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But is UTP the best approach?

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This may not be a widespread scenario, but that’s uncertain. Several management tweaks can prevent perverse side-effects like this from happening, such as reconfiguring traffic shapers to key on stream volume rather than protocol type. This approach to traffic shaping is slower to respond than protocol-based systems, however, so uTP just trades responsiveness at the application for responsiveness at the traffic shaper. Another solution would be for traffic shapers to look inside the UDP payload in order to differentiate VoIP from uTP, but this approach is frustrated by the protocol obfuscation option that remains a live feature in BitTorrent over uTP. uTP will cause traffic shaping to become more expensive.

We can expect more experiments toward replacing TCP each with its own impact on traffic shapers, flow managers, accelerators, and other middleboxes. Protocol experimentation was, after all, the original intent of the internet's founding fathers, and we can civilize it by improving the flow of information between network operators and protocol inventors.

Toward this end, I'd like to see an information clearinghouse established that would allow these two groups to communicate with other quickly and easily. It's not practical for small companies like BitTorrent Inc with its 20 employees to notify each of the tens of thousands of network operators each time it rolls out a traffic-impacting feature (though they should give serious consideration to more press releases), but they can easily notify a central clearinghouse. If network operators choose to ignore fair warning, as Bell Canada has apparently done in this case (they were directly informed weeks ago of the impending change by BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker), they'll be forced into their traditional reactive mode.

The internet is a cooperative system where each user and each network impacts every other whether they want to or not, and it's been proved that such systems can work effectively (if not particularly efficiently) when information about design and management is widely accessible. Moving this system forward will require us to improve the flow of information, but we have the perfect tool for doing that: the internet itself. ®

Richard Bennett is a network inventor who helped design the modern, manageable local area network.

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