Could P2P Save the Internet?

That’s what Wade Roush, writing for the MIT Technology Review, argues in this piece about peer-to-peer technology. And not only should distributors get on board, but network operators may want to embrace it, too. Considering how much more efficiently it distributes large amounts of data, it’s likely become as core a component to networking as data compression and encryption.

While content distributors are starting to get it, and a number of legitimate P2P business models have emerged, what’s got the carriers worried is the sheer volume — estimated anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of all Internet traffic — of P2P traffic.

Hui Zhang, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who studies broadband networks, says that “2006 will be remembered as the year of Internet video. Consumers have shown that they basically want unlimited access to the content owners’ video. But what if the entire Internet gets swamped in video traffic?”

Just as video compression advances like DivX have revolutionized video delivery, so will peer-to-peer sharing. What’s interesting is that of all the keys to web content delivery, DRM is the furthest behind. Even Bill Gates thinks it’s “too complicated.”

BitTorrent has already legitimized its business, and is now leveraging that legitimacy to do real business. And Google crossed the Pacific to get behind a Chinese company working on delivering P2P TV. From beast to beauty, carriers should be taking a long look at how they handle peer-to-peer packets.

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