Down with P2PPosted: November 21, 2007
Strangely, I find myself agreeing with Mark Cuban. I’ve spent some time thinking back to what I’ve downloaded via P2P applications. I’ve used BitTorrent and previous P2P technologies to download many things over the years, but I can only think of one legitimate application, and that’s Blizzard using BitTorrent for WoW client distribution. The potential for this is immense, however, the only reason legitimately for Blizzard to use BitTorrent for distribution is to save on bandwidth costs on their end. A company like Akamai could easily provide a similar or superior experience for most users, but it would cost Blizzard significantly more than their current distribution model. I find it ironic that one of the most successful users of legitimate P2P is primarily using it to offload costs from them out to the ISPs when they are probably one of the most successful pay services on the Internet. The only thing I’d miss about losing various P2P applications is the ability to download television seasons during the summer for viewing. Mainly this is because there isn’t a suitable for-pay alternative.
Honestly, the striking fact is that 60% of Internet traffic is P2P, and that was from a report from last year. It’s certainly not going down, if anything it’s increasing. That means that every bit of traffic most normal users do (web browsing, email, etc) is fighting for bandwidth on networks that are largely congested simply because as soon as the ISPs provision more bandwidth, the P2P users fill up the pipes. We can get into the oversubscription arguments, but frankly oversubscription is the only way the business model works. If ISPs had to provision enough bandwidth for everyone to fully light up their last mile pipe to the home, they’d go out of business. What this means, and what I’ve specifically been noticing more in the past few weeks as I’ve traveled, is that my service is starting to suffer. Every time I get to a hotel, the damn pipe is filled and I can barely VPN into work to get email. Even as I come back to Arkansas, I’m noticing that my mother-in-law’s Internet connection with Cox appears to be slow out in Greenwood. It’s almost impossible without access to the various places I’ve been’s network management systems to fairly diagnose exactly why they’re slower than I expect, but a safe bet would certainly be on lack of bandwidth at the upstream (especially during peak hours) due to P2P users.
If I’m starting to get the feeling like my service is suffering, then shape all the damn P2P traffic down to 0. Honestly, if I get better service, I’ll probably not lament the loss of my ability to make 250 TCP connections at once to pull down files in little increments at 10KB/sec per connection. Maybe without the ability to go to the alternative and get the content for free, this will force consumers to start demanding acceptable for pay alternatives for the things they’re getting illegally currently. I just don’t see anything getting much better in the current stalemate we’re in without some sort of drastic measures. I just never thought I’d be siding with the providers on this particular issue.