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BitTorrent and Net Neutrality: Google in your Corner
January 29, 2009
Thomas Mennecke
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Net Neutrality is an issue that expands well beyond the BitTorrent and P2P world. Internet entities such as Google, who also use significant amounts of Internet bandwidth, have a vested interest in the fight for net neutrality as well. It's no secret that ISPs would love to see Google pay for that access. But in the fight for net neutrality, the old saying that 'politics makes strange bedfellows' takes on a more modern approach as Google has found a new ally: BitTorrent.

Considering that Google probably has just as much at stake as BitTorrent does, it's little surprise that the search engine giant has released a new set of tools for the end user to test their internet connection. Google, along with its partners, have launched "Measurement Lab" (M-Lab), where the end user can participate and learn whether their connection is throttled. As the project picks up steam and more data is collected, a snapshot of BitTorrent throttling - or delaying - or whatever - will be available. As pointed out on Torrent Freak, the M-Lab tools such as Glastnost have existed some time, and were used to discover the delaying tactics of Comcast and Cox. But to gather and crunch this data, more resources and a distributed network were necessary to truly appreciate the scope of bandwidth throttling. That's where Google comes into play.

"Over the course of early 2009, Google will provide researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the U.S. and Europe. All data collected via M-Lab will be made publicly available for other researchers to build on. M-Lab is intended to be a truly community-based effort, and we welcome the support of other companies, institutions, researchers, and users that want to provide servers, tools, or other resources that can help the platform flourish."

Bandwidth throttling became a headline issue in 2008, when Comcast finally admitted to ‘delaying’ BitTorrent traffic. The major criticism against Comcast wasn’t necessarily the issue of bandwidth management, but rather the lack of transparency on the issue. Is your ISP actually throttling traffic, or are they feeding you the ‘we don’t block BitTorrent websites’ line? With the M-Labs Glasnosts tool, the java based applet will compare your web based traffic to a BitTorrent transfer. If there’s a significant difference between the two, then you’ll know there’s a problem. Right now, however, the service is overloaded with requests and is performing slowly – and at most times, not at all.

Glitches aside, Google has entered feet first into the net neutrality debate and has brought their impressive user base with them. You won’t find many people opposed to reasonable bandwidth management, but no one likes being played as a fool.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
BitTorrent :: Independent/Other Development

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