For years the term peer-to-peer has been a synonym for piracy to most of the mainstream public. More recently, however, content distributers and websites such as Facebook and Twitter have become aware that it’s an ideal way to transfer data cheaply and efficiently.
One of the more notable usages of P2P-assisted downloads is that utilized by Blizzard’s hit game StarCraft 2 which went on sale a few weeks ago. All downloadable copies of this title have been distributed through Blizzard’s BitTorrent downloader. With the custom downloader gamers download the full game and subsequent patches.
This type of peer-to-peer distribution service benefits both the consumer who gets faster downloads, and the distributer who saves on bandwidth costs. Unfortunately, however, not all Internet providers are happy with these types of transfers.
In the United States both Verizon and AT&T prohibit the use of peer-to-peer services on their wireless networks. Despite the large Net Neutrality lobby, nobody calls them out for it. But across the pond there are even worse examples. In Ireland, for example, broadband users with a monthly download limit of 300GB are still not allowed to use peer-to-peer transfers.
In the tariffs and price list for Vodafone, the second largest ISP in the country, there’s an unusual sentence at the bottom that prohibits the use of all P2P transfers, legitimate or illegitimate.
“The service may not be used for peer to peer data usage,” it reads.
To find out why this limitation is in place and what purpose it serves, TorrentFreak contacted the Irish ISP a few days ago. Unfortunately, the company failed to respond to us before publication. Meanwhile, customers of Vodafone have also taken notice of this unusual limitation. One TorrentFreak reader who has a Vodafone subscription asked his ISP whether there are any penalties for those who dare to use P2P, but this inquiry went unanswered as well.
Without an official comment we can only guess at the true reason behind Vodafone’s decision to prohibit certain types of traffic. What we do know is that Vodafone is currently negotiating with the music industry to install a three-strikes policy for repeated copyright infringers. However, banning all peer-to-peer traffic at once seems to go a bit far. Even the music industry would agree with that.
There is hope for Irish Vodafone customers though. While researching the issue we noticed that references to its peer-to-peer prohibition started to disappear from some parts of the Vodafone website. The text is still listed at the bottom of this page, but was removed recently from another section (Google cache September 3rd).
Perhaps Vodafone has silently responded to our inquiries and those of worried customers? That would be good news.
Update: Apparently Vodafone banned P2P by mistake, they promised to fix it. An official statement has not been released.