Concerns over software, film and music piracy have led some UK internet service providers to block connections to BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Other ISPs throttle the BitTorrent program's connection speed to slow down file uploads and downloads. ISPs can apply a block or throttle to BitTorrent networks without affecting your regular Internet connection speed, because the BitTorrent networks use specific connection ports. You can find out if your ISP is blocking ports for torrent file downloads with a few online checks.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Go to your favourite BitTorrent website or search engine and click the "Download" link or button next to a file that you want to download. Wait for your computer's default BitTorrent client program to launch automatically when it detects the torrent file. View the network status indicator in the bottom or top menu bar. A red or amber indicator usually means that the port has been blocked or throttled, while a green indicator shows that the program has connected to the network successfully.
Check the download speed next to the file's name in the main program window. If you see a zero Kilobytes-per-second value, the port is probably blocked. If the file shows a download speed that is significantly slower than your usual Internet connection speed, the port may be throttled. However, BitTorrent download speeds vary depending on the number of people connected to the network and sharing the file at any one time, so a slow speed may not necessarily indicate ISP throttling.
Launch your Web browser and go to a BitTorrent test site (see Resources section) that will scan your computer's ports to detect ISP port blocking or throttling. The Max Planck Institute for Software Systems Glasnost site and the BitTorrent Test websites both offer this free service. Click the "Start testing" or "Start BitTorrent Test" button to start the scan. Depending on your Web browser's set up, you may be prompted to install an additional plugin before you can carry out the scan. Both sites will confirm if your ISP is blocking or throttling BitTorrent connection ports.
Tips and warnings
- Never use BitTorrent or other file sharing systems to download copyrighted material, such as films, TV programmes, premium software and commercial music. This activity is illegal in the UK and can lead to criminal prosecution.
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