P2P plug-in could detect net neutrality violations

In an effort to regulate network management practices, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based peer-to-peer platform provider released a tool to help users track possible traffic manipulation by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Users of Vuze Inc.’s Aureus, a file sharing platform based on BitTorrent file-sharing technology, can download a free plug-in that checks Internet communications every 10 minutes. It assesses the number of attempted communications versus those interrupted by a reset packet, a tool that breaks connections with computers attempting downloads.

The goal is to aggregate data collected across user connections in different jurisdictions globally to assess possible ISP traffic interference, said the company’s general counsel, Jay Monahan.

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“It will be inferential evidence but if we find the rate of interruption is double in one jurisdiction than another, you can certainly infer that interference is happening at the network level,” he said.

Last November, Vuze filed a petition with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the adoption of enforceable rules to help regulate network management practices, and provide transparency to consumers and businesses around ISP behaviour. In the petition, Zune said Philadelphia-based ISP Comcast’s actions to interfere with traffic “frustrate Vuze’s business and force the company to devote resources to play a ‘cat and mouse game’ to maintain superior service for its customers.”

According to Monahan, other network operators have also attempted traffic manipulation.

Although Zune only just publicly announced the plug-in this week, it had already targeted a small group of users before this. He estimates, at this point, the plug-in has been adopted by “a few thousand” users.

According to Michael Geist, professor with Ottawa-based Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), the plug-in is “certainly a positive development” in preventing the practice of traffic shaping, however, it will take much more to “put a dent” in the net neutrality issue. Net neutrality is a principle that all Internet data should be treated equally.

Geist observed that many ISPs have “seemingly been unconcerned with the growing consumer concern” over traffic shaping or other net neutrality issues. Illustrating this, he cited Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s effort to promote easy access to content by releasing a television program on BitTorrent. “Consumers are already finding they’re facing shaping issues,” said Geist.

And in another instance of the violation of net neutrality, Montr

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