P2P Companies Band Together Against Comcast’s BitTorrent Blocking

The FCC’s inquiry into Comcast’s blocking of BitTorrent has resulted in a new wave of unity among P2P companies, with competitors like BitTorrent, Vuze and Miro demanding enforceable rules against interference with P2P traffic. Representatives of all three ventures joined Free Press today in a press conference call, on which they made the case for Net Neutrality legislation.

Comcast, on the other hand, maintains that its interference with BitTorrent is reasonable and “fully consistent with sound principles of Net Neutrality,” as the company stated in its comments to the FCC. Comcast even tries to paint itself as a true defender of Net Neutrality, arguing that other P2P providers would suffer if BitTorrent was allowed to take over a network’s resources: “There is nothing ‘neutral’ about a network that is not managed,”
the company claims.

Free Press General Council Marvin Ammori called the ongoing FCC inquiry into Comcast’s BitTorrent filtering “critical,” saying that Comcast’s behavior was anti-competitive and threatened innovation. He was joined by representatives from BitTorrent, Vuze and Miro, each of them making their case against Comcast’s filtering. Vuze has previously filed its own petition with the FCC.

Nicholas Reville from the Participatory Culture Foundation explained that his organization’s Miro player is used by thousands of small publishers, with many of them relying on Miro’s built-in BitTorrent support to save on bandwidth costs. “For the publishers we work with it’s absolutely a free speech issue,” he argued, saying that Comcast would never slow down its own HD video downloads. Reville also used his time to call for political intervention: “We absolutely must have a strong Net Neutrally legislation.”

BitTorrent CTO Eric Klinker pointed out that there are now hundreds of companies using the open-source BitTorrent protocol, all of which are potentially affected by Comcast’s network management. Klinker’s statements were notable because BitTorrent Inc. had previously stayed on the sidelines of the conflict, seemingly putting its trust into market-based solutions instead of a regulatory approach. Klinker, however, assured listeners that his company felt “as strongly as Miro does” about the subject.

Comcast, meanwhile, has filed a statement with the FCC that puts the blame for the recent controversy squarely on everyone but the company. In it, Comcast argued that its BitTorrent blocking is actually helping other P2P providers: “Without network management, the success of new applications that are sensitive to interference caused by network congestion — such as Joost, iChat and Veoh — is likely to be impaired.”

Comcast also states that many of the complaints reported during the last couple of months in fact don’t have anything to do with the company’s network management. Instead, it’s apparently just people who like to complain: “Broadband customers have thousands of ‘problems’ every hour, the vast majority of which are completely unrelated to the Internet service they purchase from their broadband service provider,” the company says. And as such, they’re not worth being investigated by the FCC: “Surely, the commission has neither the resources nor the ability to turn itself into the helpdesk for 60 million broadband households.”

Vuze General Council Jay Monahan called these comments “disconcerting.” In response to Comcast’s claims that it only interferes with BitTorrent during peak network use, he stated: “What they are really saying is: We are only slowing down content when you want it the most.”