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Is uTorrent disrupting the Net?

Richard Bennett reports that one of the leading BitTorrent clients, uTorrent, has decided to use UDP rather than TCP as the protocol for moving torrents through the Net. Especially since uTorrent is owned by BitTorrent, Inc., and thus is the paradigmatic BitTorrent client, this has stirred up a lively debate about whether this is a good thing for the Net, and whether it is proof that Net neutrality is counterproductive, necessary, or irrelevant.

I am in way over my head here, so please correct me if I get this wrong, but as I understand it, UDP is generally used for data that is time-sensitive and that isn’t rendered useless by some data loss, such as VoIP and online gaming. Unlike TCP, UDP doesn’t have a self-governing mechanism that manages traffic when it gets crowded; UDP lets a server just keep sending bits regardless of the current state of the network. uTorrent (which had previously been using UDP only for lightweight metadata) has started using UDP for the data itself — the files that people are torrenting — to get around the TCP throttling mechanisms some of the ISPs use, raising the fear that all that UDP data will congest the tubes.

Richard Bennett says this shows that Net neutrality will choke the Net. uTorrent talks about it here. I found a forum at BroadbandReports that provided multiple and useful perspectives.

As for me, I don’t know what to think. I am open for instruction.

Later that day: BitTorrent replies that Richard’s article is “utter nonsense.” Explained here. Slashdotted here. BitTorrent says that they’re implementing controls in their client software that will notice congestion and throttle back. Again, I’m in no position to judge.

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