As the amount of bandwidth we devour has skyrocketed, so has ISPs' need to police our appetites, even as they offer more bandwidth to whet it. We talked to the biggest ISPs around to get their official positions on traffic management and content filtering to see what's in store for your pipes. Here's where you find out which ISPs may screw you, and which ones swear to Giz they won't. Update: We've got new responses from AT&T and Speakeasy.
The scariest scenario is invasive "packet filtering," where companies look at what you're downloading and punish you for perceived misconduct. Comcast was the poster child for BitTorrent throttling before getting cozy with it to avoid an FCC smackdown, and AT&T infamously broached the idea of filtering its entire network for copyrighted content. Beyond packet filtering, there are two potentially more widespread ways big ISPs can try to bring down the Torrent mad: "Caps," already used by local ISPs such as BendBroadband and Sunflower, are set amounts you can download each month. Anything over that, like cellphone plans, means overage penalties. "Throttling" is the ability of the ISP to, any given moment, put the brakes on your connection when you're being too much of a resource hog. Here's where the ISPs stand on the tactics above and your pipes.