There’s a rather depressing article in Ars Technica (UK ISPs playing Grinch with P2P throttling, surf data, video?)about ISP attitudes to the service they provide (or not) in the UK.  AT focusses on  three areas in which the ISPs want to maximise their profits, in some cases by restricting costs (throttling P2P services), selling our data (by deep packet inspection, such as the vile Phorm system), and by demanding payments from broadcasters such as the BBC (because they have the temerity to introduce a very popular service such as iPlayer).

I’m not a BitTorrent user, but I feel rather anxious that a legal application like BitTorrent, which can of course be used for entirely legal activities such as legal downloading of videos, games, and software can be throttled back on the basis (or rather the explanation used to deflect criticism) that some people abuse it for illegal activities.  Of course this is a bit weasly, the real situation is that the ISPs have pitched their services at a price that doesn’t cover the bandwidth people use.  Their solution seems to be to throttle back P2P services under the guise of copyright protection.

Similarly, broadcasters such as the BBC are targeted for releasing a popular product that lots of people want to access.  The ISPs response?  That the BBC should pay us because lots of people want to use the service (within their paid-for download limits in their broadband contracts, remember)!  Bizarre.

My final gripe is one that regular readers might recognise.  This is the application of deep packet inspection techniques to scan all internet traffic to target adverts to their customers.  The Ars Technica article is a bit depressing on the subject, making it sound as though pretty much all ISPs are on board the Phorm train.  As far as I know, the only ISP currently in bed with Kent Ertegrul and his spyware cronies is BT, who’ve behaved pretty appallingly over this issue.  Over the last few years, BT have:

  • Conducted secret tests of the Phorm dpi system in 2006 while lying to their customers about what was going on.
  • Conducted secret tests of the Phorm dpi system in 2007 while lying to their customers about what was going on.
  • Pushed for customers to be presented with an “opt-out” system, in which the vile Phorm system is presented (in the guise of BT-Webwise) as an anti-phishing system.
  • Ignored the requirement from BERR that the system needs to be “opt-in”.
  • Evading the real issue that all BT internet traffic will be passed through the Phorm-owned hardware in the BT network whether or not the customer has opted in or out
  • Clamped down on internet forum discussion of the merits or not of BT-Webwise (so, what have BT gt to hide?)
  • Avoided accusations of breach of copyright

The article implies that most UK ISPs are on the DPI bandwagon.  However, as far as I know, only BT have sold their soul to Ertegrul’s crew, Virgin Media and Talk Talk are looking at it, Orange have said they are unlikely to use Phorm, and a variety of relatively minor players have committed themselves to not use Phorm or similar systems.

To find out more about Phorm, visit the dephormation website, and in particular these articles:

The Opt in Hoax

The Anonymity Hoax

The URL History Hoax

The Privacy Enhancing Hoax

About Phorm

My response to BT’s dalliance with Phorm was to ditch them for Zen internet, an excellent outfit who have no intention to use Phorm (and if they do, I’ll be on my way).  Incidentally, I don’t know whether this is relevant to data throttling issues, but my download speed more than tripled when I swtiched from BT to Zen).