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Minnesota Internet Traffic Studies (MINTS)

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Streaming and other claimed problems: Data from PlusNet and Japan

The British ISP, PlusNet, has again done a great service by presenting detailed information about their traffic, based on data through June, PlusNet report. Their earlier reports about the dramatic jump in traffic caused by the BBC iPlayer rollout, and the fact that this was the demanding streaming traffic, led to some "doom and gloom" stories. But now that the novelty has worn off, the growth rate has subsided. Overall traffic (for the network as a whole, not on a per-user basis) is up only 26.5% between June 2007 and June 2008. Streaming traffic is up 169% over that period, but represents 6.6% of total traffic (up to 9.6% of all downloaded traffic during peak evening hours).

Streaming is the big bugaboo, often cited as a threat to the network and a justification for dramatically higher new investments and also new pricing and traffic management policies. But (i) much of the video and music traffic that appears to be streaming, such as YouTube, actually consists of faster-than-real-time progressive downloads, which are much easier to accommodate on the network, and (ii) such approaches are far more sensible than true streaming. This topic is covered in the paper "The delusions of net neutrality" by Andrew Odlyzko, to be presented at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference in September, 2008, PDF copy of paper.

The latest results of the cooperative data collection and analysis effort by a group of Japanese ISPs that were mentioned in the previous news item, with overall statistics incorporated in the table in cooperative industry data, are now available in more detail in the presentation deck by Kenjiro Cho, Kensuke Fukuda, Hiroshi Esaki, Akira Kato, and Jun Murai, Japanese residential broadband traffic analysis.

Comcast has announced that effective October 1, 2008, they will impose a 250 GB/month bandwidth cap on their users. Their web page about the policy states that "he median data usage by Comcast High-Speed Internet customers is approximately 2-3 GB each month," Comcast "Excessive Use" FAQ, and it is very likely that the average usage is a couple times higher, judging by the Japanese experience mentioned above. (Comcast says that fewer than 1% of their users exceed the 250 GB/month limit.)