There has certainly been a lot FUD being spread around lately by the likes of Comcast about how P2P networks are filling up the Internet pipes. Just a couple of weeks ago, fellow Daniweb blogger, Davey Winder wrote (with tongue firmly in cheek), The Internet is Full, please get off, for his InsideEdge blog. I asked Steve Rosenbaum, CEO of Magnify.net, if he believed the internet was running out of capacity in an interview on Friday and his reaction was, “That’s just silly.”
I’ve always felt if the internet were truly filling up, why not just build more capacity. Seems simple enough, but is there more to it than that? To answer this question, I interviewed Matthew Crocker, who owns Crocker Communications, an internet service provider in western Massachusetts and I asked him to sort out fact from fiction. Crocker provided me with some answers from his perspective as an independent ISP. I’ve included our Q&A and below:
RM: Comcast and others having been spreading a lot FUD about P2P. In your estimation, what affect is P2P activity having on ISP network traffic? Are you noticing any effect on your networks?
MC: P2P can be bad for a network, but there are many elements involved, and not all of them are P2P applications’ fault.
P2P encompasses many different applications. Some P2P applications are 'friendly' and some are not. The Internet is a shared network and the Internet Protocols (TCP, et al.) are designed to work on a shared medium. Many P2P applications ignore the sharing aspect and get too aggressive on the bandwidth utilization. The over-aggressive nature of P2P applications can cause a single user to monopolize the network. A 'friendly' P2P application is fine on the network.
Residential Internet service (DSL & Cable) is Asymmetric, which means higher speed downloads and lower speed uploads. There have been some studies that suggest that a Symmetric edge would relieve a lot of the problems P2P creates.
Cable companies have a harder time with P2P because the way bandwidth is handled at the edge. In a cable network (DOCSIS) a group of users share the bandwidth on the cable. If you are the only user, it can be very fast, but if there are a lot of users your speed decreases. If there is an aggressive P2P session running on your 'node,' you can be starved of bandwidth.
Phone companies can handle P2P better. DSL has a dedicated connection from the end user to the edge aggregator. Each DSL connection is slower than cable but it is dedicated per user. A single P2P user can't destroy the experience of the other DSL customers. Several P2P sessions from different users could.
RM: Do you think it's possible, as some have asserted, that we will run out of bandwidth in the next couple of years because of increased demands from mobile, P2P, SaaS, video and other resource-hungry activities on the internet?
MC: I think we are up against the wall when it comes to edge bandwidth (the last mile to the customer). There is plenty of available bandwidth in the 'core' and plenty of spare fiber capacity.
RM: What must be done in your estimation to meet the increasing bandwidth demand?
MC: The technical fix is to deploy a higher speed symmetrical edge network to connect customers. Fiber To The Home is the ultimate answer. The other issue is the business case to finance the expansion/replacement of the edge network. Currently cut-throat competition between cable and phone companies doesn't leave much room available for rebuilding a network.
RM: What projects are you aware that under way now to meet growing demand?
MC: New versions of DOCSIS and DSL protocols [are being developed] to increase bandwidth on the edge.