Northwestel curbs internet connections
Friday May 28, 2010
Mike Thomas/Yukon News
Internet on the fritz? Rob Hopkins has an idea why.
Northwestel may be intentionally crashing your connection.
The company, which enjoys a monopoly in offering high-speed internet in the territory, restricts the number of internet connections any DSL customer can open at once. Northwestel doesn't advertise this restriction, but if you run too many internet-dependent applications at once, your connection will be cut.
Hopkins calls this practice "throttling." Jason Bilsky, the company's vice-president of corporate services, calls it "flow control."
The two had it out Wednesday evening, during the annual meeting of the Utility Consumers Group at the Whitehorse Public Library. The debate was perhaps best summed up by Hopkins, who chairs the group's telecommunications committee.
"You're saying everything's great," he told Bilsky. "We're saying everything's crappy."
Every web page opened triggers a flurry of tiny packets of information exchanged between your computer and Northwestel's servers. A typical page may result in 30 connections.
Hit 500 concurrent connections and Northwestel will pull the plug on residential DSL customers. Commercial customers have a limit of 1,000 connections.
Cable internet customers don't appear to face any such restrictions.
The purpose of this restriction is to prevent a small number of data-hogs from eating up most of the territory's bandwidth, said Bilsky.
But Hopkins says it's akin to counting the number of grains of sand blowing through a pipe that remains largely empty. He's talking about capacity of the fibre-optic pipelines that connect the territory to Outside.