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BitTorrent traffic is no different from email traffic

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Jan-2008 08:29

There's something in the air with Slingshot indicating they are planning to shape "manage" peer-to-peer traffic within its network and through to connected networks.

Peer-to-peer (or P2P) is a technology that allows large files such as video and music to be distributed over the network in a very efficient way, with computers sharing pieces of files from different users - or peers.

This is different from a centralised model, because it doesn't need the central server to be always available, and it's faster because it does not consume the total upstream bandwidth from a single central server at once.

Software companies are increasingly using P2P technology to distribute their software and patches, usually in the ISO format, which is a single file image of a DVD or CD contents.

Peer-to-peer traffic is also successfully used for voice-over-IP (VoIP) for example, with Skype being a prime example.

But ISPs don't like P2P. For one because they claim it overloads their network due to the exponential increase in traffic.

So those ISPs try all they can to "manage" or reduce the available bandwidth for P2P applications using special hardware and software that analyses the packets flowing through their networks and throttling the speed.

This is all good if the ISPs provided "unlimited" network traffic in New Zealand. But not many plans offer this option, and most charge users for a limited amount of traffic every month.

What you as a user does with that limited amount is your problem. If you use 50GB with email, or 50GB browsing the web, or 50GB downloading large files it doesn't matter. It is still 50GB.

Now it appears Slingshot wants to go and limit what everyone can do with their Internet connections. The news came in an article on Stuff (ISPs try to turn torrent) and people are confused and not happy with this:


The junior telco [CallPlus] has invested in Cisco equipment that will let it "throttle" the bandwidth available for BitTorrent traffic, sources say.

It is estimated that 60 to 90 per cent of all Internet traffic is now made up of videos, TV shows, music and software that is stored on people's PCs and shared around the world using peer-to-peer services, of which BitTorrent - with 160 million registered users - is the most popular.

CallPlus chief executive Martin Wylie says the company is "always trying to manage the experience of all customers as best we can".

But Mr Moore says the growing popularity of peer-to-peer services has eroded the experience of web browsing for many people over the past two years and ISPs should not be afraid to say they are taking action.


When email was first "liberated" to the masses no one predicted the uptake it would have. And today billions of messages are exchanged every year, and most are spam. ISPs are battling this problem, but they had to increase their infrastructure to cope of the messages. It's natural of their business.

The same goes with P2P. It's just another tool, like email, and it is responsible for most of the traffic on the Internet now, it seems. So it's up to the ISPs to improve their infrastructure to provide the service users want - not to restrict them.

Again, if someone pays for a plan with 50 GB a month, then it is up to me how I use it. The ISPs is going to receive the monthly payment for these 50 GB regardless of kind of traffic - email, web, ftp, newsgroups, P2P.

From the same article:


Mark Rushworth, chief executive of Vodafone-owned ISP ihug, says peer-to-peer services were once the preserve of tech-savvy Internet users but new services such as LimeWire that are easier to use have encouraged take-up by the mass-market.

"Peer-to-peer and people embracing video makes it harder for ISPs to have flat-rate `all you can eat' plans."


If ISPs are serious about providing a service they should charge for it accordingly. A real, unlimited, all you can eat, plan is available from Actrix. It costs $596/month - and I hear it's worth it.

If someone wants something cheaper they should find a plan that allows a base usage and then the purchase of additional data blocks. Two examples of this kind of plan is the Xnet Fusion plan that allows users to buy additional allowance at $1.02 per GB, or th Slingshot Extreme, which provides 6 GB to start with and then users can purchase data blocks - up to blocks of $40 per 50 GB.

But again, these are paid for and should not be limited. Bits are bits and if they are part of an email, web page or anything else it doesn't change their nature.

ISPS shouldn't limit in any way how users put those data blocks to use, regardless of those being additional to a plan or part of an "unlimited" plan. ISPs shouldn't call "unlimited" a plan if they have no intention to offer unlimited utilisation.

If they were driven to offer "unlimited" plans at cheap prices and have no intention on following on their promise, well, they didn't plan well, did they?

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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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