04. January 2015
Gunzenhausen/Germany, January 2015. Network neutrality is a topic which has been frequently raised in the media and during political debates recently. However, it seems that many people are unaware of the actual advantages and disadvantages arising for them personally from a neutral Internet.
Network neutrality is an important and elementary basic building block of a free Internet. Without network neutrality, the danger of a “Two-Tier Internet“ exists in which ISPs (Internet Service Providers) control which offers their users can access more quickly or more slowly. The unimpeded transfer of data as well as the unlimited exchange of data between various networks is a central component for network neutrality on the Internet.
Hetzner Online stands for a high-performance and high-capacity Internet. In the past few years, our own network technology has been extended step by step in order to be able to provide clients with optimal performance. Currently, around two thirds of our network traffic is directly exchanged with different partners via cost neutral peerings. This also includes a series of private peerings with larger network operators.
Apart from this, Hetzner Online also has a large number of connections via public peerings. Hetzner is represented at the two most important European Internet nodes, the DECIX as well as the AMS-IX and at a number of further public nodes such as DATA-IX, NL-IX, ECIX, N-IX and VIX. The remaining third of the traffic from our data centers is supplied via global carriers. These ensure smooth connectivity even to the most remote parts of the earth. When selecting these carrriers, we place particular value on qualitatively high quality providers (Tier1 carriers) which operate universal networks.
Hetzner Online has ample free capacity at its peering points to also meet large demand during peak traffic hours in the evening. This is why we are viewing with increasing concern DSL and cable providers who, on the one hand, do not operate an open peering policy themselves but, on the other, are not tied with ample capacity to other Tier1 carriers. Particularly during peak traffic periods between 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. the DSL and cabel providers affected, reach their limits and so prevent fluid data exchange between the individual networks. Time and again this leads to complaints from customers of these providers, as their servers are not reachable with the usual performance we provide.
If reports from other carriers are to be believed, this strategy is consciously used in order to motivate content providers to switch to own paid access from DSL and cable providers. Overburdened interfaces operated to the limits of their capacity are circumvented by this. As a result, DSL customers can, on the one side, only have limited use of vast parts of the Internet but still, as a result of the extra charges, have the full speed to access their own content. The conditions for this paid network access are frequently well above the usual market prices and are offered at a higher charge accordingly.
We consider this method to be disadvantageous to the further development of the Internet for two reasons in particular:
- This behaviour is causing the Internet to develop into a two-tier society.The DSL end customer only receives limited performance to most destinations on the Internet. The customer only receives full performance for few chosen destinations for which the DSL provider receives separate remuneration (double payment).
- The competitive situation of the various carriers is undermined as DSL own customers are only directly reachable with good performance via the respective provider. The usual market competitivity between the carriers is prevented and leads to price increases for all customers.
The bizarre consequence of this strategy, we note, is that Internet users from remote regions often receive very good performance to our and other services on the Internet. By contrast, German Internet users from regions which are DSL technically very well connected have to cope with capacity bottlenecks on a daily basis. We as Hetzner Online neither wish to support the double payment strategy of DSL providers nor the introduction of a two-tier Internet, as this is done at the expense of the DSL customer and wipes out network neutrality.
DSL providers which pursue a double payment strategy can typically be recognised by the following:
- No presence at public peering points
- Overburdened interfaces to large global carriers such as Level 3
- Often depeerings with other network operators in the past.
To improve the situation for the future, we recommend that when selecting a DSL provider, our clients ensure that they offer an open “peering policy“. If your DSL provider is exercising an active double payment strategy and you do not agree with this strategy, use social media to draw attention to this unjust practice and contact your provider to express your disapproval of this strategy.