The first public release of the network neutrality bot is available online

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Versione italiana

Turin, November 9, 2010 - The Nexa Center for Internet & Society announces the first public release of Neubot, the network neutrality bot, a software that aims to provide Internet users a simple tool to assess the quality and the neutrality of their Internet access.

Despite years of promises Internet users still live mostly in the dark.

To choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP), users can rely on advertising only. And advertising almost always indicates just the price and the maximum theoretical browsing speed. In most cases, ISPs websites do not provide any information regarding the quality of service.

When they buy Internet access from a specific provider, users sign very vague contracts. With rare exceptions, indeed, these contracts do not provide any quality of service guarantee. Not even on the lowest access speed [1]. In addition, expecially in case of mobile wireless, the contracts often prohibit certain applications, such as Voice over IP. This violates the principle that access providers should not interfere with users traffic (the so-called "network neutrality" principle).

Once they become customers, in most cases users are not updated on the status of the service. Almost always, they don't receive periodic statistics regarding the service quality or information regarding possible traffic management practices (e.g. peer-to-peer throttled or blocked in the evening.)

In other words, ISPs know everything about their network and have a very deep knowledge of their customers. Users, however, know virtually nothing about the service they receive.

It's time to shed light

Waiting for ISPs to become, in general, more transparent - spontaneously or due to regulatory intervention - it's time to start to shed some light.

In particular, users can immediately start to measure the quality of their connection, performing bottom-up access-speed measurements. And, soon, they will be able to run collaborative distributed tests to detect the throttling and blocking of certain applications, such as peer-to-peer.

In this respect, the Nexa Center for Internet and Society at Politecnico di Torino (DAUIN) is pleased to announce the release of the first public beta of Neubot, the network neutrality bot [2].

What is Neubot?

Neubot is an open-source lightweight minimally-invasive computer program that interested Internet users can install on their computers to perform "distributed" measurements. The program runs in background and periodically performs transmission tests with some test servers and with other instances of the program itself, using various application level protocols. The information collected by the various installed Neubots are gathered, analyzed, anonymized, and published, to allow constant monitoring of access quality and network neutrality.

What's in this first release? And in the next ones?

This first public release is just the first step towards distributed monitoring of network neutrality. For three reasons. First, because this is a beta release, which needs testing to become more robust and effective. Second, because this release implements just a simple test inspired to the one of Speedtest.net [3]. Third, because this release performs measurements with a single server and it is not yet possible to perform tests with other Neubot instances.

The subsequent releases will add support for detecting BitTorrent throttling and for transmission tests with other Neubot instances. We plan to make a patch release every 10-15 days, to maximize testing. And a feature release, where features are complete and stable, every 2-3 months. You can also follow the development more closely, and clone our public GIT tree [4].

In practice, this release allows you to monitor the performances of your Internet access with respect to our test server, installed in Turin. We measure latency, download speed, and upload speed, using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The fact that there is just one test server implies that this release mainly targets the italian audience. However, we have also implemented basic mechanisms to help Neubot to spread as much as possible, such as the notification of updates for Windows users, and automatic updates for Debian and Ubuntu users.

Is Neubot the only project that focuses on network neutrality?

Neubot is not the first software project that focuses on network neutrality: see, for instance, Glasnost [5], Grenouille [6], and NANO [7]. If possible, we want to work with the existing projects. We also aim at being included among the projects hosted by Measurement Lab [8].

Who should install Neubot?

We believe the current version of Neubot is appealing for two user categories. Those who care about network neutrality and want to contribute to our project. And those who want to monitor the performances of their broadband connection using our periodic test and comparing it with similar ones (like Speedtest.net test.)

Where to find more information, source code, etc..?

For further information, please visit the Neubot project website <http://www.neubot.org/>!

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