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BitTorrent offers tech to decongest ISPs' networks

The company's Micro Transport Protocol uses networks more efficiently, CEO Eric Klinker tells network operators, thereby lowering their costs.

BitTorrent Eric Klinker speaking at Broadband World Forum.
BitTorrent Eric Klinker speaking at Broadband World Forum.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

LA DEFENSE, France--BitTorrent, a company that's enabled network-crushing levels of file sharing, can be seen as Internet service providers' natural opponent. But the company's chief executive today entered the lion's den with a surprising message:

"I'm actually here to help."

How? In a speech at the Broadband World Forum here, BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker tried to build enthusiasm for his company's Micro Transport Protocol, or μTP, an open-source technology that's built into the company's client software for sharing files over peer-to-peer connections. μTP increases network efficiency and addresses congestion--the biggest concern that ISPs raised a few years ago during the heated network neutrality debates, Klinker said.

Much data today is sent over the Internet with the Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, but Klinker argued that its method of finding out when there are congestion troubles is too little, too late. TCP breaks information down into numerous individually addressed packets that are reassembled at the other end of the network link, monitoring constantly for packets that fail to arrive.

"TCP detects congestion based on lost packets," Klinker said. "This is a lot like driving your car through a school zone and only slowing down after you've struck your first pedestrian."

In contrast, μTP detects congestion earlier and steps out of the way when it discovers a problem, Klinker said.

"TCP detects congestion based on lost packets. This is a lot like driving your car through a school zone and only slowing down after you've struck your first pedestrian."
--BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker

"It was designed in its philosophy to yield to traffic," Klinker said. "μTP will no longer be the cause of any congestion on the Internet because of these mechanisms."

And avoiding congestion lowers ISP costs, he argued. "If we could somehow tackle the network congestion problem, we end up tackling the network cost issue," he said.

Of course, he also predicted more data coming to the Net. "The Internet is going to evolve, to continue its development as a multimedia network. That means a lot more big files," he said.

Here, though, he thinks BitTorrent has a role to play by helping people transfer information from all the digital cameras and other devices that can easily produce gigabytes of data.

"You'll see us roll out applications that help liberate media from those devices and share it with family and friends," he said. "The content has no value until it's shared and seen. That's hard for today's networks. The devices at the edge of the network seem to miraculously increase in capability, but the networks don't seem to change."