The web is many things to many people. For some it is email or chat, for others it is surfing all day, but for approximately 10% of internet users it is all about bittorrent. Bittorrent is file sharing technology that is amazing! It allows the distribution of small or often very large files to be divided among all the participating users.
This technology works better with more users participating. Where most technologies break down with an increase in user base bittorrent thrives. This technology works so well that many legit businesses use it as a means of content distribution. It also means that it is WIDELY abused for the distribution of illegal content such as movies, copyrighted music, and other media files.
Copyright issues aside I only have one big problem with bittorrent and similar technologies. They consume ENORMOUS amounts of bandwidth. When I say enormous let me explain – 5-10% of cable modem users consume more than 60% of the TOTAL bandwidth available from cable providers for Bittorrent and similar P2P file sharing technologies. Bittorrent is a pig!
This is what will happen in my opinion. First bittorrent will be ignored (Already happened), then ISPs will begin to de-prioritze bittorrent traffic in favor of more general protocols (HTTP,POP,IMAP,FTP, etc). Comcast and other ISPs are starting to do this now. Next, ISPs will try and block bittorrent all together which will fail miserably. Users will complain, content distribution companies will complain and push even more in favor of general net neutrality for all tcp protocols. Next, I believe some ISPs will try and offer internet service to customers at a discounted rate if their upload stream can’t be used with bittorrent and other p2p protocols. This will also fail miserably, but invariably some suit will sit in an office with a bunch of other suits and decide it makes sense not understanding that most internet users don’t know or care what bittorrent is, they just want their internet experience to be the same as its always been.
Finally, when everyone comes to their senses (ISPs) they will simply charge the customers for the bandwidth that they consume. If a user wants to participate in the bittorrent network they will use a lot of bandwidth and their internet bill goes up. If they don’t want to participate then they don’t have to and their base rate stays the same. This also will take away the free ride that so many companies get right now by distributing their content using bittorrent and having all the ISPs pay for their software to be distributed.
Pay for what you use? What a novel concept! I wish we could skip all the steps in between and just get to this point, but I have been around long enough to know that it simply won’t happen.
Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com / Hostmonster.com