How OpenFlow and SDNs can solve consumers’ broadband woes

Nick Feamster of Georgia Tech

Nick Feamster of Georgia Tech

When it comes to home broadband networks, consumers are like toddlers, demanding everything they want, when they want it, delivered with no buffering, pixelation or slowdowns. Carriers are like parents, giving them limits and caps to keep them in line. But a project out of Georgia Tech using the OpenFlow protocol could change the way consumers control their home network — or it could change the way ISPs meter them.

Nick Feamster, an associate professor at Georgia Tech has developed Project Lithium, software designed for a home router that can be controlled via a web interface. With it, a consumer or carrier can set parameters for how traffic behaves on the home network. So a consumer might prioritize their VoIP traffic over a download, or tell the router to stop their Netflix traffic from a child’s laptop after a certain time, or if it reached a certain gigabyte level.

ISPs could also use the tool on their end to set similar constraints and develop custom-pricing plans. So right now, ISPs claim that bandwidth caps are a means of managing network congestion — something I’ve long taken issue with since other methods of limiting use such as congestion pricing make much more sense — but with a fine-grained tool such as Lithium’s they’d have more options for prioritizing traffic. Feamster thinks that could make the need for a broadband cap obsolete. But for more on the project check out the video below, or visit here to download software you can install on your own router if you’re so inclined.

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