Blog Post

Comcast Does Indeed Block BitTorrent

Though Comcast has denied it in the past, a new nationwide test conducted by the Associated Press shows that the cable giant is indeed actively interfering with file sharing through services like BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella.

The AP’s tests showed that Comcast (CMCSA) is not hindering the downloading of BitTorrent files, but the company does block or delay uploads. The problem being that with the peer-to-peer nature of BitTorrent’s technology, uploads and downloads are interchangeable. When files are being exchanged between two computers, Comcast surreptitiously steps in and gets the two machines to hang up on each other.

A Comcast spokesperson told the AP:

“Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent.” – Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas

When pressed, Douglas would not define what he meant by “access.”

Comcast’s actions are re-igniting the debate about net neutrality, as its practices are indiscriminate when it comes to the type of content being shared online. An independent producer distributing his own film, for example, is treated with the same regard as a pirate trading illegal copies of movies.

For its part, Comcast says it has a right to manage its network in order to ensure that a small portion of file sharers are not affecting the bandwidth of other customers. Other ISPs engage in so-called “traffic-shaping,” which slows down some types of traffic. But Comcast is targeting one type of traffic.

Comcast’s reputation suffered another blow, literally, when 75-year-old Mona Shaw took a hammer to her local Comcast customer service office and started smashing up the joint. She was upset, to say the least, when Comcast missed an installation date and basically treated her like a BitTorrent file.

18 Responses to “Comcast Does Indeed Block BitTorrent”

  1. K Kumar:
    I strongly disagree. They’re not just throttling the traffic, they are forging TCP packets with the RST-flag enabled, causing connections to drop. And I’d say interfering with a specific protocol, in this case BitTorrent, is an obvious violation of net neutrality. If Comcast has a problem with the bandwidth, they should rather set a fixed limit instead of advertising their service as unlimited.

    If my ISP did anything like this, I would certainly find a new provider immediately. Luckily, pretty much none of the ISPs here in Norway throttle any kind of traffic, or impose limits on the amount of data you can transfer during a month.

    Right now I’m on a simple 6.5 Mbps ADSL-connection. But fiber-to-the-home recently became available in my area, and I’m considering getting a 50 Mbps connection. But that is only going to happen if the ISP doesn’t interfere with my BitTorrent- or Usenet-traffic.

  2. Can’t blame Comcast for protecting the bandwidth and experience of the others when a P2P session slows the others down on the network.

    A Cable network is shared, of course, in the last mile.

    And a P2P network is built to capture all the bandwidth that is available (upstream AND downstream). So, when our neighbour starts downloading video via P2P – usually pirated, mind you – he is being selfish in capturing all available bandwidth. The effect on all others surfing is to slow them all down.

    Do we blame Comcast for slowing down the biggest users so we get our access normally? Does that hamper net-neutrality?

    I think not. Not as long as the P2P users are not unduly distressed, and us others are able to get the service we’re paying for.

  3. Wise one

    What people really need is a P2P wireless hardware solution which would liberate them from their ISP completely.

    If each home had such a device, and transmission power was kept low enough, you could create a network which excludes the ISP completely making them obselete.