Traffic throttling on a home network

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Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:22 pm

Here's the setup: I and two roommates, plus occasional guests, share a 1.5m/768k DSL connection. For the most part, it meets our needs, and we really don't want to pay for a higher-bandwidth connection, so it is what it is. The modem is a 2Wire unit with integral NAT firewalling and both hardports and WiFi B+G, and it is leased from the provider. The modem is in my room, so I have a hardport connection to my PC and everybody else uses WiFi.

The maximum download speed is around 150kB/second, and unfortunately, any download will usually max out the bandwidth and create serious quality-of-service issues for everyone else -- pings in the 500-600ms range, severely delayed response times from web servers, that sort of thing. If Steam starts auto-updating on my PC, if one of the roommates is updating his iTunes library overnight, or if anybody's PC starts pulling in Windows Updates, the connection will be thrashed for the duration.

The 2Wire modem has some rudimentary QoS options but none of them includes bandwidth throttling, which seems to be the only way to salvage the connection. I know from past experience that if the collective bandwidth does not exceed about 100kB/second, everything is mostly okay -- pings might jump to 150-180ms but web pages will still serve normally, and overall that's tolerable. So it seems like I need to cap each discrete connection at around 50kB/sec.

Given that the modem is leased, messing around with the 2Wire firmware is off the table unless it's a provider-supported update, so I'm open to buying a new WiFi router and slaving it off the modem instead. But first I need to know what I'm getting into here. What's the best way to do this?
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:45 pm

With the bad areas of Qwest/Century Link's service in Colorado, you aren't going to get much in the way of improvement. That being said, I used to do work for them and trained some of this stuff to new hires.

If you are at 1.5/768 speed, that's really the entry level stuff and I'm willing to bet you are on ATM technology. What I would look for is to see if, unless you are locked into one of the good old Price for Life options, if they can transition you into an IP/ADSL2 plan. That transition alone has been pretty nice. Moreover, it may open up some higher speeds for you.

Thing is, you would need a new modem. Actually, I may have an newer Qwest modem. I'm in Greeley, so I could always get it to you if you want it. Might be just the thing. Problem is that its a single port one. hmm.. might have an older router, too. Let me do some digging.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:49 pm

Oh, one more thing. The Advanced modem with Qwest was (when I worked for them) $7-8/month. That's also the price difference between 1.5m and 7m.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:03 am

I would agree and say go with a higher connection speed if you can. If you can't, and messing with the modem itself is off the table, consider getting a router with the ability to run DD-WRT or open-WRT, which is essentially a linux firmware for certain routers.

Read the online instructions carefully (think measure twice, cut once philosophy) but once you have it on your router, you can set OoS options till the cows come home: different IP/computers/MAC address can have different priorities with different apps and ports - it's very flexible in terms of what it can do, though keep in mind with QoS stuff, the router on your side can only control the order of the bits it's sending outbound and to the computers/devices connected to it, not the order of the bits coming in from the net, so don't expect miracles.

Disclaimer: I run DD-WRT and have a 25 mbit cable connection, though I don't use a lot of the QoS
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:42 am

Pretty sure he's looking for someone who has set up their network to cap users on it or offer good packet shaping.... which I'm pretty sure can be done with linux, I don't know how though. I was actually hoping that a more experienced user would offer advice here as I'm looking for something similar. Not the brute force solution of buying a faster line, something elegant.

For instance I would really like the solution he wants. Being able to cap each individual user at a certain KB/s.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:24 am

http://www.gargoyle-router.com

If you have access to a router capable of running gargoyle (a variant of OpenWRT that specialises in easy bandwidth management), then that would be my suggestion list of supported routers
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:00 am

I would say your thoughts are right about adding a new router to do the traffic shaping before the modem. See if the modem supports a bridging mode to get it right out of the way and just act as a modem so you don't end up with double-NAT.

I can't really recommend any particular solution, but I've heard a lot of good things about Tomato and their page on QoS http://tomatousb.org/tut:using-tomato-s-qos-system is very good. I used to work at Cisco on the CRS so I know when someone is talking sense and when they aren't and that Tomato QoS page makes a lot of sense.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:31 pm

That's sorta what I'm looking for fred. The QoS and bandwidth management features I've seen on routers so far are usually PoS. You have to limit each specific port and there isn't an option to limit all activity except for certain ports, usually the limitation applies to upload too, not download. While upload is extremely important, if download gets choked like the OP said, the connection just grinds to a halt.

Honestly, Azureus if you guys have used that and eMule have amazing bandwidth throttling built in. They will ping certain addresses, like google.com, and build a statistical average off of it. They will then automatically adjust the upload, or the upload and download, based on latencies. You can change the threshold and set in limitations too, like max bandwidth. It's very intuitive and robust. I would pay a premium for something like this in router firmware. I've used DDWRT and they have the same lame options that most stock router firmware offers.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:42 am

Bensam123 wrote:Honestly, Azureus if you guys have used that and eMule have amazing bandwidth throttling built in. They will ping certain addresses, like google.com, and build a statistical average off of it. They will then automatically adjust the upload, or the upload and download, based on latencies. You can change the threshold and set in limitations too, like max bandwidth. It's very intuitive and robust.

Funny you should mention Azureus because that's exactly what I used to determine what my connection limits looked like. Given that more and more modems and APs are offering QoS routing tables and selective port blacklisting/whitelisting for those who want to use them, it seems like a bandwidth capping feature would be easy enough to include...but no dice :(

Based on what Emrys has indicated about the DSL options, I'm going to call CenturyLink (nee Qwest) and see if upgrading the link to the next tier is possible and how much it would cost. Fortunately we still pay for a nearly-unused landline service mainly as a 911 option to combat the lousy cell phone reception on this side of the hill, so that gives me some bargaining power to wield after the inevitable transfer to the "customer loyalty department".

Failing that, looks like it's time to either price out Comcast (ugh) or go for a router purchase and a custom firmware flash.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:20 pm

ludi wrote:Failing that, looks like it's time to either price out Comcast (ugh) or go for a router purchase and a custom firmware flash.

I've been reluctantly eyeing the "price out Comcast" option as well... probably want to go with their "Business Class" service. Since Speakeasy's merger with Megapath my DSL connection has gone down the toilet. Frequent service outages, and clueless customer support.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:23 pm

I'm not sure if Comcast will sell you Business Class IP alongside residential-level TV. I've made a few inquiries in that area and no one seems able to produce a coherent response.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:37 pm

just brew it! wrote:
ludi wrote:Failing that, looks like it's time to either price out Comcast (ugh) or go for a router purchase and a custom firmware flash.

I've been reluctantly eyeing the "price out Comcast" option as well... probably want to go with their "Business Class" service. Since Speakeasy's merger with Megapath my DSL connection has gone down the toilet. Frequent service outages, and clueless customer support.


ugh, covad, ugh.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:51 pm

Captain Ned wrote:I'm not sure if Comcast will sell you Business Class IP alongside residential-level TV. I've made a few inquiries in that area and no one seems able to produce a coherent response.

Crap. That may limit my options even further.

The co-worker who has Comcast Business Class uses them only for Internet, not for TV. We'd likely be using them for both. (I *refuse* to get AT&T Uverse... they're the only broadband provider more evil than Comcast IMO.)

thecoldanddarkone wrote:ugh, covad, ugh.

Well... Speakeasy was a Covad partner for years (Covad provided the bare DSL connection in cooperation with your ILEC, Speakeasy did the rest). Speakeasy was excellent back then, so the problem was apparently with Covad's ISP service, not their ability to provide a basic bit pipe. Even when Speakeasy was (for a year or two) owned by Best Buy, they (much to my surprise) managed to maintain their previous exemplary levels of service. It was only when the Three Stooges (or is it an Unholy Trinity?) of Megapath, Speakeasy, and Covad were assimilated into a single entity (over the the past year) that things seriously started to suck.

Edit: What made Speakeasy great back in the day was that their tech support people had a clue, and would run interference for you between their own network people, Covad, and the ILEC. So on those rare occsasions when stuff got royally screwed up, all you had to do was call them, and they'd go the extra mile to deal with it with minimal further input from the customer. They also didn't go into "deer in the headlights" mode when you told them you were running Linux. Sadly, those days are gone now.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:58 pm

Well... Speakeasy was a Covad partner for years (Covad provided the bare DSL connection in cooperation with your ILEC, Speakeasy did the rest). Speakeasy was excellent back then, so the problem was apparently with Covad's ISP service, not their ability to provide a basic bit pipe. Even when Speakeasy was (for a year or two) owned by Best Buy, they (much to my surprise) managed to maintain their previous exemplary levels of service. It was only when the Three Stooges (or is it an Unholy Trinity?) of Megapath, Speakeasy, and Covad were assimilated into a single entity (over the the past year) that things seriously started to suck.



last off topic note

They definitely got uhh "special" when they combined. I don't have words to describe them. :lol:
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:12 pm

thecoldanddarkone wrote:last off topic note

They definitely got uhh "special" when they combined. I don't have words to describe them. :lol:

Try "my DSL connection was flaky to the point of being unusable for about a month, and when they finally fixed it, it turned out to be something I'd told them to look at in the first place".

What I was able to piece together from my (many) conversations with them was that some hardware in the local DSLAM had been replaced after an outage. That's when my problems started. They refused to acknowledge that the issue was probably on their end, even though the problems began when something changed on their end. :roll:
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:59 pm

Let me chime in a bit since I have been in similar situation. One quick question:

Is it the wireless bandwidth that is choking you? (hardwired all the connections and tested it that way and had the same results?)

The reason I ask that is with these crappy cable modems, a lot of wireless connections with quite a bit of traffic over the connection starts making these fail quite easily by overloading the CPU and therefore causing traffic to come to a crawl. A hardwired connection seems to have less reliance on the modem’s CPU so the traffic may not come to a screeching halt.

Like other said here getting a router with open source firmware (dd-wrt or Tomato) are fairly good solutions. In my experience with dd-wrt, QoS works alright but it is not as good as pfsense or untangle solution. You would need to get a router that has a fairly beefy processor and RAM, something like the WNDR3700 (on sale on newegg for $99) or Asus RT-N56U or the Asus RT-N16. QoS takes up quite a bit of processor power to work well. This worked well for me with my old WRT-54G for a while (about a year, but with the need for random reboots biweekly or so) but ultimately the router died because it was nearly pegged at 100% whenever someone in the house was doing anything traffic intensive like Netflix/Gaming/Skype. I also partially killed my Dlink 655 using that QoS with stock firmware but like the WRT-54G eventually started needing constant rebooting. I don’t know if this is typical but I find these routers are built as cheap throw aways typically, and lockup quite a bit under heavy load which is not hard to put on them.

If you have any spare computer, I would recommend pfsense or untangle, because it is cheap if you have the parts lying around and it offloads the CPU of the wireless access point. A super old laptop is perfect bc it sips energy of a desktop and has auto battery power during power outage and possibly has a wireless card in it that you can use as a wireless access point. I am using a t43 for this with a Dlink 655 as a WAP. This solution maybe overkill and it would require your modem, the pfsense or untangle router and then a wireless access point. It has been rock solid though and never seen more than 15%-20% CPU usage at the heaviest traffic.

To give you a traffic idea, I have 4 roommates currently and between 2 Xboxs, a PS3, and Netflix and Steam our 15mbit connection gets a very heavy workout, but has not failed or stuttered since I went to a dedicated pfsense solution.

I hope this helps, but ultimately like other suggested purchasing more bandwidth may not be a bad idea either.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:21 pm

Captain Ned wrote:I'm not sure if Comcast will sell you Business Class IP alongside residential-level TV. I've made a few inquiries in that area and no one seems able to produce a coherent response.
No direct knowledge, but I've read on some forums that you might be able to get around it with two different addresses, even to the extent of "upstairs" vs "downstairs".
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:44 pm

notfred wrote:No direct knowledge, but I've read on some forums that you might be able to get around it with two different addresses, even to the extent of "upstairs" vs "downstairs".

Which probably means two separate drops from the pole. A PITA from the logistics POV, but probably better overall as there's no longer a splitter in the drop. My current drop hits a high-grade splitter with one leg to the modem and the other leg to feed the TV-side splitter. One nice thing about digital cable though, is that it really doesn't care too much about signal strength loss due to splitters.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:01 pm

mmmmmdonuts21 wrote:Is it the wireless bandwidth that is choking you? (hardwired all the connections and tested it that way and had the same results?)

The reason I ask that is with these crappy cable modems, a lot of wireless connections with quite a bit of traffic over the connection starts making these fail quite easily by overloading the CPU and therefore causing traffic to come to a crawl. A hardwired connection seems to have less reliance on the modem’s CPU so the traffic may not come to a screeching halt.

Would that it were that easy, but it's definitely the outbound connection. I've proven it repeatedly using my hardwired computer. I suppose a large peer-to-peer file transfer over WiFi-G might choke down the modem CPU since that could easily achieve a sustained transfer rate of 30mbps or better, but we never do anything like that.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:35 pm

I just looked through pfsense for a bit, it doesn't look like it has QoS beyond the norm that is found in most routers or DDWRT. About the most robust one is found in OpenTomato, which isn't anything exceptionally special.

Really this is kind sad that in this day and age we don't have better solutions to make connections at home manageable. Especially with more bandwidth intensive web browsing it really starts to impact other users who operate on the same network, unless you have some sort of stupidly fast internet connection that can brute force anything.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:30 am

Bensam123 wrote:I just looked through pfsense for a bit, it doesn't look like it has QoS beyond the norm that is found in most routers or DDWRT. About the most robust one is found in OpenTomato, which isn't anything exceptionally special.

Really this is kind sad that in this day and age we don't have better solutions to make connections at home manageable. Especially with more bandwidth intensive web browsing it really starts to impact other users who operate on the same network, unless you have some sort of stupidly fast internet connection that can brute force anything.


I agree with you here. Really the last 10-15 years router technology/software has been very stagnant compared to the rest of the computer community. I agree with you pfSense QoS isn't the greatest, just like dd-wrt. The pfSense 2.0 release though is getting better, and they are trying a new beta with their traffic manager so hopefully it will be a little more user friendly. The easiest QoS I have seen is untangle but that is more of a UTM than just a router and you start needing a stronger PC to run it relative to pfSense. The dlink 655 has a very easy to understand QoS as well but not the processor to back it up on very heavy connections.
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Re: Traffic throttling on a home network

Postposted on Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:30 am

Finally found time to call, and the word from CenturyLink is that 1.5mb is the fastest service currently available in my area, but they have a substantial number of 3/5/7mb upgrades scheduled to roll out early this year. Of course, that was from the perky female rep who might be young enough to get thrown out of a liquor store, and told me "maybe within a month" but couldn't actually commit to a roll-out date when I pressed for an availability schedule, so who knows :roll:

For now I'm going to wait a couple more months before trying any hardware solutions on my own. Comcast just sent around another flyer advertising business-class service and up to 4 digital phone lines for $90/month with a 2-year commitment, and the only thing keeping me from signing up now is that I can't guarantee I'll be sharing the cost with two roommates, two years out.
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