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Sprint Is Throttling Skype, Study Finds (bloomberg.com)
386 points by hyperrail on Nov 8, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments

Using a SIM card on a recent trip to Mexico, where net neutrality was never a thing, was really interesting.

Cell service plans come with separate tariffs for regular data and "social" data, which works only in the walled garden of Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Insta, etc., and the "social" data is much cheaper.

Even though the positive reinforcement was not as draconian as stuff like this, where they're obviously trying to dissuade use, it was still pretty creepy.

Local CDN im guessing. We had the same thing in South Africa. For a while you could get 90% discounted local only data.

That's one explanation, but there's also Facebook itself that is setting up their own internet services, offering free internet but only within the Facebook app.

> For a while you could get 90% discounted local only data.

Interesting idea. It's usually the last-mile that's the hard part - I presume that's the reason it's no longer done?

Did 'local content' include, say, Netflix?

>Interesting idea.

Even better is the eco-system it spawned. Myself and others ended up with 2 connections & network magic to split traffic dynamically to optimise cost.

Netflix wasn't a thing back then in SA (and even now isn't big).

However these local only packages did come with access to the ISP's usenet server so people downloaded mountains of ahem linux ISOs.

>I presume that's the reason it's no longer done?

No. Couple of big undersea cables hit SA shortly after. So current thinking is more managing capacity during peak times with various incentives ("night time data" etc)

SA generally has dirt-cheap WhatsApp data packages and at least Vodacom has free FB (without images).

Here in Brazil most carriers also offer social media data for free. On Whatsapp the exception is for voice calls. It would be great (for me, not them LOL) if they included Google Photos.

This is the same in most of Europe too. They don't explicitly charge different prices, but a lot of carriers offer something like free Instagram data or substantially discounted access to Spotify. Although they will just argue it's a marketing deal, it is in effect against net neutrality.

Is it actually different tariffs or do they offer free “social” data? If they do offer it, that’s not against net neutrality unless they throttle other traffic.

I think zero rating is considered a violation of net neutrality by most people.


I think that this is one of the main reasons that it is harder than it should be to convince average people in the US, especially on the political right, that we need net neutrality.

Take the plan I'm on with T-Mobile. I pay a fixed monthly amount and get 3 GB of data per month. If I go over 3 GB, T-Mobile reserves the right to give me lower speed for the rest of the month.

T-Mobile has a thing called "Music Freedom". Under Music Freedom, they zero rate around 45 streaming services.

Look at this from my point of view as a consumer. I signed up for 3 GB of full speed data a month, and I get that. There is never a situation due to Music Freedom's zero rating where I find myself short on data and think "dammit...I could have downloaded this if it weren't for that zero rating!".

All that Music Freedom does from my consumer standpoint is make it so sometimes I get more than the 3 GB my plan entitles me to.

Compare this to throttling and blocking. With throttling and blocking if T-Mobile were, say, throttling Skype or blocking it, then I could find myself saying "dammit...I paid for this and they are not giving it to me!".

In the Music Freedom case, they give me all I paid for and they toss some free extra on top. In blocking/throttling, they interfere with me using what I paid for. From a consumer point of view equating these two as net neutrality advocates do just seems odd on the face of it.

If we keep net neutrality focused just on making sure that we get the data we pay for, free of blocking and throttling, and if the ISP wants to give people extras on top of that let them, and I think net neutrality would then have near universal strong support among consumers, maybe even sufficient to get laws through Congress.

But what about the actual potential harms to competition from zero rating, which is one of the main points brought up in favor of covering it under net neutrality?

We can deal with that without shoving it into net neutrality. We already have a whole legal framework and associated regulatory infrastructure in place to deal with that: antitrust. We can use that to distinguish between the kind of zero rating this is probably good for consumers (Music Freedom) and the kind that is not (ISP zero rating just their own streaming service).

> If we keep net neutrality focused just on making sure that we get the data we pay for, free of blocking and throttling [...]

If I didn't get included in your zero rated list of services, or put forth the effort to conform to your amp-like provider-specific rules, then I am blocked or throttled or charged more for or whatever.

Pipes picking and choosing winners should be a no compromise situation. But you have to tackle the lack of alternative ISPs before you can get there (and you then probably will get there even without legislation).

If I didn't get included in your zero rated list of services, or put forth the effort to conform to your amp-like provider-specific rules, then I am blocked or throttled or charged more for or whatever.

If you aren’t willing to put forth the effort to be competitive, whose fault is that?

Right, but what happens when they start raising the prices for non-zero rated content? Or when they start zero-rating everything except their competitors services?

In the end, zero-rating is the exact same as charging more for some content.

This is like the difference between charging $0.95 for something with a $0.05 credit card fee versus charging $1.00 and giving a $0.05 discount for cash customers.

The only difference is the messaging.

> Right, but what happens when they start raising the prices for non-zero rated content? Or when they start zero-rating everything except their competitors services?

This should raise antitrust issues. The competitors could sue under antitrust law to stop the practices and get damages, or the government could handle enforcement, or both.

> We can use that to distinguish between the kind of zero rating this is probably good for consumers (Music Freedom) and the kind that is not (ISP zero rating just their own streaming service).

Those two are indistinguishable and certainly not good for the consumer.

Zero rating just their own service and a bunch of competitors still has the same overall effect of raising the barrier to entry and thus prices with absolutely no benefit to the consumer.

The "benefit" of "free traffic on top" is an illusion, there is no free traffic. You are buying a 20 GB/month package (or whatever the actual value is) of which 17 GB are limited to particular services, it's just that it is framed as a "3 GB traffic with music free" package in order to manipulate the public into objection to network neutrality by then claiming that network neutrality would make it illegal to offer the "free traffic", which is absurd as any carrier is free to offer a "3 GB/month with 17GB/month free on top" package--which is exactly what we would see if net neutrality were a thing, except that it would be labeled as a "20 GB/month" package. The price they are asking obviously is paying for the 20 GB plus their margin anyway, and the price obviously is not the price that the market is willing to pay for "3 GB/month", but for "as much traffic as I actually use per month", which isn't 3 GB but 20 GB.

All of this zero rating stuff is marketing bullshit to make you believe they are on your side when they limit your freedom. There is zero reason why I shouldn't be able to buy a 20 GB/month package at the same price as the current "3 GB plus music free", except that I could stream music from my own server instead of having to pay yet another service from a number of winners chosen by my carrier.

Zero rating isn't free, there are bits transiting the network in all cases. That transit costs actual resource and is paid for.

It's a trope when someone points out that google isn't free, and if you are getting something for free then you are not the customer actual. With zero rating, it's not even free! So then you ".. pay a fixed monthly amount .." to be the carrier's product, no?

This is a great deal if you're one of the heavier music streamers. Everyone's paying for more than 3 GB, and people who try to use it for things other than music streaming get throttled earlier.

One problem is that “zero-rating” isn't as well defined as network neutrality and there are two forms of service we see:

1. Network operators exempting an entire class of service, such as T-Mobile's “Music Freedom” which has the same terms for everyone who applies 2. Network operators accepting money from specific service providers to exempt only those services, such as the Facebook-only service offered in some parts of the world

Most people consider the second form a problem since it heavily favors large companies, especially since a less-favored company doesn't even have the guarantee of being able to reach a deal at all, but opinions vary more about the first and a lot of advocates have either inadvertently or deliberately confused the issue. I'm choosing to see that advocacy as well-intended but I think it's alienated a lot of people who really don't see a problem with the first form (at least as long as it's really open) but would agree to bans on the second.

> 1. Network operators exempting an entire class of service, such as T-Mobile's “Music Freedom” which has the same terms for everyone who applies

Which is irrelevant as the terms themselves are discriminatory, plus the mere fact of having to apply is a major barrier to entry.

If you want to build a new streaming service of any kind (a niche radio station, say?) in a world with network neutrality, you need a server with an internet connection, so the barrier to entry is ten bucks a month or so and you can start streaming to a few hundred listeners. If you need to apply for zero rating, you now have to read and understand the requirements of a few hundred carriers around the globe, adapt your software so it can meet all those varying requirements ...

Also, it is inherently incompatible with many use cases. I have my own server, and I can stream my own music. What are my chances of success if I tried to get T-Mobile to zero rate traffic from my own streaming server? Do I have to allow them to listen into the connection?

And then, what if I wanted to sell a device for people to do the same, say? A home NAS that allows people to stream music to their smartphone? How do I get T-Mobile to zero-rate that?

> but I think it's alienated a lot of people who really don't see a problem with the first form (at least as long as it's really open)

But the problem is that if you don't fight the first, you effectively get the same result as the second. The long-term effect on innovation and prices is the same, as it is inherently not "really open". Also, carriers offering these packages is not an accident, it is intentional manipulation by choosing a misleading framing. But choosing not to fight the framing doesn't help you--while you might have more allies then, you would effectively also not have anything left that is worth fighting for. The idea of selling 20 GB/month packages to the public as "3 GB/month plus music traffic free on top" in order to then be able to correctly claim that "this would be illegal with net neutrality" in order to make people incorrectly think "with net neutrality I would only get 3 GB for the same price" is genius, but you really shouldn't fall for it.

I agree and I’m one of them, but it’s not against the law in US or EU.

It's highly debated in the EU, some providers have tried it but they spark a lot of debate about it.

In France it was actually the norm for cellular data, and the hellish nightmare of favoring one own service was even advertised ("with universal mobile, you get unlimited data for universal music service!!!").

We also had service tiering, such as pop/imap being priced differently than http, etc...

Free mobile then came in and used the same tactic they used on adsl, single pricing, large amount of data, no differentiation between websites / ports / data types (even including peer to peer) etc... And others had to follow.

So we're in a status quo right now, but just like our fixed line Internet, its quality depends on one of the providers not aligning with the others. If they change their mind, get bought or whatever, the game could change quickly.

>In France it was actually the norm for cellular data, and the hellish nightmare of favoring one own service was even advertised ("with universal mobile, you get unlimited data for universal music service!!!").

Took me a minute to parse, since I didn't realize that universal was the name of a content company, rather than a service plan's name and access to all music.

Kind of reminds me of the (also French) company Total, who seems like they were invented to make tabulation charts about the oil industry hard to read.

Yet they're allowed to do so in Germany. It gets on my nerves, but there have even been court decisions to uphold it.

Well, it some kind of is, because small/new services cannot compete with large companies anymore.

Sounds like the mobile companies got Facebook to subsidize consumers' phone bills. Is that good or bad for everyone involved?

Unfortunately we're unlikely to know if it's:

- cheaper social

- more expensive non-social

- combination of those two

I really don't expect it's the first option, unless they're really in a race to the bottom. The third option makes sense even without subsidies - offer something "nice" to typical customers and offset it with other traffic.

There is no actual difference between those three options.

The only thing that matters is that Whatsapp messenger is cheaper to use than, for example, signal messenger.

There is a difference to people who actually care a lot about how much they spend. A deal with FB may mean a local cache/interconnect and actual cheaper prices. Making other things more expensive because you're just trying to differentiate from competition is a money grab.

> Making other things more expensive because you're just trying to differentiate from competition is a money grab.

How does this make any sense? If anything, making general access more expensive is going to drive consumers to move to a different provider.

In a perfect world - yes. But phone/network providers have some weird tendency to end up being mono-/oligopolies. They like when prices are high at every provider, even without "real collusion".

For example look at roaming rates in Europe. For decades sending messages/data from another country was crazy expensive - with every single provider. Once EU ruled that roaming charges in the EU should not apply, there was no crisis or huge rise of prices to compensate the losses. Once it was forced, companies started to race each other to announce how awesome they are, being the first in the country to provide free roaming.

There is because it's quite different if you get one thing cheaper than normal, or if you get another more expensive than normal. Imagine next time you climb into a taxi the driver says "just for you I'll charge 20% extra". Pretty sure it will be different from hearing that somebody else got a 20% discount.

So making WhatsApp cheaper than the base price is one thing. Making Signal more expensive than the base price is quite different.

As access to competing services gets heterogeneous, it's certainly bad for every potential competitor.

> As access to competing services gets heterogeneous, it's certainly bad for every potential competitor.

And then for all the customers, as the incumbents having established a moat can become increasingly abusive.

Eh, it's mostly unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook included with the plan, all other data is metered. It's a freebie or perk on certain rather than a limitation.

They are clear about the amount of metered data you get too. Not that it's great but it's not as bad as it could be.


How do I apply to get my Twitter clone zero-rated?

You have to talk to the ISP.

There has some commotion here in The Netherlands because one provider tried to do this for Spotify and basically put up all kind of rules/conditions for others to join which basically meant only big organisations could successfully apply.

And then how do I get the ISP to advertise my service as being free to use, the same way they do for Facebook?

It's not much help that my clone is also free to use if nobody knows unless they go hunting through the fine print, as the initial assumption will be that it's a charged-for alternative.

Obviously your ISP is not going to advertise ALL social apps, that would be a huge list. As an example take this:


"use all your social network apps without using up your data allowance", and then they show you a list of apps, but all social apps should be zero-rated and if they are not you can report it. Same with video apps, music apps, etc.

If you think this is so bad, then ask consumers if they like it or not. People here seem to put their principles before what consumers actually want or not. The job of the market is to serve consumers. Paying 3€ a month to have unlimited data on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp is a sweet deal for 99% of consumers here I'm sure.

>The job of the market is to serve consumers

The market is created by corporations. It's job is to serve the corporations by creating the illusion it serves the consumers. That's why advertising / marketing is a thing.

Some would naively say that the market is created by the consumer, but you don't need most of what you consume, and you didn't even want a lot of what you consume until you were told it existed. (the term "you" is not necessarily referring to you personally here, but "the average consumer", on aggregate.)

The problem is not today but what the ecosystem will look like 10 years down the road under that system.

We saw it before and it wasn’t good. In short the carriers had control and companies that wanted access to consumers had to strike deals with the carrier, those deals as a result were very generous to the carrier (eg. they took 50% of revenue).

This is not good for the consumer over the long term.

Chrome is my social app. I use it to browse FB and Hacker News and exchange mail. Can I get it zero rated for 3 bucks? I expect not.

I am the consumer and I hate this bullshit.

Either you use the services that much and you pay 3€ or you don't and they get taken more simply out of your data plan. You pay more for unlimited use. If you don't need it, you pay less. I like it, I don't want additional social media services, I get to pay less.

Could you share how much your bill is a month, vs how much the unlimited is? Or point me to a site with that info?

I'm curious on what the pricing differences are.

Tip of the iceberg.

Carriers see communication services as their turf, and they go to byzantine lengths to protect that.

Politically it can get funny.

If you work at a handset manufacturer, and sit in on sales calls, and one of your team members brings up anything remotely related to this or VOIP, you might see the carrier buyers get visibly upset and literally walk out of the room.

I could never tell if they were 'actually' upset, or 'pretend professionally' upset.

But it's funny the games that are played.

You know what upsets me is that I can call people on my phone and the audio quality is terrible if they're not on the same carrier (T-Mobile in the USA). I had to tell my friend to just call me on Skype the next time cause it's always a struggle to hear them clearly over the phone. I can't believe that my carrier has "HD Calling" but everyone else sounds like the calls being patched through a sewage pipe.

That is the single biggest driver for me to dabble with alternative calling apps like FaceTime audio.

The carriers in their inability to cooperate to improve call quality is pushing their customers to the alternatives they fear most.

I doubt it’s any consolation but I have the same carrier and don’t have that problem.

I used to be really frustrated with a few things a few years back but thinking back on it they’ve improved a lot since.

The only thing that still bothers me is the coverage. It’s usually fantastic where I live/work and outside of that it’s ok to great with really rare dead spots. To their credit it used to be non-existent/terrible to great.

What’s shocking is the first time you go from a cell phone to a high quality office phone (yes, I’m young). Holy crap are modern phones crystal clear, the stuff we’ve accepted on cell phones is garbage in comparison.

Old ma bell was a monopoly and long distance cost over a dollar a minute, but land lines were crystal clear for half a century and more. The shape of old phones also were really great for isolating the phone conversation from everything else.

Even on the same carrier, the call quality can be terrible. I've had this problem with Verizon for years now. (No, it's not the phone since it gets upgraded every 2 years or less)

This. I default to FaceTime audio calls over direct phone calls with fellow iPhone owners. Crystal-clear every time. T-Mobile call quality is completely awful.

>>If you work at a handset manufacturer, and sit in on sales calls, and one of your team members brings up anything remotely related to this or VOIP, you might see the carrier buyers get visibly upset and literally walk out of the room.

Is your anecdote over a decade old? That may have happened to a much weaker extent before IMS[1] carrier deployments became widespread, and before the consolidation of the Android and iOS platforms. Not to say that VoIP apps like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat Voice, KaoKao, etc. plug into carrier IMS cores, but carriers definitely did see the writing on the wall and prepared for the cannabilization of their voice revenue for quite some time.

Note that Apple devices enabled voice-over-LTE as part of their iOS 8 rollout on iPhone 6's or higher[2], and Google recently figured out how to do the same for some Project Fi phones back in Feburary 2017[3].

The last remnant of strong wireless VoIP app vs. wireless voice differentiation practices is mainly the Middle East, but I believe handset manufacturers around the world generally do not experience such vehement (or even any) pushback from carriers these days.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Multimedia_Subsystem

[2] https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203078

[3] https://9to5google.com/2017/02/17/google-mvno-project-fi-vol...

"see communication services " - not just VOIP.

Carriers will fight tooth and nail, 2018 and long beyond for anything related to data, voice, texting, essentially anything services related.

The bulk of their revenues at least are still made up of 'voice packages'. Do you think that they are just going give that up?

They will fight any handset maker on this - and by the way apps, and search.

Tooth and nail, balls to the wall an only Apple can basically do as they please.

They'll try to negotiate a cut of VOIP revenue, they'll demand that such apps cannot be preloaded, they'll demand a cut of search revenues from Google. They'll demand a cut of app store revenues. Or demand that their own app stores be installed.

Anything voice, data or services oriented they want a cut of.

" but carriers definitely did see the writing on the wall and prepared for the cannabilization of their voice revenue for quite some time."

They are not - moreover, there are 10's of billions to be made in the meantime as voice wanes - moreover, I think we'll see regular voice services with 'phone numbers' for a very long time yet.

Consider net neutrality - it's an attempt by carriers to undercut major players and demand more revenue for QoS etc..

No, it's a huge, huge turf war. One of the biggest 'open wars' in business because the fault lines are always changing whereas in most other industries there are many norms and practices that have developed between different layers of the value chain that have stabilized over time.

Between carriers, handset manufacturers ... it's blood.

> deacade old

> apple got halfway in 2015 and google started to roll over it in 2017

> samsung still show a permanent "calls over wifi" notification

I think "over a decade" may be a stretch for non-google/apple, unfortunately.

This is key - "The researchers bought a Sprint wireless plan to try to detect throttling of Skype in the lab, but couldn’t replicate the experience of the Wehe app users. This is likely because it affects only certain subscription plans, but not the one the researchers purchased, they said."

One app is saying this is occurring without anyone being able to duplicate the claim in a lab. Bloomberg could do better by getting a second source.

Also see the researchers' own page: https://dd.meddle.mobi/USStats.html

Sprint is legit garbage, but it is worth noting that even under Wheeler, Net Neutrality rules have never applied to mobile networks. It’s a big reason many of us were disappointed with the legislation even when it was passed. I’d rather have something than nothing, but mobile carriers have always been expent from NN.

> Sprint is legit garbage, but it is worth noting that even under Wheeler, Net Neutrality rules have never applied to mobile networks

This is simply false.

In the 2010 Title I regs, much lighter net neutrality rules were applied to mobile broadband than were applied to fixed broadband; in the 2015 Title II regs essentially the same rules applied to fixed broadband were applied to mobile.

FYI v1 of NN excluded cellular. Verizon et al sued and the appeals court ruled in their favor. v2 NN was based on a more solid legal foundation of common carrier classification and did not exclude cellular. Thus VZ got tougher rules for their trouble. Until of course Trump won and the FCC reversed itself. NN was a FCC rule, not legislation.

Tmobile made this clear to me too when I complained about their older zero-rating policy at the time. It was highly unfair to smaller companies without the means to implement their standards for video.

T-mobile customer here who supports zero rating. Their standards are extremely straight forward to implement to zero rate, and there is minimal burden to implement. This was my experience simply as a facilitator to enable a public radio station I enjoy to be zero rated.

Should it though? Throttling sites on wired connections because your too cheap to replace your customer's copper lines is one thing, but mobile networks have limited bandwidth by nature. The last thing mobile networks want is a tragedy of the commons scenario causing customers to jump ship, because they don't have the "advantage" of guaranteed income from the local monoplies that come with cable-type infrastructure.

also worth nothing this study doesn't compare period before and after legislation change, making the whole jab at the administration without merit. sure, dropping the legislation it didn't help, but this is not how you you reach conclusions in scientific research.

This is wrong, the 2015 rules applied the exact same rules to mobile networks as landline ISPs.

One thing most people do not understand is that the former net neutrality rules did not prohibit throttling, in and of itself. Every rule and clause in the net neutrality bill has a little clause following "Though shall not [...] except for reasonable network management." What's "reasonable network management"? 400+ pages and it was not well defined. It's something that would be decided on a case-by-case basis. But ultimately if any carrier could create a compelling argument that some service was causing undue congestion on their network, they had complete freedom to throttle it.

As an aside you'll note that now, and then, when companies are found to be doing they'll immediately scream "reasonable network management." Search for sprint "reasonable network management" and you'll get years of results such as [1][2][3]. Give them a cut of the profits and suddenly that congestion would be considered much more reasonable - a la Netflix/Comcast.

[1] - https://www.sprint.com/en/legal/legal-regulatory-and-consume...

[2] - https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/10/nonpr...

[3] - https://civsourceonline.com/2015/10/15/sprint-sued-by-non-pr...

My Zoom meetings via CenturyLink have become progressively worse since Net Neutrality bit the dust. Anyone else feel the same?

I've had Centurylink for years (fiber and DSL) and they consistently seem to throttle most video sites. Netflix/youtube has always been hit or miss. If you ask about this on reddit or dslreports you immediately get shills claiming that they would never do that / it's impossible. Weird.

Using a VPN always fixes the issue.

Have you compared IPv4 versus IPv6 performance? Centurylink seems to have much better peering via IPv6 (still a bit slow to certain destinations though), in part because they only peer with Hurricane Electric and other non-Tier 1's for IPv6.

Nope. I’ll try that out. My modem is only getting a ipv4 address right now, but maybe I can configure it.

Shucks. No ipv6 support in my area.

Try 6RD, that is what I use.

The YouTube situation with CenturyLink used to be laughably bad. It’s gotten a little better as of late (10mbps DSL in Ohio), but VPN is still the way to go.

I have AT&T fiber and experience the same thing with YouTube. If I jump on my VPN it fixes everything. It was really bad most of the year but has improved lately. Maybe it actually was a peering issue.

Sure, but when does not paying for quality peering become throttling? To me it’s the same thing — just a stealthy workaround. A few months to a year? Poor peering, sure. Longer than that? Intentional.

It’s absolutely intentional. I think the telcos have been holding out upgrading key peering points to wait for the Net Neutrality repeal.

It's not throttling, it's bad peering. Their links to video services get saturated.

I never read the text of the law, but I was told that a part of removing net neutrality, companies would have to say what they were throttling. Is that not the case?

Yes, that's not the case.

Use Zoom a lot. Haven’t noticed anything. Have Fiber if it matters.

Centurylink has mediocre peering via IPv4, but decent peering via IPv6 (which seems to be caused by peering with Hurricane Electric on IPv6 only).

I've noticed they don't seem to interconnect very effectively at the Seattle exchange at least for IPv4, I'll have to try v6 as well; thanks for the tip. in v4, I see a lot of things like go through Seattle to San Jose or Chicago and then back to Seattle. :(

Yep, purposefully shit peering on IPv4 causes that.

CenturyLink seems to be a huge mess. They have at least 4 or 5 login pages. They seem to have acquired a bunch of smaller ISPs and not quite consolidated yet.

Eh, its a company that is rapidly shrinking in most areas. Customers are leaving, and in areas they deploy fiber there is no maintenance tto be done

I’m a sprint customer and the throttling is so overt I’m surprised it took any amount of stuff to spot it.

Does Skype still do the supernode p2p architecture?

No, that was phased out when they merged infrastructures with Microsoft’s existing, post-merge.

Which happened to coincide with my last decent Skype call.


Anyone know why they phased that out? Seems like a performance benefit and not many downsides I can think about warranting removal.

A series of headlines:

2009 - NSA offering 'billions' for Skype eavesdrop solution [1]

2011 - Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion. Why, exactly? [2]

2012 - Skype replaces P2P supernodes with Linux boxes hosted by Microsoft [3]

2013 - Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages Subhead: Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls [4]

1. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/12/nsa_offers_billions...

2. https://www.wired.com/2011/05/microsoft-buys-skype-2/

3. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/05/skype...

4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/11/microsoft-nsa-...

Definitely is about mobile, where users' devices are frequently not actively running the app at the same time.

Skype used to have a ton of issues with certain features requiring both parties be online. For instance, since it was peer-to-peer, sharing pictures and/or file attachments would fail if you weren't online at the same time as the other person, and of course, you were subject to the their upload speed for you (and each other person in a chatroom) to download it.

Not that it's any more reliable now.

Mobile devices get hot and have bad battery life if they become supernodes, and are obviously not reliable.

As far as I understand, Skype never owned the IP around the P2P solution.


It’s an innovation covered by the Virnetx patent. The same happened with Apple FaceTime.

The massive rise of carrier grade NATs perhaps.

Australia <-> India Skype has become awful for us in the last 6 months or so. Does anyone know if this is related?

Sprint is a mobile network operator in the states. I don't think it is related to your issue.

Sprint is a telecommunications company, not just a mobile operator. They actually operate a 100G backbone between Australia and India (Perth to Mumbai via the SWE3 cable), so grand-parents question isn't that unreasonable.


Do they or is it just indirect via a consortium? Looking at this https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEA-ME-WE_3 it doesn’t look to be directly managed by Sprint.

Almost all undersea cables are owned by consortiums that are responsible for installation and ongoing maintenance. Telecoms like Sprint or Level 3 buy fiber pairs and run the gear on each end.

You can test for it by sending typical files over http (aka download) and then skyping and compare the bandwidth. Or the other way round. Run a few tests over a few days. This won't tell you whether Sprint is behind this, however you will be able to know whether Skype is affected. If yes, you could try to tunnel the Skype traffic over ssh. If ssh traffic is not throttled you should experience better throughputs.

Yes, something in india is limiting your connection most likely. Whether it be network speeds or something else, the servers in Australia are super fast

They might just be confusing that with sprint being an awful network in general.

I sure hope the FTC does something about this!

Another agency, the FCC, was founded on the premise that we need to ensure some communicators don't degrade the communications of others unintentionally. Spectrum needs management.

It's funny we lack the same conviction when ITCs actively degrade each other...

With Democrats in control of the House, they can pass Net Neutrality and put some pressure on the Senate. Or package in with a spending deal.

Haha, hilarious man. I'm looking forward to two years of total gridlock in the U.S. government. No one is in a mood to compromise on anything at all, least of all a fringe issue like Net Neutrality that motivates, like, fifty people to the polls.

On the contrary, net neutrality being a niche issue might make it more likely for politicians to agree on action. NN is a vague, new enough issue that it can be spun to the public in appealing ways. And the battle lines on which legislators are willing to die on haven’t yet been drawn. Think back to the SOPA bill back in 2013. It had massive bipartisan support, and a huge number of listed cosponsors [0], yet Congress folded like a chair on the day of the blackout protest. Not just because the protest was large, but because they had little to gain by sticking to their positions. Compare this to how Congress members change in no significant way from their campaign promises on gun and abortion issues.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Members_of_the_U.S._...

edit: fixed typo/grammar

It should actually be interesting to see what happens. The Democrats won the House, but only by about a dozen seats, and some of them are in places like Texas and Montana which they can't possibly expect to hold in two years if all they do is bloviate and obstruct. Meanwhile making deals is Trump's whole shtick. It's theoretically possible that some bipartisanship occurs -- if that's even still a thing.

What's an ITC?

I meant something like "information and communications technology company," but apparently made up a new acronym that doesn't even match to that.

Sorry for the confusion, ITC is not a thing, except in international trade contexts.


Not that it's Skype's fault they're getting throttled, but I wish I had an alternative to Skype.

I haven't found a service that lets me dial worldwide (particularly USA/Canada) at anywhere near the rates Skype offers.

Do you really still need to dial? Haven’t all the persons you call a computer (smartphone!) with free VoIP capabilities?

When I'm in Japan and want to talk with my insurance company, bank, or airline over on the other side of the world, there's just one way: A phone number. Which is the (main) reason I'm still using Skype. There are other, and sometimes better, alternatives for video/chat/group chats/photos etc. But still nothing that competes with Skype's phone support, although Skype in general has degenerated a lot since the early days.

I use Google Voice For the same reason!

It‘s even better: it has a free US phone number. So my insurance could call me on that number while I‘m in Japan.

Google Voice as a service is limited to the US and Canada, so if you're a North American it's a good alternative I guess. Otherwise, not so much.

I find that GV is also excellent at inbound robocall and spam rejection, FWIW.

What about regular phone, landlines and stuff + email for pictures and so on ? This alternative still exists afaik. Some telecom companies even have offers for calling abroad if you move a lot.

International call rates.

Recently this has been unified throughout Europe, including removing roaming charges for data, but calling from/to outside Europe is still very expensive. Even sending text messages (and receiving, which is normally free) is expensive. Thus Skype. And it's also cool to have a Skype-in number in Japan[1], which will be forwarded to your Skype account wherever you are, or to your phone if you're offline (if so configured). That's nice when you have very old family members who prefer to use a (local) phone call to get in touch. So Skype covers some use cases which I can't easily cover by other means. For the "normal" communication which doesn't involve a phone I mostly use other tools nowadays though.

[1]With the restriction that Japan only allows Skype-in numbers if you're a resident.

Is viber still around? I used to use that.

viber is still operating. But I've never used it. Their landline calling system is 'package'-based, unlike the very straight forward Skype setup. On viber's web site there's not even a simple way of listing the countries they support. You have to 'search' for a country, and then you get an offer of various packages to use. Way too much hassle, and too limited (you have to buy a 'package' for each country you want to call. Not very convenient).

For ordinary chats, groups, video conversations, file / movie / photo / album sharing etc. I use Naver Line, as nearly every Japanese do as far as I can tell.

Very popular in Eastern Europe.

It's very possible people are calling relatives or friends whose landline offers a more reliable connection than their internet.

And if having a conversation, I'd rather have an uninterrupted voice conversation than a mediocre video call that drops every 3 minutes.

In North America, it's unusual to ask for a business person's WhatsApp or Telegram or whatever. These contacts are not often published or shared for work.

It's more common to receive their landline extension or cell phone number.

When establishing a business relationship, saving a few cents by trying to figure out mutual VoIP options isn't worth the friction and lost opportunities.

Aren't Whatsapp and telegram both tied to your cell phone number though?

The use case is: traveler in _______ country uses Skype to call local numbers. Be it a local restaurant, or a new business contact.

Well it's not the same rate but you can't be throttled on pure dial. You pay the price for that.

DIDlogic is usually much cheaper than Skype. Takes a bit of SIP knowledge to setup.

Sign up for a wholesale VoIP provider like Twilio or Nexmo.

Fwiw Google voice has free US calling and pretty decent reache rates

I can't get my phone to ring with Google Voice / Google Hangouts incoming calls. Tried every setting possible: always goes to voicemail.

Really? That's exactly how I have it set up. In Google voice, attach your cell phone number (verify the text etc), then go to settings-calls-incoming calls and enable it.

Ah, my current location/phone number is not in the USA/Canada, so I can't link it.

(if you have an US number to sign up with)

I've used Sprint before. It almost seems like all websites are throttled.

Since Skype left its p2p roots, has it ever had enough bandwidth?

All the carriers say straight on their website they are throttling you. Want HD video? Have to pay for the upgraded super version or whatever.

the services named are all quite high bandwidth compared to regular websites. can it not be that this is automated throttling to prevent congestion on parts of the networks?

Well Microsoft changed the underlying p2pness of skype so I can't blame Sprint for throttling that laggy buggy inconsistent network topology ineptly and inaptly still referred to as "Skype" R.I.P.

Has there been more Bloomberg on the front page since the SuperMicro thing, or am I just noticing it more?

I think you are noticing it more. It’s always been a popular source here.

Did anyone else see this headline and hope for an anti-scrum rant?

Does Sprint sell video chat? I don't understand the anticompetitveness angle. Voice calls are free on cell phone networks, and Skype users pay for data. How would Sprint profit from giving its users a bad Skype experience?

Something doesn't add up.

If they throttle high-bandwidth applications they can provide less bandwidth and save money, I'm not surprised at all this is happening now that net neutrality is out the window.

>Voice calls are free on cell phone networks

Since when?

Since in the USA. Assuming you already need to pay for data. And don't want to make voice calls to other countries.

What? There are lots of plans in the US with data that don't have unlimited calling.

I bet they exist somewhere but a quick survey of prepaid/budget services (Cricket, Straighttalk, USMobile, ...) shows that they all bundle unlimited calling with any plan that has data. All the major post paid carriers have been on unlimited calling plans for many years.

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