Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Georgia Tech proposes Internet consumer nutrition label

03.08.2011
Researchers say consumers deserve more complete picture of service they receive

When it comes to broadband speeds, U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) largely deliver on their promises, says a report issued today by the Federal Communications Commission, but "throughput" is only one of several metrics listed in the report that affect network performance.

ISPs should provide a broadband "nutrition label"—easy-to-understand information about service-limiting factors—and users need better ways of measuring the performance their ISPs are delivering, concludes a study from the Georgia Tech College of Computing.

Out of some 2 billion Internet users worldwide, about 500 million are residential broadband users, and recent figures show that two-thirds of U.S. households are hooked up to high-speed Internet. Generally speaking, these customers' throughput—the "width" of their Internet pipeline—lives up to speeds advertised by their ISPs, says the FCC report, "Measuring Broadband America." But many home Internet users simultaneously run multiple applications that each use network resources, and the behavior of one application can affect the performance another application receives, says Nick Feamster, associate professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech.

"People should care about more than just throughput," Feamster says. "Optimal network performance depends on several other factors, but measuring these important metrics and explaining them to consumers is challenging. It goes back to transparency—we want to give users the information that will help them make the best decisions about which service plan to purchase, and to give them ways to verify that they're getting the level of service that they're paying for."

Feamster and his Ph.D. student, Srikanth Sundaresan, consulted with the FCC on its study data, which were gathered from about 10,000 homes across the United States and involved many different ISPs. Their recommendations incorporated data from both the FCC study and from an independent study, Project BISMark (http://projectbismark.net/), a new open-source router platform that allows users to continuously monitor the performance that they are getting from their ISP.

For the initial BISMark study, Feamster and Sundaresan deployed network-measurement devices in 16 homes across three ISPs in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The recommendations are spelled out in the paper, "Broadband Internet Performance: A View From the Gateway," to be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's SIGCOMM 2011 conference, Aug. 15-19 in Toronto (visit the #GTSIGCOMM website to learn more). The home routers used in BISMark (as well as the platform source code) are available too; Feamster and Sundaresan have been shipping them to home users since early 2011.

"We found that performance of U.S. ISPs more consistently matches their advertised promises than the ISPs in other countries—they do a pretty good job," Feamster says. "But at the same time, those advertisements are based on performance metrics that don't tell the full story about how users' applications will actually perform. Throughput might have been the dominant metric when the debate was dial-up versus broadband, but it no longer gives the complete picture about application performance."

Today's broadband is fast and ubiquitous enough that most applications can function well on a fraction of the throughput that most service plans offer, Feamster explains. But when several applications or activities are using the network at the same time—for example, a user might be streaming a high-definition movie while making a video call over Skype—or when many other users are simultaneously on the network, that's when performance can suffer. Often the network gives preference to activities or users with the biggest bandwidth appetites and leaves the rest foraging for scraps.

One key factor is "latency," a general term that refers to several kinds of delays incurred in the processing of network data. For instance, in the "last mile" of connectivity to a household—the final leg of connectivity from the ISP to the home—data errors and packet loss often crop up at a disproportionate rate, and these can significantly impair activities like streaming video or voice over IP services. To minimize this problem, ISPs often perform error correction in the last mile, which comes at the cost of some additional delay.

"They're basically introducing a time lapse that, if you scaled it out to the appropriate physical distance, would equate to half the width of the country," Feamster says. "So, if you're a gamer and you chose your service plan based solely on throughput speed, you might not receive the level of service you expected."

Feamster and Sundaresan also found that certain cable and DSL modems can introduce excessive latency, depending on the activities and applications that users are performing in their homes. "Any user who has noticed that certain activities like uploading photos can render the network unusable has been a victim of excessive buffering, or 'bufferbloat,'" Feamster says.

In addition to proposing an Internet "nutrition label" that would detail network performance in terms of throughput, latency and other measurements, Feamster and Sundaresan have included mechanisms in the BISMark router to give priority to latency-sensitive applications like Skype so that they might function normally while their hungrier counterparts eat up the remaining bandwidth. If throughput can be thought of as the number of lanes on the Information superhighway, the new technique in the BISMark router provides an "HOV lane" for voice and video traffic, so that the real-time traffic doesn't get stuck waiting for your photos to finish uploading.

"Consumers need better tools for understanding whether their home network is performing as well as it should. A major part of making this possible is giving users an easy way to monitor their home network activity and performance over time, which is our vision for the BISMark router," Feamster says. "For example, I can see that, in the past few days, the performance of my access ISP has been declining during peak hours.

"Ultimately, we envision the platform enabling applications that solve a much wider range of problems," he continues, "such as giving users the ability to manage usage caps that ISPs are now instating, to implement parental controls or to diagnose performance problems inside the home itself."

Brendan Streich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

Further reports about: Broadband FCC Feamster ISP Internet user Pervasive Computing Sundaresan work performance

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht Tile Based DASH Streaming for Virtual Reality with HEVC from Fraunhofer HHI
03.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik Heinrich-Hertz-Institut

nachricht Product placement: Only brands placed very prominently benefit from 3D technology
07.07.2016 | Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>