Many people can think of nothing better than coming home, kicking off their shoes, plopping onto the couch and streaming a movie using Netflix. Services such as Netflix might be a boon to customers, but they are a headache for Internet Service Providers. Movies streamed on Netflix use up valuable bandwidth without adding any revenue to ISP coffers. Many Canadian ISPs began setting limits on bandwidth use and charging bandwidth “hogs” for over-usage in 2010. In January 2011, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission decreed that Bell could impose usage caps on smaller wholesale customers. The implication for end users: restrictions on Internet usage and higher bills.
Vancouver’s Incognito Software
aims to help ISPs root out bandwidth hogs so they can provide better service to all of their users. The 20-year-old company specializes in service provisioning. Stephane Bourque, Incognito’s CEO, explained that his company’s software interacts with ISP billing systems. When a customer service representative creates a client entry in a database, Incognito converts that event into a message, telling the relevant network component that a new subscriber needs a particular service. Conversely, when a client decides to end his or her relationship with a business, Incognito’s software tells that network component to stop supplying service to him or her.
This year, Incognito introduced a number of new tools to aid ISPs, such as the Bandwidth Activity Reporter (BAR), which determines whether or not there is a problem with bandwidth over-usage. Incognito’s software shows providers all traffic on the network, identifying what Bourque called “top talkers,” or those who use the most bandwidth. ISPs can look at network traffic by audience segment, region and neighbourhood. Moreover, they can pinpoint congestion on an hourly or even per minute basis. Using these tools, ISPs can decide whether top talkers are affecting the quality of service for other users in that area. In addition to providing bandwidth mapping, Incognito offers modeling tools that ISPs can use to analyze the effect of potential policies, such as charging for overusing bandwidth, before implementing them. The modeling tools also show ISPs what the effect of such policies would be on their revenue.