Hundreds of ISPs all over the world limit and restrict BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic on their networks, and Europe is no exception. A new EU report sheds light on how common these practices are.
The report was initiated in 2011 following requests from the European Commission addressed to BEREC, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications. The aim was to gather information relating to the net neutrality debate, specifically regarding actions taken by ISPs to hinder, throttle, block or degrade Internet traffic.
A questionnaire was sent to out to ISPs across Europe and in the end responses from a total of 381 ISPs were considered, 266 ‘fixed line’ ISPs (140 million subscribers) and 115 mobile operators (200 million subscribers).
Among other things they were asked about their traffic management practices in respect of a range of objectives including preserving quality of service, contractual agreements with customers, network security, and other measures required by legal order.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the most frequently reported restrictions outside simple contractual data-capping concerned the blocking and/or throttling of peer-to-peer and VoIP traffic. A total of 49 fixed-line ISPs reported interfering with P2P, as did 41 mobile operators.
While the restrictions affect at least 20% of all subscribers, the report notes that the impact on end users can vary. Some ISPs restrict all of their users, some just a percentage. Others restrict traffic during certain times of the day, while some have contractual restrictions that are not necessarily enforced technically.
Overall, in the fixed-line broadband market at least 21% of users are affected by P2P restrictions, either technically or by clauses in their contracts. In the mobile market that figure is 36%. When it comes to VoIP related restrictions, at least 21% of the mobile market faces restrictions with the possibility of an additional 18% depending on conditions.
The findings of the study will be used in the ongoing Open Internet debate in Europe. Earlier this year the Netherlands was the first country to sign Net Neutrality principles into law, which would restrict the use of P2P-throttling by ISPs. In the European Parliament the Greens are proposing to guarantee Net Neutrality in the rest of Europe too.
The full report titled BEREC findings on traffic management practices in Europe can be downloaded here (pdf)