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Net Neutrality and BitTorrent - No More Throttling? 243

Posted by Zonk
from the my-wow-patch-is-feeling-sad dept.
Umaga's Purse writes "Will ISPs still be able to throttle BitTorrent traffic now that a significant proportion of it is legit? It's a tough question, especially for ISPs like AT&T (which agreed to run a neutral network in order to gain approval for its merger with BellSouth from the FCC). It's not just a problem for AT&T, though: 'ISPs that have made no such agreements may not need to worry about BitTorrent taking over their networks, but they do need to wrestle with the issue of how to handle it now that so many legal uses of the protocol are available. Do they want to irritate their BitTorrent-using contingent, or let BitTorrent flow unhindered at the risk degrading the experience of those who don't download torrents?'"
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Net Neutrality and BitTorrent - No More Throttling?

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  • Which portion? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 3p1ph4ny (835701) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:44PM (#17849498) Homepage
    Will ISPs still be able to throttle BitTorrent traffic now that a significant proportion of it is legit?

    Says who? Not that I disagree, but it would be interesting to read a study done on the matter...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SCPRedMage (838040)

      Says who?
      Says "Umaga's Purse", apparently.

      But for the record, there were ALWAYS legit uses for BitTorrent. It's just that they're legitimate POPULAR uses now.
    • Re:Which portion? (Score:5, Informative)

      by boaworm (180781) <boaworm@gmail.com> on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:53PM (#17849672) Homepage Journal
      Blizzards World of Warcraft updater uses bittorrent to quickly distribute the frequent and obese patches to millions of users. That gives atleast 8 million legit users straight-up, even though this of course only counts for a fragment of the traffic itself.

      But as always, it comes down to the bucks, if your ISP allows unthrottled bittorrent traffic, YOU will pay the costs in the end, by higher fees. Or possibly, your ISP goes out of business :P
      • Re:Which portion? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:46PM (#17850616) Journal

        Blizzards World of Warcraft updater uses bittorrent to quickly distribute the frequent and obese patches to millions of users.
        I disagree with that statement.

        Blizzard undeniably uses bittorrent for the wow updater, yes, but me and all of my friends would argue the "quickly". It's dog slow and unreliable. No, its not a router issue or anything, we all torrent perfectly fine elsewhere (and if we were able to load the torrent in a good client like utorrent, maybe we wouldnt have a problem with this one). In the end a lot of people just close wow's uploader and wait until its up on fileplanet/filefront/etc.

        I don't know whos fault it is, but I just had to throw that in there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ruff_ilb (769396)
          It's probably due to the fact that (at least as it seems to me) very few WoW users seed their torrents; they view it as a traditional patcher, and they download the material and then don't leave the thing running. Any torrent without any seeds is sure to move slower than a "healthy" torrent with a high seed:leecher ratio.
          • by mrbooze (49713)
            The Blizzard patcher shuts itself down when it's done, does it not? I don't recall ever having the option of leaving it running to continue seeding.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            No, it's because it's an older version that doesn't have an upload limiter, so it saturates your uploads, which means the ACK packets for your downstream don't get through, which reduces the rate at which you can download as well.

            Apply that throughout the whole torrent and the net effect is a slower rate of block distribution.

            Blizzard have a constant HTTP seed providing blocks, so the torrent is never in an unseeded state, and at least one primary seed has a significant amount of bandwidth!

            Incidentally, I t
        • by boaworm (180781)
          Well it is atleast working a lot better than the "old" ways.

          I can remember countless occasions with new Quake2, CS, Diablo II patches etc that were made available on ftp servers who quickly died and noone could upgrade for a day or two until the preasure alleviates. Admittingly you dont get your 1MB/s all the time, but atleast you (and all your buddies) get the patch.

          I've downloaded with the Blizzard downloader in 1 MB/s + at a number of occasions, i'm happy with what it's doing. And furthermore.. the Blizz
        • Re:Which portion? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Eskarel (565631) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @07:02PM (#17851770)
          The other problem is that it runs on the default bittorrent ports, which are very likely to be shaped.

          And of course the background downloader is actually throttled by blizzard so that it doesn't eat up your connection, even if you have a dial-up modem(I suppose it should be smarter than this, but blizz didn't really want complaints). The actual downloads on the day(at least up until the last few weeks) have always been quite snappy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Linux downloads make up a big number of users as well.
    • VMWare virtual appliances are distributed by BitTorrent. Linux ISOs, trial software, games, independent films... that's a significant proportion, although still not a majority.
  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:45PM (#17849532) Homepage
    ...how does an ISP recognize BitTorrent traffic? As far as I can tell, it's really easy to change the port numbers used by the BitTorrent tracker and by the end user. I now that my uTorrent client is set to randomize a port and then use uPnP to ask my router to open it.

    So, if the tracker port number changes and the client port number changes, how is it being blocked?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by matts-reign (824586)
      Software on their routers examines each packet going across the network, and if it looks like one from bittorrent, it'll be throttled accordingly. Encryption exists to beat this.
      • This technique is known as packet-sniffing or packet-shaping.

        My university uses one to block all filesharing apps. It's done because there are about 15k people living in halls and these things eat up all the bandwidth. In fact, a number of people have recently been disconnected for using p2p software when they shouldn't be (it's against T&C, besides we're on an academic network).
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:48PM (#17849578) Journal

      ...how does an ISP recognize BitTorrent traffic? As far as I can tell, it's really easy to change the port numbers used by the BitTorrent tracker and by the end user. I now that my uTorrent client is set to randomize a port and then use uPnP to ask my router to open it.

      More to the point, I can set my BitTorrent client (Azureus) to encrypt all traffic. Currently I have it set to default to encryption and fallback to plaintext -- but it would be a simple matter to reject unencrypted connections.

      Throttling traffic is stupid. Build your network to support the load or stop selling "unlimited" service. My cell phone provider doesn't get to decide who I can talk or what I can talk about. Why should my ISP?

      • by balsy2001 (941953)
        But your cell phone provider can degrade the quality of your call just a little bit to free up space, you just don't notice that much.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Gr8Apes (679165)

          But your cell phone provider can degrade the quality of your call just a little bit to free up space, you just don't notice that much.
          What was that? I missed that last sentence, stupid &*%^^&*( Verizon!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shakrai (717556)

          But your cell phone provider can degrade the quality of your call just a little bit to free up space, you just don't notice that much.

          Only on CDMA networks. On GSM using the TDMA air interface there's a finite number of slots. If I get one then it's mine to use as I see fit and you can't kick me off it.

          That said, the point I wanted to make was that perhaps the problem lies in selling as "unlimited" a finite resource. In the end it shouldn't matter if I use 100GB of bittorrent or 100GB of VPN to my of

          • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:02PM (#17849842) Homepage Journal

            That said, the point I wanted to make was that perhaps the problem lies in selling as "unlimited" a finite resource. In the end it shouldn't matter if I use 100GB of bittorrent or 100GB of VPN to my office. If they don't have the capacity to be selling it as unlimited then perhaps they shouldn't be selling it as unlimited.

            Amen to that. In fact NO provider in the US will give you unlimited of anything but dialup and that only because it's too slow to be an issue and they don't even run the modem banks any more, they pay someone to send their users to the right places.

            Comcast cable limits you to 90GB (through human intervention, not automatically.) Hughesnet satellite limits you to 350MB/4 hours. Et cetera.

            Oh AND, your cellphone provider WILL terminate your service if you roam too often, which makes you unprofitable. So you're wrong about that anyway.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Shakrai (717556)

              Comcast cable limits you to 90GB (through human intervention, not automatically.) Hughesnet satellite limits you to 350MB/4 hours. Et cetera.

              And that I have another problem with. They shouldn't be able to advertise it as unlimited and use some fine print in the contract to restrict how much you can use. Be up front about it!

              Oh AND, your cellphone provider WILL terminate your service if you roam too often, which makes you unprofitable. So you're wrong about that anyway.

              That's a different animal and

              • by Dan Farina (711066) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:20PM (#17850120)
                This may work in an ideal world, but the fact is that different applications do have different needs, and to make the Internet useful for more things it is necessary to have different levels of service -- and I don't mean company A paying B for higher priority -- I mean apps VoIP, which requires moderate bandwidth but also low latency, for example, should get a higher priority than your bittorrent packet, which can build in in a queue before being unloaded to you after some VoIP is done. Similarly, Bittorrent shouldn't be throttled per se, but just relegated further back in the queue because generally one doesn't care about latency in the system, "just" throughput.

                A sensible approach to make you happy (maybe) would be to limit the amount of bandwidth at each QoS level defined. If you want to burn your 500mb/month of highest QoS on bittorrent then so be it. Make the lowest tier of QoS truly unlimited. or some scheme like that.
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Shakrai (717556)

                  This may work in an ideal world, but the fact is that different applications do have different needs, and to make the Internet useful for more things it is necessary to have different levels of service

                  I do understand that point and I do use QoS on my own connection to prioritize SSH packets (need low latency) over HTTP/Bittorrent traffic. I guess my point though is that the ISPs should have enough capacity to provide low latancy (i.e: there shouldn't even be a queue) delivery to every packet. If they c

                  • I do understand that point and I do use QoS on my own connection to prioritize SSH packets (need low latency) over HTTP/Bittorrent traffic. I guess my point though is that the ISPs should have enough capacity to provide low latancy (i.e: there shouldn't even be a queue) delivery to every packet.

                    I assert this this is incredibly unrealistic, depending on the definition of "low." this is about as ludicrous as "let's do away with that silly hard drive/memory/cache thing (eg, the memory hierarchy) and 'just' ma

                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by billcopc (196330)
                  The problem with QoS is that it can be faked, trivially. Unless there's actual packet sniffing being done to identify traffic, which is rarely done (costly), you can simply hide your traffic on a "privileged" port. A certain nameless cable ISP throttles p2p traffic down to near-nothing, but users in-the-know just set their clients to use the VoIP ports, which are unrestricted. The result is a beautiful screw up where the lowest priority data eats up the highest priority band. I don't know if the cable p
              • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:52PM (#17850718)

                Using QoS on bittorrent is akin to my phone company telling me what I can discuss on the phone. In the end it should only matter how much bandwidth you use.

                This isn't so, in general. QoS restricts traffic by type. So throttling bittorrent and prioritizing Web traffic is more like making sure regular voice on phones has priority over text messages, where that speed is less critical. The basic idea of QoS as it was initially conceived was to insure VoIP and video conferences did not lag, at the expense of a Web page loading a little more slowly or a bittorrent downloading a bit more slowly yet. This can be misused, say by degrading service on the ports used for one type of VoIP, and not on another, when your competitor offers their service on the one you're degrading. In general, however, encrypting packets makes this less important.

                What is a real concern and needs to be addressed by net neutrality legislation is assigning quality of service that is different for the same traffic type, but for a different origin. Assume everyone moves to strongly encrypted packets and network operators have no idea what is in a given packet. That still doesn't stop them from assigning higher priority to packets that originate from their own VoIP servers and low priority to packets transiting their network from an origin that hosts their competitor's VoIP service. Worse yet, it does not stop some network operator who has no relationship with anyone but peering networks from going to Google and telling them all packets originating from Google's IPs are going to be set to a a lower priority than packets coming from MSN and Yahoo, unless Google is willing to pay an extra fee, and then going and doing the same thing to MSN, then Yahoo. Net neutrality with regard to who, rather than what, is a lot more important, in my opinion, than this focus on traffic types. I fear it is being overlooked in the discussion of this topic in the news and what that bodes for the resultant litigation.

          • by whois (27479) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:25PM (#17850212) Homepage
            I used to have that opinion and in some ways I still do. As a user, I claim I want a fixed rate for passing data traffic, any data traffic I want. What I really want is a CIR (committed information rate) or Minimum rate I can pass data. If I truly had that and it was say 6Mb then I might be happy for a while.

            The problem is that none of us are paying what it costs the ISPs to deliver 6Mb download. We're still paying the same prices or less for what we were paying for ISDN 10 years ago, or DSL 3 years ago. Now companies are upgrading their pipes over and over, mainly the "last mile" so they can provide as much bandwidth as possible to the users.

            The problem is all this has to go through upstream "choke points" where 5000 people on 100Mbit connections to the internet all go through one or two Gigabit links (at least in our ISP, this is the case).

            You can say "upgrade" if you want, but you're not paying enough. So we look at other ways to make it work. We're not rate limiting usually, just "smoothing" the traffic. If one person is using 45Mbit for a while and nothing else is going on then fine.. but rarely is that the case. Usually if it's during peak hours we want to throttle back the 45Mbit torrenter and open up the bursty traffic. The torrent guy doesn't really notice (he's probably not even sitting at his computer, and it just takes a little longer to get the file) and it keeps the web browser people and the mail sending people from complaining.

            Having been on both sides of the fence several times I can say this:

            If you want real bandwidth, pay for it. Sprint doesn't throttle anyone and almost never lets their pipes get oversubscribed (at least not at the edge). They're massively expensive though.

            Don't want to pay for the cake but still want cake? Open an ISP that provides "true 10Mbit up and down to users, no gimmicks no rate limits no oversubscription" and market the hell out of it. Most people would say the business model would fail, but as a customer you know what you want, maybe you can make it work? :)

            • by Arker (91948) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @07:37PM (#17852250) Homepage Journal
              That's very well thought out, well written, but still wrong.

              They're charging more than enough to provide the service they promise. That's not the problem.

              In Sweden I could get that 10Mb/s symmetrical connection you mention - for less than I'm paying in the US for the cheapest available ADSL connection. That's a market with far more regulatory overhead, and LESS effective subsidy as well. Here in the US we've already PAID the telecom companies, in the form of public subsidies, for end to end fiber optic across the country. The telecoms took the money and laid some dark fibre but never opened it up. They're creating artificial scarcity to keep their profit margins up.
      • Exactly. If I download a few movies using bittorrent, why should my connection be throttled while my roommate downloads movies at full speed via Vongo or whatever other popular site he chooses (of course, this is assuming I am not uploading while torrenting). If they want to put limits on my connection, it should be on the amount of traffic, not the type.
    • by DaHat (247651) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:49PM (#17849606) Homepage
      Back when Napster was the horror of school network admins everywhere it was not uncommon to block the common Napster port. In response students would change the port to a more common one... such as say... 80 and be able to keep on downloading... that is until the admins spent a few more bucks or upgraded their existing equipment.

      Classifying network traffic based only on the port went out the window well over 5 years ago when modern packet shapers came to the market which were able to analyze the very contents of packets and classify them based on the type of service they contained rather than the port they used.
      • by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:03PM (#17849848) Journal

        went out the window well over 5 years ago when modern packet shapers came to the market which were able to analyze the very contents of packets and classify them based on the type of service they contained rather than the port they used.

        Hence why my bittorrent client supports encryption. My two cents says that it's none of my ISPs business what my packets contain. It may be their business how much bandwidth I use -- but it shouldn't matter if that bandwidth is VoIP, bittorrent, HTTP or a VPN. 100GB is 100GB regardless of what protocol generated the traffic.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          My two cents says that it's none of my ISPs business what my packets contain. It may be their business how much bandwidth I use -- but it shouldn't matter if that bandwidth is VoIP, bittorrent, HTTP or a VPN. 100GB is 100GB regardless of what protocol generated the traffic.

          Agreed, but net neutrality is about something more important than the type of traffic, it is the source of traffic. Large network operators have an interest in throttling traffic types, especially if they offer a VoIP service using one

        • by shmlco (594907)
          So it's encrypted? If you're running a torrent system you're sending gigabytes of data packets upstream to hundreds of different IP addresses, and probably from a "home" ISP acount.

          The pattern is clear, encrypted, decrypted, port randomized, "common" port, etc.. If you think "encryption" is magically protecting you then you're deluding yourself.
      • Classifying network traffic based only on the port went out the window well over 5 years ago when modern packet shapers came to the market which were able to analyze the very contents of packets and classify them based on the type of service they contained rather than the port they used.

        This is true to some degree, but only for smaller links. Even random sampling of packets within larger links in order to analyze the traffic is really, really expensive. For the most part traffic engineering and shaping w

        • by shmlco (594907)
          It's really expensive to do for everyone, but start sending large amounts of data back upstream and I think you'll find that it's not so expensive once you've singled yourself out of the crowd.
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)
        Classifying network traffic based only on the port went out the window well over 5 years ago when modern packet shapers came to the market which were able to analyze the very contents of packets and classify them based on the type of service they contained rather than the port they used.

        So my packets are being subjected to automatic warrantless searches at domestic subnet border crossings?

        "Your protocols, please."
    • by teh_chrizzle (963897) <`gro.notibboh' `ta' `9-llik'> on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:18PM (#17850092) Homepage

      there are a number of ways, from deep packet inspection (studying packets and throttling those that appear BT-ish) to just cutting the uplink speed for a naughty subscriber. i think i my ISP may have done that to me already, judging by my ratios.

      i do my own traffic shaping in my house with a linksys router running openwrt [openwrt.org] and x-wrt [x-wrt.org]. i do all my BT stuff from a vmware machine dedicated to all things BT (a win2k workstation running uTorrent [utorrent.com]) and i told the QOS config to file all traffic to and from his internal IP as bulk. i also use QOS to give priority to all traffic to and from my VOIP telephone adapter.

      in case you are not a linksys firmware freak... putting openwrt on your router is like upgrading your PC to openBSD. loading x-wrt on your openwrt router is like installing KDE on your openBSD machine.

      the result is BT can leech and seed 24x7x365, the humans in the house can surf and game unimpeeded and phone calls suffer no jitter from MMORPGS or BT.

      i feel sort of like a hypocrite for being a net neutrality fanboy and using QOS inside my firewall... but at least i can trust myself to not degrade my access in favor of my own proprietary offerings.

      some may say i am a little too trusting, but i have known me for a long time... i think we can trust eachother.

      • by g1zmo (315166)

        i feel sort of like a hypocrite for being a net neutrality fanboy and using QOS inside my firewall...

        I see no disconnect there. The key difference is you're making the decision based upon your needs and your traffic. You're not having the decisions forced on you based on back-room extortion fees paid to your ISP by unrelated 3rd parties.

      • by Spikeles (972972)
        I see alot of posts talking about QoS around here. But... have you guys actually read up on why you don't really need QoS? Really? [bricklin.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fluffy99 (870997)
      Having your router set to use uPnP is a security issue in my opinion. It's the first thing I turn off when I setup a modem/router. One one hand, it's a nice feature for the average user so that software can punch holes in the firewall as needed. On the other hand, malicious software/adware/spyware can punch a hole in your firewall at will.
    • by shmlco (594907)
      And you're going to hide gigabytes of data packets going upstream to hundreds of different IP addresses from a "home" ISP acount... how? I mean, you can encrypt it and change ports and everything, but ulitmately you have to send a bunch of data to a lot of different people, otherwise the system doesn't work.

      It's kind of a catch-22. If you don't upload you're labeled "selfish" by the torrent network and shut down. If you do upload, the pattern is immediately visible to your ISP, and you can be singled out fo
    • by ReTay (164994)
      So, if the tracker port number changes and the client port number changes, how is it being blocked?

      Thats easy as pie. They put a clause about you not being able to offer services to the Internet in the AUP then look to see who had the most upload traffic over the last month and look into their connection a little closer then normal. You fire up a bittorrent client and start sending out files and come home to find your net connection cut.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:45PM (#17849536)
    "Will ISPs still be able to throttle BitTorrent traffic now that a significant proportion of it is legit?"

    On what, exactly, are you basing this assumption that "a significant proportion" of BitTorrent traffic is legitimate?
    • On what, exactly, are you basing this assumption that "a significant proportion" of BitTorrent traffic is legitimate?

      If you are actually interested in an answer, take Blizzard for example. They use BitTorrent technology to push updates for World of Warcraft which would normally be cost and logistically prohibitive to do. Also take into account that many smaller companies/sites/individuals which host their own multimedia content (e.g. freeware games, independent films, indie music) but don't have unlimited funds/bandwidth will often make their content available by torrent. Indeed, it's about the only option that makes sen

    • by heroofhyr (777687)
      Significant doesn't mean majority, it means large in scope, meaning, or size. And there is a large amount of legitimate BitTorrent traffic. FreeBSD distributes their releases through torrents, and generally when I've downloaded from there the swarm size is in the hundreds or thousands of users per ISO. Same with a lot of GNU/Linux distribution ISOs. Any time Azureus wants to update itself the download has maybe 8.000 seeders offering it. BitTorrent is actually a great way to distribute software updates a
    • Backwards (Score:3, Informative)

      by CarpetShark (865376)
      It's innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. Furthermore, ISPs are not self-appointed judges/juries/executioners. They have NO right to single out bittorrent for traffic shaping.

      On the other hand, they do have a right to make their networks perform as efficiently as possible for their customers, and for the good of the web in general. The problem is that there's a fine line between the two.

      For those wondering how ISPs filter bittorrent traffic... it's called layer 7 (or applicatio
      • by fluffy99 (870997)
        Go read your contract and/or the user agreement. I'll bet they do have the right to prioritize traffic as they see fit. I doubt your contract says unlimited anywhere either. It probably even has the semi-legal clause that they may change the terms of the contract at any time. ISPs oversell residential bandwidth. They have to in order to keep the end user costs reasonable. Of course, if you truly want dedicated bandwidth you'd go with a commercial connection with guaranteed bandwidth and uptime.
      • by hackstraw (262471) *
        They have NO right to single out bittorrent for traffic shaping.

        Am I a minority here?

        Personally, I want my bittorent shaped. There are so many variables with a torrent, and I cap my upload and download speeds myself so that my other network stuff is still responsive. When I d/l a 1 gig+ download, I don't expect it to be instantanious, but I do expect my web pages to be pretty much instantanious when I'm downloading a torrent or not.

        Am I a minority?

    • by scarolan (644274)
      How about the fact that 8 million World of Warcraft users utilize BitTorrent to download patches for the game? Yes, it may be a small proportion, but is significant nonetheless.
  • Neither. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ookabooka (731013) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:46PM (#17849552)
    Do they want to irritate their BitTorrent-using contingent, or let BitTorrent flow unhindered at the risk degrading the experience of those who don't download torrents?

    Neither. Instead, focus on upgrading the infrastructure and giving people more bandwidth, the US is already behind pretty much the rest of the world. . .
    • Or they get together with the bittorrent people and work out a way they can run a caching server so they aren't fetching the same thing 5000 times from outside their network and wasting bandwidth.

      I there had been some sort of push for decent caching or multicast support in the first place it's possible bittorrent would never have happened. If they're having infrastructure problems now, they only have their own lack of foresight to blame.

    • BitTorrent, on a well designed network, will save an ISP money. The argument can be made that there's less traffic going out to the Internet and more staying local to the ISPs LAN. Basically, it's more cost effective for neighbors to serve each other content than to pull it from somewhere else.

      The ISPs are ticked off that users are actually using the bandwidth that they pay for. If they didn't sell so far over capacity, this wouldn't be an issue at all. I understand that BitTorrent can bring routers to thei
  • by kailoran (887304) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:47PM (#17849562)
    ...but I thought that net neutrality didn't make QoS illegal
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:57PM (#17849760) Journal

      You are correct. Whoever asked this question clearly does not understand what network neutrality is about. To put it in terms that the person asking the question can understand: It is not about preventing degradation of BT, but rather about ensuring that BT can connect to all trackers with equally degraded quality. :-)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        Whoever asked this question clearly does not understand what network neutrality is about.

        And I don't blame them, as no one else really seems to agree on what the phrase "network neutrality" is supposed to mean, or even how it should be capitalized.
      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Whoever asked this question clearly does not understand what network neutrality is about.

        Have you read the bill? I have read two different versions of bills, but I haven't seen the one as currently submitted, but it as quite clear in the net neutrality bills I read that blocking or slowing a service (like BT) would be illegal. If you think that is because someone doesn't understand what net neutrality is about, then you should talk to the legislators.
    • QoS that is controlled by customers is neutral, but QoS that is controlled by ISPs is non-neutral. Throttling BitTorrent traffic when customers are asking for the opposite sounds pretty non-neutral to me.
  • Trade off (Score:4, Interesting)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:48PM (#17849584) Homepage Journal
    I would imagine the ISP would haev to use their best judgement, like any business. If they throttle/block BT and a bunch of people start leaving or complaining then they need to rethink it. If no one complains, sales don't drop and (*gasp*) someone actually compliments them on better respoinse times or faster connections then they have nothing to worry about.

    I guess the tricky part is at teh beginning when too big of a change may trigger a mass exodus. If they slowly start throttling it down and don't see much change in their business then they can keep that up until it becomes a problem.

    Personally I think if/when ISPs do this they could avoid a lot of hassles by explaining it to people up front, in plain English, instead of burying their right to throttle your "unlimited" bandwidth in a cryptic and massive Acceptable Use Policy.
    • by ookabooka (731013)
      But how can you tell that your bittorrent is going slow due to your ISP throttling it or theres just not enough seeders, too many leechers, seeders are all overseas, etc. Bittorrent is a fairly irregular protocol in terms of speed, I doubt anyone would complain because they'd never know their ISP was doing anything.
      • Yeah that's a good point, it's not easy to tell why it may be slow.

        OTH though you begin to get a pretty good feel for what's going to work and what's not after you use it for a while. As an example, I've noticed a lot of BT aggregation sites are starting to show stats on seeders v. leachers, availability, avg. speed, etc. If things look good on "stats" but you're slow then you can infer a bit there. Granted this applies to those who know how to use BT (E.g. know when they're firewalled or not).

        Another indic
      • by Fastolfe (1470)
        How can you tell if your BitTorrent is going slow due to your ISP having slower or fewer backbone connections than a competitor? This isn't a problem unique to the 'Net Neutrality debate, and it's inappropriate to try and "solve" it this way.

        If you really want to be sure you have the best connection you'd need to do some empirical studies (or let some technology publication know that you'd be interested in subscribing or viewing their ads if they did one). This has the added benefit of working regardless
    • ...when too big of a change may trigger a mass exodus.
      Are you going to go to the "other" cable company? Oh wait, natural monopoly, there isn't one.
      Are you going to jump on some DSL lovin? Crap, no service in the area.
      Satilite? Possibly no coverage in the area and 500-1500ms ping is rather high.

      I really doubt they're worried about it. In many (most?) markets there's simply nothing to emigrate to.
  • It's obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeWalsh (32530) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:49PM (#17849602)
    Throttle back some protocol that only a few of their customers have even heard of, or keep the average user from having a good experience. Hmm. Tough choice.

    Most users don't download torrents.
    • Most users don't download torrents.

      True. But most people download something, say, over port 80 or 443, and once you use TLS/SSL, packet inspection can't tell whether you are talking to your bank's secure website or a Bitorrent proxy via SSL.

      This, by the way, is an argument for configuring business networks where port 80 & 443 are blocked outbound, and all the client machines have to go through a proxy machine, which can at least track the destination, and let you look for excessive usage via proxy-l

      • Business networks can also get away with busting open ssl traffic. Since they control the browsers on their network, they can push out their own cert to everyones browser, then do a man-in-the-middle attack and re-sign the packets using their key (which everyone's browser would blindly accept, since the company's cert is in the browsers trust CA list).
        Of course, this won't work if a user installs their own browser (in that case, the user would see a popup window saying the cert isn't valid).
        • YMMV, but many, if not most of the "problems" I see regarding P2P sharing, happen less with regular employees in an office environment compared with random business visitors doing meetings or sales or whatever and using wireless hotspots. They won't have the local CA cert, unless they had to get it before they could use the local proxy....
  • Put in other words.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wfberg (24378) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:52PM (#17849666)
    "Will ISPs still be able to throttle WorldWideWeb traffic now that a significant proportion of it is legit? .. Do they want to irritate their BitTorrent-using contingent, or let WorldWideWeb flow unhindered at the risk degrading the experience of those who use e-mail and telnet only?'"
  • BT throttling is already done in a net neutral manner--all torrents, regardless of legality or origin are throttled equally. There is no attempt (as far as I know) to throttle torrents originating from one company but not others.

    Throttling BT downloads generally falls as a quality of service/defense of network integrity issue to rather than a censorship for profit issue.
  • Remember this one? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stile 65 (722451) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:56PM (#17849730) Homepage Journal
    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/20/011121 5&tid=217 [slashdot.org]

    If Robert X. Cringely is right, then Google has indeed calculated well.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    FYI - Just so no one gets their panties in a bunch. Prioritizing traffic, does not mean that BitTorrent is going to get hurt. It means that when the network is constrained, BitTorrent traffic will be given a lower priority. And, when the network is no longer constrained, it won't. Traffic engineering is not illegal under Net Neutrality. You just aren't allowed to sell the service of high priority queuing. Or, worse than that . . . You can't put every VOIP provider but your own into a low priority queu
  • ...please note that the article said "significant" proportion. If the relative quantity is small in comparison to "illegitimate uses" [as defined by RIAA, I presume], it may still be significant, depending on the nature and influence of the "legitimate" data providers. The article mentions Hollywood studios and Blizzard, and discusses growing corporate use of Bittorrent. Point is, if enough moneyed interests are behind the technology, the ISPs will have to deal with a contentious issue if they're throttl
  • The easy solution: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 (605297) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:00PM (#17849812) Journal
    Stop overselling your infrastructure by such ridiculous margins.

    Maybe if you could actually deliver what you charge for (or only charge for what you can deliver), people wouldn't get so easily pissed about "degraded" service.
    =Smidge=
    • by dr_dank (472072)
      Nobody would want to go from "unlimited" service to a metered service where you have to watch how much you download as not to run up the bill. Seems like a step backward.
      • by Smidge204 (605297)
        I don't see how metering factors into it. It's not the amount of data transferred that's the problem, it's the rate at which the data is transferred.

        Don't sell me 2mbps upstream if you're just going to cut me off if I actually use it. Either guarantee that I'll have that speed any time all the time, or guarantee some slower rate that you can guarantee and lower my bill accordingly.
        =Smidge=
  • All the net neutrality stuff I saw was aimed at keeping companies from discriminating based upon the source of traffic, not the type. What does it matter if you throttle or shape or prioritize bittorrent traffic (or traffic on any given port) so long as you apply it equally to all traffic in your network. The idea is to keep network operators from extorting some customers or degrading some service offered by a competitor. So long as they treat all bittorrent traffic the same how are they not being neutral?

  • Value added (Score:5, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:03PM (#17849850)
    Or (just a notion here) -- they could cache Torrent traffic and speed up the traffic for their customers while reducing their external traffic load.



    All without doing anything squinky: just identify which torrents are hot, add one of their own. It's what BitTorrent does, after all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by _xeno_ (155264)

      My (possibly completely incorrect) impression of the problem ISPs have with BitTorrent is that it uses a lot of upload bandwidth at the last mile. Caching the data won't really help with that.

      As I understand it, most ISPs have tons of bandwidth within their own network, but have much less bandwidth on the last mile. Essentially the last mile might be a 50Mbsp down/10Mbps up link shared among 20 customers. (Like 57% of all statistics, those numbers were made up.) So they might sell the connection as a

      • by askegg (599634)
        While I don't know much about the intricacies of ADSL, I do believe you are correct - the last mile is essentially shared bandwidth. However, placing a cache at each local exchange would help the situation (but not solve it). A peer at the exchange could serve popular torrents at high speed and largely negate the need for your client to upload at all (except to other peers who are with an ISP not providing such a service). Furthermore, since a complete seed is available locally, it could be streamed to y
  • Here's an idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jtheletter (686279) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:05PM (#17849892)
    How about before the ISPs even think of throttling down BitTorrent or any other type of traffic - they make even a casual effort to throttle back the 95% of email that is spam? If bandwidth is so precious that they need to consider slowing down one kind of traffic, why not start with the kind that is known to be illegitimate. Considering all the BS that is crammed into EULAs these days I think it would be actually reasonable to include a clause that says if your PC gets hijacked and zombied and is spewing garbage then we're going to cut you off until you fix it. The ISPs can certainly implement some algorithms to detect likely zombied computers, cut them off and redirect them to a page explaining the situation and common tools/resources to help fix their boxes, then the user clicks some link to get their connection reevaluated to regain net access. I'm in favor of net neutrality and no traffic throttling but I think the hypocracy of these ISPs should also be addressed. If half the money spent lobbying for net neutrality were spent tracking down spammers and helping users to identify and fix trojaned PCs then spam would be on the decline, not doubling every 3 months. Or here's an idea, how about using some of the no-doubt tens of millions of dollars that's about to be spent to change all the Cingular signs back to AT&T signs on fighting spam and botnets? But no, better to let the problem fester and the spammers grow richer and better armed (digitally) than let the company logos go un-revamped. Farking rediculous. [/rant]
    • Re:Here's an idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:18PM (#17850082)

      How about before the ISPs even think of throttling down BitTorrent or any other type of traffic - they make even a casual effort to throttle back the 95% of email that is spam?

      Why? Spam doesn't take up a significantly large portion of internet traffic and is a lot harder to separate out of the mix, than bittorrent. Even zombies performing DDoS attacks don't generally make up much of the overall internet traffic, although the spikes they create are problematic.

      In reality, a number of large network operators don't want network neutrality. They want the opportunity to offer services and make sure competitors are unable to compete. They want to shake down companies individually by threatening to degrade their service and not their competitor's. They care about money; no hypocrisy there.

      • Why? Spam doesn't take up a significantly large portion of internet traffic and is a lot harder to separate out of the mix,

        I do realize that the amount of bandwidth for spam is much smaller than for bittorrent considering a lot of torrents are movies or large programs. However, I've seen some articles (and my spam folder contents) that indicate some spam is starting to move towards image-only in an attmept to get around filters, so there's a good chance spam bandwidth will increase. Also while it may be h
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QQ2 (591550)
      Interestingly enough there is actually an ISP in the Nehterlands that does this. XS4all.nl let's you do nearly anything on your own personal connection, including the hosting of servers. However, if you start to zobie out spam or virusses you are immidiately cut off. (they do however provide you with a proxy you can use and and verry good help in finding and removing any virusses or worms causing these problems So I guesse that if more ISPs where like xs4all.nl the entire net would be better off.

      Regards
  • Simple - one can easily draw up a case for the benefits of distributed downloading for service providers - distribution of traffic is always a good thing, and if it's for this one protocol, rules are easily assembled on how to distribute that traffic to capitalize on the distribution to an even greater extent. One simply needs to assign a dollar amount to the savings or efficiences gained to garner acceptance.
  • I suppose one way for an ISP to reduce traffic outside of its network, would be to create a cache which hosts the more popular ligit downloads, which would adjust according to the varying demand. The only question: how to tell the difference between legitimate content and illigitimate content?
  • In my humble opinion, the ISP's claim to provide you with a certain speed and bandwidth for downloads and a certain speed and bandwidth for uploads. If you're paying for bandwidth (which you are) you deserve to have that bandwidth available.

    We've been footing the bill since the dawn of the Internet and for them to limit our bandwidth as if their job involves somehow ensuring that _we as internet users_ don't break the law - is totally ludicrous.

    There should be a law in effect that says NO ISP can sell band
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @06:01PM (#17850900)
      If ISP's had to ENSURE bandwidth past their own networks was sufficient for what they were selling off - these questions would *never* be raised.


            I agree. Either give me exactly what I paid for (even if you have to adjust the price upwards), or advertise the REAL bandwidth (ie average connection speed), not some made up maximum theoretical speed if you're the only one on at 4:45 am. Overselling the service = selling something you don't have. That's tantamount to fraud if you advertise something you have no intention of providing.
  • If bandwidth is scarce, how should an ISP allocate it?

    1. For pay -- the more the customer pays, the faster the service
    2. For cost -- the more costly the customer, the slower the service
    3. For QOS -- the more time-critical the service/customer, the faster the service
    4. "Fairness" -- equal bandwidth to everyone (throttle the hogs)

    I suspect that Torrents lose with all four strategies.
  • I was under the impression that torrent throttling was a dead issue, now that torrent encryption is in mainstream use. It certainly is a dead issue for me, where Rogers Cable's (big canadian ISP) throttling no longer affects me in any way.
  • by codepunk (167897) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:27PM (#17850248)
    I commonly do work for some local isp's to throttle and even block bit torrent clients on their networks. Just a couple of bit torrent clients on the network can just about saturate the connections. The ISP take on it is rather simple, first of all serving content either via web server or p2p client is against usage policies. We attempt to block a user first and give him a call and tell him why, the second violation of the usage policy is suspension. The ASP does not care if they loose that user because the cases are few and far in between. Profit margins on the connections are razor thin anyhow loosing one of these users means increased profits not lost profits.
  • Skynet (Score:3, Funny)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:32PM (#17850348) Homepage
    Oh come on, people.. first we allow Ma Bell to recombine like the T-1000 and now we stand idly by as she starts a neural network? Will nobody think of the children? On the playground? With the.. big.. mushroom thingy?
  • Got it wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @05:37PM (#17850464) Homepage
    Net Neutrality is not about the type of traffic, its about the source of the traffic. They can still refuse to let you run servers on your residential line (peer to peer makes your machine a server). And they can disrupt your attempts to violate the contract by throttling BitTorrent if they so desire.
  • There are illegal uses of all protocols (HTTP, FTP, Telnet, SSH, whatever), but you don't see ISP's slamming the gates down on them. The technology itself is not good nor evil, but its use makes it so. I see my ISP as a means to provide me with bandwidth and data; what I do with it is none of their business.
  • Shouldn't it be AT&T's business and mine, what kind of service I buy from them if any? If they say they (or refuse to say) how they will throttle my torrents up or down, I will then decide if I buy the service. No politicians, lawyers, freaky cyberrights nerds need to bother.

    You want politically controlled net services, you hate "big companies" and "cartel power"? Go to China, there the politician decide what the net looks like and how it works. And if China would pull the impossible and implement democ
  • Here in Spain, i'm sure that if our ISPs did this, everyone would sign off their DSL connections. Why on earth would anyone want a broadband connection if they cannot download music and films from the p2p networks? I'm glad here in Spain 'piracy' is absolutelly legal whilst it's non-profit (ie. when you download a film and then sell it).

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