AT&T to FCC: We Ban P2P Traffic

AT&T to FCC: We Ban P2P Traffic

Summary: If blocking P2P traffic is bad, isn't banning it worse?It's now been reported not just once, but twice, that AT&T is banning P2P traffic by its wireless customers.


If blocking P2P traffic is bad, isn't banning it worse?

It's now been reported not just once, but twice, that AT&T is banning P2P traffic by its wireless customers. That will not make iPhone 3G customers happy.

So if the first item on the agenda tomorrow for Kevin Martin's Commission is to penalize Comcast for "secretly degrading" Internet traffic by throttling back BitTorrent packets last year, shouldn't the second item be AT&T's open and complete degradation of all P2P traffic, on its airwaves?

And wouldn't you want to look at how AT&T might be managing P2P traffic on the ground as well?

Or, is there only selective outrage -- inside or outside the FCC -- when it comes to stated violations of the Commission's own Internet poiicy?

See also: "Network Neutrality & Google's Openness Before the FCC"

Topics: Browser, Government, Government US, AT&T

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  • The biggest carrier in Alaska

    is GCI, and their system boots customers who use peer-to-peer packets that their system recognizes..
    Dave in Alaska
  • I'll go selective...

    Isn't AT&T is doing this primarily because they're the only
    ones with phones capable of running P2P? I'd give them a
    break on two counts: (1) consumers can know this before
    they buy the service and (2) I'd give newer but slower services
    (versus fiber optic) a break before hitting them with full
    service requirements. Your mileage may vary.
  • RE: AT

    The carriers though should find a way of incorporating P2P in their networks which according to one expert can be really helpful tothe web: How P2P Could Save the Web ??? and Your Data Center(
  • P2P

    The argument is ridiculous. Different types of data can and should be given different priorities if reasonable response is going to be maintained over the internet. File transfer is certainly one that should be lower priority than, for example, voice traffic. Email should be lower than IM. "Net Neutrality" is just another word for privileging certain business models at the expense of the average user.
  • P2P blocked

    While trying to use P2P on a mobile phone would be somewhat counter-intuitive, I can see where the technology is going, making large video files stream easier and quicker.

    It just bothers me to no end that the ISPs will sell you 'unlimited' packages, but then decide where and how you can use it. The technology is there to prevent the bottleneck issues that P2P can cause, so why the delay? My guess is the illegal filesharing that can block up the 'series of tubes' AT&T and others lay claim to.
  • Apples and oranges

    I don't think we're to the point with Cellphones where P2P should be expected - though it's a good conversation to start. Also - AT&T seems to identify that wireless customers can't use P2P - much different than Comcast's practice of officially saying they were managing their network and possibly delaying traffic, and in reality were outright blocking P2P.
  • RE: AT

    "Selective outrage" would be my guess. Comcast probably didn't pay their "bills."
    • Not really

      The current FCC chairman has a huge bone to pick with cable companies. He's upset because unlike telephone that received public funds to expand their networks, cable companies paid for the whole thing out of their own pockets. And then had the audacity to expect that they should be able to use said network as they saw fit. Shame on them. And hey if the FCC can tell them what they can and can't do with their network, which is privately owned. What's to stop them from enforcing it on other private networks, say even your home network.
  • Red Herring

    The focus on P2p is a red herring. The largest draw on the Internet are the Netflixs and Hulus -- legal consumption of streaming media. That's what Comcast fears -- people who can get on demand media direct from the web w/o a "cable company". With wimax we don't need "cell phones" any more as any IP device allows audio communication.

    I just hope we roll out Wimax as fast as possible.
  • Network Neutrality is network neutrality...:-/

    Frankly, I think AT&T, Comcast and any other ISP should have the right to clearly state their network policies and then offer whatever they want to offer. But there is a HUGE double-standard in play here if Comcast is going to be slammed for violating Net Neutrality merely by throttling (note, not BLOCKING... just throttling) P2P traffic yet AT&T is allowed to block it entirely. That kind winds up in courts and brings on foolish legislation.

    Kevin Martin is a single-minded hack with his blatant axe-grinding. I'm not defending Comcast... their customer service and technical competence (or lack thereof) lost me as a subscriber many moons ago. But it's pretty clear that *any* ISP is going to have to make decisions as to how to control bandwidth utilization on their IP network. And someone is going to be upset that they can't get a 'free ride'.
  • In defence of throttling

    Having run an Internet company, I can sympathise with AT&T???s situation. Contrary to popular belief P2P customers are in the minority but their activities affect everyone on a network. This is because P2P streams data 24/7 rather than being ???bursty??? like normal Internet traffic, and this creates congestion problems during busy periods. There is no easy solution; residential business models are barely sustainable and bandwidth expensive, so increasing the size of backhaul isn???t normally an option.

    Believe me ISPs don???t want to throttle, it is expensive in terms of both equipment and administration. Technical solutions involve packet sniffing (because many P2P apps incorporate port-hopping, in a deliberate attempt to evade detection) and traffic shaping; ie. throttling back P2P traffic during busy periods but allowing free-reign when the network is quiet. This powerful kit isn???t cheap.

    In our company, we didn???t have the funds to purchase a full-blown shaper and P2P management became such a headache that we eventually closed the business.

    Note also that customers may have paid for unlimited download packages but their contracts will also have ???fair-use??? clauses. If their activities seriously affect other customers then it is quite legal and fair to throttle those activities back.
    • I'm sympathetic but the word unlimited implies unlimited

      I think there are two main rubbing points.

      One: The word "unlimted" is used as a part of an advertising scheme when the ISP doesn't really mean, nor can they fully offer, "unlimited" downloads.

      Two: Who determines "fair use"? If I'm a movie buff who ponies up for an "Unlimited" download plan so that I can watch a movie a night with my paid subscription to my Internet Movie Provider (IMP) of choice and pay MLB to watch their premium baseball games on my computer (perhaps at the same time if it's a slow game or a stupid movie choice), I shouldn't be hindered by my ISP because in today's world watching movies online and sporting events online are now considered fair use.

      In short, if you do not really mean "Unlimited" do not say "Unlimited".
      • Quite so

        My comments:-

        One: Not true, downloads are still unlimited. Throttling doesn't cap data downloads, it simply shapes the traffic to prevent a small number of customers affecting everyone elses' service - ie. certain data streams are slowed during busy periods.

        Two: Occasional P2P traffic isn't the problem. It's when people start streaming (rather than bursting) 24/7 that congestion arises. The ISP owns the business and it is they that will decide what consitutes fair use. Believe me, when a lot of P2P streamers are active the phone lines are red hot with irate customers complaining about slow speeds. Is this fair? The affected customers certainly don't think so and the ISP has to act for the majority.

        So how would you tackle the problem? The solution needs to keep the majority of customers happy as well as maintain a viable business model. As I said, no ISP wants to throttle so if you have an answer we'd all love to hear about it.
  • Ok.. Lemme see if I have all of this straight...

    AT&T is blocking P2P sharing on their WIRELESS - aka cell phones? And this is a problem - WHY?

    Is there even a Bittorrent client available for the iPhone (or for that matter, any OTHER smartphone)?

    Does anyone really seriously think people are going to be sharing things back and forth on the almighty Jesus phone for any length of time - given the battery life on them sucks big wind?

    Is this really an issue?
    • Yes, it's an issue

      Sure, current impact may be limited or non-existent as you point out... but times and technologies change. Remember the old BBS's and how difficult downloading a pic was? Downloading something the size of a music file seemed a daydreamer's fantasy and to suggest downloading a full length, good quality feature film would have been simply crazy. That was less than 20 years ago. Tomorrow when the Father and Holy Ghost phones are out who knows?

      It will be impossible to get back neutrality once it is gone. Whether you would be streaming Sunday's Sermon or Friday Night's Fraternity Favorites, ideally (IMHO) your network provider should not be deciding (which it would be doing if selectively blocking is allowed). And if the issue is piracy, than the piracy needs to be addressed, not the technology... why prevent legitimate uses of torrent technologies from evolving? (again, IMHO ... and a bit of a stray for the wireless issue... so in conclusion.

      The FCC should be consistent, and not caring today likely leads to not having tomorrow.
  • Ever hear of broadband cellular acces?

    Some people actually pay to have net access where ever they are. I know most cell based isp's have a very hard cap of 5gig's of total bandwidth alloted to a customer. Don't know why you would want to use p2p on a cell service anyway. I can usually burn up to 15 gigs in a night just downloading using my dsl from at@t.
  • RE: AT

    NO the FCC should not go after AT&T. They said up front that they do this. They aren't being sneaky about it. You agreed to it in the contract.
  • RE: AT

    so what your saying is its fine to charge for unlimited access, but as soon as people actually use it they need to be throttled?
    That makes alot of sense now doesn't it.
  • AT&T uses the "Rockerfeller" ideaology.

    Todays "Big Business", ie: Oil, Telephone, ISPs, Insurance, Medical/Hospital, Fast Food, etc. are locked into the "Rockerfeller Standard Oil" mentality.
    They abuse and challenge Govt. rules and citizen/consumer rights all in the name of corporate/CEO/investor (excess) profit, all to remain in control so as to eliminate fair and honest competition in the marketplace.
    Think, how with all the new technology available, how much better and economically more cost efficient the products we buy and use would be, if we were to breakup the huge for excess profit conglomorates, such as semi-monopolistic corporations like AT&T, COMCAST, EXON OIL, Haliberton etc. that prey on the U.S. consumer.
    AT&T was at one time such a huge monopoly, it was thought to have greater power and influence than the U.S. Government. AT&T recently broke the laws of Privacy giving away your records to the Bush Adm. et al.
    This ideaology is still the guiding force for AT&T CEOs, looking to establish thier dictatorial dominance in the marketplace today.
    What do I think?
    Buff Oon
    Buff Loon
  • RE: AT

    At least they are being open about it. If we are in a capitalist system, the provider should be allowed to do as they please as long as the customer is aware of what they are paying for. If Comcast secretly blocked the traffic then people using the service for that particular reason were being cheated. If you don't like what AT&T is doing then go somewhere else, but at least you know what your getting into.