The Internet is close to a meltdown, according to The Register. The culprit, according to author Richard Bennett, is the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent, which introduced a new type of file transfer with its most recent alpha version. BitTorrent clients have long been using the TCP protocol to facilitate file transfers, but now uTorrent is moving to UDP, a protocol that is very popular for streaming media, VoIP and other real-time transfers. This will essentially lead to torrents eating up all of the bandwidth available for VoIP, according to Bennet, who calls uTorrent’s UDP transfers a “net-killing feature.”

Of course, the same argument was made when UDP-based VoIP connections and video streams became popular — and the Internet hasn’t ceased to exist. The truth is that uTorrent’s UDP implementation could actually be a step toward alleviating congestion problems. Bennet, however, decided to ignore this and instead serve up nothing more than a thinly veiled rant against net neutrality.

Bennet’s piece is based on a belief that UDP traffic is “aggressive” and uncontrollable, whereas TCP is the nice and proper protocol that can be easily managed. This notion ignores the basic fact that P2P developers, in order to make the protocol work at all, need to implement TCP-like functionalities on top of UDP, one of which includes congestion control. You simply can’t operate a P2P client that eats up all of its users’ bandwidth, much less build a successful business model on top of it.

Worthy of analysis and discussion.




  1. keaneo says:

    Folks at the Register seem to be getting their bowels in an uproar over FUD – as they often do.

  2. sargasso says:

    I think someone in The Register, is channeling Ted Stevens.

  3. Paddy-O says:

    Yeah, P2P won’t work with straight UDP. No, this won’t cripple the internet as the apps will still have throttling in place.

    Sky is falling, FUD…

  4. GregA says:

    Isn’t TheRegister.co.uk kind of like the worldnetdaily.com of tech journalism???

  5. Improbus says:

    /sarcasm on

    OMG!! The sky is falling!!

    /sarcasm off

    Fear just doesn’t sell like it use to. Try using sex instead.

  6. Corban Brook says:

    So the jist of it is that TCP has throttle control built into and the protocol and UDP does not.

    ISPs can certainly still differentiate VoIP, Gaming and BT UDP traffic and choose to filter (turn off) BT.

    The obvious solution is to go to metered bandwidth. Pay for what you use just like electricity or natural gas. In theory metered bandwidth would keep monthly bills low for the 95% of internet users that just surf and use email and prohibit excessive use from the 5% that are downloading torrents all day, allows the ISPs to remove DPI and throttling entirely from their infrastructure, allows people paying for their internet connection to use it anyway they want without being hindered.

    In Canada we are offered Tiers but not based on bandwidth consumption but rather connection speed. ie. $25 for Lite DSL, $35 for Basic, $45 for High Speed (5Mbps). I believe this works more in favor for the ISPs. Most of their customer base is paying more for something they dont need. When you move to metered internet how do you setup pricing so that you still get $35-45 from the 95% of customers which dont use much traffic at all, while keeping it affordable to power users. Im sure none of us want to see our internet bills sky rocket to $200+ a month if we were use to paying $50.

  7. bill says:

    http://www.skullbox.net/tcpudp.php

    I think i’d rather have error correction…

  8. GregA says:

    #6,

    I like the current solution that Comcast has selected. Identify the abusers of the commons and summarily execute them with an Internet death penalty. Also, I like the particulars, where they are ambiguous about the details so that if you are abusing their service and only use 249 gig of child porn or stolen software, they retain the right the terminate you.

    I was downloading a game of off steam the other night at 2MB a second!!! Woo hoo Comcast FTW! Wow a 4gig game in under an hour!

    Keep up of the good work Comcast!

  9. @#6: “The obvious solution is to go to metered bandwidth.” – No. The obvious solution is already in practice in many modern countries, East nad West (Japan, Korea, Sweden,…). Cheap, fast and unlimited Internet access. If Japan ISPs can offer 50Mbps up and down without limits to everyone at the price of pound of apples per month right now and earn great profits – why not elsewhere? Reason is not that there is any “shortage” or “limits”. Technology exists and can be used profitably. Just the ISPs are lazy and with little competition here. Should we, the end users pay for their incompetence? No, same as with auto-industry.

  10. Improbus says:

    @Bill

    The Bittorrent protocol has error correction built in doesn’t need the error correction built into TCP. They just want to get rid of the overhead and save bandwidth.

  11. Paddy-O says:

    # 7 bill said, “I think i’d rather have error correction…”

    Unless you are an internet worm… LOL

  12. Raster says:

    #6

    Treating data like electricity is a wonderful notion, and it might even work, but in a capitalist ‘level playing field’, there has to be either an open market or a utility.

    Can anyone reading this really say they could easily change their ISP? Is there a fair market choice of “Coke vs Pepsi” that gives the consumer a voice?

    Much as I would like it so, we’re not there yet. ISPs currently like keeping things behind the curtain (which is cool), and so metering isn’t fair (which is cool).

  13. James Hill says:

    Just another weak argument against BitTorrent. I wonder which content provider put the author up to doing this.

  14. GregA says:

    #9,

    Thanks to the shoddy state of tech journalism you are misinformed.

    The Japanese ISPs do indeed have download and upload limits, and like everywhere else, they are commensurate with the service provided.

    For example, there is a Tokyo ISP that has a 100Mbs service. They have a daily cap of 30gig. So if you think about it, even though their service is 5x as fast as my comcast, they can only download 3x as much tentacle porn as I can download child porn and illegally copied software.

    Sooo… you call it a bug, but I call it a feature… Even in Japan you have to compress that blu-ray video before you pirate it…

    I wish someone would prove me wrong and show me a case where these limits were harming someone who was engaging in a legitimate activity rather than piracy, but that has yet to happen…

    These consumer lines are not backbone providers, if you want truly unmetered Internet access you are free to purchase a DS3 line…

  15. Unbound says:

    #6 – Corban.

    There is one little glitch in your thinking, and that is that ISP’s in the United States are basically monopolies. And they will act as such whenever possible.
    generally speaking you have two choices: DSL and Cable. Fiber is so limited in availability that it is not relevant.
    The two providers have a vested interest in not undercutting each others prices, so they won’t lower their prices.
    Under your proposal, what you end up with is high ‘entry point’ prices (your basic bill) plus expensive metered usage on top of that.
    Using speed as a controlling factor is a better solution, because lower speed connections place less of a burden on the infrastructure. You want high bandwidth, you pay for high bandwidth. The one thing that the government should mandate is that more bandwidth (25%) at no additional cost must be added to the same price connection every year in order to keep up with increasing internet content demands.

  16. Rich says:

    “In theory metered bandwidth would keep monthly bills low for the 95% of internet users that just surf and use email and prohibit excessive use from the 5% that are downloading torrents all day.”

    No sir no sir no sir. The ISPs are beating this drum to increase revenue from users, not manage bandwidth. Please don’t be taken in.

  17. Alex Wollangk says:

    #11: You may be trying to make a joke here, but I think I missed it. Neither worms nor viruses are generally intended to cause errors and if they are those errors are rarely intended for the network stack.

    #16: Everything I have read supports your statement. ISPs are the ones pushing metered bandwidth because they look at cell phone company’s business practices and the thought of the possibilities makes their eyes light up with dollar signs. If they can start to break up internet service into a base rate plus usage fees that opens them up to start doing things like charging extra for any port other than the web (80/443) and email (25/110/etc.) This would allow them to nickel and dime their way to profits that would astonish the oil companies.

    ISPs aren’t quite monopolies, though. I’ve changed internet providers several times over the past couple years as I swing back and forth between the desire for lower prices and better service.

    The whole TCP vs. UDP in uTorrent is an argument made by someone who is either uninformed or blatantly bending the crap out of the truth. They seem to be making the assumption that there are separate chunks of bandwidth in TCP and UDP or that somehow taking a transaction that would have happened in TCP and cutting some of the overhead by using UDP instead (uTorrent) would have any impact whatsoever to a completely independent transaction (VOIP.) This is stupid.

    The only way this could happen is if somehow using UDP would increase the overhead to the point where existing traffic would swamp the net or if uTorrent would get so fast usage would spike. The first is stupid since it’s the opposite of what this change is intended to do in the first place. The second is a SERIOUS stretch because there really isn’t THAT much overhead.

    All in all, yeah, they’re DEFINITELY in chicken little territory with this one…

  18. amodedoma says:

    Well duh, this class of BS has been going on since P2P began. So much inertia. So many lost business opportunities. Instead of turning the net into the biggest wealth generator of all time, they insist on seing it as the enemy and this is just propaganda. Ya ever notice how the people writing these stories are never really experienced network administrators. I mean, is there anything more for sale than a journalist? I think not…

  19. Paddy-O says:

    # 17 Alex Wollangk said, “You may be trying to make a joke here, but I think I missed it.”

    Sorry, it was a joke aimed at security IT guys.

  20. GregA says:

    #18,

    Where is the money? You know, I go to the bittorrent website (they are a company now) and I notice two things. First the CEO of the company has aspergers syndrom (ahh it is all starting to make sense now) and second they have jackassworld.com add banners that are streaming just fine from some central server somewhere without the need for P2P clients to host it.

    All that, and I can only think of one other company that was successful with this business model… Napster, but then that didn’t work out too well in the end. In fact, I think consumers were ultimately harmed by Napster, because it delayed for a couple of years the music companies realization that DRM’d music doesn’t sell.

    Hulu, and Youtube seem to be doing fine without P2P. In fact there has been quite the buzz about Hulu.

    And really, if you had an application that needed all that bandwidth, just get a DS3 line, they are not that expensive, when you consider you could distribute your video to thousands of simultanious users with a single DS3 line.

    Really, the only application for bittorrent is piracy. If you know of a legit service that operates with P2P please let me know, because I don’t know of any.


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