What is internet traffic management?
More of us are using the internet – and using it for longer – than ever before.
What we do online has also changed dramatically.
Where once it was used mainly for email and browsing, we now stream films, download and share files, play games and make video calls.
All this has led to the internet becoming increasingly congested.
To tackle this congestion, some internet service providers (ISPs) and network operators may restrict or ration traffic on their networks, or give priority to some types of traffic over others during peak periods or more generally.
This is known as traffic management. These traffic management tools can also be known as ‘traffic shaping’ or ‘bandwidth throttling’.
Why do ISPs do this?
Certain activities, such as streaming videos and online gaming, require a lot of bandwidth, but network operators only have a limited amount of this.
Traffic management tools allow ISPs and network operators to manage their networks so that bandwidth is available to meet all the needs of most users.
This can improve the quality of some services. For example, ISPs tend to give priority to time-sensitive services like live video streaming, but this means that non time-sensitive activities are given lower priority.
You can think of it in the same way that traffic is managed on roads. For example a bus lane gives priority to buses over other types of road vehicle and makes the buses’ journey times shorter at the expense of slightly longer journeys for other vehicles.
How does throttling work?
Traffic management can work in different ways. For example:
• Priority can be given to specific activities at peak times – video streaming or web surfing are given priority over file sharing for example.
• Or speeds for individual users may be temporarily reduced at peak times if they have been using the internet more than their package allows.
How can I find out about my ISP’s traffic management policy?
Each ISP has its own traffic management policy. Below you will find links to policies of the eight largest providers. If your ISP is not on this list, visit your provider’s website or speak to their customer services department.
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