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.