ISP Strangles P2P

Dennis Faas's picture

Yesterday, Canadian ISP (Internet Service Provider) Bell Sympatico admitted that it is restricting bandwidth access during "peak hours" to customers who are using p2p (peer-to-peer) networks such as Gnutella, Bit Torrent and Limewire. (Source:

The company admitted to the action on its online customer support forums. "Bell Sympatico has launched a solution to enhance the online customer experience and improve Internet performance for all our customers during peak periods of Internet usage with the introduction of Internet Traffic Management," a company representative stated on the forum. "There continues to be phenomenal growth of consumer Internet traffic throughout the world, and Bell is using Internet Traffic Management to ensure we deliver bandwidth fairly to our customers during peak Internet usage." (Source:

This is prompting further debate on the issue of network neutrality or equal access to the Internet for all, and Bell's actions reflect previous restrictions by U.S. ISP Comcast. (Source: The issue of "net neutrality" first emerged last year when a major overhaul was proposed to the U.S. Telecommunications Act. (Source:

Essentially, the major American telephone and cable companies wanted to create a multi-tiered system where online businesses and other Internet destinations would be forced to pay for how quickly consumers could access their web pages and downloads. (Source:

If the proposed legislation had passed it would have been devastating for web innovations like blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook.

The issue of p2p networking, however, is not quite the same. Beyond the fact that most p2p downloads are known to be illegal, the Bell Sympatico restriction applies only to "peak hours," which implies that p2p file sharing can use up as much bandwidth as it likes at lower volume times.

So is a specific, limited restriction of bandwidth access really that big a deal?

Yes. While now-defunct Kazaa and co. may represent the rogue underworld of the p2p phenomonon, the Financial Post points out that companies like Skype and Joost, who use p2p techonology to deliver their services, might find themselves being restricted in the future. Imagine a world where an Internet-based phone call or video streaming is subject to primetime restrictions. The web would be a shadow of what it is now, and that would be very unfortunate.

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