Is My ISP Throttling BitTorrent? Test Your Connection Online

Research institute creates a BitTorrent-like transfer between your machine and its server, and determines whether or not your ISP is limiting such traffic.

By now surely everyone is aware of how Comcast had been throttling BitTorrent connection speeds as part of its network traffic management program. It was only recently that it announced in a joint statement that it would collaborate with BitTorrent Inc. to develop practices that are “protocol agnostic”

In any case, determining whether or not your ISP is throttling BitTorrent traffic is important in order to determine either what steps you must take to circumvent it perhaps even to change to a different file-sharing protocol if problems persist.

It’s with this consideration that researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems has developed an online test to show whether or not your ISP is throttling or blocking your BitTorrent traffic. Established in November 2004, the institute’s charter is to “…conduct world-class basic research in all areas related to the design, analysis, modeling, implementation and evaluation of complex software systems.”

Specifically, researchers there focus on “…characterizing residential broadband networks and understanding their implications for the designers of future protocols and applications.”

This online tool is but one means of assisting customers so that they make more informed decisions about the ISPs they choose as well as what software and applications they may decide to use.

“This test suite creates a BitTorrent-like transfer between your machine and our server, and determines whether or not your ISP is limiting such traffic,” the test site reads. “This is a first step towards making traffic manipulation by ISPs more transparent to their customers.”

So What Can I Test?

The test focuses on the BitTorrent protocol whose traffic can be identified by the port it is sent on (e.g., TCP port 6881) or by BitTorrent content headers which occur in the packets.

Therefore, they designed the online tool to detect whether your ISP is using one of the following techniques:

  • Throttling all BitTorrent traffic.
  • Throttling all traffic at well-known BitTorrent ports.
  • Throttling BitTorrent traffic only at well-known BitTorrent ports.

Note that some ISPs do not throttle all BitTorrent traffic but only if this traffic exceeds a certain threshold. Thus, passing their tests does not necessary mean that there is no throttling occurring on your link.

So How Long Does it Take?

They offer two different tests: A simple test (approximately 4 minutes) and a full test (approximately 7 minutes). The simple test uses shorter transfers (each transfer runs for 10 seconds) while the full test uses 20 seconds per transfer to increase the confidence while inferring the results.

So How Do I Get Started?

Visit the MAX PLANCK INSTITUE for SOFTWARE SYSTEMS TEST PAGE, choose the type of test (full or simple), and then select START TESTING.

It’s that easy.