Network Measurement Organization Says it Can Measure Throttling Practices of Service Providers

Measurement Lab said research it has conducted can show when there are network performance issues.

Network Measurement Organization Says it Can Measure Throttling Practices of Service Providers
Photo of Lai Yi Ohlsen, director of Measurement Lab

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2022 – Research fellows from Measurement Lab, an open-source project dedicated to providing internet measurement data, said in a presentation on Wednesday that they have research to show that their network diagnostic tool can go beyond internet speed measurements and can identify traffic prioritization and throttling practices on service provider networks.

Measurement Lab says its mission is to track and measure internet connectivity and use, deploying its version of the open-source measurement software NDT as a performance metric for a connections’ bulk transport capacity.

But on Wednesday, the lab’s fellows said the tool can also help identify potential traffic prioritization strategies run by internet service providers. NDT can provide a graph of internal network behavior to find whether traffic blockage occurs within the internet service provider of the user or elsewhere.

NDT can also run measurement on a network to determine the quality of experience, or user satisfaction, within the network, the research fellows claim.

“Although network operators, policymakers, or any entity that does not control either end of network connections are interested in measuring [quality of experience] of the end-users, measuring it at scale is non-trivial,” read the research report. Researchers associated with M-Lab said that the process described can allow third-party users to make active or passive measurements in determining the quality of connections.

Since 2017, internet service providers have been free to prioritize traffic on their networks after the Federal Communications Commission overturned rules imposing net neutrality, which forbids providers from preferring certain traffic. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has repeatedly said she thinks the re-imposition of net neutrality rules is the best path forward for the internet economy.

Tool can help providers improve network experience

The lab’s tool can be used to determine the expected network performance as well as incidences of performance degradation, which the fellows said can help network operators improve performance and potentially prevent future incidences.

“It’s important to measure such that we can understand the individual’s ability to participate in basic activities such as paying bills, having access to information about their democracy,” said Lai Yi Ohlsen, director of the Measurement Lab at a Broadband Money Ask Me Anything event in June.

Through a four-step process, researchers can “depict a holistic picture of all the changes that happened before and during anomalous events,” read the lab’s research report.

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