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Google Launches Diagnostic Tools That Allow Users To Determine If Your ISP Is Rationing Your Web Access

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PC MAGAZINE: Is your ISP throttling your Internet connection or is it just time to get a new computer? How much bandwidth are you actually using? Are you getting the Internet speeds promised by your provider?  These may seem like basic questions, but they are not easily answered. At the root of last year’s Comcast network management debacle was whether or not the cable provider was blocking access to file-sharing Web sites. Comcast said no, the Federal Communications Commission said yes, but we never got a clear answer.

Measurement Lab (M-Lab), a new open platform announced Wednesday, is looking to clear up that confusion. google_cartoon.thumbnail.jpgM-Lab is the brainchild of Google, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), and the PlanetLab consortium. It will allow a platform for researchers to deploy Internet measurement tools in order to share data about their accuracy and reliability.

At this point, M-Labs is in the proof of concept stage. When initially deployed, it will provide three tools on three servers in one location and expand beyond that. Those tools include: a network diagnostic tool, which reports the upload and download speeds and also attempts to determine what, if any, problems limited these speeds; a Glasnost, which detects whether your ISP is performing application-specific shaping; and network and path application diagnosis (NPAD), which diagnoses some of the common problems affecting the last network mile and end-users’ systems.

In the future, M-Labs will also deploy DiffProbe, which attempts to detect if an ISP is classifying certain kinds of traffic as “low priority”, and NANO, which attempts to detect if an ISP is degrading the performance of a certain subset of users, apps, or destinations. MORE

coxTORRENT FREAK: Cox, the third largest ISP in the U.S, is none too fond of BitTorrent users. Previously we reported that they disconnect alleged copyright infringers without warning. Today, Cox announced a new ‘network management’ trial where P2P, Usenet and FTP users will be slowed down when the network is congested. Cox is known to manage its network by slowing down BitTorrent users, or by making it impossible for them to share files with others. Comcast was slapped by the FCC last year for a similarly unfair treatment of BitTorrent users, but Cox managed to get away relatively unscathed, even though it was using the same TCP RST packet forging techniques. Cox has no intention of stopping the traffic slowdowns in 2009, it will just use different methods. MORE

riaa_paranoia_1.jpgCNET: AT&T and Comcast, two of the nation’s largest Internet service providers, are expected to be among a group of ISPs that will cooperate with the music industry in battling illegal file sharing, three sources close to the companies told CNET News. The Recording Industry Association of America, the lobbying group representing the four largest recording companies, said last month that it had enlisted the help of ISPs as part of a new antipiracy campaign. The RIAA has declined to identify which ISPs or how many. It’s important to note that none of the half dozen or so ISPs involved has signed agreements. The companies are “skittish” about negative press and could still back out, said the sources. But as it stands, AT&T and Comcast are among the companies that have indicated they wish to participate in what the RIAA calls a “graduated response program.”  An RIAA spokesman declined to comment, and a Comcast representative said he wouldn’t confirm the company’s participation. The RIAA may disclose participating ISPs as soon as next month, according to a music industry source, adding that AT&T and Comcast are expected to be part of the group. MORE

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COMPUTER WORLD: Google Inc. late yesterday launched an updated version of Gmail that lets users access their gmail_1.jpgaccounts without an Internet connection. The updated Gmail hosted e-mail service is designed to load in a browser even when the user doesn’t have an Internet connection, according to Joyce Sohn, a Google spokewoman, in a company blog. The updated service, which the company said was developed in its Gmail Labs, will give flight to users who have been wanting to get some work done while on a plane, for instance. Now, even without an Internet connection, users can read e-mail, write new ones and archive others — all while 30,000 feet in the air. MORE

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week. If the change happens, that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to Saturday mail delivery. mailman.thumbnail.jpgPrevious post office studies have looked at the possibility of skipping some other day when mail flow is light, such as Tuesday. Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year. “If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year,” Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee. Total mail volume was 202 billion items last year, over 9 billion less than the year before, the largest single volume drop in history. Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week. MORE

zombieTV.gifFORBES: Chalk one up for retailers and landfill operators. Congress on Wednesday failed to delay the transition to digital from analog television in the United States after legislation to do so failed to muster sufficient support in the House of Representatives. That is expected to encourage consumers to dump their old television sets and buy new ones. The legislation would have delayed the transition to June 12 from Feb. 17. It got a majority of the votes, mainly supported by Democrats, but failed to achieve the required two-thirds in favor. MORE

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