A guide to broadband traffic management

Broadband traffic management is carried out by a number of broadband providers in an attempt to provide a consistently good service for all customers.

Essentially, it aims to enhance the internet experience for everyone by making sure that all customers have access to the services to which they are subscribed.

What is traffic management?

Put simply, broadband traffic management is the concept of limiting a subscriber’s maximum download and upload speeds during peak hours.

This ensures that everyone that is connected to the local exchange will have an equal share of the bandwidth to enhance their online experience.

If a large number of people are attempting to connect to the same network all at once, then it can place a great deal of stress onto the system.

As a result, the chances of struggling to connect can be dramatically increased so internet service providers (ISPs) carefully manage connections to ensure everyone gets online.

If you think your speeds might be significantly down then it’s worth carrying out a broadband speed test on your connection.

This will show your current connection speed and if it is below the speed advertised by an ISP and this occurs during a peak time, your ISP traffic management system is probably taking effect.

No set rules

Different packages and different providers can use different traffic management policies – for instance a customer with a 30Mb broadband package could see different levels of management to one with a 60Mb package.

At the same time, every broadband provider will have their own policies, with some not choosing to manage their networks while others can slow speeds down considerably.

For example, some providers may lower speeds to 256Kbps when the networks are exceptionally busy – a speed that will severely limit what can be done online.

When might it occur?

Typically, the peak hours are deemed to be between 6pm and midnight during the week and between noon and midnight at weekends.

However, this can vary by ISP and may occur at other times if the networks are particularly busy for any reason.

If the service is normally slow anyway then there might not be a considerable difference in your internet experience.

At the same time, it could cause considerable lags and connection issues, especially for customers that are a long way from the exchange, or in areas where the population density is overly high.

The pros and cons

The major positive point for broadband traffic management is that customers can get a consistent connection, regardless of how much time they spend on the internet.

ISPs suggest that without it, the available bandwidth would become monopolised whereby those who use the net most would experience the best service, leaving others at a significant disadvantage.

However, there are those that claim that ISPs should not be able to select what types of internet activity are acceptable.

The concept of Net Neutrality suggests that all users should be treated equally, regardless of whether they are constantly online or download and upload regularly.

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