On the 5th of February Telstra published their intention to conduct a trial a new way of managing their network to maximise user experience. At least that's what their blog post said and by jove they were sticking to it. Of course conducting a trial on new ways to manage a network to maximise user experience is code for trialing a method to artificially slow down some types of Internet we don't like, to get a handle on how much people whine, to see if we can get away with it.
This was received poorly and that shouldn't be surprising. A few dozen complaints on the bottom of the post in the comments section prompted Telstra to post a follow up "myth buster" which was a valiant effort at explaining away the rage. What remained factual at the close of play was that Telstra intended to treat some traffic, including peer to peer traffic such as bittorrent, differently to other traffic at certain times. They proposed to do this by no longer just inspecting it sufficiently to make decisions about routing it - Telstra proposed to look inside what we were doing with the Internet and interfere on a use-case by use-case basis. Their primary excuse for why this should be acceptable behaviour for a net-neutral carrier was that it was only a limited trial.
Two things are true about online business and regulators. Licenses exist to be revoked, and trials exist to validate an intended course of permanent action.
Yesterday Telstra signaled this is going ahead, clarifying both their commitment to discriminating about what user experience is like on a carrier-preference basis, and how long they figure it takes for people's blood pressure to return to complacency levels when they announce controversial policy. I'll be watching the trial closely for the inevitable declaration of success and the moves to a tiered Internet for Australia's largest ISP.
I'll then look forward to moving house and ordering a Telstra BigPond Plus Pack with P2P Extras™. I may even pay the extra $14.95 a month for them to activate Skype service for me.
image: R. Nial Bradshaw