More and more internet service providers are blocking traffic to P2P file-sharing services. Find out whether you've been targeted, and learn how to get around the restrictions.

If your ISP's support reps won't tell you what's going on, look at the company's terms-of-service agreement (most are available online). Here again, though, you may find the answer unsatisfactory. Some ISPs couch their bandwidth management practices in vague policy statements that are difficult to decipher. Others such as Verizon and DSL Extreme are unambiguous: They don't mess with BitTorrent traffic.

If your ISP won't come clean about its BitTorrent bandwidth policy, you can try any of a handful of ways to test whether your BitTorrent traffic is being throttled.

One method is to test your own connection speed using a tool such as PC Advisor's Broadband Speed Test. BitTorrent download speeds for popular files with many sources should be in the same ballpark as your bandwidth speeds in benchmark test results.

A popular web-based tool, Glasnost, claims to be able to check whether your ISP is meddling with your BitTorrent traffic. The tool, created by the Max Planck Institute for Software Systemss, requires no download; performing the test takes about four to seven minutes.

For diehard techies who are willing to tinker, the Electronic Frontier Foundation developed a tool called Pcapdiff that tests whether your ISP is disrupting BitTorrent traffic.

Last, the makers of the BitTorrent client Vuze have created a plug-in for their P2P file swapping client. Downloading and running it on your PC won't help you determine whether your ISP is meddling with BitTorrent traffic but it will help Vuze, which uses the data to lobby the FCC to prohibit limitations on BitTorrent.

Evasion of the bit snatchers

If you discover or strongly suspect that your ISP is slowing your BitTorrent traffic, you can try several countermeasures, none of them a sure bet. One of these techniques may work for one ISP but not for another.

First, try using encryption to cloak your P2P traffic. Most clients such as BitComet, BitTorrent, uTorrent and Vuze support in-client encryption. Turning this feature on makes it much harder, though not impossible, for your ISP to detect that you're using peer-to-peer software. Here's how to proceed.

BitComet: Go to the Options menu, choose Preferences, Advanced, Connection, and select Protocol encryption.

BitTorrent and uTorrent: Go to the Preferences panel and select the BitTorrent tab. Choose Protocol encryption and select enabled.

Vuze: First you must change your user profile from the default beginner mode to advanced. Go to the Tools drop-down menu, open the Configuration Wizard, and select advanced. Next return to the Tools drop down menu and select Options, Connection, Transport Encryption. Check Require encrypted transport, go to the Minimum encryption drop-down menu, and select RC4 encryption.

NEXT PAGE: Another method for evading an ISP's throttling practices

  1. Steps to take to ensure you can still use P2P
  2. How to test your own connection speed
  3. Another method for evading an ISP's throttling practices
  4. What the future holds for file sharers

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest news and reviews about the internet and internet tools.