THE BLOG

"Study" of ISP Slowdowns Conveniently Ignored Real Cause, ISPs Not At Fault

06/30/2015 01:31 pm ET | Updated Jun 30, 2016

Last week, so-called consumer advocacy group Free Press announced that according to data collected via their BattlefortheNet website, major ISPs were "slowing" content services at key interconnection points. Free Press pitched their agenda to the media and some news outlets wrote stories saying major Internet providers were slowing traffic speeds for thousands of consumers across North America. But as it turns out, the Free Press came to the wrong conclusion when they accused the ISPs of being responsible. The main provider having the problem with the ISPs, GTT, confirmed they were given extra capacity by some ISPs, dating back more than six months ago, and that GTT simply hasn't turned up that extra capacity yet.

The data that Free Press is highlighting shows that GTT, a transit provider that connects to many ISPs, was having capacity problems with AT&T, Comcast and other ISPs in select cities. Naturally everyone assumed it must be the ISPs fault and interestingly enough, GTT told me that not a single member of the media of the Free Press contacted them for more details. I reached out to GTT and they were happy to set up a call and very easy to talk to. While GTT could not disclose full details on their peering agreements/relationships, I did confirm that multiple ISPs provided GTT with extra capacity, which the company is still in the process of turning up. But it doesn't stop there.

GTT actually turned down capacity at interconnection points as they are shifting their flow of traffic because of acquisitions they have done in the market and consolidating how they connect with ISPs. In the last six years, GTT has acquired five companies (WBS Connect, PacketExchange, nLayer Communications, IP network Tinet from Inteliquent, UNSi) and a few months ago, announced an agreement to acquire their sixth, MegaPath.

As a result of the acquisitions, the nLayer side of GTT has been shutting down their connections, specifically AS4436, and moving that traffic over to the Tinet connections, AS3257. To make it simple to understand, GTT is simply consolidating networks and shifting how they connect to ISPs through different connections, while terminating others. So the capacity issues that Free Press data shows is a result of GTT essentially shutting down those connections and not because of any wrong doing on the ISPs part. The M-Labs data, that the Free Press is using, is measuring a problem that GTT owns and as GTT told me, extra capacity was made available to them before M-Labs even started their measurements.

Taking it a step further, public info that details GTT's network shows that GTT/nLayer (AS4436) now has all traffic behind the SFI relationships of GTT/Tinet (AS3257) and is no longer connecting with other networks. When you look this AS up in the peering database GTT says, "We are no longer accepting Peering requests for this ASN". GTT has a lot of AS numbers and looking at all of them it shows the consolidation taking place and the reason they are no longer accepting peering requests for AS4436, since it is being shut down.

Data also shows that GTT/nLayer (AS4436) was once connected to multiple networks and likely paying for connections to Tier 1 networks. These paths still exist and the BGP information is still available, but will likely be gone soon. GTT/Tinet (AS3257) is a 1Tbps+ network with "balanced" traffic and GTT/nLayer (AS3257) is a 1Tbps+ traffic source with "mostly outbound" traffic. Of course none of this is info the average consumer would know how to look up or even understand, and that's exactly what the Free Press and others want. It was not hard to find out the cause of the performance issues if you simply asked GTT, looked at public network info and asked the ISPs.

The take away from all of this is that many are far too quick to judge who is at fault when it comes to network performance topics, without talking to all the parties involved and having all the facts. GTT is making changes to their network, working closely with ISPs, already has the relationships in place and is working to solve any performance problems. In fact, this morning GTT announced an interconnect agreement with AT&T. While some like to say that these networks can just "flip the switch" to fix issues, it does not work that way, especially when you are consolidating networks, like GTT is. Many are quick to want to lay blame on ISPs just because it is fashionable to want to hate service providers or push an agenda like the Free Press.

It's clear that the Free Press should not be trusted as they used wrong conclusions from the data to push their agenda. Even if they didn't do it on purpose, it shows the Free Press has a complete lack of understanding of the data being collected. They don't understand that when a Tier 1 network or CDN makes changes to their infrastructure, it impacts the data that is being collected. Don't point fingers unless you talk to all the parties involved and review all of the data available in the market, not just a slice of it.

It should also be noted that GTT told me that no one from the Free Press ever contacted them, before the Free Press laid blame on the ISPs. If they had, GTT would have been able to inform the Free Press of some more details, which the Free Press neglected to even look into. I also find it interesting that while Free Press says they are "fighting" for consumers rights to "communicate", the Free Press doesn't allow any comments, on any of the posts they publish on their website. The Free Press has no wiggle room on this and if they don't edit their blog post to correct their accusations, then it only proves they care about their agenda, not the truth.