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Buffer bloat and ISP slowness | Altaware, Inc. Cyber Security Blog

Buffer bloat and ISP slowness

Buffer bloat is a nagging problem that barely gets recognized and the ISPs get to profit.

It's probably much easier to understand what bufferbloat feels or looks like. Basically your ISP network connection gets slower and slower in terms of longer latency and less throughput as you use your ISP circuit at maximum capacity. Lets say a normal ping to 8.8.8.8 (Google's public DNS along with 8.8.4.4) takes well under 40 ms. However, not you start a large download from a fast server and now your ping times go from user 40ms to over 100ms. Start some other downloads and it could easily go to over 1,500 ms. That's many times worse than going to China back…!

You then run any number of speed tests and discover that your 50+ Mbps circuit is now running like a T1. Another symptom with cable based systems (especially DOCSIS based) is that you start an upload and now downloads exhibit a typical horrible throughput as noted.

When you talk with your big name ISP provider they tell you it's because you're using the circuit, you need to buy more and it's normal. Well, yes, NO and NO! It's not normal, it's not appropriate and you're the victim of bufferbloat. Of course you're using the circuit, why else did you buy it…???

I can't say if it's intentional or accidental on their part (what do you think?), but it's wrong and the fix is easy for them, but I suspect they don't want to fix the problem because they can keep selling bandwidth. Make it crappy, blame the internet and make more money. However, it's SO easy to use a circuit at full capacity. You literally just need a local LAN faster than the ISP connection and servers and clients that can individually exceed the ISP bandwidth or collectively in aggregate exceed the ISP bandwidth (uploads or downloads). In other words, that's normal these days.

It's crazy, it's nuts, but you can solve it by using a firewall or other device to slow down the total throughput to where it's comfortably lower than the ISP provided bandwidth. The idea is to not fill up the ISP provided memory buffers.

Find out more about the bufferbloat definition from wikipedia or other places.

Better yet, call us and save a bundle versus endless ISP speed upgrades and firewall upgrades.