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Full Throttle (or How the Telecom Corporations are Shaping Your Future)
Posted on Wednesday, June 25 2008 @ 01:32:36 Eastern

Ah, the internet. Surely, it is one of the greatest technological achievements of all time and the only significant step Man has taken toward the future since landing on the moon. Not since the printing press has an invention expanded the access to information and democratized thought like this. Well, that is if you're accessing the internet from the right country and through the right service provider.

It's been common knowledge that certain countries, China for example, have taken to restricting their citizens' access to certain corners of the internet. Ridiculous fears of goatse inspiring a new Chinese revolution aside, we here in the land of the free would never even bother fear having our internet access regulated by some ominous faceless organization, right? If only.

No, this isn't going to be a rant about certain American ISP's restricting access to known child pornography sites. I know that's a big concern for some of GR's users, but I'll leave the fretting over preschool playmates to them. This is about a nifty little thing called "network shaping." Isn't that a cute term? It makes me think of the great sculptures of ancient Greece, shaping lifelike figures from marble. Quite beautiful, really. Unfortunately, it's more akin to the sculpting chimps do with their own feces, which is less sculpting and more gripping and flinging. See, "network shaping" is probably more commonly known as throttling. This isn't the badass motorcycle riding throttling that makes you haul ass, pop wheelies and get some salty biker bar tail, though. The throttling I'm refering to is the strangling, shaking and eventually killing kind: what a wolf does to a little rabbit after clamping down on its throat.

Our pack of wolves are less canine, and more telecommunications corporations. We pay them monthly for access to all the wonderful advertisements and ADHD formulated distractions that make the internet worth having, but it looks like we're enjoying their services too much for their liking.

There was a time when hosting a file required putting it on a server for however long you wished to make it available. Unfortunately, not everyone owns or has access to servers of their own, though, so getting your file out on the interwebs could become a very costly effort, moreso with increased file size. Just after the turn of the century, however, a new file sharing system by the name of BitTorrent came along and made things a whole lot easier. You could host your file from your own computer for a while, then whoever downloaded it would host it, too, and so on and so on until it became a veritable orgy of sharing that required no singular infrastructure.

As the popularity of this file sharing protocol grew more and more people were eating up more and more bandwidth. So what, though, right? This is the age of broadband! What are we paying upwards of $30 a month for if not the ability to download tons of useless crap all day? Much to my chagrin, telecom companies like Comcast and AT&T don't seem to agree. I guess we're only renting the bandwidth from them and they seem to think we're terrible tenants. In response to the constant use of bandwidth, they've started targeting torrent users directly.

Things will look fine on your end of the line until wham! Your connection to the other folks sharing and downloading the torrent is severed, along with your connection to the site hosting the torrent and possibly even your connection to the internet entirely. It's all temporary, but in being so it only makes the problem worse. Before, I would leave my torrents up over night. I wouldn't consider 4am peak internet usage time, so I figure all that bandwidth I'm bankrupting myself for is up for grabs. Figuring falls apart there, though. While I sleep, my torrent is killed after maybe 10 minutes and I'm not likely to realize this until I wake up the next morning and find its made no progress.

So, how do I have to remedy this? Looks like I'll be torrenting during the day more often, now, when every other jerk in my neighborhood is hoping for the most out of their DSL connection. Sucks for them, though. Now that AT&T has robbed me of the service I pay them for, I'll be making the problem they're foolishly trying to solve worse as I reset my connection multiple times to bypass the throttling of my downloads.

Ah, freedom. It sure is great to pretend we have it.
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