kbit/s you can get the 600mb 2hr premiere episode in ~10-15min.

Note: I don't condone doing this, I'm giving you a real example of what your kids, uni students, tech savy people around the country are doing every day.

So once again the torrenter using 500+ tcp/ip connections can achieve a sustained speed of around 400-700kbit/s depending on line speed and torrent seeders.  The gamer playing wow or the average joe browsing youtube is using 1-2 tcp/ip connections, they need only about 6-15 kbit/s sustained yet they are can't get even such a small sustained connection reliably because the torrenter's are consuming all available bandwidth, saturating router upload queues etc.

As the guy playing the games on US servers (after work and before sleepiing) I find it pretty annoying my usage can be so serverly impacted by torrenting of quasi illegal material. 

Equitiable traffic management between users is a must for any quality ISP imo.

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  Reply # 166769 24-Sep-2008 15:29
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Yes I would have to agree with Kyro that simply changing the torrent plan time would significatly reduce the problems.

Personally I still use the net after 12am but only sometimes after 3am.


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  Reply # 166778 24-Sep-2008 16:19
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I understand why some people are upset but the economics that people are demanding just aren't feasible imo.  Much of the below has been mentioned before and some of my comments are playing devil's advocate but there you go...

To me there are obviously two distinct but related issues at play:
1. The overall lack of bandwidth - the I can't watch youtube in the evening without buffering for 5 minutes.
2.the torrent plan and the slowdown after midnight

The first is a reasonably easy problem to evaluate because it just means that more bandwidth must be made available either by purchasing more or freeing up the existing.  Either way this has a knock on effect on the customer in terms of cost or network performance.  The second is much more difficult as keeping everyone happy and maximising profits seem to be mutually exclusive.

Possible solutions (many of these have been mentioned before):

-Charge the non-torrent users more per GB as they are the primary contributors to the peak bandwidth issues and are paying a substantially reduced price for data.  This should see reduced bandwidth usage and increased revenue to buy more bandwidth. Torrent users already pay a premium and will likely leave if it was increased further.  This would take xnet back to pre-torrent offpeak 'wastage'

-Provide a free/relatively low cost binary news server
huzzah! all the torrenters can get their 'linux isos' locally. Therefore reduced torrents, torrent plan dropped, freed up international bandwidth, and access can be resold to other nz isp's and/or their users to help cover costs.  I think an Australian ISP did this recently but I can't remember the details.

-Reduce the 'free' offpeak 75gb to 50gb or less.  That said I don't get anywhere near 75GB/month from the plan as it's pretty much just a marketing number.  I can't see any change here helping those who want fast connections for gaming etc as dropping it to a level that would make it possible would most likely destroy the torrent plan's feasibility and customers would leave.

-Anagran solution  - I haven't read up on it but unless it can resize user 'pipes' on the fly it would be worse than useless.  The ability for each user to 'burst' into the unused bandwidth of the whole pipe is critical to providing a good service at low cost.  Obviously the trick is in ensuring that the cold spots mentioned aren't too cold.  Otherwise users would see just how little bandwidth they are actually allocated and my goodness the complaints would fly in.

-Fixed cost/bandwidth solution would probably work out to be prohibitively expensive for the above reasoning.

-Changing the off-peak times  - 1am or 2am would probably fly with torrent users...3am and xnet are going to see people leaving as your effectively knocking off 3/8ths (nearly halving) of their downloads.

-Splitting the pipe has discussed many times before and but rather than just torrenters and normal users it would be useful to say have an extra gamer plan thrown in there.  For $10 extra a month gamers get a seperate fast piece of pipe to share offpeak. Normal users get to share theirs with the torrenters and continue to enjoy their lower costs.



Xnet is pretty open about how it operates it's network which opens itself up to alot of criticism as everyone thinks they can do a better job than them.  Personally I think they're doing fine and am more concerned about customer service responses, outages  and the constant international connectivity issues than the speed of their network.  Fusion/VFX is awesome and could only be better if it would work with common softphones.


Edit: typo



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  Reply # 166790 24-Sep-2008 16:51
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[snip]
What's so hard about a semi guaranteed/planned/expected minium speed with the max speed determined by bandwidth/active users?  It doesn't appear to be rocket science!


It's easy, it's really, REALLY expensive... Unfortunately the numbers you bandy about in your post are so far outside what economically works for a consumer service it's not funny.

Cheers - N

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  Reply # 166802 24-Sep-2008 17:18
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Hey, I hadn't heard the usenet server idea before. That's a good one. That would solve a few problems I think. Certainly it would free up the international bandwidth. Shouldn't cost too much either, I wouldn't think.

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  Reply # 166806 24-Sep-2008 17:26
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I would be EXTREMELY happy to provide a server for linux iso's etc.

I could even contemplate paying for any monthly costs as long as they are not too high. Even if the server sat in the APE it would still free much bandwidth.

The thing is, instead of 500 users torrenting their latest linux distro from international servers, you could have these 500 downloading from a national server and just that 1 server torrenting the latest linux distro's. Sounds like more of a plan to me!

Any ideas?

Cheers
Chris

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  Reply # 166820 24-Sep-2008 17:53
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freitasm: I heard a rumour (never confirmed by anyone, not to me at least), they got tired of people complaining, complaining, and never finding anything good to write about.

I would believe that.

Geekzone has of recent times become a place full of moaners...
I will admit myself to moaning somewhat, and I have noticed even yourself Mauricio have become quite cynical lately, with many blog posts moaning about services etc.

I recall I recently moaned I was not happy with the recent outages with xnet, but that said, I still believe they provide a good service overall, and the Torrent plan in my mind is the best (price wise) on the market...so I still support WxC.

Hang tough WxC, you still have your fans. Smile




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  Reply # 166821 24-Sep-2008 17:57
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TheBartender: [snip] I still believe they provide a good service overall, and the Torrent plan in my mind is the best (price wise) on the market...so I still support WxC.

Hang tough WxC, you still have your fans. Smile


Interesting comment, do you use the service for general web browsing after midnight? I know it still works well for torrenting at any time of day, but torrenting is very forgiving of slow per flow speeds, while browsing isn't.

Cheers - N

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