StarHub 'blocking file-share program'
Thu, May 22, 2008
The Straits Times

WEB surfers are up in arms over a new report that says StarHub is blocking a popular software program that allows netizens to share movies and other large digital files.

According to the report, released last Friday by a German research firm, only two other Internet service providers (ISPs), both American, block BitTorrent.

While it has become popular among the growing legion of online pirates, BitTorrent has also been used for legitimate purposes, such as distributing free software and new rock albums.

The Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, which compiled the report, said StarHub blocks users from sending data to other users, but not from downloading files. However, this can hamper download speeds as BitTorrent works on a reciprocity model: Those who upload more will be able to download faster.

StarHub's head of Internet Protocol services Lim Seow Thong did not dispute the report, but defended the company's actions as something 'many broadband network operators in the world' are also doing. He said it helps 'to ensure that all our customers receive an optimal surfing experience'.

Another possible reason it did this may be cost savings. BitTorrent users are known to be huge bandwidth hogs, and are much less profitable for ISPs, compared to surfers who use their connection to surf or play online games.

But it is a decision that has not gone down well with some subscribers.

On popular technology website Hardwarezone, users lined up to protest against the move, with many threatening to switch Internet providers.

One StarHub user, undergraduate L. Tan, 22, said he would try to convince his parents to switch from StarHub to another ISP once their contract was up. 'The only reason we're paying $60 a month for broadband is so that I can download stuff. Otherwise, I might as well just get the entry-level plan,' he said.

But StarHub customer and shareholder Ken Tan cheered the news. 'Right now, BitTorrent is primarily used to distribute pirated materials, so people who don't use BitTorrent, like me, are basically subsidising those who do.'

The Max Planck Institute, which does research on computer and networking-related issues, collected data from over 8,000 BitTorrent users from 1,244 ISPs across 90 countries for the report.


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