Bit Rate

Non-Breaking News: Comcast Still Isn't Blocking BitTorrent

10/24/2011 3:04 PM

“Generalíssimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”

I was reminded of Chevy Chase’s immortal words from SNL’s Weekend Update in reading the non-story making the rounds among BitTorrent freaks that Comcast has actually made good on its pledge to not curtail file-swapping.

Wired ran a story last Friday that said a new report from a Google-backed research project “verifies for the first time that Comcast has virtually stopped its throttling practices in the wake of the FCC’s order, which concluded that Philadelphia-based Comcast breached so-called net neutrality rules.” The Measurement Lab data purportedly shows that Comcast applied deep packet inspection (DPI) to 49% of BitTorrent connections on its network in Q2 2008, dropping to 3% by Q2 2010.

A couple of issues here.

First, the data isn’t new: It spans Q2 2008 to Q2 2010. So it’s possible that in the past year, Comcast has once again started targeting BitTorrent users, though I doubt it.

Second, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC overstepped its authority in ordering Comcast to stop slowing down BitTorrent traffic. So it’s inaccurate to say Comcast is in “compliance” with an invalidated order. (Also note that the FCC’s newer network-neutrality rules are being challenged in court by Verizon.)

Finally — and this is the real kicker — the claim that Comcast isn’t throttling BitTorrent is not even technically correct.

The MSO detailed how it was moving to a “protocol-agnostic” bandwidth management technique — back in 2008 (see Comcast Spells Out How It Will Curb Internet Hogs and Comcast Tries New Ways To Control Bandwidth Pigs). So what that means is very heavy users (i.e., BitTorrent junkies) who load up the network are still subject to throttling during periods of peak network congestion.

All that’s different is that Comcast now puts users in the penalty box based on their overall bandwidth usage rather than singling out file-sharing apps.

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Programming Note! Don’t miss the Multichannel News breakfast panel discussion at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2011 in Atlanta, Video’s Next Act: Setting the Multiscreen Stage, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, prior to the opening general session. Click here for more info: www.multichannel.com/SCTE2011.

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