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Comcast to BitTorrent: Let’s Be Friends

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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.

17 Responses to “Comcast to BitTorrent: Let’s Be Friends”

  1. Who the hell is BitTorrent to make agreements for us?

    Just by way of re-introduction if necessary, I’m probably a key figure
    as to why we’re all talking about Network Neutrality again. I was having a
    problem uploading on Gnutella in early 2007. I tracked it down to
    Comcast using Sandvine-injected RST packets and documented it. Blog
    stories led to press stories which led to independent confirmation.
    And here we are today.

    Today Comcast and BitTorrent seems to have solved world hunger — and
    I’d love nothing more than to be optimistic about it. But I cannot
    be. As they say on Slashdot — show video, or it didn’t happen. This
    deal is treachery, relies on how much we can trust the word of
    Comcast, and leaves the public interests out in the cold.

    I think it’s strange that anyone believes a word that Comcast says.
    This is the Comcast that:

    1. Told the FCC in 2005 that they would not degrade traffic in order
      to convince the FCC that network neutrality regulations were not

    2. Started degrading P2P traffic the very next year, and failed to
      tell anyone what they were doing.

    3. Used a system that utilized forgery, and successfully placed blame
      on the other peer instead of Comcast.

    4. Denied it when caught.

    5. Then changed their story when the denials were not believed, but
      still never came out and said what they were doing.

    6. Then they justified their actions by throwing their other
      Cable-Internet brothers and sisters under the bus with their “they do
      it too!” defense

    7. Then stealthily changed the AUP days before an FCC filing where
      they referred to the new provisions.

    8. When the changed AUP started getting press attention, they stated
      that a prominent story on alerted millions of visitors of
      the change and accused Marvin Ammori of crying wolf. (Google cache
      proved that nothing alerted users to the changed AUP until the day
      after the press started asking questions.)

    9. Then they packed the Harvard FCC hearing.

      This company has not demonstrated that you can trust its promises, nor
      can you believe its assertions. Comcast just used BitTorrent Inc. as a
      tool to try and defang the FCC.

      BitTorrent Inc. is a content provider. Vuze, who actually DID make a
      complaint and petition to the FCC, is a competitor. Neither
      BitTorrent, Vuze, nor Comcast represents the interests of 12 million
      Comcast users nor the The Internet Society nor the public. And this
      middle-of-the-night deal was made without their input.

      Nothing has changed. The RST interference continues. It was a wrongful
      act. BitTorrent Inc. has no right making a deal with Comcast allowing
      it to continue to commit wrongful acts until it finally decides it is
      ready to stop. The correct relief is to stop the interference
      immediately and to FULLY DISCLOSE what it did and to accept
      responsibility for those actions. (Even today, Comcast’s Policy VP
      refused to answer questions about the interference.)

      Their word is worthless. Until the interference stops, I have no
      reason to believe it will. Until either meaningful competition returns
      to broadband, or until sufficient government regulation enforces
      Network Neutrality, we have no reason to think that this agreement
      will last through the night.

      Robb Topolski