Comcast's network controls: File sharing isn't Comcastic

Comcast, in a move to save bandwidth, is interfering with subscribers who want to swap files online.According to the Associated Press, Comcast is discriminating against some of its subscribers.

Comcast, in a move to save bandwidth, is interfering with subscribers who want to swap files online.

According to the Associated Press, Comcast is discriminating against some of its subscribers. Comcast's interference was confirmed by various tests by the AP. The strangest twist: Comcast computers masquerade as users. The big concern is that Comcast is setting a precedent for other ISPs to follow. No one in the story argues with the fact that Comcast can do anything it wants with its network.

The AP reports:

If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content.

The principle of equal treatment of traffic, called "Net Neutrality" by proponents, is not enshrined in law but supported by some regulations. Most of the debate around the issue has centered on tentative plans, now postponed, by large Internet carriers to offer preferential treatment of traffic from certain content providers for a fee.

Comcast's interference, on the other hand, appears to be an aggressive way of managing its network to keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth and affecting the Internet speeds of other subscribers.

Comcast confirmed that technology is used to keep connections up and running, but denied that the cable giant blocks applications. Apparently, downloading is fine, but uploads are blocked.

My take: Once you strip out the Net neutrality banter what Comcast is doing makes sense from a network management perspective. Comcast is weak when it comes to upload bandwidth and if some guy is trying to upload a Smallville episode that's going to hurt connection speeds for the network--and your neighbors. And given that Comcast is in a dogfight against Verizon for TV and Internet services in some areas (like mine thankfully) Comcast has to muster all the speed it can get.

The downside: That speed may give Comcast a black eye on customer service--especially when you consider the cable company's methods, which appear to be deceptive. And the last thing Comcast needs--just ask this 75 year old lady--is another customer service black eye.

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