BitTorrent Shows You What The Internet Looks Like Without Net Neutrality; Suggests A Better Way

from the change-things-around dept

If you’ve been following the whole net neutrality fight for a while, the following graphic may be familiar to you — showing what a potential “cable-ized” world the internet would become without strong protections for net neutrality:

At some point, someone created a similar version, that was specific to AT&T:
A little while ago, however, someone took the joke even further, and set up a website for a fake broadband provider, asking people to Join the Fastlane!, and it was pretty dead on in terms of what such a site might look like:
I particularly like this bit:
It’s now come out that this campaign (along with some associated billboards) has been put together by BitTorrent Inc., not all that different than the company’s billboard campaign against the NSA. Along with this, BitTorrent has put out a blog post explaining, in part, how we got here, but more importantly how we need to start thinking about a better way to handle internet traffic to avoid the kind of future described above.

The key issue: building a more decentralized internet:

Many smart researchers are already thinking about this problem. Broadly speaking, this re-imagined Internet is often called Content Centric Networking. The closest working example we have to a Content Centric Network today is BitTorrent. What if heavy bandwidth users, say, Netflix, for example, worked more like BitTorrent?

If they did, each stream — each piece of content — would have a unique address, and would be streamed peer-to-peer. That means that Netflix traffic would no longer be coming from one or two places that are easy to block. Instead, it would be coming from everywhere, all at once; from addresses that were not easily identified as Netflix addresses — from addresses all across the Internet.

To the ISP, they are simply zeroes and ones.

All equal.

There’s obviously a lot more to this, but it’s good to see more and more people realizing that one of the fundamental problems that got us here is the fact that so much of the internet has become centralized — and, as such, can be easily targeted for discrimination. Making the internet much more decentralized is a big step in making it so that discrimination and breaking net neutrality aren’t even on the table.

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Comments on “BitTorrent Shows You What The Internet Looks Like Without Net Neutrality; Suggests A Better Way”

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Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It may be a win for them, but it’s inherently undemocratic.

Such a model works as a “free market”. The ones that can afford it get the premium services while those outside of the market are outside of caring about. This type of division was very much against even Plato and Aristotle who hated the division that was caused by caring for money over any other form of social contract.

The internet, for all purposes here, is a commons. Something that can’t be divided up and metered out for exploitative gains by a private enterprise. This runs counter to how the internet works in allowing for options and choices instead of monopolization.

This is setting up a very dangerous game for the ISPs. They’ve banned local competition, while charging their customers higher prices who will be very keen to push them out of their areas as time goes by. That basically means that eventually the public will either create alternatives on the local level or they’ll push for something that will force the companies to compete.

Things like WiscNet were great alternatives and may work in a number of states. Let’s hope that more people recognize that local broadband does far more to damage the major monopolies while allowing for better service.

jackn says:

Re: Re: Re:

You?re preaching to the choir.

I do worry that ‘we’ are so accustom to this model (as shown above), this will actually look attractive to some.

A segment of the population does gravitate toward ‘premium, exclusive’ models (over quality and diversity) and don’t really care about fair and/or balanced. Think of the atypical apple booster; to them, the marketing materials above will not appear as a threat to democracy, but more as a logo you can put on your body to show you superiority.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think they have missed what the cable companies will offer, buy this cable package and get fast access to netflix, buy this other one and get fast access to Hulu… Its how they sell cable channels, package one or two popular item in a bundle of other stuff, and so is the obvious way of trying to protect their cable business.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

What if heavy bandwidth users, say, Netflix, for example, worked more like BitTorrent?

If Netflix worked like BitTorrent, it would not work. Streaming video is inherently a sequential, streaming operation; once you have a few seconds of video, you can begin viewing. BitTorrent is inherently a non-sequential, block-based operation where you can’t begin viewing until you have the entire file, because content is transferred out of order and there’s no guarantee that you’ll even get the start of the content at any given point before the end of the transfer.

who cares (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nice going idiot

Both are packets so you shouldn’t complain is just moronic.
Those IP packets containing the stream from Netflix at least have the habit of trying to arrive sequentially, with a buffer to prevent packet loss from interrupting your viewing pleasure.

A torrent is under no such obligation even if you only ask for sequential parts of the torrent.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

P2P streaming was created last year. I used it while it was still active and it lived up to the hype. It started out low quality, but as more people started watching, it got better.

Not sure how it would apply directly to Netflix, but if it can be applied to live streaming, it’s only a matter of rethinking the problem.

Anthony Etter says:

Re: Re: Re:

You are actually very wrong about that in two ways. One p2p streaming has existed much longer than last year. ACE Player, SOPcast, and others. The one that hit the spot light was BT Live, short for Bittorrent Live. It is made by the owners of the bittorrent protocol. The second thing you are wrong about is not really that you are wrong, but BT Live is no more. They stopped development on it.

Techanon says:

Re: Re: Re:

IIRC utorrent and probably some other Torrent clients can play unfinished downloads like a standard stream.

Also there are all the forks of Popcorn Time too. I used the original (now dead) app, it was pretty decent for streaming movies on Torrent.

Here’s a list of the forks:

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’re correct that BitTorrent per se doesn’t solve streaming problem outright.

But there are all kinds of ways around that. One is weight the transfer queue. Another is to pre-populate local cache. Another is prioritize peers and transfer rates based on block. And then there are human-centric solutions like, “Hey! If you’re going to watch every single episode of Dreckfest this weekend, then tell us on Tuesday and we will quietly, slowly, without eating all your bandwidth, download all of it onto your local disk, even throttling transfers selectively based on time-of-day, so that it’s all there and waiting for you Saturday at 1 PM.”

Or from the other side “Hmmm. When Star Wars XXII came out, half our subscribers ordered it. Star Wars XXIII comes out next week. Let’s pre-download it to everyone who ordered XXII so that when they say ‘gimme!’ it’s already there. And then we’ll just worry about the rest later.”

Or “Thank you for ordering 982 movies from Netflix this month. Because you’re such a good customer, we’re shipping you an external 4T drive to plug in to your system, so that you can cache all kinds of content right there. This is good for you — no network involved in streaming your video — and it’s good for your neighbors — who can pull from you — and it’s good for us because you’ll be happy with the wicked high performance and you will buy 983 movies from us next month AND because every byte you serve to your neighbors is a byte we don’t have to. By the way, based on your preferences, we pre-loaded the drive with a whole bunch of things you might like and you can have any 10 for free.”

There are technical problems here but they’re not the big ones: see my post in another thread about Hollywood and control.

Blake says:

Re: Re:

Popcorn time (While verymuch illegal) and Spotify both act as proof that a decentralized network with enough seedbox’s is perfectly capable of giving a near seamless streaming experience and I’m sure if truely pushed Netflix would opt to use this model. The issue here is probably more that this effects every company which operates on the web, Netflix are just the first hit.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

The fundamental rift between decentralization and control

And this, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, is where network neutrality collides head-on with the MPAA and the RIAA and their cronies.

The BitTorrent folks are right: there’s no technical reason why content couldn’t be pulled to network endpoints and then re-pulled from there, alleviating the necessity to drag it down from centralized servers again and again and again and again. (If you think this sounds like a torrent: you’re right.)

But that would require giving up the one thing that (some) content creators absolutely, positively do not want to give up: control.

They want their timed release windows. They want their DRM. They want control over what gets delivered, how it gets delivered, when it gets delivered, what can be done with it, how long it persists, they want EVERYTHING.

And they’re not going to give up for anyone.

So Netflix can’t send back a response to your “Download the latest Michael Bay atrocity” request that translates to “Nah. Someone on who is topologically 1 hop from you has it, download it from them, it’ll be much faster”. Even though this would be better for Netflix, better for you, better for your ISP and even better for your neighbor (when their turn comes). It’s not better for Hollywood so, well, fuck all of you very much.

Observers who are observing will notice that net neutrality didn’t become a technological and political football UNTIL the content in question acquired two properties: (1) it’s large and (2) it’s owned by Hollywood. Nobody cared when it was a few web pages flying around or some email messages or Usenet articles or instant messages or DNS queries or FTP transfers or any of that. But now…okay NOW, it’s a big deal. And while everyone is — rightly so — pummeling Comcast and Verizon, it would be good to remember that Hollywood could make a lot of this problem vanish (nearly) overnight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The fundamental rift between decentralization and control

And while everyone is — rightly so — pummeling Comcast and Verizon, it would be good to remember that Hollywood could make a lot of this problem vanish (nearly) overnight.

If they did, they would eviscerate Comcast’s, Verizon’s et. al. cable business. That is the real problem, the cable/broadband providers are supplying competing businesses, and the cable one is almost certainly the more profitable while it holds onto users. That there is the conflict of interest at the heart of the net neutrality debate.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Re: The fundamental rift between decentralization and control

Indeed. I regret that I can only hit the “insightful” button once on your comment.

Let me add to it by noting that I’ve often wondered if there’s a tacit gentleman’s agreement between Hollywood and the large ISPs not to go head-to-head on this. That way, Comcast and Verizon can continue to charge usurious rates, provide horrible service coupled with insultingly bad support, overpay their lying dirtbag executives, and lavishly fund their lying dirtbag lobbyists. And Hollywood can continue to use DRM, to blab about the non-existent problem of “piracy”, can overpay its own lying dirtbag executives and lobbyists, can rip off creative people and the public simultaneously, and can make record profits while whining about how terribly awful it is that they’re not making any money.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The fundamental rift between decentralization and control

That way, Comcast and Verizon can continue to charge usurious rates, provide horrible service coupled with insultingly bad support, overpay their lying dirtbag executives, and lavishly fund their lying dirtbag lobbyists. And Hollywood can continue to use DRM, to blab about the non-existent problem of “piracy”, can overpay its own lying dirtbag executives and lobbyists, can rip off creative people and the public simultaneously, and can make record profits while whining about how terribly awful it is that they’re not making any money.

Well stop pulling punches Rich, how do you really feel about these guys? 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

and this is what we want and is exactly why we wont get it! like everything else, as soon as it is or can be seen to be soon as a profitable enterprise, businesses jump in to fuck it up! this is one of the reasons the entertainment industries are still trying to get every other net indsutry do what it wants, so it can be in control and make a load of money. it must have spent billions in court actions and got back just a few dollars, but it is still plugging away because it knows if it can win the battles, eventually it may win the war. hopefully, however, more countries are going to stand up to these industries and the USA government that seems to be behind them, so as not to allow complete control. it has been said that whichever country rules the internet, it will rule the world, why else would there be this joining? and why else would other countries need to be threatened if they dont do what the USA wants?

Anonymous Coward says:

Did anyone read the fine print?

These are all too scary…

Education Bundle – “*Please call for details. Websites in the education bundle are subject to change. Any website that teaches you how to code is exclusive to our coding bundle, and is not offered in the education bundle.”

Gaming Bundle – “Only applies to PCs and Nintendo consoles. Xbox and Playstation are outside the FastLane network.”

Foxy News – “Starting August 9th, all other news portals will no longer be available to FastLane subscribers.”

Paul Clark (profile) says:

What if The Websites Turned This Around

If we lose Net neutrality, what would happen if the large websites like google started signing exclusive distribution contracts with specific network providers. If you want to use google, you have to be an AT&T customer. If you want to use Nexflix, you must be a Comcast customer. Net neutrality flows both ways.

Whatever says:

It’s hard to imagine where to start with this one, the disinformation is strong in this situation.

The graphic makes the incredibly stupid assumption that websites (and content providers) will (a) not want to be easily reached, and (b) that they will develop a model that lets end ISPs sell access to them. It stupid on so many levels, it’s almost hard to imagine. Wide distribution and availability is key to make the businesses work, and to drive relevancy.

Moreover, the business model isn’t right. If a website can charge for access (a la netflix) the last thing they want to do is share half of that or more with an ISP selling “access”. There is no reason to do it.

It all comes down a few companies who have high bandwidth use products (bit torrent, netflix, streaming media sites) bitching because they cannot overwhelm networks with very high levels of traffic and then expect the ISPs to jump up and double or triple network capacity (without additional income) to support those business models.

Remember: The internet is a two ended setup. Netflix can have the biggest network connection in the world at their end, but if the other end can’t support it, it doesn’t matter. With Netflix quickly becoming more than 50% of network traffic in many areas (and torrent traffic adding another big chunk on that) it’s easy to see the problem caused.

Literally, ISPs are faced with a doubling of network demand in less than 2 years, without considering any new customers added. That doesn’t just mean needing twice the peering, it means having to double the speed of every jump in their internal network to support this, having to potentially double the number of head ends to handle connections, and so on.

Whatever says:

Re: Re:

I should point out, just before any of the usual trolls jump down my throat, that the Netflix / Comcast deal is netflix working to have “Wide distribution and availability”. They are not setting up an ISP charge system, they are just paying to make sure that their clients can have “better than standard web” access to their service.

That is a business choice for netflix. In the end it’s pretty much a normal pay for peering arrangement when one side of the peering deal uses way more than the other.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In a nutshell, peering works like this: different backbone providers have private arrangements between themselves about data exchange between their networks. These arrangements are backroom deals without any sort of public oversight and can be literally anything. Traditionally, these agreements have worked like this: traffic is traded equally (routing a packet from your network is paid for by you routing a packet from mine) with monetary compensation kicking in when there’s an imbalance in that traffic flow.

Zonker says:

Re: Re: Re:

they are just paying to make sure that their clients can have “better than standard web” access to their service.

On a neutral network (the Internet) there is no better or worse than standard web, it is all equally fast. What you describe is a channel subscription service model (as shown in the parody ads in the article).

If you pay for 50Mbps bandwidth, you should get 50Mbps bandwidth no matter what content you’re downloading (or uploading for that matter). That assumes that your ISP actually built the network infrastructure they promised to deliver that bandwidth, both within their own network and between their network peers.

That none of the current broadband providers in the US currently support the bandwidth they advertise and we paid for is the problem, not Netflix or YouTube or Spotify or any other web service.

Zonker says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Or to put it another way, if your ISP infrastructure has one 1000 Mbps hub serving 100 customers who will very likely actually be using their internet connections at the same time, the ISP should advertise their service more truthfully as “at least 10 Mbps Internet” rather than “up to 50Mbps” (with a bandwidth cap in place, otherwise they might claim “up to 1000 Mbps” when no one else but you uses their internet connection).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The graphic is an exaggerated parody, an update of similar things that have appeared over the years related to the issue of net neutrality. So that’s irrelevant, even if some does ring true of the tactics they’ve already tried.

But, your argument completely ignores things like the ample time and even government funds that the ISPs have had to prepare their network for use that’s been clearly in demand since the early days of YouTube, if not before. They chose to ignore these warnings, pocket funds and try to cap and block services on their network rather than improve infrastructure – and are now trying to push their own services over competitors just because their customers can’t choose another provider.

Sorry, but the fact that your city is badly congested because your government opted to ignore predictable increases in traffic and failed to improve transport infrastructure is not the fault of those who use the roads.

Whatever says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I can’t imagine many people considered what would happen, at least not as fast as it did.

Netflix (and similar services) don’t just require to send a lot of data, they also need to send the data at a speed level that makes streaming (in HD, of course) possible. What that means in practical terms is that you need something like 3 – 5 meg for upwards to two hours solid. Their 4K is 15mb a second:

They also could not foresee or deal with the bottleneck that exists because most people want to watch things in prime time. So you aren’t looking at average usage, it’s peak usage from a significant number of users at the same time.

Your road analogy (painful as it gets) is relevant: It takes a long time to build new roads to handle increases in traffic, it doesn’t happen overnight. Putting 20 new lanes on the edge of town isn’t going to help if it filters down to a single lane a half a mile in. For ISPs, only adding peering isn’t enough to handle all of the problems they are facing. In order to handle the massive increases in demand, they have to grow all of their internal network as well to handle it, and it’s a big jump.

Netflix usage was not easy to foresee. The level of demand that it brings as a result is beyond the scope of any network planning out there, plain and simple.

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Internet use has always been expected to rise, and the amount of data being used/downloaded/transfered has always been expected to increase. Any ISP that reduces infrastructure investment loses all credability that they were interested in the health of their system and in turn the quality of service for their customers.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Netflix usage was not easy to foresee. The level of demand that it brings as a result is beyond the scope of any network planning out there, plain and simple.”

Only for those companies that were being willfully blind. It was obvious early on that Netflix (and other such streaming providers) were going to increase demand as they did.

What happened was that companies didn’t want to (and still don’t want to) hold up their end of the arrangement with consumers by actually putting in the needed investment early on.

This is an old habit for the telecoms — even back in the days when POTS was the only telecom service, they routinely refused to expand trunk lines beyond their immediate need even when future need was obvious. This result in shortages of phones lines in many neighborhoods.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“I can’t imagine many people considered what would happen, at least not as fast as it did.”

I work in networking, and I’ve been aware since at least 2007 that this was the way things were going. YouTube’s popularity, increased demand for HD, larger downloaded of various types of content, much higher bandwidth demands were inevitable. That’s why you plan your network for future expansion, not panic when things suddenly start reaching capacity.

“It takes a long time to build new roads to handle increases in traffic, it doesn’t happen overnight.”

…nor does the demand for new and upgraded roads. Planning is paramount, something very much lacking here. No analogy is perfect, but your city has people planning and surveying for new transport requirements, not blaming the business park that opened up across town because they made some routes too popular.

“Their 4K is 15mb a second:”

So? How many people are using that right now? We’re mainly talking about standard HD content here. 4K is what they have to plan for in the future (and should already have been planning for, along with requirements for console game streaming, etc.)

“Netflix usage was not easy to foresee.”

Bull. If your entire argument is based on this lie, it’s no wonder the rest of your argument is so far off base. they just didn’t want to do it either because they could just cap and pretend that only pirates used higher bandwidth, or because they didn’t want fair competition with their own services.

Also remember – it’s not just Netflix that’s the issue here. US broadband speeds are woeful across the board, and that applies whether you’re streaming music, downloading iTunes apps or streaming HBO. Netflix are the biggest and most visible service affected right now, but don’t fool yourself into thinking this is the only service affected.

Sven Slootweg (profile) says:

Streaming over Bittorrent – more specifically, sequential download – has been around forever. Tribler implemented streaming back in 2007. Several widely used stable clients such as uTorrent and Tixati have had this feature for years now. It’s even integrated in XBMC through the XBMCTorrent extension.

It works, it works well, and it has been doing so for several years now. This should not be news to anybody around here.

D says:


so instead of ISPs double-dipping by charging content providers and also end users, this suggests triple-dipping by not only charging the two things already stated but also charging the end user AGAIN for fastlane access to the sites that are already paying for fastlane access to end users!


if something like this EVER happened I am starting a public fund for a new nationwide ISP and inviting all peers and end users to jump ship. it would mean we would have to build the internet from scratch again because a bunch of crooks took it over….but don’t worry this isn’t going to happen.

Simba7 (profile) says:

Re: wow

I already want to do this. I’d like to combine recent technologies (White Spaces, Fiber, etc) and form a national ISP that actually gives a crap about their customers.

Excellent, IN THE U.S., customer service, actual knowledgeable tech support staff, guaranteed speeds that the customer pays for, up-to-date equipment, etc.

Of course, investors who want to invest in this in the LONG run, not the short termers who want their returns in a few weeks.

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