Large ISP Profit From BitTorrent Traffic

19.8.11


For many years Internet Service Providers from all over the world have throttled or even banned BitTorrent traffic on their networks.

Claims often heard on the news from high speed internet providers is that heavy users are using too much resources and bandwidth and are making them lose a lot of money.

Well, not according to a new paper out from Northwestern University and Telefónica Research that studies how P2P applications affect ISPs. The paper claims to look at the whole ecosystem, across network boundaries and geographical borders to detail the effect of the entire system of files.

As far as larger ISPs concern, there’s an upside to BitTorrent as well. In fact, companies like Comcast make a substantial amount of money from BitTorrent traffic.


The goal of the research was to understand the network impact of BitTorrent, both in terms of traffic and the costs involved. To answer these questions the researchers conducted a 2-year study where they tracked the downloads of 500,000 people for 169 different countries. The end result is an interesting trend report which, among other things, shows how BitTorrent traffic has developed over time.

A third of BitTorrent traffic stays local: Thirty-two percent of BitTorrent traffic stays in the country of origin and 49 percent of traffic is intra-domain or crosses a single peering or sibling network link.

BitTorrent traffic doesn’t usually hit the big backbone transit providers: That’s partly because it stays local and partly because the largest amount of BitTorrent traffic stays inside a local area network run by a hosting company or enterprise.

BitTorrent traffic occurs at the same time as peak web traffic and it’s growing: The old myth that BitTorrent users were up late at night seeding files has evolved and most users are sharing files during the day. Many are doing so during “peak traffic times,” which the researchers don’t disclose unless daytime means peak traffic time.

The researchers translated their findings into the actual costs and revenues of Internet providers and found that contrary to what the public would expect, large Tier 2 ISPs actually make money off BitTorrent traffic. This means that broadband providers like Comcast, Virgin Media and France Telecom profit directly from heavy downloaders.

“Using inferred business relationships between ISPs, we showed that most BitTorrent traffic flows over cost-free paths and that it generates substantial revenue potential for many higher tier ISPs,” the researchers write.

But not all Internet providers make money off BitTorrent; those in the lower tiers where most traffic is flowing through have less local (and free) traffic and often have to pick up the bill.

“Unlike with tier 2, provider traffic is larger than customer traffic for tier 3, indicating that these ISPs on average are paying for rather than profiting from transit charges due to BitTorrent traffic,” state the researchers.

21 comments:

Kingmush said...

Never would have thought they'd have benefited from it.

Chris Hashemi said...

Hmm, that's interesting!

Jackson.k said...

I wouldn't have thought they'd be benefited from it, but hey, you learn something nw everyday. I love torrents though, as long as you hav a fast connection, you get quick transfers.

Christopher J. Chambers said...

I always thought Bittorrent was gonna become a Fortune 500!!!

Electric Addict said...

i never thought about torrents that way

ason31 said...

I would think torrents would be a huge cash cow if a company like Microsoft or Google got behind it. I know copyright laws would probably not allow that, but it makes the most sense.

DWei said...

People find the strangest ways to make money. :P

Linux and Life said...

this makes thepiratebay look like an anti hero.

Sylar said...

great post ;)
+follow

PvtCarlin said...

This is boggles my mind. ISPs are so retarded.

Miguel B said...

I think this is a good point to make. It doesn't justify pirating at all, but even still. I tend to download free albums using a torrent program. stuff that artists just want to spread around and get the word out

Andy said...

I always assumed they benefited from it somehow, otherwise they'd actually care to fight it.

Another Dev Guy said...

Intersting stuff

borks said...

Never knew they were making money off of it! Great story

icycooL said...

Interesting. I learned something today.

frankcom said...

Wouldnt have known! great story dude!

DesoWave said...

Interesting, didn't know so many people were into that.

paulz said...

Very interesting goes to show that there is always money to be made everywhere.

Publius said...

Still trying to fully understand what Bit Torrent is, but this is has helped alot! Thanks!

Bones said...

I love torrents. I feel a little bad for pirating as much as I do, but I've been unemployed for so long, I don't really have that much money to support developers. It is nice to see ISP's are making money off of this though. Kinda makes me feel like I'm contributing in a small way :)

Cynical720 said...

I heard this the other day. Thanks for shedding some light on it!

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