The widespread and growing use of peer-to-peer networks is likely to force broadband operators to restrict the amount of data their subscribers are allowed to download, according to analyst group Jupiter Research.
Jupiter Research warned this week that file sharing is growing "at a phenomenal rate", and that the sheer volume of music and movie files being transferred between users is putting a huge burden on broadband service providers.
According to Jupiter, some broadband ISPs in Europe are finding that over 50 percent of the traffic on their networks is caused by P2P file-sharing.
"Although not the only factor in driving Internet users to broadband, file-sharing has proven to be broadband's first 'killer application,'" said Dan Stevenson, analyst at Jupiter Research, in a research note. "As well as being a big problem for record labels and the Hollywood studios alike, Internet service providers are beginning to suffer too -- under the heavy weight that file-sharing imposes on their networks."
As a result of the increased traffic, these operators will probably be forced to limit the amount of data its broadband customers are allowed to download from the Net. Should they exceed this limit, they will be charged extra.
"Not wanting to take on the file-sharing networks in court, the best solution for broadband service providers to address this issue would be to impose monthly data limits on their subscribers," Stevenson advised.
Jupiter predicts that by the end of 2003 such data limits will be "the rule, not the exception."
Such a move is likely to prove unpopular with broadband users, though, who are likely to feel that data limits are at odds with the idea of an unlimited, always-on service.
NTL caused a large amount of controversy over the last few days after introducing data limits for its broadband service. It plans to target people who regularly download more than 1GB of data per day.
Back in October 2001, BT also caused a storm of protest when it blocked the ports used by some peer-to-peer applications. It said the move was an attempt to ensure it offered a decent service for all users, but did back down after many customers complained.
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