Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
AT&T Businesses Piracy The Internet

AT&T Patents System To "Fast-Lane" File-Sharing Traffic 112

An anonymous reader writes Telecom giant AT&T has been awarded a patent for speeding up BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic, and reducing the impact that these transactions have on the speed of its network. Unauthorized file-sharing generates thousands of petabytes of downloads every month, sparking considerable concern among the ISP community due to its detrimental effect on network speeds. AT&T and its Intellectual Property team has targeted the issue in a positive manner, and has appealed for the new patent to create a 'fast lane' for BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic. As well as developing systems around the caching of local files, the ISP has proposed analyzing BitTorrent traffic to connect high-impact clients to peers who use fewer resources.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

AT&T Patents System To "Fast-Lane" File-Sharing Traffic

Comments Filter:
  • Seems ripe for abuse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @07:45PM (#49091681)
    Seems like it would be easy for the marketing people to be singing their own praises while the core network people are quietly instructed to start using this software to catalog and ultimately curtail such practices.

    I really would rather not have my ISP QoS anything that I do. I want them to be a common-carrier. I'll shape my own traffic, thanks.
    • Luke! Luke! Don't! It's a trap! It's a trap!

    • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @08:43PM (#49091985) Journal
      'Seems ripe for abuse' is putting it mildly, there's only one reason they'd do this, and that would be to catalog and 'curtail' filesharing, and that reason only.
      • I don't know, is att a big owner of content, like time warner an their ilk? Maybe they are trying to deferentiate from the competition. Seems like a good strategy to me.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          While I haven't studied the bittorrent protocol in detail there has to be some likely cryptographic checksums at the heart of it. I'm guessing one per chunk. The infrastructure their talking about would also make it trivialy easy match those chunks against a list of data chunks that others do not want downloaded. Now you could trivially change a files checksum by introducing a bit error, reincoding, etc, etc, but this would still give them some impressive filtering abilities, particularly if you could sa

          • While I haven't studied the bittorrent protocol in detail there has to be some likely cryptographic checksums at the heart of it. I'm guessing one per chunk. The infrastructure their talking about would also make it trivialy easy match those chunks against a list of data chunks that others do not want downloaded. Now you could trivially change a files checksum by introducing a bit error, reincoding, etc, etc, but this would still give them some impressive filtering abilities, particularly if you could say apply it to individual files in a torrent, which is likely possible.

            Sure they have developed a bit of caching technology which could save them money, but I'd bet it is really about control. Charge extra to anyone who well wants to use feature X, be it the end user, a corporation, or anyone they possibly can.

            They do the same idea with satellite and cable. They force you to buy dozens of channels to get one that you really want, and then make sure to break them up so you are stuck, one way or the other. They certainly are no closer to al la carte pricing than they were what twenty years ago? Heck you used to be able to get some al la carte pricing on C-band. With the internet we have, so far, managed to be able to pick and choose what we want, but for how much longer?

            Oh look, you want to look at a non conservative news web site, well, we have a sponsor for those, so how about you poney up another $15 a month for our special news package? Look, you want to use that new fangled file sharing technology, well that will be $39.95 for the all you can eat buffet, but for the casual users we can give it to you for only $5 dollars a gigabyte. What? You had better before we introduced all that. Well, if you don't like it I'm sure you can choose another ISP. Of course if one moves in, we will just discount are service long enough to drive them out of business, so that won't last long...

            If there was one thing important these days in America it is making sure the supreme court doesn't tilt further right... It may be that the American people will really fight to keep net neutrality, but these days, I doubt it....

            Interesting reply AC. The only thing I would add is to be careful not to get fixated on the "right" or "left". These fabicrated concepts are simply two sides of the same coin. A distraction from what's really important; The protection of individual liberties and rights from buse of concentrated power.

        • by fey000 ( 1374173 )

          I don't know, is att a big owner of content, like time warner an their ilk? Maybe they are trying to deferentiate from the competition. Seems like a good strategy to me.

          It looks like fast lanes and slow lanes to me, just from a different perspective. Of course, if I'm wrong, and they build a better protocol for torrent traffic, I'm all for it. Improvements are great, and necessary.

          If the new tactic is to simply prioritise torrent traffic, then it's a fast lane. What's the difference between prioritising 9 types of traffic and throttling the 10th? None at all. This could just as well be used to throttle unwanted traffic (let's say WB starts prioritising everything *except*

  • since there's nothing inside for them to inspect or cache.

    (you are torrenting and NOT running a vpn? really? why?)

    • by deesine ( 722173 )

      Because I have only had one problem to date. I went nuts one month and downloaded probably over 350gb. Not including streaming. TimeWarner throttled me. I paid $6/month for a vpn for 3 months and then after that no throttling, so I stopped vpn. That was 6 years ago. I still have TW. When I get throttled again or receive some c&c letter, then I get the vpn again. Why pay when I don't need it?

      --

      • Among other reasons, this article here.

        Clearly they are monitoring this activity already, all they need to do is hit the "Give me random person from list of thousands" button and you're fucked.

    • (you are torrenting and NOT running a vpn? really? why?)

      Because there's nothing wrong with seeding a Linux ISO torrent?

      • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @08:27PM (#49091907)

        it should not matter if its a linux iso or not.

        the issue is: they have no need or right to look inside our packets.

        ANY of our packets.

        I'm not going to split hairs about society's current view toward IP rights. its a rathole that is not productive to dive into.

        just leave it at: my data is my data, I will use it as I see fit and all I ask of you is to route it to the right ip addresses and route return traffic back to me. PERIOD.

        I don't want them caching. if they want to try, be my guest, but I don't WANT it and I'm just fine with getting data from the real source each and every time I request it.

        • Your data may be your data, but you're sending it into a public arena. You can't expect any privacy unless you take measures to encrypt your data. Clear-text data on the internet is like expecting no one to listen to your conversation you're having with some using a megaphone in the middle of a densely populated city.

        • Judging from what they show in figure 4. this looks more like a CDN or caching system than a fast lane. I've heard others say before that if they inspect the traffic they lose the copyright safe harbor protection granted to service providers. It makes me wonder if there is some legal change (Maybe TPP) that gives them more ability.

        • That's a good rant - not sure what it had to do with my comment or the question I was replying to. I even quoted it.

    • Because it would be difficult to find a VPN service that could do 300-500mbps. Also because my ISP does not care that I upload a few terabytes per day.

      My ISP does throttle me to 80-100mbps during peak hours, but I do not care (the average is still good enough) and the ISP would throttle me even if I used VPN.

  • Net Neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @07:46PM (#49091691)
    Hard to swallow, but it violates net neutrality.

    We supposedly dont want any preferential treatment of any traffic....
    • Yep, violates net neutrality. What is *harder* to swallow though is that they seem to already be doing this for U-Verse; and patenting it is probably just a ploy to force other ISPs to pay them licensing fees for what largely amounts to slightly more clever proxies configurations and a change to default router settings.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Net neutrality isn't about treating all protocols equally, just all hosts.

      • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @07:59PM (#49091773) Journal

        This system prefers a closer, better, faster HOST. Suppose your next door neighbor and a guy on the other side of the planet both offer a chunk of a torrent you want. It is better for it to be sent from your neighbor to you. That's faster for you and it's cheaper for the ISP than transporting traffic across the world or across the country. So that's what they patented - a system for encouraging your bittorrent client to download from your neighbor rather than from someone far away.

        That's a preference for a particular host - the better one.

        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          A local host doesn't always mean "faster" for either bandwidth or latency. I've seen situations where others had lower pings to me with a different ISP than their neighbors on the same ISP, because of poor routing, and that's not including that they have highly asymmetrical down:up and I have symmetrical.

          A simple change would be to make clients favor lower latency clients. Something like floor(log2(latency)), lower is better.
      • by RLaager ( 200280 )

        I disagree. Imagine I'm an evil ISP: If I was to throttle HTTP to a certain limit, I'm sure I could break Youtube (and other video sites) without breaking the rest of the Web. And if they switch to some non-HTTP protocol, I'll just throttle that protocol across the board. In all cases, I'm treating hosts equally.

        Alternatively, if I prioritize some hypothetical Netflix-specific protocol, that will inhibit competitors from entering that market unless they can and do use the same protocol as Netflix, which mig

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        Depends on how you define it. I've seen at least 3 definitions, and probably more like 7. I personally like yours, but we gotta be clear about our meanings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JMJimmy ( 2036122 )

      Hard to swallow, but it violates net neutrality.

      We supposedly dont want any preferential treatment of any traffic....

      Not hard to swallow at all. You forget that the basics of fast lane technology: only those who pay get access. Sure, it may start out free but eventually it'll start getting a nominal fee and another and another.

      Keep it neutral - it works.

      • As long as you get the speeds you paid for, it doesn't. The problem was Verizon blackmailed Netflix to pay protection money to prevent Netlfix traffic from being throttled, i.e., slowed down. As long as you get the speeds you paid for and not throttled, network management that improves traffic would not violate net neutrality.
    • Re:Net Neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @08:03PM (#49091791) Journal

      No. Treating traffic differently based on protocol is fine. It's called QoS, and that's all this is. Net Neutrality is about the source and destination of packets.

      What they're doing is conflating the two to confuse people so they'll say "gee I guess some fast lanes are okay..." and give up on Net Neutrality when really all they agreed is that QoS is a good idea.

      • To be clear, go look at how your congressperson understands net neutrality. The definitions of net neutrality are so divergent that it's beyond confusing. Or even Google's definition, for that matter.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        This is totally not fine, and why the hell wouldn't it be net neutrality? The point of a neutral network is no prioritization - if you start opening loopholes, like QoS, an ISP just comes up with some proprietary VoIP protocol (or whatever) and makes a fast lane for just that protocol. Shutting out all competitors.

        QoS is fine on a local network, no one is saying that your own home router has to be neutral, but net neutrality means no prioritization. Full stop.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        No. Treating traffic differently based on protocol is fine. It's called QoS, and that's all this is. Net Neutrality is about the source and destination of packets.

        What they're doing is conflating the two to confuse people so they'll say "gee I guess some fast lanes are okay..." and give up on Net Neutrality when really all they agreed is that QoS is a good idea.

        Net neutrality is about treating all packets equally, regardless of content, source, destination, or protocol. It's basically saying: "Don't interfere with any traffic, let your users QoS their own if they find a need."

        The corollary is "be capable of delivering on the bandwidth you promised your customers." Or "don't oversell your capacity to deliver."

        If I pay for 50/50, I should get all 50/50, regardless of whether I'm torrenting, gaming, or using VOIP/Skype. If I want my torrents not to interfere wi

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not it fucking isn't. QoS is agianst Net Neutrality.

        The ONLY person who should have control over QoS is the customer on their end, because they are exceeding the bandwidth they pay for.

        QoS is NEVER necessary at ALL for the ISP or interlinks.

    • I do want my ISP shaping my traffic. I want short messages like an HTTP request getting priority, I want low latency for my games and zero jitter for my VoIP. What I want in net neutrality is I don't want my ISP to shape traffic based on who I'm communicating with. I don't want them to give their streaming service priority over NetFlix, their email over gmail, their streaming TV over ESPN or youtube. Actually what I want from net neutrality is my ISP to only be an ISP and not be allowed in the content b
      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        Why not just shape your own traffic? You get more control and they can't abuse it.
        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          Because shaping doesn't work that way. How your network treats traffic has no say on how the rest of the internet treats traffic. If your ISP honoured your QoS settings, then service would quickly cease due to the never-ending number of numpties abusing QoS to the detriment of other users.
          • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
            QoS is pointless when you have enough bandwidth. Your VoIP packets are no more important than my VPN packets. Maybe I am using VoIP and doing a file transfer at the same time, through a VPN tunnel, the ISP can't know that. Everyone should just get their fair share and should manage their own bandwidth usage.

            At home I use traffic shaping and I can maintain 98% line saturation while still getting less than 0.2ms of jitter.

            The biggest complaint of congestion is that it is associated with latency. We have th
      • Unfortunately, IP QoS marking is not only largely ignored by most of the carriers (unless you're paying extra to have your port care prioritize incoming packets for your access line), but the standards treat unmarked packets as the lowest priority, and have a way to mark packets as needing better-than-best-effort, but not lower-than-normal. I'd prefer that my incoming BitTorrent traffic get lower priority than my incoming web traffic (especially VOIP and most UDP, but also streaming HTTP/HTTPS like YouTube

    • I'm missing something here how does making p2p use local nodes violate net neutrality? p2p by definition has a lot of distributed nodes. Other sorts of traffic have a single or at least a relatively few number of nodes. If I have to take a lot of hops to get to my content I sure as hell don't want a lot of p2p traffic sharing my pipes when they could be feed locally. I'm not harmed but helped, p2p users aren't harmed but helped. Who loses?

      • I'm missing something here how does making p2p use local nodes violate net neutrality?

        The "making" part. Are you stupid?

    • Re:Net Neutrality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:05PM (#49092063)

      Part of it definitely isn't violating net neutrality, and the other part of it also isn't.

      The first part is nothing more than a simple CDN. Basically, they identify popular files, cache them locally in subnets where they're popular, and then serve up the cached results in order to improve overall performance. That's a simple network optimization technique that provides data as quickly as possible without any regard for who you are or who's delivering the content. ISPs and CDNs already do this with everything from YouTube to Apple's software updates to Netflix to the DNS records for your blog. It in no way violates net neutrality.

      As for the second part, it's also not a net neutrality issue, despite how it's being misrepresented to try and make it look like it is. There is no "fast lane". It's simply a method for engaging in more efficient multi-path/multi-source routing, which they already deal with on a regular basis with BGP. Basically, given multiple sources (i.e. peers) for the file that you're seeking, they'll connect you with the closest one. There's nothing contrary to net neutrality about preferentially selecting closer sources for the data you're requesting. If there was, then caching as a whole would be contrary to net neutrality, and that's clearly hogwash.

      TL;DR: I read the article, and there is no "fast lane". All they're doing is caching and/or connecting you to the closest source for the data you've requested, both of which are done without regard for who you are or who is providing the content. These are common techniques already in widespread use for the last few decades. The only novel aspect of the patent is that it's "for P2P". *eyeroll*

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone who uses this "fast lane" is going to be heavily targeted.

    • All those poor Steam and Battle.net subscribers...

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by walkerp1 ( 523460 )
      Trinity: You always told me to stay off the freeway.
      Morpheus: Yes, that's true.
      Trinity: You said it was suicide.
      Morpheus: Then let us hope that I was wrong.
  • Lol, what ?
  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @07:59PM (#49091775) Journal

    It wouldn't be a violation of net neutrality to completely squash all BitTorrent traffic.

    When we talk about net neutrality, we're talking about treating the traffic the same regardless of source or destination. This is different from QoS where it's perfectly fine and useful to treat packets differently based on protocol. Yes, please slow down a web page load by a millisecond so a VoIP packet isn't dropped. One is noticeable, the other isn't.

    And what's the source or destination of a request for (or seeding of) a BitTorrent file? The BitTorrent network. Doesn't matter which peer you're getting it from (on your end).

    What this really is is a PR wedge in the door against net neutrality by making it seem like this is a net neutrality issue, when it isn't. "Just the tip...just for a minute..." "Oh, well I guess some fast lanes are okay..." And then they're giving it to you hard and deep.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Net neutrality also states you cannot block or degrade legal traffic.
    • When we talk about net neutrality, we're talking about treating the traffic the same regardless of source or destination.

      When I talk about net neutrality, it's about "ISP routes my packets, that's it." There's no reason to be looking at them. If you think I'm using too much bandwidth....then why did you sell me the bandwidth in the first place?

  • by Stealth Dave ( 189726 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @08:17PM (#49091863) Homepage

    Without reading the article (this is Slashdot, after all!), this sounds more like QoS management than creating a "fast lane". My cynical side tells me that they're calling it a "fast lane" just so that they can use it as an argument against the FCC in court.

    "Gee, your honor. We were going to make our network faster and more efficient, but the mean old FCC said we couldn't put in any fast lanes! Government regulation is SO burdensome!"

    • It's not super deep technical detail, but it's enough to be interesting. They're detecting BitTorrent traffic and pointing it to closer peers, so the traffic doesn't cross the network as many times, and doing file-sharing from some of their own servers. I couldn't tell from the article if the way they encouraged connections to closer peers was by adding delay to more distant peering connections, but that would actually speed up typical performance.

  • It wouldn't surprise me if when detecting bittorrent traffic AT&T disallowed connecting to any peers or seeds with an AT&T IP address. The downloader would still max out their up/downstream bandwidth, but it would be a single-edged sword as all their connected peers and seeds would be non-AT&T customers. AT&T would then have more available bandwidth (at the expense of the other ISPs) and could argue they were enhancing their customers' experience. A brilliant plan until other ISPs find out a
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      I would think it's the opposite. If they can get you enough peers on AT&T itself, they can solve 2 problems.

      1. They don't have to clog their peering agreement pipes. So the bittorrent traffic stays completely local, making it faster because of less latency.

      2. The MAFIAA never finds out about their users pirating everything so they save money not playing copyright cop.

    • (Disclaimer: I'm not speaking on behalf of any carrier, just speculating based on how Internet backbone and P2P technology work.)

      That would fail badly. If Carrier A and Carrier B both did that, it would force most P2P peering connections to go through the network peering points between the carriers, which are just about the scarcest resource in carrier networks other than maybe cross-ocean or other international links. Each carrier would ideally want their own customers to do their P2P with each other, a

      • Thanks for the info. You can probably tell I'm not a network engineer. Gotta admit though, it sounded pretty clever until that damned reality bumped into it. :)
  • Charge a hefty royalty for it.

  • Get all the people who would be against it behind it by thinking they'll get faster downloads then once it's going either packet inspection and sell the infringers info to the xIAA, say 'psyche, net neutrality lol' or put an even faster fast lane for youtube/netflix etc traffic. For a premium of course. No way it will be as beneficial and sensible as the summary makes it seem.
  • To get torrenters to oppose Net Neutrality and Title II legislation.

  • ...ISPs do not care about file sharing much. People usually set a reasonable rate and download sporadically and through all times of the day. Most of these people don't want the data NOW RIGHT NOW and they aren't expecting live 4K video with zero stutter. Streaming content is a *BITCH* for ISPs because it's all lumped together at the same time of day - evening entertainment - and the customers want flawless video streaming at full rate in the highest resolutions possible. To multiple devices in the hom

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      The Internet has no issues with current loads, bad ISPs have issues with current loads. I pay $90/m for a 100/100 dedicated connection with no cap and I've called my ISP over 10ms ping increases and they've transferred me to an engineer to figure out the issue. Quality bandwidth is cheap. I have quality graphs where my 24x7 1 second ping hadn't lost a single packet in over a month. My average packet-loss is under 5 packets per week, my average ping to my ISP is under 0.2ms, I seed BitTorrent 24x7. My bigges
  • by wasteoid ( 1897370 ) on Friday February 20, 2015 @01:25AM (#49092873)
    We all know AT&T is not actually trying to make P2P faster. They are really trying to:

    1. Treat P2P traffic differently - probably slow it down or render it useless somehow.
    2. Trick people into thinking this would be better than Net Neutrality.
    3. Stick it to customers some other evil way.
    • You might think something like that unless you actually read the article.

      From the description and the diagram, it appears rather clear that they are acting as a local seed for clients on their network.

      This is an obvious win-win. It reduces their transit to other networks and keeps BT traffic off their backbone routers (provided the "local peer servers" are distributed regionally). Users get higher speeds from a virtually dedicated seed connection.

      The obvious downside is that the ISP knows which torrents are

  • "It's a trap!"
  • If it's about limiting consumer freedoms, I'm glad they're patenting it.
    It exposes their ideas and it restricts others from doing it freely.

  • Because one of America's largest ISPs running DPI on BT traffic and building a cache of it to create a "fast lane" for traffic that they openly acknowledge is predominantly illegal transfers of copyrighted material would never be used for anything except making that predominantly-illegal traffic faster for users...

When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.

Working...