Torrents severly slow interent speed

I share a 20Mbit fibre optic internet connection with my housemates through Virgin Media.
My housemate downloads sometimes via bittorrent and when this is happening all other internet uses become painfully slow including browsing and multiplayer gaming.
It is a fast connection and we have achieved dl speeds of 1.3MB/s but even when he is dl'ing from a poorly seeded torrent at a slow rate the same effect of slowness is experienced on browsing.

Why? is this to do with Virgin limiting torrent traffic? If so why can we still get great speeds for torrents, but our browsing speeds are poor when torrents are downloading.
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  1. It is possible that Virgin is limiting traffic but what is more likely, based on the fact that browsing speed crawls with torrent turn on, is torrents are the ones causing everything.

    See how many connections being opened up in torrent running PCs by using TCPView from sysinternals at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/default.aspx. I am guessing torrents adjust speed: the more bandwidth you have, the more connection you'll have.
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