back to article O2 Broadband puts brakes on BitTorrent

O2 has joined the ranks of fixed line broadband providers restricting peer-to-peer traffic as part of its network hits capacity during evening peak times. The firm has installed specialist equipment to cut the amount of bandwidth available to BitTorrent, Gnutella and KaZaa users, as well as newsgroups*. O2 launched its fixed …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blast from the past?

    KaZaa still exists? Wow, I thought it was done and dusted ages ago.

    Then again, it's been a long time since I used it to get Angel Season 5 to watch...

    I've been clean since then. Honest guv!

  2. Paul Donnelly


    Thats the only reason O2 got my business - unlimited, unfettered access. Guess its time to move on again soon....

  3. Danny 14

    The beginning of the end?

    3 hours now, then maybe 5, then 8....

    You can bet be* will be next.

  4. Simon Buttress

    'E' word

    Encryption. How will it determine what protocol is inside if the packets are encrypted? source IP address?

  5. Tony Paulazzo

    Title 73529

    >The restriction will apply ... between 8pm and 11pm<

    Seems perfectly reasonable to me, I think BT do it from about 6pm to midnight. P2P was never meant to be about streaming in realtime, and it seems that broadband demand (online TV, Youtube etc) has outstripped capacity. I prefer traffic shaping to all out ban.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    That seems fair enough?

    For people who do use P2P having download speeds throttled during peak times surely isn't such a biggie?

  7. Tom 15

    Although it sucks...

    Although it sucks, you can't blame them for bandwidth limiting IPStream products... the rate that BT Wholesale charge is extraordinate!

  8. Frosty840

    Spread the downloads through the day

    One of the things that annoys me about the whole "If everyone tried to download a movie every evening, then in the evenings, nobody will be able to do anything online" argument is that all it would take to fix the problem would be a remote-download device, i.e. just enough electronics to remotely log in, configure and start a download, and store it.

    You could build them into routers (which most people leave on, even if they turn off their PCs during the day), and have either internal memory or a USB port for a memory stick (or two, for network printers :p )

    That way, people could log in to them at any time of day, start downloading, and thus spread traffic load more evenly through the day.

    Odds are that someone already has a patent on this, and that's why it's not already happening...

  9. Sampler
    Thumb Down


    Why should my linux iso download be restricted because some muppet can't program their vcr to tape eastenders?

    Not that it matters to me being a Be customer - but in my view, I pay for an internet connection of advertised bandwidth capacity - however I want to use that capacity should be up to me* - not what the provider says I can use because they actually oversold there capacity.

    * within legal restrictions, obviously.

  10. Michael Sheils

    Keep Away

    Keep it away from the Be* network and I'm still happy.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Shaping P2P but not iPlayer...?

    That doesn't make sense, as the iPlayer is a p2p client (unless switched off by the user). My guess is that they'll impose restrictions on iPlayer traffic too, but I guess they'd get flak from plenty of people if they announced they were blocking that.

    Your average internet user wouldn't give two hoots about those pesky p2p users who steal* music and films having their p2p traffic shaped, but woe betide any company that dares limit their ability to watch iPlayer.

    Personally, I ain't too bothered about p2p traffic being shaped as I don't use it very regularly... I only load up the iPlayer for those times when I've fallen asleep during the F1.

    What I would object to, however, is them shaping usenet traffic. That's mostly synchronous, as the amount uploaded is minimal compared to the amount downloaded. Luckily this doesn't affect me as I'm on Vermin Media.... not that they don't limit my traffic in other ways.

    * yes, yes.... I know it's not stealing.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Sounds reasonable...

    ....providing it's limited to that evening slot! 8-11 is a bit crap actually, the worst time is when all the kids come in from school and they're straight out onto the torrents and Kazaa, getting that stuff that passes for music these days or watching YouTube vids of their stupid mates setting fire to themselves! You try sending a mail from home between 3:30pm and 5pm!

    I would be more than happy to know I can trounce the line after midnight, TorrentFlux and uTorrent, to name but two, can schedule downloads.

  13. Scott Mckenzie

    Be - phew!

    Be have always maintained they'll never monitor or shape or restrict their traffic... thankfully this says it won't affect Be either, i just hope that remains forever!!! It's one of the reasons i'm with them!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    So... to be clear...

    Am I right in thinking that this only affects customers on the "Access" version of the service (ie. the one that uses BT lines, as opposed to the full-fat LLU offering)?

    If so, I'm kinda surprised traffic shaping wasn't already in place. BT are gits.

    Fingers crossed o2/be* don't start to shape the ADSL2+ LLU offering.... that's the real service anyway.


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that old canard again....

    "Why should my linux iso download be restricted because some muppet can't program their vcr to tape eastenders?"

    Well given that you will only be downloading your linux distro once or twice a year it should not be a problem should it? Or are you just using the factory default 'Honest, bittorrent has legitimate uses really, look at linux distro's" defence to cover up your freetarding habits?

  16. jackharrer
    Thumb Up

    Makes sense

    As long as they keep all customers informed it is fine. BitTorrent is a low priority traffic, and by specification saturates the whole link if possible. I personally think that all modern clients should come with those limits as default (50% during peak time, or so) with some explanation how to change them and why those are there. It would make whole experience better for everybody.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @Simon Buttress

    Yes, or rather the vast number of source IPs connected to for a reasonable length of time. And lowering the number of connections won't do much for the Torrent- no-one else can get parts from you.

    Plus, just downloading from (say) one other Torrent user means that you're (potentially) sucking up all of their upstream bandwidth and using only a fraction of your downstream bandwidth.

    @AC 11:46

    Good point- in fact if you're Torrenting a movie there is absolutely no way of watching it in realtime as you're getting pretty random bits of the movie rather than a stream of it. No idea about other P2P systems, but I'd bet it's pretty similar.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Fuckin BT Again!

    Note this only affects IPStream broadband - Provided by BT whoresale

    Anyone on LLU (ie connected to a Be Server able to get 24mb) remains unaffected (thats me Phew!!)

    This BT problem needs to be fixed.its about tiem that BT were Exorcised from using the Phone Exchanges altogether! lets kit them out with proper kit like the Be Servers!

  19. Craig 12

    Time restriction not too bad

    I mean, do your torrents while you're out at work or asleep... fairly obvious way of spreading the load!

  20. Anonymous Coward


    WTF, does anyone use Hotline anymore? The early bastion of mac warez! (and some very cool communities of like minded people)

    No carracho on the list i see...

    Oh the nostalgia!

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Pretty comprehensive list but, did they forget one?

    Is Kademlia included also?

  22. Neill Mitchell
    Thumb Down

    Virgin "throttlling" doesn't work

    Virgin claim to throttle you down to 2MB/s if you hit their pathetic limit (1.5GB between 4pm and 9pm for £25 a month!).

    What they actually do is to massively up the packet latency to 5-10 seconds. This effectively makes your link unusable.

    When you phone up to complain they simply refuse to answer questions about latency. They make you run the speed test (which takes an absolute age to start due to the latency) and then say "well, see it says 2MB/s." When you point out it also says 10 seconds latency they just reply "can I help you with anything else?". Refuse to go there.

    £25 a month + £11 line rental for limited traffic is 1990's pricing. The industry is going backwards!

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Back to overnet then! neither overnet or Kademlia is on the list!

  24. Platelet

    Shaping P2P but not iPlayer.

    I thought iplayer dropped the p2p aspect last december

  25. Keith 19


    What's a 'vcr'?

    Mine's the coat sitting on top of the hi-def blu-ray DVD player, thank you very much!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Too much spare time? - seems fair to me

    I'd love to have the time that freetards who will inevitably bitch about this obviously seem to have.

    Many of us grab torrents of TV shows we've missed, after movies and music, it's probably one of the primary uses.

    But how much content do you actually have time to watch or listen

    I had a mate who was effectively addicted to downloading as much stuff as he could via torrents. He'd leave it running 24/7. I think he's been cured of this addiction now - he got a girlfriend ;)

    There's no point in downloading more information than you can possibly digest - unless your a criminal making money from it of course - why don't you just grab what you need and no more?

    I'd far rather see bandwidth being used for reputable online content streaming that dodgy torrents. I'm hoping services like iPlayer are just the beggining of true media on demand - something I'm willing to pay for.

    As for the Linux distribution argument for torrents - spare me that excuse!

    And this assumption that you have a God given right to use your bandwidth how you want?

    Erm, no, you don't. Read the contract from your ISP and welcome to the real world.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    "Why should my linux iso download be restricted [..] ?"

    ODFO. At least have the balls to complain that you won't be able to get your free fix of tentacle pr0n from your fave Japanese tracker.

  28. Thomas Bottrill

    Storm in a teacup?

    I'm surprised that O2 wasn't already restricting people on IPStream, considering that they'll be paying BT for bandwidth.

    The LLU network is still unrestricted, which I'd imagine most O2 customers are on anyway (I'd be interested to know just how many use O2 on the IPStream product). This is just dealing with the higher costs that they have for running broadband over the BT network rather than their own.

    "Thats the only reason O2 got my business - unlimited, unfettered access. Guess its time to move on again soon...."

    If you're on one of the cheaper LLU products then you're unaffected by this. This only applies to the Access package.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good move

    Internet traffic DOES have different priorities, conversational class services like Skype and streaming like iPlayer and YouTube should be prioritised ahead of background, non-real-time traffic like BitTorrent.

    It's about time all ISP adopted similar moves and the 'net would be better for all concerned.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    @Matt 89

    And this assumption that you have a God given right to use your bandwidth how you want?

    Erm, no, you don't. Read the contract from your ISP and welcome to the real world.

    Actually Matt I do have a right to use what I pay for! I'm on a maximum Tariff, I pay the maximum the ISP asks for, and, I want Maximum Service for it! Fortunatly that is exactly what I get from Be! 24 down 2.4 up and no Throttle!

    To be honest I dont care if they throttle the lower use tarfiffs but they should always offer the best at a price.

  31. Pete 2 Silver badge


    > a remote-download device

    or just schedule the download to start when you choose. A simple "cron" job would do it, or for those unfortunates who don't / can't do that, just set up the downloading web page and have a little AutoIt3 script that clicks the "download" button at the predetermined time.

  32. Paul H

    O2 on IP Stream

    All my friends are on Be and strongly recommended it to me. Unfortunately I live out in the country and am not in a Be area. So I figured the next best thing would be to go for O2's Access product. A BIG mistake. I get latency in the region of 130ms to the first hop, and sometimes up to 250ms to a UK games server. My download speeds struggle to reach 80KB/sec. I cannot play a standard Youtube video in real time. Yet my modem syncs at nearly 3Mb/sec.

    This has been three months now. Unfortunately I cannot cancel until June.

  33. Neill Mitchell

    Re. "Read the contract from your ISP...

    >>Read the contract from your ISP and welcome to the real world.

    What a flippant statement. This is exactly the point of the story. O2 signed up loads of people and then months later hit them with this. Where in the O2 contract did it say this? Contracts are bollocks. All they do is send out an email saying "oh, from now on it's like this". Worse still, you are now stuck with a minimum contract.

    I think it's a case for miss-selling.

    Same goes for Virgin. Nowhere did it mention the limits when I signed up. I didn't hit the limit until 2 months later (and yes, Matt 89, I was downloading a new version of Mandriva Linux). I then got directed to a URL that outlined the limits. By this time it was too late to cancel the service. I believe the limits are going to be tightened further, especially at weekends. You don't even have the option to pay for an extra gigabyte, either. So I can't even pay my way if I want to.

    Virgin made glitzy adverts with Samuel L. Jackson selling "the mother of all broadband" (I believe that's how the slogan went). Well, it turns out it isn't. They advertise it as being made for media and TV downloads and then say on their traffic page:

    "When someone is downloading and/or uploading a particularly large amount of information over a long period of time, it can slow down the broadband speed for other users who might just be checking their email or browsing online."

    Right, so you are selling it as a life changing media service, but really its for emails and browsing.

    Don't get me wrong. People who just browse and read email should not have a poor service. But you should not advertise and sell high bandwidth broadband if you cannot support it. Otherwise it's like putting a 1 gallon tank in a Ferrari and saying it's really quick.

  34. Anonymous Hero

    Seems fair enough to me

    Not sure what folk are moaning about. It's only a 3 hour throttling period during their peak usage time and O2 are being pretty upfront.

    At the end of the day P2P traffic is fire and forget, it doesn't need to be real time. I think people have have short memories and have forgotten the days when it'd take a few days to grab all the pieces of a binary.

    When that new Linux distro appears, do you really need it there and then? I expect not.

    It could've been worse and they either throttled P2P/NNTP 27x7 or simply killed it altogether. This is the world we live in now, suck it up.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nildram - a workaround?

    I've been with Nildram for yonks but I noticed a week ago my Giganews downloads (tv show catchups, pretty much) were only coming down at 60k/sec instead of 350-400k/sec so I did the obvious and Googled.

    BE looked quite good an I nearly signed up on the spot then I read a post from someone who'd had this problem and requested their MAC code from Nildram to move to BE or somewhere else. Within a day or two he said his connection was back to about 2mbit speed.

    What a surprise, since I requested my MAC my 4mbit connection is now running at about 2mbit from Giganews.

    It's not like I even hit 50% of the pretty generous 50GB download cap Nildram have in any month this year even with 3 kids permanently watching pokemon/manga/etc cartoons on the net all the time.

    So, try requesting your MAC and see if your ISP connections magically speed up too ;o)

  36. Graham Jordan

    Deep packet inspection

    It all sounds fair to me, I'd say fairer than Virgins throttle everything.

    But as someone's already mentioned, what about SSL?

    I only download from newsgroups and I do so using SSL encryption. How can they define the difference between legitimate SSL traffic and piracy without deep packet inspection and isn't that illegal?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cheap vps?

    If I'm at work and I decide i want to watch a film at home in the evening, I just ssh into my vps and set it downloading there using bittornado. When I get home, it's usually completed and I start it transfering from my vps to my home system with a simple http request, give it a few seconds so there's a buffer, and then point vlc at it. The torrent tends to download pretty fast to my vps because I don't have the same pathetic upload limits that I do at home.

  38. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    @ Frosty840

    You can do this via most decent NAS devices. My Synology NAS has a built in torrent client through which I could schedule these downloads to run at quiet times...

    ...should I be so inclined to.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    It'll all end in tears anyway this Saturday

    Apparently there's something called "football" happening this Saturday, and the Internerd is the only place where it's being shown live in the UK. A million tickets are being sold, at prices from £5 to £11.

    A million folks all downloading anything from 250kbit/s to 2Mbit/s all at the same time.

    Watch those fibres melt, traffic shaping or no traffic shaping, P2P or no P2P.

  40. skuba*steve

    hhmm, not that much of a biggie...

    considering it takes me around 2 days to download any decent HD content, I'm losing 6 hours out of 48? In any event I log on to my BT client from work via the web console to monitor my downloads, throttle the down/upload speed so it's not killing MY connection, let alone next doors, and usually kill it when i get in during prime xBox time, and kick it off again before bedtime.

    Not defending the act of downloading from bit torrent, but if we put a bit of thought into how we do it then the bandwidth issue doesn't get to be such an issue.

  41. Neill Mitchell

    Throttled outside specified hours.

    >Not sure what folk are moaning about. It's only a 3 hour throttling period during their peak usage time and O2 are being pretty upfront.

    With Virgin you can get throttled up to 10 hours. Worse still, if you hit your limit at say, 8.59pm - one minute before the theoretical limit ends, you remain throttled until 11pm. Plus, like I say, the "throttling" is achieved via massive packet latency rendering your connection useless rather than just slower.

    I keep seeing posts like "well, you can setup a download to occur after 11pm". Why the heck should I have to? Not exactly convenient is it? So I have to leave my PC on all night to download a distro, an iPlayer programme or a Office 2007 service pack.

    Also often see "you've got iplayer on your Virgin box, so why don't you use that?". Well, if it was as easy to navigate as a PC, had the same content, had resume capability and did not keep locking up and crashing on me and requiring a 10 minute reboot and startup cycle five times out of ten then I would.

    Of course in the old days you got a monthly limit. Then occasional downloaders or iPlayer users like me did not get hit and did not get well and truly hacked off the point of wanting to go elsewhere.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Damned Traffic Shaping

    I'm stuck on this one, personally I have no issue with P2P throttling, I use P2P a lot, and have no issue with waiting for stuff to finish.

    I'm on BT - they throttle supposedly from 5pm-midnight, but this is where I get somewhat annoyed. First off, my throttling starts around 10am, I'm a heavy user ... fine, I can leave my downloads overnight, still not a problem.

    The problem is whatever BT use, erroneously picks up my VPS control panel as P2P traffic (encrypted, non-standard ports) - meaning if something goes wrong with my VPS from 10am - midnight, I'm shafted.

    I don't understand why they have to throttle to 1KB/s and drop packets, why can't they throttle to something reasonable? 100Kb/s, that's plenty for my VPS control panel to work without problem. Instead I'm having to change ISP to one that employs no traffic shaping, meaning once I do, my torrents will be running at a full 800KB/s and taking bandwidth away from others in the village (the whole point of throttling in the first place). Tough as far as I'm concerned, they should throttle reasonably or employ better DPI kit.

  43. Kotonoha

    I will care...

    ...if this ever affects Rapidshare, Megaupload and similar sites.

    Also AOL/CFW/TalkTalk don't seem to give a shit what I do :D

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A pirate's life for me.

    i stopped using torrents and other p2p a long time ago...

    when the copyright police started sendingletters out and isps started sending you threats of disconnection, plus all the seeders were limiting the uploads it was time to jump ship...

    from my full flavour 24mbit Be connection i can grab the latest episode of whatever it is i wanna watch from rapidshare... it takes less than 5 min (including the un-rar) well worth the €54.99 i pay for it every 12 months....

    We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot.

    Stand up me 'earties, Yo Ho!

    We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.

    Stand up me 'earties, Yo Ho!

    Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A pirate's life for me.

    We extort, we pilfer, we filch and sack.

    Stand up me 'earties, Yo Ho!

    Maraud and embezzle and even hijack.

    Stand up me 'earties, Yo Ho!

  45. Puck

    @neill mitchell

    This new step of limited throttling isn't so much a case for misselling - what it would be (for those who might feel strongly enough about it), is breach of warranty, i.e. breach of a minor contract term, implied or otherwise. That doesn't necessarily void the contract , but can give the injured party some right of compensation equal to the loss incurred. If a new contract term has been introduced then you are entitled to reject the term, I believe. The thing is, this does seem a reasonable step on O2's part, and it probably features in the contract you signed up to, as 'steps protect the network'

    And I don't think the case of "Freetard vs Telefonica SA" would gain much judicial sympathy somehow. That's because the implicit illegality means you're not entitle to a legal remedy.

    The thing is, if you rang and asked nicely and said, look, you've changed the product midway through the contract, or i feel the speeds are always poor, i feel it's not quite fair, etc, etc, they'd probably just let you leave or offer some free months as goodwill. You could try that if you felt strongly, might make you feel better anyway.

  46. Darren Bell
    Thumb Up

    Time to ...

    convert bittorrent to use HTTP port 80 :) This would be good.

  47. OFI
    Thumb Down

    Didn't take long

    Well it was only a matter of time...

    Hopefully that 3 hour period doesn't get bigger or move around and inexchange i'd like a decent ping and the ability to stream videos EVERY day of the week

  48. Dave Bell

    At least they tell you

    My ISP, until last year, had nice clear rules on handling excessive usage. I never heard of them being used.

    They never admitted to traffic shaping, but they did it.

    I don't see any reason to object to this being done for p2p file transfer. It isn't meant for live viewing. I can live with that. I get grumpy about NNTP being blocked, but I'm told there's a huge volume of data in the binaries groups. If I can connect morning and evening, as this would allow, I can work as I did on dial-up, off-line.

    My previous ISP eventually got to the point where I felt I couldn't trust them. Which is why I would be able to cope with this scheme. They're being honest, at least on this.

  49. TeeCee Gold badge

    Has it come to this?

    ".....or YouTube....."

    A world where skateboarding dogs, idiotic fuckwits miming badly to crap music and umpty-something allegedly humourous re-subtitlings of Hitler's rant are deemed somehow more important than the remainder of humanity's contribution to the visual arts.

    Could someone hold it still while I hop off please? Thanks.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    so anyone who doesn't yet know how to download media for free can check out the nice little list on O2s website

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least they are telling you

    BT Business Broadband don't even tell you if you are being capped.

    If you exceed some mysterious figure a month on their unlimited service regardless of what you are actually using it for they restrict all your traffic and the throttling is terrible. Its actually worse than dial up speeds at the weekend and there is huge latency and it makes even simple browsing painful.

    If they are going to cap then they should at least tell you when you are approaching the limit and then cap it a reasonable level without the high latencies.

  52. Anonymous Coward

    @ Sampler

    Tit. Its people like you who give geeks a bad name. I could reverse your statement and make exactly the same point.

    "Why should my watching Eastenders on iPlayer be interupted because some muppet can't start their linux ISO download in the morning so its finished when he gets home from work".

    Unless you're a student and don't do mornings.

    Also, you clearly know the difference between "their" and "there", use it consistently.

    Rant over.

  53. Tim J

    What an absolute funking disgrace...

    I pay my broadband bill - therefore I should be able to download unlimited movies and music to my heart's content. Where's the wrong in that?

  54. Alex C
    Thumb Up


    I've got O2's broadband service (re-badged Be as it is).

    It's easily the cheapest service I could find, generally reliable (can't remember the last downtime to do with network) and their engineers arrive when they say they will, are friendly and knowledgeable. It's a lot more than can be said for any other provider I've had apart from NilDram.

    I don't use bit-torrent and know they have to pay for the cost of taking traffic from the DSLAMs at my local exchange (whether it be extending their network there or paying for it to be delivered to another point.

    Clearly they don't want to put their prices up in these impecunious times and I'm grateful for that.

    If the freetards want their tv shows, let them get them in the middle of the night rather than it costing me.

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