Let the Traffic Shaping Battles Begin!

Traffic shaping is the practice of a broadband provider determining what data packets, if any, deserve priority. This is at the core of the battle with net neutrality. If providers are allowed to shape, then they will be able to put a throttle on traffic of their competition.

Let’s say that you have a Vonage VOIP service. What if Cox Communications decides that those packets deserve the lowest priority. What do you think would deserve a higher priority? Packets for the Cox VOIP product? Packets for the VOIP product who is paying Cox for the “fast lane” on their network? You bet and of course.

The first public volley was lobbed today (not sure why). Cox announced that they were going to experiment with aggressive traffic shaping. I have assumed that there has been experimentation with less “aggressive” traffic shaping for quite some time now.

This was followed hours later by a release that Google is going to provide tools, in partnership with Measurement lab, to let you check if your broadband connection is being ‘shaped’. This could get interesting. In my opinion, the politicians would love to throw this one to the cable and phone companies who line their pockets. However, the outcry from the public, and the market should be loud enough to slow this practice.

Why do these battles generally mean bad news for consumers?