AT&T/Bellsouth DSL moving to block bittorrent?

Ok, so last Friday I started up a batch of anime torrents, was hitting peak DSL speeds, and then all of a sudden the DSL light on my modem went red. Weird, I thought. I let the torrents keep going, and every 5 minutes, while they were active, the DSL light would go red and it would spend another 30 seconds trying to refresh the DSL/Internet connection. I didn’t really start thinking it was the torrents, maybe the bad t-storm that just passed through, so I just continued doing things as usual all weekend, up until yesterday. Then I started getting pissed. The ATT high speed tech support was useless as expected, so I finally demanded they send a tech down. He arrived this morning, and this is what ensued:

First, he did a signal test. No problems there. 20db down, 8db up, which, he told me is better than most signals (he said that most average between 12 and 16 down and 4 up, with 10 being the minimum to maintain a stable DSL connection). He then asked me if anything had changed on Friday, if the modem had been moved, if I had changed wiring, etc – nothing. The modem has been in the same place, doing the same thing, for the last 11 months. I then told him I was an avid anime watcher and used bittorrent often to download legal fansubs, and so he proposed a test (at the time I had no torrents going and the DSL signal was at 19.7db down). He told me to just start up 5 or 6 torrents that had a lot of peers, so I used a bunch of DB Bleach and misc Spice & Wolf 2 torrents. We then sat there at his diagnostic screen and literally watched the signal tick down from 19.7, to ~14, to ~10, finally to ~2, when the light went red.

At this point he said that it looked like the bittorrent traffic itself was somehow causing the DSL station to cut signal strength to my line. He asked me to stop each torrent one by one, and sure enough, the signal would go up, bit by bit, until I had stopped all torrents. We tried another modem and same results.

He couldn’t tell me if this was intentional or not, due to him just being a hardware tech, but since I have downloaded plenty of torrents over the last 11 months and never had a problem until last Friday, I’m extremely suspicious. The guy though, being overly cool, gave me a technician’s diagnostic modem and told me he’d just write it off as defective – this modem essentially sends a special signal to the DSL station telling it it’s a diagnostic modem and should be allowed to do, basically, whatever it wants, including going beyond whatever maximum speed my DSL plan allows. We plugged it in, started up a bunch of torrents, and the signal remained at 22db, never dropping.

I find it hard to believe this is a coincidence, especially after the reports of the 4chan debacle and so on. My DSL is now working fine and performing better than ever, but it took a diagnostic bypass modem to do it. Seriously, these are legal fansubs, I’m not downloading movies or TV shows or anything – what the fuck is going on? I’m sticking with the diagnostic modem for now unless something goes wrong, since it’s now working perfectly, but if I see that DSL light start going red, I’m dropping it. Unfortunately all we have here for options is Cox (hate them) and ATT.

Anyone hit similar issues lately?

Wow. Just, wow.

Hmm, that is interesting. You should send your story to The Consumerist, Ars Technica, Slashdot, or similar site that could investigate a bit more to see if this is happening to others.

I’m on Bellsouth DSL too. But I don’t really torrent. If you want to send me a link I can test it for you.

I’m on comcast and anytime I try to torrent stuff on comcast for the past year or so it is still slow even though comcast says it doesn’t throttle app specific traffic. I’m more surprise to hear an isp doesn’t mess with torrent transfers.

Yeah I’m thinking an ed submission to a tech site is warranted here. The fact that the diagnostic modem encountered no issues is a big red flag. I’ll submit and see where it goes – I’m hoping other ATT/Bellsouth users may write in and voice their experiences.

This example is surprising because Scry is on DSL. DSL is basically tiered already because you pay for the speed you want, and no matter how much you torrent it doesn’t affect other subscribers or the network as a whole. Thats what makes this so odd. I’ve always preferred it over cable because of that. With cable service there is actually an incentive for the ISP to throttle some traffic.

There’s no such thing as a legal fansub. I love fansubs and they’re the backbone of US fandom, but they’re uniformly illegal.

That’s incorrect. In fact Japanese legislation has been passed to protect fansubbers of unlicensed series to continue distribution. However, once a series has been licensed, it is no longer fair game. The Bleach torrents I started are not legal, however, I have not been downloading any unlicensed series since. It was merely a test. Given I should have used a legal source, the DB torrents are easily the best way to max my torrent connections, and on the second test I removed them and used legal, unlicensed fansubs. Same result. So really there is no reason why the signal should have dropped such, unless it is a universal move to stop BT traffic. I use BT for much more than fansubs, and many companies have adopted the tech (Blizzard) to decrease bandwidth allocation, so why do you think I’m wrong here? Explain, if you can.

Could you link me to this? Attempts to ferret this out with several different Google strings haven’t unearthed any evidence that such a thing has ever existed. What I find instead are stories about how Japan is passing laws to make it easier to punish illegal download and redistribution of content. That Japan would decide foreigners could do it provided they were slapping subtitles on feels a bit off given the current political climate over there.

However, once a series has been licensed, it is no longer fair game.

You’re confused (and don’t feel bad about this, a lot of fans are). This isn’t a legal truth, it’s part of an honor system US fansubbers adopted in the mid-80’s precisely because fansubbing is an illegal practice that is nonetheless important to keeping the US fandom going.

The early official US anime licensees were actually fansubbing groups that decided to actually purchase official US distribution rights for properties they wanted to try selling in stores. People who remained in the fansubbing community decided to support the efforts of their pals who were going legit by agreeing to stop circulation of titles once somebody had bought the license.

This honor system has persisted to this day among certain groups of fans, especially folks who remember the VHS days. AnimeSuki is one such “honorable” site that uses the old honor system, but this honor system is not legally binding. No one has a legal right to redistribute a production company’s content in any territory without paying a licensing fee to that company, even if the copies distributed are unofficial and free.

In the past AnimeSuki has recognized this by yanking any torrents, even of unlicensed series, when they are contacted by the Japanese holders of rights for the shows. Other “honorable” sites including YouTube have done the same thing. I can even put you in contact with fansubbers who’ve had rights holders like Sunrise and Toei contacting them to try and stop distribution of fansubs for shows that are nearly twenty years old.

So really there is no reason why the signal should have dropped such, unless it is a universal move to stop BT traffic.

This is correct and you are right to be outraged. However, you made a major mistake by testing your connection with the tech after talking about “legal fansubs.” Virtually any IP lawyer in the US could very easily prove that your fansubs are absolutely, positively illegal under US law. By all means, keep fighting your ISP over this, but any future tests should be run with torrents distributing fully legal, fully licensed content.

Right, everyone knows when you talk to a tech at your isp the torrents you are trying to download are linux iso files!

I hope you’re running Peer Guardian 2

I actually did this last weekend. It felt dirty.

All the porn I downloaded in high school was kept on a neatly labeled set of discs labeled “Linux Stuff.” No one but me ever touched them.

It could be a defective modem, unlikely as that is. Bittorrent is notoriously hard on less than competent hardware, opening upwards of hundreds of simulatneous connections. I know I had to get a new router years ago when my old one would just drop to.1 kbps after running two torrents for a couple of hours.

That’s most likely the case, but I was always told by others that fansubs are legal to download until a series is licensed. I believe a long ways back that someone had even told me that Japan had specific legislation allowing that. I don’t have any knowledge of this outside of information gathered from others.

Doesn’t really matter though, the tech was cool and I got a free diagnostic modem out of it. No torrenting troubles anymore. I’m just more concerned that this is something that may be pushed on all torrents – I hardly doubt there’s some kind of AT&T monitoring station that is constantly on the lookout for zillions of anime names. I know people who have gotten in trouble for downloading TV shows/music/movies, but never unlicensed anime.

What I got from this thread was that i want a diagnostic modem.
And you say:“including going beyond whatever maximum speed my DSL plan allows.” ? Hmmm. Definitely want one.

I guess a good way to test your theory would be to try and torrent a linux ISO, and see if it does it still. Then go download the same iso normally from your browser and see if it redlights.

It sounds to me like the issue was just the torrenting making his old modem up and die, if just replacing the modem solved the problem.

While cable ISPs have reasons to want to throttle torrenting, DSL-based ones don’t (to my understanding).

Well, no, because we used two different regular modems to test and it did the same thing: start up a bunch of torrents, DSL signal goes out in about 30-60 seconds, will come back, and then continue losing signal over and over until the torrents are stopped. We tried changing ports, lowering the maximum number of connections to 10 instead of 50, everything. The tech was totally baffled (he’d been doing line tests and all sorts of shit and didn’t find any problems, I had a high signal strength to start with and all of his tests were normal) and I think he just figured, screw this, it’s been 2 hours already, I could be here all day so I’ll give the dude a diagnostic modem and see if that fixes it. It did, so we were both happy in the end.

But just to check, I plugged my old modem back in and torrented a redhat ISO. DSL lost signal after about 45 seconds, then did the same thing over and over until I stopped the torrent. Plugged the diagnostic modem back in, started the ISO torrent again, and no problems. Really strange. In regards to direct downloads from ftp/browser, the DSL modem never went out. It only happened with torrents.