Print 15 comment(s) - last by Chocolate Pi.. on Mar 28 at 3:30 PM

Comcast commits a quick change of course

File sharers rejoice: Comcast and BitTorrent have agreed to settle their differences.

Comcast, accused last October of manipulating BitTorrent traffic in the name of “reasonable network management,” reached an unusual accord with the owners of BitTorrent and agreed to reverse course, focusing on expanding its infrastructure instead. In exchange, BitTorrent Inc. will work on optimizing the BitTorrent protocol so that it doesn’t overwhelm ISP resources.

“This means that we will have to rapidly reconfigure our network management systems,” said Comcast CTO Tony Werner, “but the outcome will be a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today's emerging Internet trends.”

Werner said that Comcast’s traffic management scheme, previously kept secret, will be published sometime today with changes made to take into account feedback from the Internet community.

“We are working hard on a different approach that is protocol-agnostic during peak periods,” said Werner.

The past six months have not been kind to Comcast, who has attracted the ire of internet advocacy groups and the FCC after it was discovered that it practiced a harsh form of “data discrimination:” Comcast servers would impersonate computers in a BitTorrent connection and send phony disconnect messages. Comcast’s novel form of traffic control – which it called “reasonable network management,” citing BitTorrent’s incredibly high demands on its infrastructure – had the effect of poisoning the well for both Comcast customers and anyone who attempted to connect to them, hurting the health of the BitTorrent system worldwide.

While they were once used exclusively for pirated and illegal content, P2P protocols like BitTorrent have seen increasing amounts of legitimate use from entities interested in distributing large files with a minimum of burden – due in large part to the protocols’ democratic, distributed nature.

P2P has “matured as an enabler for legal content distribution,” said Werner. “So we need to have an architecture that can support it with techniques that work over all networks.”

Percentages vary wildly concerning how much traffic over the internet is BitTorrent related, with figures varying heavily depending on who is asked. One thing is clear, however: BitTorrent, and peer-to-peer protocols in general, represent an overwhelmingly high portion of internet traffic, and as a result many ISPs are finding their own ways to stem the tide.

“While we think there were other management techniques that could have been deployed, we understand why Comcast and other ISPs adopted the approach that they did initially," said BitTorrent Inc. CTO Eric Klinker.

The FCC’s investigation appears to be changing course with Comcast’s announced changes, with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin expressing commendations (PDF) over the new accord: “I am pleased that Comcast has reversed course and agreed that it is not a reasonable network management practice to arbitrarily block certain applications on its network,” he said. “I also commend the company for admitting publicly that it was engaging in the practice and now engaging in a dialog with BitTorrent.”

“I am concerned, though, that Comcast has not made clear when they will stop this discriminatory practice. It appears this practice will continue throughout the country until the end of the year and in some markets, even longer. While it may take time to implement its preferred new traffic management technique, it is not at all obvious why Comcast couldn’t stop its current practice of arbitrarily blocking its broadband customers from using certain applications. Comcast should provide its broadband customers as well as the Commission with a commitment of a date certain by when it will stop this practice.”

After a tough February forum between FCC investigators and Comcast top brass failed to reach any serious conclusions – and allegations that Comcast hired seat-warmers to keep critics from attending – the Commission says it is still on track for a second Stanford forum on April 17, which it will use to better understand Comcast’s new plans.

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google comes a knocking
By phxfreddy on 3/27/2008 6:51:22 PM , Rating: 2
If you have followed any of Robert X Cringley's speculation on what google has planned for its myriad data centers then you know ComCast decided in its own self interest. They can either put on the beef it takes to make the lift or leave all the really profitable stuff to Google.

RE: google comes a knocking
By walk2k on 3/27/2008 7:53:30 PM , Rating: 2
and pirates everywhere rejoice

RE: google comes a knocking
By JackBurton on 3/27/2008 8:09:50 PM , Rating: 5
Full steam ahead! The seas have become plentiful again me maties!

RE: google comes a knocking
By DOSGuy on 3/28/2008 11:00:02 AM , Rating: 2
A lot of legitimate content distribution is made possible by BitTorrent. As a retro gamer, I use BitTorrent to watch Tool-Assisted Superplay videos from The CBC, one of Canada's national networks, has started distributing episodes of some of its new shows over BitTorrent (which Canadian ISPs have interfered with by limiting bandwidth, since there is no debate about Net Neutrality in Canada).

Whether ISPs like it or not, BitTorrent is the future of legal content distribution. A lot of websites couldn't afford to come up with the necessary bandwidth on their own, so they ask their visitors to share with each other. So the question is: if BitTorrent is the future, do you fight the future or accept and adapt to it? Bob Dylan advocated the latter.

RE: google comes a knocking
By eye smite on 3/27/2008 8:08:43 PM , Rating: 3
Yep, I'm betting Comcast was about to take some really bad heat from somewhere to go to the negotiating table with bittorent this way. Just seems like they're dodging a bullet with this compromise, not truly considering the customer.

RE: google comes a knocking
By TheDoc9 on 3/28/2008 11:32:25 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly, Its exactly like I said in a previous thread about this. There cocky attitude towards the government screwed them. They had no chance once they went public with there attitude a week or so ago.

RE: google comes a knocking
By Polynikes on 3/28/2008 1:23:27 PM , Rating: 2
Most corporations do things for their own benefit (profit), not the customer's. This seems to be the case here. Perhaps their subscriptions have had a substantial drop since their scheme was uncovered.

Still not working...
By blwest on 3/27/08, Rating: 0
RE: Still not working...
By Alexstarfire on 3/27/2008 9:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
Well, they said it wouldn't change till at least the end of the year, so what did you expect?

RE: Still not working...
By TomCorelis on 3/27/2008 9:52:56 PM , Rating: 3
They plan on having all the blocking undone by the end of the year. Why/how it takes so long is a question both Chairman Martin and I would like answered.

RE: Still not working...
By eman7613 on 3/28/2008 1:04:50 AM , Rating: 3
Simple, it doesn't. Its fairly easy to turn off a "feature" (only in comcast's opinion is this a feature). If they stop sending fake disconnect messages to the torrents it will go back to how it should normally work. Basically commenting out one line of code (if they argue that its to tightly built into the rest of the code to simply remove, they have HORRIBLE coders and are just BSing). People who know what is/is not are the minority, companies don't usually cater to such.

Logic Prevails?
By nismotigerwvu on 3/27/2008 9:26:16 PM , Rating: 3
Did not expect this decision as it is far cheaper to just whine and drive away customers than upgrade their capabilities. Kudos to Comcast for doing the right thing for the very first time in their existence.

RE: Logic Prevails?
By Marvlarv on 3/28/2008 7:49:26 AM , Rating: 2
Comcast now shows that they are turning over a new leaf. I seen a commercial and it stated that comcasts Internets are cheaper

Not much changed..
By OblivionMage on 3/28/2008 12:03:57 AM , Rating: 5
Now instead of blocking bittorrent traffic, they will simply limit all users who use a lot of bandwidth. Its a step forward certainly, but Comcast is not in the clear yet.

Capitalism Wins Yet Again
By Chocolate Pi on 3/28/2008 3:30:35 PM , Rating: 1
It's nice to hear the anti-corporation peanut gallery silent for a bit.

This is a perfect example of everyone involved playing their role perfectly. A private company makes a mistake, only to correct it after a reasonable amount of time thanks to the proper work of the associated party, consumer groups, and quality reporting exactly like what Dailytech offered on the topic. This is a perfect model of the free market succeeding, where everyone wins.

I can only hope that this issue further develops in everyone's benefit, as well as serves as an example to other issues.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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