Telstra To Trial Throttling, Packet Inspection To Stop Piracy

Heads-up all you naughty pirates: Telstra is coming for you. It's coming to slow down your P2P traffic and analyse your traffic to stop rampant online piracy.

Piracy has always been difficult for ISPs; you only need to look at the iiTrial to understand that. To combat pirated material traversing Telstra's pipes, the telco has announced plans to throttle peer-to-peer (P2P) network traffic while also inspecting network traffic for pirated material.

It's only a trial at this stage for a group of customers in Victoria (of which they can opt out), but Telstra is investigating the viability of the two anti-piracy methods to see if it would work across the whole network.

The telco said on its Exchange blog this morning that the packet inspection technology wouldn't be able to tell what was actually being downloaded, it would only be able to track the "signature" of the traffic to finger it as infringing material.

The technology being used looks at characteristics of the data packet to identify the type of the traffic present. Any inspection that takes place is used only to identify the signature of the traffic; it does not identify the content (eg whether this is a movie, the title or any other details).
This trial does not involve any monitoring or tracking of the sites visited by our customers, and the trial’s findings, including customer feedback, will be collected in accordance with our Privacy Statement.

Telstra will also shape identified peer-to-peer content to slow down pirates:

One of the variety of options being examined under this trial is the shaping of specific services (including some peer to peer (P2P) services) in certain circumstances, to determine what impact this has on total overall customer experience of time critical experiences for real time entertainment.

Victorian customers involved in the trial are being contacted about their involvement.

Are you on the trial? Let us know how it's going in the comments. [Telstra]


Comments

    This will do nothing to stop people from pirating.

      Deep Packet Inspection does work, don't fool yourself.
      The penalty is cost of implementation, but if the carrier can find a risk reduction or cost benefit - then it's happening. (In fact it's already happening on a lot of traffic - wire taps for data...)
      Consider encryption, stream splitting on your connections

        I don't see how this benefits Telstra though.. honestly.. I am confused why Telstra would do this on their own initiative.. if it was a government "suggestion" that they do it, that's one thing.. but how is Telstra losing when it comes to piracy?

          I'd say it's a form of protection against litigation.

            So tjey dont have to upgrade infrastructure to handle increasing loads.

          Don't Telstra have content streaming services or something? Foxtel is part of Telstra right? I dunno, I don't really keep up with them anymore but if they've got a digital download system or a part of PayTV they're getting slammed by pirates (not that pirates would go with the Telstra service, but PayTV and movies become pretty hard to sell when you compare them with piracy).

          That said I think @single_malt hit it on the head. They don't want pirates on their network because they use most of the resources. Not wanting them is fair enough but get rid of them by removing your unlimited plans rather than squirming around with sneaky tactics like this.

        If cost is an issue, though, I'm sure they could probably get some financial support from the music/movie industries if they felt it might help cut down on their perceived losses from piracy.

    This wasn't reported above, but was mentioned in the article on SMH:
    According to the RCR Wireless article, about 80 per cent of Telstra's data was chewed up by high bandwidth users.
    "I'd rather not have those 80 per cent as customers. I'd rather someone else had them as customers," Mr Lawrey reportedly said.

    So it sounds like this is just the first step in targeting high bandwidth users, which they are justifying by calling it an anti-piracy measure. Because God forbid customers should try and get value out of their plans right?
    If they are serious about this, why doesn't Tesltra simply remove high data cap plans from their offerings?

      Exactly...you pay for a high data plan and then they get pissed when you decide to use it?

        I remember having an unlimited plan and then getting hit with abusing their fair usage policy and I wasn't pirating - I was working moving large projects between stakeholders. They want you to pay for unlimited but they don't want you to actually use it.

        They call it good business practice I call it dishonest.

          I'd have to agree that migrating large amounts of business data over a residential service is abusing the fair use policy.

            because godforbid, people are not allowed to use their home connections for one time work purposes right
            and commercial data packets are different to residential data packets

            Last edited 06/02/13 12:02 pm

            Yeah, so lets redefine "unlimited" shall we.

            Unlimited - Not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent, (unless we decide you're using "too much")

            What a load of crap.

      Ahh I see.. yes that actually makes more sense.. because as they say themselves, they can't actually see what you're download (well they could of course.. but that's another matter)... only the "signature" and patterns etc.. so really they could use that to justify throttling for people who like to stream HD content from overseas etc

      Exactly, the companies advertise these 'features' of the plans, but then when you use them you're a troublemaker and they want to get rid of you. Happened to me with Virgin Mobile, my old place in Canberra couldn't get ADSL (thank you tightarse Telstra and your RIM networks) and I used a 3G Virgin Mobile connection. After a year I and several hundred other users had our plans cancelled because we dared to use up the 4gb (!!!) limit (after which we were throttled to dialup speeds). Apparently we were "compromising the quality of the network for everyone else" so they could cancel the contract. THEN WHY HAVE A 4GB LIMIT IF IT WILL COMPROMISE THE NETWORK? Sigh...

      I should point out that Michael Lawrey does NOT work for Telstra Consumer, or Telstra Media anymore (he is at Telstra Enterprise), and is not able to make these decisions anymore.

      THANKFULLY.

      Capping, or slowing different types of traffic is one way to sign your own death warrant.

      I would not go with an organisation that imposes such draconian rules (although you cant beat the wireless / mobile side).

    I agree, it wont stop pirating. But it will definitely be making me change my provider

      There are already better cheaper options than Telstra in many places, check out iinet or Internode (same company really but different plans.

        Yerp.. iiNet is great.. more expensive than TPG of course.. but much better service overall.

      TPG - Unlimited!!!

        Obvious one...

        I download for days with them. But if I was a WP fanboi - I would be saying "back off"

        In my experience TPG are great for large data, but terrible when latency is critical.

        I used to game with TPG and my pings were atrocious, and have now gone to iiNet and things are much better. Internode is even better I hear, but I'm not going to pay their premium.

    P2P throttling that doesn't even determine if what your downloading is pirate material or not? Nice work Telstra :P

    Moving with the times and make content available to consumers in a timely manner at a reasonable cost might be a better approach....

      Complain to them (if you are a customer), if enough people do, then we can enact change!

    As already mentioned will do nothing to stop it.

    Maybe looking at this now for the NBN when it is in full swing?

    I'm sure they will bring out a superextreme no throttle plan at triple the price of the already triple priced internet for the naughty people using their internet for internet purposes.

    How do they expect to get any results from this trial? Those who want to pirate will opt out, those who don't won't care and so there will be no throttling there anyway.

      Well if it is as single_malt points out, more about throttling high bandwidth users, it won't matter if no one is pirating because that's not the real reason for doing it. Again, I have to agree it makes more sense that this is the real reason behind it because what company is going to throw that kind of money and resources into something that has little to no benefit to them.. stopping piracy, on moral grounds alone, is not in their business interests.

    So what about legitimate P2P? For instance there are some games that use P2P to distribute their updates, or I can use P2P to share home movies with my family if I don't want to put them on Youtube, etc. Unless they're identifying that you are throttling illegally downloaded material, isn't it a breach of our consumer rights?

    I am with Telstra, because I got a good deal on Cable with which I get a 114mb/s connection on SpeedTest.net, before that I was with TPG ADSL2+ I was only getting 3.5mb/s, so although it now costs me $20 a month more, it's a price worth paying. If all of a sudden my downloading via P2P is throttled back down to those ADSL2+ speeds, why, when my contract is up, would I bother staying with Telstra?

    Last edited 06/02/13 10:21 am

    Revenues up, customer satisfaction down - its the Telstra model.
    If you're going to be streaming television they want you buying it from bigpond
    ISP ares always trying to sell you bigger more expensive plans but cry when you use them. the average user only uses about 1/3rd of their allocated data and they want to keep it that way.

    I'm on a 100gb plan, never use more that 50gb and regularly get phone calls trying to sell me an unlimited plan i don't need. I bet if i reached my limit i wouldn't be getting any calls.

      Then on the other side of the coin you have iiNet who will sell you data packs to reduce your used quota if you have been shaped. Smart business.

    Thanks Telstra. It had crossed my mind to give you another try recently, but you've taken timely action to bring me to my senses.

    All of this hatred for P2P, when in fact it is a fantastic thing, Governments and ISPs need to stop trying to fight it (one because it is such a good thing, and two because there is no stopping it now anyway).

    Encrypt P2P data, then there is no way they can tell whether you are downloading pirated or open source material.

    I wish I could opt in to this trial in Tasmania, then just continue on my merry way downloading torrent after torrent at full speed, and then send them my results to show them how futile their efforts are.

    **EDIT**
    I am a Telstra Business Customer.
    If you can afford it, or don't have to pay your internet bill then I highly recommend it, best service I've ever had.

    Last edited 06/02/13 10:34 am

    its so obvious Telstra is run by a board of dinosaurs, they clearly didn't ask anyone with technical knowledge before embarking on this journey, its been said but all they can do here, without violating privacy is see if packets are for P2P or bit torrent applications and throttle the sweet living shit out of them if they are, problem being both of those things have legit uses so the piracy claim is complete rubbish.

    Of course they will probably only bother inspecting the packets of high bandwidth users, but what are the chances those guys are using methods that can easily be inspected lol, this will only affect households who use moderately high bandwidth for 100% legal uses say a family addicted to netflix there traffic will be slowed by the inspection and any legal or not traffic found to use a protocol telstra doesnt like will be throttled

    this is purely a bandwidth hog hunt not a pirate war

    Ok, so this isn't packet inspection to detect piracy, and Telstra is only coming for 'pirates' in the sense that 'High-volume P2P users are more likely to be pirates'. Telstra is trying to identify P2P traffic and throttle it. The 'signature' is the signature of the traffic, not the signature of the content being transferred.
    Just to make this very, very clear: from the original article:
    "Online piracy is an important policy issue .... However, this trial is solely about examining ways of improving our network management to ensure that all of our customers enjoy the best quality service for their specific needs at the best possible price."
    and (as quoted in the article here):
    "Any inspection that takes place is used only to identify the signature of the traffic; it does not identify the content (eg whether this is a movie, the title or any other details)."

    Seriously, want to hype it up and contradict the very article to which you refer much?

    Surely an encrypted VPN is going to fool any kind of pocket inspection?

    Yes, it is. They can't inspect the content of the packet travelling across the VPN.
    If they looked at specific patterns of upload/download ratios, and patterns of timing they may be able to make some kind of a stab at whether 'p2p-like' traffic was moving over the VPN though. If you were running multiple simultaneous downloads over the connection, etc, that would obscure it a lot. It would be thoroughly guesswork though.

    is this going to be only with telstra customers or the network as a whole? Keep in mind many providers use telstra wholesale ports where customers are off their own network. iiNet for example.

    Lets hope the Govt is looking into this to ensure it's only inspection of the signatures. Oh wait that's not going to happen at all. I also hope that Pirate Bay do get a Senate Seat.

    I think the ACCC will need to keep a close eye on this one.

    I was looking at switching from iiNet to Telstra Cable converting my phone and other services as well, not any more! I am employed as a Network Security engineer and have worked with most DPI products and I would not trust "Joe" at my ISP to not miss use this technology, yes they can be used just to throttle P2P data but they can do a lot more. It also becomes another device in the ISPs network that I have to worry about becoming compromised and giving a potential attacker access to all my data... No thanks Telstra you may have a great fast network but it is not worth sacrificing my privacy for it.

    Would love to see the ACCC get on their ass.

    But alas, we won't see this.

    Good old Telstra... trying to stop the pirates by raping and pillaging their customers! Noice!

      Complain to them (if you are a customer), if enough people do, then we can enact change!!

    If you read what they say closely, it appears what they're proposing is that if their pipes aren't big enough for all the requested traffic, then the first thing they'll throttle is P2P.

    P2P sounds like the logical choice for throttling to me. I'd rather wait an extra 10 minutes to download the latest linux distro than have web pages load more slowly. Jut saying...

    I don't think this is so much about the legalities of P2P so much as Telstra finding a cheap means to reduce congestion on their network.

    Telstra's existing infrastructure is becoming increasingly congested, and with the NBN looming Telstra obviously has zero motivation to install additional backhaul etc into congested exchanges and fibre routes. Their solution therefore is to curb the current usage. Throttling P2P traffic will reduce demands on Telstra's network, but at the same time can be spun as a positive initiative towards preventing piracy.

    Telstra doesn't give a crap about piracy, and with iiNet case having set a precedent it has even less to worry about the legalities of piracy these days than it did it the past.

    If Telstra needs to throttle P2P to reduce network congestion then fine, I can respect that, I just wish they'd come out and say that instead of painting it is as a noble anti-piracy venture.

    what a joke. they offer such plans and then complain that people are hogging bandwidth. idiot telstra.

    As someone who runs multiple Debian (Linux) machines, I can say that this is very concerning. P2P Linux distribution is a vey sensible solution for the open source community. It massively reduces the operational costs for distros by removing the need to host the files. The amount of bandwidth saved is incredible when you consider complete iso set is roughly 32GB.

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