Large ISPs Cashing In on BitTorrent Traffic, Study Says

Lyla Katz

CHICAGO — While adult companies see their bottom lines affected by BitTorrent users who illegally download their content, large Internet service providers are actually making money from BitTorrent traffic.

A new two-year study, conducted by Northwestern University and Telefonica Research, looked at the use of BitTorrent around the world and user’s behaviors.

The researchers tracked the downloads of 500,000 Internet users from 169 different countries. They found that the average download volume per user per hour increased by 25 percent between November 2009 and 2010. In total, the BitTorrent traffic increased by more than 12 percent from 2009 and 2010.

The study also found that 32 percent of BitTorrent traffic stays local and occurs at the same time as peak web traffic.

The researchers concluded that for Tier 1 providers costs are not affected and Tier 2 providers, such as major companies or big ISPs, actually make money from BitTorrent traffic. Smaller ISPs that buy wholesale access are paying rather than profiting from transit charges.

“Our BitTorrent focused analysis is an example of how applications can have varied impacts on ISP costs, based on when the traffic occurs,” the study said.