Over the past few years Internet service providers have been increasingly complaining about the massive load BitTorrent transfers place on their networks. They claim that this load can reduce the performance experienced by other subscribers, but the huge amount of data transferred outside their own network is also very costly.
To solve these issues, some ISPs have started to slow down all BitTorrent traffic, Comcast-style. Others choose to limit BitTorrent speeds at certain times of the day, and there are other examples where customers simply cannot download files with a .torrent extension at all.
Luckily there are options available which can help manage BitTorrent traffic and please customers, all at the same time. The Israeli ISP Bezeq International has taken this more consumer-friendly route. This ISP actually makes BitTorrent downloads faster by caching popular torrent downloads on their own network. By doing so the load on the network decreases and since there are less connections to peers outside the network Bezeq is also saving on costly bandwidth.
It works as follows. When a Bezeq International customer downloads a .torrent file the ISP will intercept it and add (!) a new tracker to it. The additional tracker is only accessible for Bezeq International customers and it connects to a high speed web-seed hosted on Bezeq International’s network. As a result the files will be downloaded much faster. A Bezeq customer told us that almost all ‘popular’ torrents he downloaded connect to local seeds.
Interestingly, the tracker Bezeq International uses is hosted by an ISP in The Netherlands, while the actual seeds (caches) are on the ISPs network. The provider confirmed to TorrentFreak that the ISP is indeed listed as a client, but they were not aware of its torrent caching practices or that they were hosting a BitTorrent tracker.
On the surface this seems to be a win-win situation for both the ISP and its customers. Bezeq saves on resources and expensive bandwidth while the customer enjoys higher download speeds. There are of course privacy concerns, since the .torrent files are intercepted and edited without permission, but the biggest opposition to such a system will most likely come from the entertainment industry.
Various anti-piracy lobby groups, including the MPAA and RIAA are already pushing for more cooperation from ISPs in tracking down copyright infringers. The relationship between the entities is an uneasy one already, and that’s before an ISP decided it would become a BitTorrent seeder. Although Bezeq International does not control which files are cached on their servers, the likes of the MPAA and RIAA will likely see it as aiding in copyright infringement.
Caching BitTorrent traffic and attempts to keep it within the local network as much as possible are not new, but aside from occasional tests these technologies are never implemented by ISPs. Bezeq International did not respond to our inquiries so we can’t confirm that they have implemented it for all their customers. For those who are lucky enough, enjoy the ride.
More discussion in Israeli.