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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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December 4, 2007 10:53 AM

You Can't Control the Internet

The fact that some ISPs are "shaping" (blocking or delaying, depending on your point of view) P2P traffic has created an uproar in the Internet community.

But what impact is this practice having on consumer behavior? Is delaying P2P traffic reducing piracy? Is blocking P2P traffic reducing the demands placed on networks? Or perhaps more importantly: can you accomplish either of these goals by limiting access to a particular type of application?

According to this InfoWorld article, the answer appears to be no.

As a result of ISPs interfering with P2P traffic, P2P users are simply starting to look elsewhere for the content they want, in particular the use of file hosting sites.

What these do is allow someone to upload a file and create a URL that others can use to download that file.

Apparently, ISP P2P interference is having a negative impact on the user experience as it's slowing the speed at which files can be downloaded from a P2P network.

So how do users respond? Find another avenue for speedy downloads of the content they want, in this case these file-hosting services.

P2P traffic still accounts for a vast majority of Internet traffic, but file-hosting sites are ramping up quickly, and at least so far network operators do not have any measures in place to interfere with this traffic, so the use of these sites will likely continue to grow.

In the end, blocking P2P traffic may not have any impact on piracy because the files can be found elsewhere, and it may not significantly influence the amount of data users are downloading.

The biggest potential impact of this shift from P2P to file hosting is likely on the upload side of things.

Obviously someone needs to be uploading files to file hosting services but that's one user uploading one file at a time. In a P2P network every downloader may become an uploader, and files are not all downloaded from a central server but instead are delivered using that shared upload capacity.

So ultimately, if all P2P delivered traffic moved to these file hosting services, I'd imagine that would reduce the load on networks.

That said, I don't think we'll necessarily ever reach that day as at some point I imagine trying to move too much traffic will break whatever business models these often-free file hosting services have. Plus if it were to happen that'd be a very sad day as P2P technologies offer a revolutionary approach to large file distribution.

But in the end, the main lesson to be learned here is that no matter what you do to try and stop Internet users from doing something, your efforts will most likely be futile as someone somewhere will just come up with another way to skin the digital delivery cat.


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