The advent of BitTorrent was a cause for celebration for people who wished to share large files very quickly, but Internet Service Providers did not see the technology in quite the same positive light. ISPs soon found that the majority of their bandwidth was taken up with BitTorrent traffic, and some, like Canadian provider Shaw, started throttling the service in response. BitTorrent clients such as Azureus added a feature that encrypted torrent traffic to try and get around these ISP roadblocks.
Now, a company called Allot Communications is claiming that their new hardware product, the NetEnforcer, is the first device that will seek out and throttle encrypted BitTorrent traffic. According to a spokesperson for the company, the NetEnforcer utilizes deep packet inspection technology „to identify and analyze hundreds of applications and protocols, track subscriber behavior, prioritize traffic and shape traffic flows.“
Certainly, increasing BitTorrent traffic is a concern for ISPs. In early 2004, torrents accounted for 35 percent of all traffic on the Internet. By the end of that year, this figure had almost doubled, and some estimate that in certain markets, such as Asia, torrent traffic uses as much as 80 percent of all bandwidth. However, BitTorrent is an extremely important tool that has many uses other than what everyone assumes it is good for, namely movie piracy. Being able to deliver large files such as game demos, upgrades, and free video (such as Robert Cringely’s NerdTV series) without relying on a central source makes it possible for small distributors to deliver their content without going bankrupt from the bandwidth bill.
However, those who feel this all amounts to an imminent war between the users and the ISPs over BitTorrent might want to read how Bram Cohen, the creator of the protocol, feels about the issue. According to Cohen, attempts to make an „obfuscated“ version of BitTorrent are harmful to not only the ISPs but the protocol itself. „Most ISPs don’t do such shaping, and attempts at obfuscation won’t work for long,“ he warns. He goes on to explain that many such methods wind up eliminating any performance advantages caused by their ISP caching popular torrents. But his main point is to not bite the hand that feeds you. „When it comes to dealing with ISPs,“ he concludes, „obfuscation is some combination of hostile, unprofessional, and harmful.“
In the end, BitTorrent is no different from any other protocol that has allowed people to download files over the web. Some will try to take advantage of it and grab more bandwidth than their fair share. Others will fall victim to ISPs trying to aggressively enforce download limits, or cripple certain protocols in order to boost their own „high-end“ services. It is a delicate balancing act for both the ISPs and the consumers that fund them with their dollars.
News Source: arstechnica