Good News on P2P

Carl Weinschenk

It isn't very often that I come across a story that deals with a reduction in bandwidth usage . For years, the arrow has pointed in one direction, and that was up. The interesting news is at least one survey is showing that a big source of traffic-peer-to-peer (P2P) -- is down. And, if there is one kind of traffic that folks who run the Internet and corporate networks that rely upon it would like to see down, it's P2P.

The piece is extremely interesting. At the Digital Music East Forum last week, NPD Group Senior Analyst Russ Crupnick said that both legal and illegal P2P downloads were down last year, the former by a whopping 25 percent. The reasons cited for cutting down on the verboten versions of P2P are intriguing: People finally have gotten to an understanding that P2P can be the equivalent of sticking their machine's hard drive in a Cuisinart; legit services are more numerous and accessible, and they are afraid of getting sued by the music industry-which the story notes doesn't happen anymore.

Video has passed P2P as the main type of content carried on the Internet. Crupnick's comments suggest just how far it has fallen. The bigger news is that the illicit version is fading, along with an illustration of how effective industry-wide action can be. A few years ago, it seemed that the Internet was coming close to being brought to its knees by a massive wave of P2P. A combination of increased public awareness and the recognition that taking part can lead to legal trouble has worked.

The battle to make P2P safe has reached the halls of Congress. Indeed, it has done almost the unthinkable and garnered bipartisan support. Last month, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D. MN) and Republican John Thune (Rep. S.D.) co-sponsored the P2P Cyber Protection and Informed User Act. If enacted, the law would mandate that people sharing software notify the other parties if P2P software is being used and make it illegal to keep people from blocking, disabling or removing P2P programs. The piece says the driver of the bill was a glitch by the Federal Trade Commission that made sensitive data available on P2P programs. The story details other Congressional moves, including companion legislation in the House.

The threat of P2P, which has been at the heart of many interconnected and thorny issues of the past decade, is fading a bit. It is still dangerous, however. For instance, it remains the main troublemaker for mobile cell sites. P2P is a useful technology, but few traffic engineers and security executives will shed tears as it recedes.

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