Do your torrent downloads seem to be taking longer than usual? Are you trying to transfer, say, a home video to a friend via Pando and the upload keeps getting stuck? Or maybe you’re having problems with BitTorrent’s new streaming service, which just doesn’t seem to work on your system? There’s a good chance your ISP is at fault, as more and more providers are putting the brakes on BitTorrent these days.
Though Comcast was the first to make headlines with its anti-P2P policy, a bunch of other ISPs in the U.S. and elsewhere are throttling BitTorrent traffic as well. Take, for example, Bell Canada, or Germany’s Kabel Deutschland. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to tell if your ISP is one of the bad guys — we’ve pulled together five tests that will do it for you.
The Web-based Java applet: Germany’s Max Planck Insitute has developed a web-based test that works right in your browser. Just run the Java applet and give it a few minutes to simulate BitTorrent uploads and downloads. The Institute’s server has unfortunately been a little busy lately, so you might have to come back multiple times before you’re actually able to run the test.
The Linux Live CD: Italian P2P enthusiasts have developed an Ubuntu-based Live CD project called Gemini Project to test for BitTorrent throttling. The catch is that you need to team up with a fellow user of the same ISP. But at least you won’t have to install any additional software on your machine.
The Vuze Plug-In: BitTorrent vendor Vuze has developed a plug-in for its own Azureus client to test ISPs for bandwidth throttling. The plug-in will display the test results to the user and send anonymized data to a Vuze server if permitted to do so. The company’s plan is to collect multiple tests per ISP to get a more accurate picture of the specific measures and time frames — great for identifying ISPs that only throttle during peak demand hours. The only downside: No OS X version yet, but we were told by Vuze that it is “actively working on future versions.”
The l33t way: The EFF back in November published a paper called “Detecting packet injection: a guide to observing packet spoofing by ISPs,” and the procedure to run this test is about as sexy as its title. You’ll need to install a bunch of programs, play with your firewall settings and, if at all possible, “disable TCP and UDP checksum offloading and TCP segmentation offloading.” Phew. At least you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back for your hacker skills.
The bureaucratic approach: Shouldn’t your ISP tell you if it throttles BitTorrent? Well, it might be already doing so. Comcast denied any network interference for the longest time, but other ISPs have been far more forthcoming about their plans for P2P traffic. For instance did you know that RoadRunner, Charter and Cox have language in their Terms of Service that allows them to do pretty much the same thing as Comcast? So go back and finally read those contracts you clicked through during your sign-up process. To be fair, TOS provisions don’t mean that your ISP actually throttles BitTorrent — but it’s good to know what a company is willing (and able) to do.