Home / Blogs

Blocking BitTorrent in Britain

Don't miss a thing – sign up for CircleID Weekly Wrap newsletter delivered to your inbox once a week.
Tom Evslin

Virgin Media announced its intention of restricting BitTorrent traffic on its new 50Mbps service according to an article by Chris Williams in The Register. Does this mean that net neutrality is endangered in the UK? The question is important because advocates of an open Internet like me hold the UK up as a positive example of net neutrality achieved through competition rather than through regulation.

One of the major benefits of a competitive rather than a regulatory approach to net neutrality is that users get to decide what sort of network they would like to be on. With a regulated approach, the regulators decide. In the US the FCC has reproved Comcast for blocking BitTorrent traffic. On the other hand, we net neutrality advocates think that it is acceptable to throttle heavy users in times of network overload because this is non-discriminatory as far as applications are concerned. Heavy users who don't use BitTorrent would probably rather be on a BitTorrent-blocking network than one which blocks them. In a free and competitive market they would get a choice; BitTorrent users, obviously, would prefer a network which doesn't block BitTorrent explicitly; they would have a choice as well.

The market might satisfy both sets of users by offering them a choice of services or one or the other type of service might prove uneconomic because not enough users like it. Nothing wrong with that. Moreover, a network which blocks BitTorrent, as Comcast was suspected of doing, to favor its own entertainment content, might find itself with no users. All sounds like competitive utopia.

Reality might not be so simple, however. If there are only a small minority of users who care about BitTorrent and Virgin Media can cut costs and/or improve service for most users by restricting BitTorrent, it may gain enough competitive advantage so that other providers emulate it and BitTorrent ends up being restricted everywhere in the UK. Would that mean that a competitive market is not enough to protect net neutrality? Some net neutrality advocates would say "Yes. Any system which results in a particular legal application being banned is bad and needs to fixed."

I'm not ready to go there. I think that if we have a competitive market (which we don't in the US) and if there is no market-fixing or other arrangements between competitors to restrict competition and there is full disclosure of the rules of each network, we have to accept that the result is a neutral Internet — which might not be exactly the kind of network we Net Neutrality advocates think the world should have. We're not the fabled Internet czar either.

By Tom Evslin. More blog posts from Tom Evslin can also be read here.

Related topics: Access Providers, Broadband, Net Neutrality, Policy & Regulation, Telecom

 
   

Comments

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Explore Topics

Dig Deeper

Verisign

Cybersecurity

Sponsored by Verisign
Afilias Mobile & Web Services

Mobile Internet

Sponsored by Afilias Mobile & Web Services
Afilias

DNS Security

Sponsored by Afilias

Promoted Posts

Now Is the Time for .eco

.eco launches globally at 16:00 UTC on April 25, 2017, when domains will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. .eco is for businesses, non-profits and people committed to positive change for the planet. See list of registrars offering .eco more»

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

Leading Internet Associations Strengthen Cooperation

i2Coalition to Present Tucows CEO Elliot Noss With Internet Community Leadership Award

Michele Neylon Appointed Chair Elect of i2Coalition

2016 U.S. Election: An Internet Forecast

MarkMonitor Supports Brand Holders' Efforts Regarding .Feedback Registry

Dyn Weighs In On Whois

IBCA Presentation to ICANN GAC on Protection of Geographic Names in New gTLDs

Domain Name .Africa Faces Hurdles - Q&A with Sophia Bekele

Nominum Announces Future Ready DNS

Video Interviews from ICANN 50 in London

DotConnectAfrica Delegates Attend the Kenya Internet Governance Forum

Neustar to Launch usTLD Stakeholder Council

Ofcom Benchmarking UK Broadband Performance Welcomed, But Needs Considerable Improvement

DotConnectAfrica Attends Transform Africa 2013 Summit in Rwanda

dotMobi and Digital Element Announce Strategic Partnership

Comments and Questions by DCA Trust on .Africa at the ICANN-47 Public Forum, Durban SA

Dyn Research: CDN Adoption Across Our Customer Base

Neustar Chief Technology Officer Appointed to FCC's Technological Advisory Council

Neustar Expands Professional Services Offerings for Communications Service Providers

SPECIAL: Updates from the ICANN Meetings in Beijing