Google Launches Tools to Test for Bandwidth Throttling

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Google today announced the launch of Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a joint project between the search engine, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and academic researchers that aims to create an open platform for researchers to develop and deploy Internet measurement tools. M-Lab will offers tools that allow users to determine what is causing network slowdowns, if their connection is being throttled by their ISP, and allow researchers to access and share that information. In other words, this is Google’s latest salvo in their campaign for network neutrality. “At Google, we care deeply about sustaining the Internet as an open platform for consumer choice and innovation. No matter your views on net neutrality and ISP network management practices, everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they’re getting when they sign up for broadband, and good data is the bedrock of sound policy,” writes Google Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf and engineer Stephen Stuart in a blog post today. “Transparency has always been crucial to the success of the Internet, and, by advancing network research in this area, M-Lab aims to help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet.” Google has long been an advocate of network neutrality in the United States, and Cerf is on record as saying that letting ISPs throttle certain types of bandwidth would “fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success.” The M-Lab tools will allow users to determine for themselves if their network connectivity issues are a result of ISP level throttling, or something more benign. Measurement Lab is launching with three tools that “help users attempt to diagnose common problems that might impair their broadband speed, as well as determine whether BitTorrent is being blocked or throttled by their ISPs.” The tools are running on servers at Google’s headquarters, and Google plans to donate 36 servers in 12 locations over the course of the next few months to run M-Lab applications. A problem for researchers in the past as far as deploying tools like these, says Google, is that they lacked access to servers with ample bandwidth in distributed locations. Along with providing a solution to that problem, M-Lab also offers ways for researchers to share their findings. Google’s announcement of M-Lab comes as net neutrality is in the news again today, thanks to an announcement from Cox Communications — American’s third largest cable provider — that it plans to begin testing a new method of “congestion management” in February that would throttle network traffic based on perceived time-sensitivity.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bandwidth Throttling

What is bandwidth throttling and how does it affect my internet speed?

Bandwidth throttling is a deliberate slowing down of internet speed by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). It is often done to regulate network traffic and minimize bandwidth congestion. This can cause your internet to slow down at certain times of the day or when you are performing specific activities like streaming or downloading.

How can I tell if my ISP is throttling my internet?

There are several signs that your ISP might be throttling your internet. These include consistent slow internet speeds, slower speeds at certain times of the day, and slower speeds when using certain applications or websites. You can also use online speed tests to compare your actual internet speed with the speed promised by your ISP.

Are there tools available to test for bandwidth throttling?

Yes, there are several online tools available that can help you test for bandwidth throttling. These tools work by measuring your internet speed and comparing it to the speed promised by your ISP. If there is a significant difference, it could be a sign of bandwidth throttling.

Why would an ISP throttle bandwidth?

ISPs may throttle bandwidth for several reasons. One common reason is to manage network congestion during peak usage times. They may also throttle bandwidth to discourage certain types of usage, such as torrenting or streaming.

Is bandwidth throttling legal?

The legality of bandwidth throttling varies by country. In some countries, ISPs are required to treat all internet traffic equally, which means they cannot throttle bandwidth. However, in other countries, ISPs are allowed to throttle bandwidth as long as they disclose this practice to their customers.

Can a VPN help avoid bandwidth throttling?

Yes, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help avoid bandwidth throttling. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, making it harder for your ISP to monitor your online activities and throttle your bandwidth based on your usage.

How can I prevent my ISP from throttling my bandwidth?

There are several steps you can take to prevent your ISP from throttling your bandwidth. These include using a VPN, regularly testing your internet speed, and contacting your ISP if you suspect they are throttling your bandwidth.

Can I switch ISPs if I suspect my current ISP is throttling my bandwidth?

Yes, if you suspect your ISP is throttling your bandwidth and you are unhappy with your internet speed, you can consider switching to a different ISP. However, it’s important to research the new ISP to ensure they do not also engage in bandwidth throttling.

What is the impact of bandwidth throttling on online gaming?

Bandwidth throttling can significantly impact online gaming. It can cause lag, which can affect gameplay and make games less enjoyable. If you suspect your ISP is throttling your bandwidth, you may want to consider using a VPN or switching ISPs.

Can bandwidth throttling affect streaming services?

Yes, bandwidth throttling can affect streaming services. If your ISP is throttling your bandwidth, you may experience buffering, poor video quality, and slow load times when using streaming services.

Josh CatoneJosh Catone
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Before joining Jilt, Josh Catone was the Executive Director of Editorial Projects at Mashable, the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID. On the side, Josh enjoys managing his blog The Fluffington Post.

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