The Next Great BitTorrentMarch 27, 2008 at 12:25 | Posted in Life, New Media, Tech | Leave a comment
Tags: BitTorrent, CBC, freedom, future of the internet, ISP, P2P, The Next Great Prime Minister, Throttling
CBC has taken a huge step into the reality of the 21st century by releasing their show “Canada’s Next Great Prim Minister” as a BitTorrent. This move has been greeted with great applause (from me also, Way to go CBC!!) in the blogisphere.
It also looks like this move on the part of the CBC will have the unintended effect of shining a huge, glaring, spotlight on the traffic shaping practises of many ISP’s. In the past the ISP’s have been able to hide behind in-accurate beliefs when challenged on this practise. Espousing such things as “there is only a niche market for legal BitTorrent downloads” (I always loved hearing that Linux and other F.O.S.S. used by millions was a niche.)
The painful fact of the matter is that years ago they tied themselves to an asymmetric bandwidth model, (again based on inaccurate beliefs/information), because they believed that the Internet was primarily a 1 way street Server->client. They failed to grasp that any computer connected to the Internet has the ability, and IMHO, the right to act as a server. Now by “Server” I don’t mean trying to serve a “YouTube” or “Facebook” from a residential account, but certainly people have the right to use Voip, Use BitTorrent, use Peercast, set up a small webserver to host their own content, set up a VPN server for secure remote access, etc.
The problem is all this “server” stuff flies in the face of the asymmetrical model they chose and now they are caught with their pants down not having the ability to meet their obligations unless they limit something. BitTorrent was an easy target as, sadly, it is often used for questionable file sharing, and those that, in the past, used it for Legal stuff either suffered in silence or had the technical savvy to get around the cap either by choosing a different method of receiving it or getting a better ISP. (Yes, screwing with peoples LEGAL data make you an evil and undesirable ISP)
If the ISP’s choose to continue down this road they will just push more and more people to the emergent “DarkNets” which may be much harder for them to throttle. People might also just move their “Questionable” activities to places like surfthechannel.com. What will the ISP’s do then? Throttle HTTP? Start designating evil or banned sites based on bandwidth usage?
What this comes down to, is that the first ISP to come to the residential market with an unthrottled, symmetric connection will blow the competition out of the water, hands down. Gone are the days where ISP’s can view the Internet as a “content delivery platform”, in truth those days never existed, except in the eyes of someone with too many dollar signs in their eyes to see that the “Net” has always been about the FREE flow of information. The Internet is designed to see censorship (yes that is what throttling is guys) as damage and find ways around it. Perhaps most importantly, the Internet is not just the hardware. It is the synergistic interaction of the the people that use the net, the data that they share, and their ability to “make the net their own” by creating new technologies (like bittorrent, Video chats, P2P software, Private networks, The next new thing, etc) to use and share that information freely.
The Next Great ISP (to continue the CBC’s theme) will be the one that offers symmetric, unthrottled connections first. They will be the ISP seen as the peoples champion. They will be the ISP that is most in place to embrace the coming era of cloud computing. Why on earth would I stay with an ISP that made it difficult for me to backup to my on-line storage. Why would I stay with an ISP that was clearly not ready for the future of the Internet, computers, technology, society, because they are clinging desperately to an outdated concept of “Media”. The truth is Major corporations have lost their strangle hold on “Media”. Not in the fact that it can be so easily traded (although there is that too.) But because they have lost control of the “means of production“.
The major ISP’s have a choice before them, step gracefully out of the way and use their vast resources to facilitate the free and unfettered flow of ideas, or continue in their Jurassic practises and go the way of the dinosaurs. Think it can’t happen? Watch what happens with ad-hoc wireless mesh networks in the next 5-10 year. When those come of age The ISP’s will not only have lost control of the “means of production” but they will have lost control of the “means of distribution”, and 5-10 years, that’s a blink, that’s tomorrow, If they don’t move now they will be standing on the sidelines watching as the world passes them by.