Richi Jennings

Comcast resets BitTorrent users; net neutrality lovers lash out (and "Them" vs. "Us")

October 22, 2007 6:46 AM EDT
Leech this! It's IT Blogwatch: in which Comcast gets outed for secretly disconnecting BitTorrent seeds. Not to mention contrasting views of the West and the Middle-East...

The AP's Peter Svensson makes the accusations
:
Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online ... runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally ... confirmed through nationwide tests ... the most drastic example yet of data discrimination ... It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users ... an aggressive way of managing its network to keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth. [more]
Paul Krill caught up with Comcast at the Web 2.0 Summit:
Asked whether ISP Comcast was disrupting BitTorrent file-sharing traffic and peer-to-peer communications, a Comcast official at the Web 2.0 Summit on Friday said the company has a tiny percentage of customers who use its system excessively. [more]
Farhad Manjoo explains:
[It] suggests that broadband providers mean something very broad by "traffic management" -- including, it appears, purposefully stepping into your network sessions to shut them down ... system sends a "forged" packet to each of the two computers engaged in a peer-to-peer transfer -- the forged packet looks like it came from the other person's computer, and it basically tells each machine that the other is unavailable, ending the transfer ... The most alarming thing about this scheme is that Comcast is conducting it on the sly. It didn't alert anyone to its filtering mechanism -- not its customers, not other ISPs, nobody. Indeed, Comcast is still not coming clean. [more]
Jacqui Cheng strives for balance:
Comcast's actions have serious implications for sharing information online, and by proxy, Net Neutrality ... We're not entirely sure that the AP's tests are as conclusive as it seems to believe ... We do, however, think that the AP—and others who have noticed the issue—are onto something. Everyone has been trying to figure out what, exactly, Comcast is doing to throttle P2P traffic in certain markets, and Comcast sending reset packets on behalf of Comcast subscribers is a probable cause. [more]
Prof. Susan Crawford tries a colorful metaphor or two:
This happens all the time in the name of “traffic shaping” — it’s the kind of thing that China does to interfere with internet use ... It’s as if as soon as you entered a room an enormous “Loser” tag was stuck on your forehead unbeknownst to you. Sure, you could continue to circulate, but no one would talk to you ... What’s the solution? Structural separation. You’re either a plain-vanilla transport company serving all comers, or you’re something else competing for our attention. But this mixture, this hybrid of apparent-communication plus editorial control, is unacceptable. [more]
David S. Isenberg muses on this stuctural separation idea:
Reasonable observers could claim that Comcast were deliberately discriminating to protect its main-line video entertainment by blocking or degrading a popular method for sending video ... [If] we had a law that said, "Network operators must not have a financial interest in any of the content carried by that network," we could be assured that any network operator's network management would be for the sole purpose of running the network ... [and] keep government out of the network management business. Enforcement would be via financial audit. Such a law is called Structural Separation. [more]
But Jerry Brito seeks transparency so that the market can decide:
No doubt Comcast and every other access provider should have the ability to manage their networks to ensure that a minority of users doesn’t slow down or increase costs for the majority. However, they should be transparent about what they do ... we don’t need regulation prohibiting these kinds of network management practices. The problem is not the practice, but the lack of disclosure, and as Google’s Andrew McLaughlin has said, it’s more of an FTC issue than an FCC one. [more]
IBM's Ed Brill says it's not just BitTorrent:
I can confirm that IBM Lotus tests, along with customer tests, indicate the same behavior in Notes/Domino uploads.  A TCP reset is introduced into the stream, one which does not originate from the Domino server.  The effect is to terminate the upload/sending of data from the Notes client ... We are now tracking this issue as SPR# PAZR77TSW7. [more]
Stephen Wellman has, you know, a solution:
I hate arguments that we as consumers are supposed to feel sorry for carriers when users start absorbing more bandwidth. Sorry, Comcast (and other service providers), get more bandwidth. Cable MSOs like Comcast tend to charge more than landline telecoms for their broadband, so why not spend some of that money on, you know, growing network capacity rather than on regulating a select group of users. [more]
But Richard Bennett disagrees:
How are we ever going to have a dialog about the proper way to regulate the Internet while the tech press is full of idiots who think network bandwidth comes from Santa Claus? ... No amount of additional bandwidth will satisfy the hogs ... bandwidth is neither free nor infinite, and the Internet lacks a mechanism to ensure that it’s shared equitably ... the slickest way to throttle BitTorrent is to limit the number of uploads a given user can offer, which is exactly what TCP Reset ... spoofing does ... is there anything to see here other than an ISP applying reasonable principles of network management by reasonable means? ... Don’t believe everything [they] tell you about the Internet. Much of it is made-up, and the rest is sensationalized. [more]
Michael Parekh has déjà vu:
Feels like Sony Rootkit all over again. A major company doing something that it thinks is right for it's own interests, but does so disingenously, hoping that how it's doing it doesn't really get noticed by it's customers and others with a stake in how the whole system works ... It's also a big deal since a lot of the next generation, mainstream, and legal applications on the internet involve peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies, with video programming (a la Joost, etc.), as an example. [more]
And finally... Two contrasting views of how to contrast the West and the Middle-East: Buffer overflow:
Other Computerworld bloggers: Previously in IT Blogwatch:
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You too can pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.