Ashwin Navin, President of BitTorrent Inc has revealed his thoughts on the recent blanket banning of P2P at Ohio University. Noting that the University acknowledges the legitimate uses of Peer to Peer technology but remains firm on the the total ban, Navin doesn’t pull his punches. “By instituting this ban, Ohio University has demonstrated a serious lack of understanding of P2P technology’s value and role on the Internet. Furthermore, the school has closed its doors to innovation and shirked its responsibilities as an educational institution”. Tough talk indeed.
As Navin points out, the term P2P is often used synonymously with ‘Illegal P2P File-Sharing’ but sharing unauthorized files is just the tip of large iceberg of possible applications. Skype, the popular internet communications application and Joost, the forthcoming video distribution platform are both P2P technologies and both are banned at Ohio.
Peer to Peer networks rely on the processing power and bandwidth availability of their users, allowing them to communicate directly, rather than placing a heavy reliance on shifting lots of data through a central server. The P2P method of communication offers massive cost savings over the traditional central server based system, taking online distribution of content away from expensive professionals and into the hands of the cost-conscious, regular internet user.
Students at Ohio will be excluded from the revolution, a point not lost on Navin, “Many artists, along with nonprofit and budget-conscious organizations, depend a great deal on P2P to reduce the costs of publication on the Internet. A blanket ban, then, will cripple the basic Internet experience for the very students and organizations that need it most.”
Looking at the broader issue of the average web user’s endless desire for more bandwidth and it’s toll on the internet’s structure, Navin explains “What Ohio University and others fail to realize is that within P2P lies a much-needed fix for the Internet itself. The way we use the Internet today — to stream YouTube videos, to make Voice over IP calls, or to download software and video games — is actually taxing the capacity of our networks and servers beyond their design. If applied intelligently, P2P can provide more capacity to congested networks by harnessing abundant and unused computing capacity and bandwidth we have in our own PCs”
P2P can help to more evenly distribute stresses on the internet’s structure and to this end, Navin suggests an improvement to our online, digital environment, “The best way to alleviate the stress on the central backbone of the Internet is to decentralize the onus of distribution to a local level using P2P.” Hinting at the bandwidth and costs efficiencies of using P2P he continued, “If P2P is like a hybrid car, BitTorrent is the Toyota Prius.”
In an ironic twist, legitimate online businesses ostensibly set up to combat piracy, will also suffer from the Ohio ban. Navin’s own BitTorrent Entertainment Network is also banned at Ohio. No wonder Aswin and co aren’t happy.
If the likes of the RIAA and MPAA are smug at the news of a total P2P ban at Ohio they probably need to think again. While file-sharing with the outside world may be banned, the trading of material within the school network survives intact via a student operated DirectConnect (DCC+) hub. It offers a huge 3 terabyte library of content with downloads completing many times quicker than those from the banned networks.
Before the ban, the RIAA could monitor external P2P student activity in order to demand cash settlements for alleged copyright offenses. Unfortunately for them they are unable to access the internal DCC+ hub, so the students still get their files plus their privacy back and the university will no longer be plagued by the administrative effects of infringement notices.