Broadband Parasites: Welcome (Kind of)

File-swapping is nearly two-thirds of their traffic. What's an ISP to do? Learn to live with it, some say.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. —eDonkey, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer software is the 800-pound gorilla here at the ISPCon Fall 2005 conference, a gathering of broadband providers and network operators.

The group assembled here realizes it cant stop the results of the freely available software for using the Internet to exchange computer files with anyone else. About a third of all Internet users regularly file swap, generating up to two-thirds of all the traffic on an operators network at any given time.

So rather than fight it, Internet service providers are learning to manage the flow, or even start making money off it, say some execs attending the conference.

The attitude highlighted here is the result of economics. Broadband providers benefit because thats a lot of downloading of music and now increasingly movies and games, and a major reason why people are upgrading to higher-priced, high-speed Internet connections. Indeed, there are about 1.7 million movies available at any time just via BitTorrent, a popular file swapping software, according to BigChampagne, a Web media traffic specialist, which is a 12 percent increase from last year.

/zimages/3/28571.gifTo read more about BitTorrents recent round of financing, click here.

But learning to live with it means broadband providers, along with the peer-to-peer software makers, must deal with relentless pressure to do something about the large amount of pirated material being swapped. Just in the last few weeks, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a major entertainment industry trade group, sent cease and desist letters to eDonkey, Kazaa and five other peer-to-peer software makers.

/zimages/3/28571.gifTo read more about a court decision affecting peer to peer, click here.

Most broadband operators shy away from appearing to condone P2P in any way, which has kept them largely out of the RIAAs crosshairs. Yet that attitude is changing, noted some executives attending a presentation here about the "new generation of network hogs" by Marc Morin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Sandvince, Inc., a Waterloo, Ontario-based broadband network manager.

Entertainment giant Sony, for instance, is now using file-swapping software to distribute content in the U.K., for instance. Some operators also offer heavy file swappers more bandwidth for an extra $3-to-$4 a month.

"Internet service providers dont want to upset their customers, but something has to be done," Morin said on the conference sidelines.

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