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BT admits to bandwidth restrictions for file-sharing sites

Forced to come clean after evidence builds up

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BT Openworld has been forced to admit it is restricting the bandwidth for certain Web sites after furious customers starting compiling evidence of interference. Previously BT had categorically denied any such restrictions.

An email - sent out in response to an increasing number of complaints - reads: "In the short term we have had to impose traffic controls on particular applications & ports to ensure that our customers retain their great Internet experience."

The applications and ports are all connected with peer-to-peer applications such as Gnutella, eDonkey and Kazaa which allow users to swap files with one another. BT said: "A small percentage of customers using P2P applications use up a very large percentage of the available bandwidth". Which is no doubt true but doesn't explain why BT has previously denied all suggestions that it is restricting the service.

The admission comes just days after Web site ADSL Guide posted evidence of "port throttling" - restricting the download speed from applications that use a specific port on a computer. A software engineer measured traffic through the ports used by well-known peer-to-peer networks. In each case, the download speed dropped dramatically from a constant 58.1Kbps to between 1.5 and 3.75Kbps.

Interestingly, the most famous file-sharing network of all - Napster - remains unaffected, even though you can't download anything from it at the moment. Does this have anything to do with Napster's ownership by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, which would sue Openworld if it caught it restricting download speeds from its site.

In the email, BT also mentions setting up a new service: "In the near future we will be launching a new service with a network configuration more suitable for particular bandwidth-hungry activities such as peer-to-peer communications, at a price that fairly reflects their usage of the network."

Which is basically saying that BT will charge people on the amount of data they download - something that goes against the very concept of unmetered telecoms and is a sad return to past form for the telecoms behemoth.

A fortnight ago, TV show Watchdog accused BT of running a two-tier service for its dial-up service, BT Anytime. Heavy users - put on a different phone number - claimed the service had got worse. BT denied it. We understand that Watchdog has done a follow-up that will be broadcast this week. Perhaps in this sudden burst of enforced honesty, BT Openworld will admit to this as well. ®

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