Is your ISP crippling Torrent speeds? Check with Google…


Worried about your ISP throttling your Bittorrent speed? How about the federal government blocking sites that might otherwise be a useful source of information?
Now you can find out for sure. Google has unveiled yet another ‘side’ project designed to help the world rather than directly make money. This one called Measurement Lab or M-Lab for short is actually a collaboration with other institutions including Open Technology Institute the PlanetLab Consortium and other ‘academic researchers’.
M-Lab is an open initiative where partners can launch Internet measurement tools that will let internet users ‘measure the speed of their connection run diagnostics and attempt to discern if their ISP is blocking or throttling particular applications.’
According to Google the traditional problem with measuring internet connectivity has been a lack of ‘widely-distributed servers with ample connectivity.’ In other words it’s been hard to test whether your ISP is throttling speeds when it could be the server at the other end not sending the data fast enough. My take: the sort of cooperation required between various businesses or even academic institutions with disparate levels of Internet connectivity in different geographic zones is near impossible. Additionally the scale of this venture (36 servers in 12 locations) can only be funded by a big business that doesn’t primarily need to generate revenue from this project and where existing infrastructure is already in place.
M-Labs has initially launched with three tools (with two more coming soon) that attempt to diagnose common problems that ‘might impair their broadband speed as well as determine whether BitTorrent is being blocked or throttled by their ISPs.’
The tools are:
– Network Diagnostic Tool
– Glasnost
– Network Path and Application Diagnosis
– DiffProbe (coming soon)
– NANO (coming soon)
Unfortunately all of the tests I tried timed out due to excess demand. Maybe Google needs to dedicate more infrastructure to this project as it’s clear the existing setup is insufficient.
The good news is that I found a report from the Glasnost test detailing Bittorrent performance around the world and out of 76 ISPs tested  only AARnet the company that operates Australia’s Academic and Research Network was found to be blocking Bittorrent traffic (though other ISPs in Australia have admitted that they slow down heavy Torrenters).
With the increasingly import role that internet has in society it’s good to know that Google is using its clout and dollars to put some public transparent measurement systems around internet performance.