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Tests reveal Comcast meddles with P2P network connections

Independent testing performed by the AP has revealed that Comcast actively interferes with peer-to-peer traffic going to and from its high-speed internet subscribers, by impersonating users’ machines and sending fake disconnect signals.
While traffic shaping – the act of throttling a given piece of Internet traffic based on its type, like BitTorrent or VOIP – is becoming increasingly common amongst ISPs interested in preserving quality of service, it seems that Comcast is one of the first companies that actively impersonate individual connections. Most providers will simply slow down some traffic in favor of others, or block a protocol’s port number to prevent it from functioning.
According to the report, Comcast’s technology affects users across many different networks, including e-Donkey, Gnutella, and BitTorrent. Robb Topolski, a former software quality engineer at Intel and Comcast subscriber, began to notice unexplainable performance problems with his P2P software. Posting to the popular forum, he collected similar reports from other Comcast users around the country.
In the case of BitTorrent, Comcast’s technology only kicks in when a user’s client has a complete copy of the file and is uploading it to other users, and not while downloading.
Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas would not comment directly on the matter, instead only saying, “Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent.”
There are currently very few regulations regarding traffic shaping, and none that specifically cover Comcast’s particular use. The FCC says that while consumers are entitled to run the applications and services of their choice, they are subject to measures of “reasonable network management” by their ISPs. The closest directive governing Comcast’s behavior – which still doesn’t directly apply – would be found in AT&T’s conditions for acquiring BellSouth, where it had to agree not to manipulate traffic in any way based on its origin – not service type.
Comcast’s “traffic discrimination” has important ramifications for the growing number of services that are leveraging P2P as a means to distribute large files quickly and cheaply. A company like Blizzard Entertainment, who relies on BitTorrent for distributing World of Warcraft updates that often measure hundreds of megabytes in size, may have trouble reaching its players if it or they are behind a Comcast internet connection. This problem will only worsen if other ISPs decide on a similar course of action.
Ashwin Navin, co-founder and president of BitTorrent Inc. confirmed the AP’s findings, and noted that he has seen similar practices from several Canadian ISPs.
“They're using sophisticated technology to degrade service, which probably costs them a lot of money. It would be better to see them use that money to improve service,” said Navin.

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Bye bye Comcast
By ChipDude on 10/19/2007 10:25:38 PM , Rating: 5
And that is why a left to go to FIOS and directTV. Your days of holding me over a barrel are over!

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By rudy on 10/19/2007 10:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
Problem is most of us have no choice, its comcast or AT&Ts terrible DSL. Much of average US areas are not lucky as the really big cities to have many ISPs to choose from.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Dug on 10/19/2007 10:40:03 PM , Rating: 3
“They're using sophisticated technology to degrade service, which probably costs them a lot of money. It would be better to see them use that money to improve service,” said Navin.

Wait till their subscribers start dropping like flies. Then the cost will really bite them in the ass.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By JAB on 10/20/2007 12:19:57 AM , Rating: 3
Most people dont have much of a choice. For many it is the only choice for others it is them or one not so great alternative. There is no sign the federal government is going to support competition any time soon.

The over the air broadband might have some hope but if history repeats the big companys will gobble it all up and avoid loosing control.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By TomCorelis on 10/20/2007 1:54:58 AM , Rating: 4
Most people are also apathetic to the details of their internet connection. If it's web, and it's fast, they're happy.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By JAB on 10/20/2007 6:38:08 AM , Rating: 2
Uninformed or or resigned to bad serves applys to many also. When a second cable internet company entered the market people started becoming interested in the quality of their connection. Not surprisingly service on the old network improved rapidly once real competition entered the market but many switched anyway.

My long retired parents are surprisingly upset over the speed of their cable. They tried to get a second DSL so they would not have to share but couldn't. They view it the same way they viewed the 100 USD long distance phone bills that are not free- just something you have to put up with.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By euclidean on 10/22/2007 11:04:03 AM , Rating: 2
What most people don't realize also is that they have Comcast...I only wish I could get comcast instead of high-junk Charter Comm.... :(

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By abhaxus on 10/20/2007 2:22:28 AM , Rating: 2
A) You are exactly right on people not having a choice. For me (a high paying 8mb tier customer from the month they started offering it in my area) I have no choice but comcast, or 1.5mbps DSL.

B) To the reply directly above me (or below, don't know how this will turn out), not only are people apathetic, people can still leech under comcast's system. I still regularly max out my download bandwidth using either Azureus or uTorrent. Upload bandwidth only stays constant when other comcast users are leeching from me.

C) My choice was to drop from 8mbps/768kbps to their 6mbps/384kbps tier. I made sure when I disconnected the high speed tier that I told the comcast guy to make a note on my file that I was specifically disconnecting because of their fraudulent BT actions. He probably didn't, but it's the best I could do.

Sadly, on the 384kbps upload tier, even if uploading at less than half of my max available bandwidth, my DL speeds and latency go to hell, whereas with my 768 upload I could run within about 5KB/s of my max and still be fine.

It's a shame, really. I would switch to DSL in a heartbeat if they had 6mbps service where I am. I pray for the day FiOS comes to my area.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By KamiXkaze on 10/21/2007 9:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
yep when your options are limited there nothing else to, but too deal with it.


RE: Bye bye Comcast
By bravacentauri83 on 10/19/2007 10:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
I wish we got FiOS. Commiecast is the only choice for us.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Tsuwamono on 10/20/07, Rating: 0
RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Etsp on 10/20/2007 8:18:59 AM , Rating: 3
In a communist society, there is a huge lack of variety in products and services, because competition within an industry is considered a bad thing. Because of this, the product or service is often of lower quality, because there isn't competition. Comcast has no direct competitors and so they do not have a drive to improve their service, much like industry in communism.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Christopher1 on 10/20/2007 9:00:45 AM , Rating: 2
Now, that is not the problem here. Communism is not the problem, the problem is the lack of competition. South Korea has a system that is BETTER than ours in terms of the internet in their cities, and how is that? Because they made it EXCEPTIONALLY clear to the companies who were going to be doing business in their countries that they had to improve their technology year after year if they wanted to keep on doing business, something that the United States thinks is 'bad' for them to mandate.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By logaldinho on 10/20/2007 3:17:41 PM , Rating: 2
actually south korea is not communist, north korea is. south korea is as advanced as they are because of capitalistic competition. where north korea at night looks like you could be looking at an empty body of water because of the lack of development. have you seen the picture comparing both countries at night?

guess with no electric company to compete with they figured nobody other than kim jong needed power.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Christopher1 on 10/22/2007 11:42:32 AM , Rating: 2
You are right in that South Korea is not communist, but they are more communistic than the United States is and are more willing to play hardball with companies when they are trying to 'screw the customers'.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By wingless on 10/21/2007 1:41:12 PM , Rating: 1
They are fascist pigs!

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Yawgm0th on 10/19/2007 11:25:55 PM , Rating: 2
It's Comcast, Quest, or Speakeasy here. No FIOS. Quest is absolutely horrid, and Speakeasy charges twice as much for a slower connection than Comcast does for triple play.

But Comcast took three trips and two weeks to install everything. Bittorrent is harder to use. Customer service is horrid.

I wish we could get Fios. But the 8m connection is really 8m and then some, and the price can't be beat. It's sad.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Screwballl on 10/20/2007 12:57:12 AM , Rating: 2
The only local high speed choices for me is Cox cable or Embarq (Sprint) DSL. The DSL service is total crap so that leaves Cox. I have noticed issues with uploading relating to torrents and recently Joost since it also uses P2P. Downloads seem to work fine but even after the application is closed, I still get port requests (blocked by my firewall of course) for Joost even though its been 3 days since I last had it open. My upload speeds for torrents has stayed around 30-50kbps when most uploads previously run around 300+ kbps.
My online gaming has had an overall increase in ping lately, typically 10-50 points which can mean life or death in counter-strike (with the P2P apps closed).
The only way I may be able to get away from this is to get setup with a business line through Cox which would not have the same limitations but would also take more from my pocket.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Belegost on 10/20/2007 1:46:05 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, the last two months I've been having a similar experience with Cox, though I don't have the time to do the tests that would be necessary to prove it. However with this coming out, I'm fairly sure Cox has installed similar filters.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By kring on 10/20/2007 8:28:32 AM , Rating: 2
Is this a violation of privacy? How do they know you are uploading bit-torrent unless they are actually opening your packets and viewing the content... what if that was my SS# going to my financial institution... are they reading that content as well?

Is the bit-torrent marker in the content layer of the packet? I don't think it's in the transport layers?

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Master Kenobi on 10/20/2007 11:31:34 AM , Rating: 1
BitTorrent uses a specific packet type, its easy to figure out what its doing, they just monitor them that way.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By blwest on 10/20/2007 8:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
And what kind of mysterious packet is this?

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By darkpaw on 10/20/2007 9:20:40 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, I'm quite happy. Screw the pirates, more bandwidth for people that don't P2P everything they can get their greedy paws on.

As for blizzard, using Bit Torrent for patching was the stupidest thing ever. So much easier just to get their patches from Fileplanet.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Hase0 on 10/22/2007 11:16:52 AM , Rating: 2
As for blizzard, using Bit Torrent for patching was the stupidest thing ever. So much easier just to get their patches from Fileplanet.

That cost money and Fileplanet can be a pain in the ass sometimes, not to mention using bit torrent for distributing patches that are used by millions is a really good idea, especially when the files are so huge because the sheer amount of users allows a lot of seeders which = high download speed, and they can save a lot of money this way. They also offer direct downloads for scrubs who cant use bit torrent btw.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By totallycool on 10/22/2007 11:56:49 AM , Rating: 1
After paying 80$ for the game, and 15$ monthly for the subscription, I really dont wanna help them reduce the costs. Why would i want to share my bandwidth, so that blizz can save their money.

I really hate their torrent patcher, usually just download it thru filenet or disable p2p. (Have you noticed how the check mark says, this would degrad performance, and no where it says that it would also upload from my machine :P)

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Hase0 on 10/22/2007 3:11:31 PM , Rating: 2
After paying 80$ for the game, and 15$ monthly for the subscription, I really dont wanna help them reduce the costs. Why would i want to share my bandwidth, so that blizz can save their money.

The $80 is for the initial development cost's plus some profit for game, and the $15 is suppose to be for the content and updates they always do, and probably server hosting, but i do agree that $15 a month is lame. So if you don't want them to host primarily through torrents, they would probably raise your monthly subscription fee up and say we need to include the distribution now because you guys were crying too much.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By Pythias on 11/10/2007 2:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
Screw the pirates, more bandwidth for people that don't P2P everything they can get their greedy paws on.

This may come as a shock to you, but there ARE legitimate uses for p2p.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By palthainon on 10/21/2007 8:00:53 AM , Rating: 2
Comcast isn't the only one doing this.

All of the ISP's i've worked with have used a bandwidth control system that works by allowing more of the available bandwidth to ports that are commonly used by the highest paying customers; businesses. These ports are something like SMTP, POP3, HTTP AND HTTPS, SSH, telnet, etc. And as the bandwidth is available it is distributed throughout the rest of the ports. The biggest hogs with the least use to businesses such as bearshare and bitorrent ports are slowed down to allow room for the rest.

Its not that they give a crap about the file sharing; they don't. File sharers pay money, too. Its just that these ports consume the most bandwidth.

RE: Bye bye Comcast
By allometry on 10/22/2007 6:20:09 PM , Rating: 2
First of all, I'm sick and tired of paying over a hundred bucks for TV and Internet. Personally, I think it's high priced and I think I'm right about this, because there's little competition against Comcast.

Now, not only was I pissed for paying a lot, I'm pissed for paying a lot and not getting, what I see to be, a complete product.

Comcast TOS limits a lot, that having 6MB down [in most areas] is nice, it's almost not worth the hassle if you like to use entities such as BitTorrent to download LEGAL content! I'm waiting for them to start limiting speeds on iTunes and other services like that, because it takes too much of a hit on their bandwidth. It's pretty apparent that the legality of any traffic is irrelevant in the eyes of Comcast. It's all about their bottom line and as a consumer, when you bring your bottom line into my product; go screw!

Turns out Speakeasy has a 6/768 line available in my area. While I believe it's also high price, Speakeasy tells me that I can do what ever I want to on that line; they don't give a damn! That's worth a hell of a lot more than Comcast product at this point.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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