Comcast to BitTorrent: Let’s Be Friends

Comcast and BitTorrent Inc. have announced they’ll work together to ensure the popular file-sharing format works more smoothly over Comcast’s network. The cable company has been embroiled in a public controversy over its policy of throttling BitTorrent files as a means of shaping its network traffic.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Comcast will switch from hamstringing certain file formats to just slowing traffic for those users who consume the most bandwidth. paidContent adds more details from BitTorrent president, Ashwin Navin, who says the new arrangement also calls for:

1. Network management will be protocol agnostic & disclosed to consumers…and there will be no more connection resets.
2. Network architecture will be optimized for media delivery
a. Comcast is increasing capacity overall and particularly for upstream traffic (good for p2p)
b. Bittorrent is developing new client features to optimize for ISP networks (e.g., cache discovery protocol)
c. Comcast/BitTorrent will jointly investigate a new network architecture for the benefit of our users (servers in the comcast network which will accelerate file transfer rather than impede it)
3. Openness: We will publish our findings and optimizations in open forums for the benefit of other ISPs and application developers…including our open-source BitTorrent implementation.

This deal isn’t a total shocker as Comcast is looking for a way to nip any government regulation over “Net Neutrality” in the bud, and BitTorrent Inc. CEO Doug Walker told us earlier this month that he wanted to partner with Comcast (Tony Werner, Comcast CTO, is an adviser to BitTorrent). But what does this mean for the coalition of P2P companies (which included BitTorrent Inc.) who were seeking enforceable rules against interfering with P2P traffic?

Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of public interest group Public Knowledge, issued a statement dismissing the arrangement:

“Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen announcements by Verizon and now Comcast that the companies are working to make peer-to-peer technologies work more smoothly. We applaud industry discussions and collaborations, but neither of these developments has any bearing on the complaint and petitions pending before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on what rights users have on the Internet. They are irrelevant.”

The move to slow down heavy user traffic does directly impact online video watchers, especially as more video becomes available online. The new limitations also pave the way for a tiered service model to squeeze a few more bucks out of consumers.

Or maybe the deal was just a way to make you forget that Comcast wants to put cameras in your living room.

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