Blog Post

NBC: P2P Is Evil — Except When We Use It

nbcdirect.jpgNBC Universal filed comments with the FCC this week that side with Comcast on BitTorrent blocking. The company opposes Net Neutrality regulations because it wants ISPs to filter out copyrighted content, and it seems to be willing to blame P2P for all the bad things in the online world in order to get what it wants. NBC’s FCC statement claims that P2P networks “exacerbate” network congestion and that P2P apps trick end users into supplying bandwidth and processing power.

Maybe NBCU’s lawyers should have checked back with the team from NBC Direct before filing these comments. The ad-supported download platform for TV content announced this week that it will be using Pando’s P2P technology to “provide millions of viewers free DVD-quality downloads.”

The P2P-powered NBC Direct service is going to be available in the first quarter of this year and will feature HD downloads, according to a press release from Pando and NBC. The service will make use of what Pando is calling a “peer-assisted content delivery service,” which is essentially a traditional CDN solution with a P2P layer on top. Pando’s P2P technology is based on BitTorrent, a fact the company readily acknowledges on its web site.

That web site apparently wasn’t on the radar of the lawyers that wrote the media giant’s FCC filing, which claims that: “Because P2P networks send and receive huge files, congestion results, particularly for upstream traffic on cable networks.” The filing also has a few choice words for the core technology utilized by Pando’s P2P solution: “BitTorrent…consumes disproportionate amounts of upstream capacity by opening up multiple connection streams to seize capacity.”

Today’s broadband networks weren’t built with P2P distribution in mind, NBC argues, which is why BitTorrent and similar applications would put a “much greater strain on available upstream bandwidth than network engineers anticipated and built for.”

NBC also seems to believe that using P2P to distribute video content is kind of sneaky: “Many of these end users might not even be aware that their computers are being used to take the place of commercial servers and that their personal broadband subscriptions will be used by third parties to transmit copies of the content in question.”

To be fair, the filing does acknowledge the fact that P2P may be used for legal content delivery while not specifically mentioning NBC’s plans to do so. So how do you deal with the fact that blocking BitTorrent will also harm legal downloads? NBC’s answer is clear: Just install even more filters and eavesdrop on each and every file transmitted: “The Commission should enable and indeed applaud reasonable network management practices that carefully and appropriately address not only network congestion, but also the tidal wave of illegal file-sharing.”

NBC is pointing to AT&T as an example of an ISP’s willingness to install content filters, but the filing doesn’t explain how ISPs are supposed to deal with P2P protocol encryption and other tricks to bypass such filters — tricks that ironically might soon find their way into Pando’s software to deal with Comcast’s BitTorrent blocking.

9 Responses to “NBC: P2P Is Evil — Except When We Use It”

  1. Relevant to this discussion, there’s a working group of P2P companies and ISP’s that are figuring out how to work together, which we feel is more productive than the alternative. Early research shows that if ISP’s give network information to the P2P networks, it can result in dramatic improvements in P2P performance and efficiency, which takes the cost/volume pressure off of ISP’s to manage traffic.

    Participants in the Working Group include co-chairs Pando and Verizon, and (IMO) an impressive group of ISP’s and P2P companies:

    Core Group
    •Bezeq Intl
    •Cisco Systems
    •Grid Networks
    •Pando Networks
    •Telefonica Group
    •Univ of Washington
    •Yale University

    •AHT Intl
    •Alcatel Lucent
    •Cox Comm
    •Juniper Networks
    •NBC Universal
    •Solid State Networks
    •Time Warner Cable
    •Turner Broadcasting

    There’s a presentation at that covers a fair amount of the technology.

    For more information, email me ( or Doug Pasko (

  2. I remember when we used to get this thing called a glass from the cupboard. Then we would walk over to a sink, turn on this thing called a faucet and water would pour right into the glass and we would drink it.

    They also told us it came with a special chemical or something that would help protect our teeth.

    Ah, those were the days. The days when water was free.

    But I guess things are much better now. All I have to do is go to Trader Joe’s buy a case of 24 plastic bottles full of water, carry them to my car, drive home, take them out of my car, put them in my house, then I grab a bottle when I need one on the drive to work and I when I’m done drinking I just throw it on the floor of the car on the passenger’s side and then I clean them out when I give someone else a ride.

    I sure hope they can think of something like bottled water for air soon.

    Until them maybe they can just figure out a way for me to stop having to create and upload videos to the Internet. You know maybe I could pay someone else to think of the ideas I want to create, then they could tell me what I thought of and I could pay them to go write, produce, shoot and edit it for me and then I could pay them to upload it and watch it for me.

    Heck, they could even tell me if it was good or not and I could pay them extra for letting me know.

    Oh, I need to run I just saw something here in the Airport called an “Air Bar” and I need to see how much it costs. I hope they have a monthly contract I can sign.