Can BitTorrent File Sharing Boost Verizon?

Broadband providers have a motive to buddy up to once-derided peer-to-peer networks.

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Verizon delivers FiOS TV over fiber optic lines.
Verizon delivers FiOS TV over fiber optic lines.

Verizon is making nice with the peer-to-peer networks. That might seem a surprising turn for the telephone company, whose Internet pipes are getting jammed with video downloads, many across file-sharing networks. But Verizon has its motives.

Other broadband companies, notably cable operator Comcast, have throttled file-sharing networks. The peer-to-peer programs like BitTorrent allow users to share music and—more important to Internet providers—huge video files across the Internet. Comcast and other providers fear the video hogs, both legal and illegal, will clog the Net.

From one perspective, Verizon's approach is at least a case of if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The company teamed with researchers to find more efficient ways for the P2P networks to operate. That would reduce the demands on Verizon's network.

But wait—there's more. Seems Verizon itself might want to use P2P networks to distribute its video. Verizon is now selling a package of cablelike channels in many markets through its FiOS network.

Verizon knows that a few companies, notably Vudu, are already using P2P networks to stream beautiful video over the Internet—and more efficiently than Verizon or the cable networks.

I love the irony: The bad boys of file sharing just may save Verizon, and the Internet.