Peer-to-peer file sharing, the primary vehicle for online piracy, has been as unpopular with Internet service providers as it has been popular with users.
Providers have banned, blocked or slowed peer-to-peer traffic in their efforts to keep the flood of music, video, games and software from overwhelming their networks. But Verizon Communications Inc. has broken ranks with the industry and is set to announce Friday that it plans to help its users share files faster - at least those who do it legally.
With researchers at Yale University and a group of companies that make file-sharing software, Verizon collaborated to enable faster downloads for consumers and lower costs for participating ISPs.
File-sharing accounts for one-third of all Internet traffic, according to Arbor Networks, a maker of traffic-management equipment, and some estimates are higher.
At a conference in New York, the Verizon group will present test results showing that when an ISP cooperates with a file-sharing software maker they can speed downloads an average of 60 percent - though collaboration boosted some downloads six-fold on fast Internet connections.
“This test signifies a turning point in the history of peer-to-peer technology and ISPs,” said Robert Levitan, chief executive of file-sharing company Pando Networks Inc. “It will definitely show ISPs that the problem is not peer-to-peer technology, the problem is how you deploy it. It is possible to deploy P2P to their advantage.”
In P2P systems, users download files from one another, usually at the same time they’re uploading files to other users. The original Napster was a P2P system, as are the KaZaa and BitTorrent systems in current use.
One of the problems for ISPs has been that file-sharing networks connect users more or less at random around the globe - so a U.S. file-sharer may simultaneously download files from Greece and Japan and upload to users in Belgium and Argentina. This long-distance carriage is expensive for ISPs.
Verizon shared details about the structure of its network with the researchers and Pando in the “P4P Working Group,” created last summer, and they together created a system that connected users not randomly, but to other users close by.