AP Updates Its Story: Comcast Doesn’t Block P2P


You may have missed a key follow-up to the story the Associated Press filed Oct. 19, which asserted that Comcast “blocks” file-sharing application BitTorrent in some cases.

The alleged smoking gun: The AP tried to share a digitized copy of the King James Bible using BitTorrent software and Comcast’s cable modems, and claimed that two out of three attempts to share the file were blocked altogether.

The dispatch was absolute catnip to “Net Neutrality” advocates, who pounced on it as evidence that the federal government needs to start regulating the way Internet providers manage their networks.

But on Tuesday night, the AP issued an update to the story, as pointed out by IP Democracy blogger Cynthia Brumfield. Rather than blocking P2P traffic, the later AP article says, Comcast merely subjects such file-sharing to delays.

“In one case, a BitTorrent file transfer was squelched, apparently by messages generated by Comcast, only to start 10 minutes later,” the AP’s Oct. 23 article said. “Other tests were called off after around 5 minutes, while the transfers were still stifled.”

Well. That’s a fundamental difference: Like saying the Holland Tunnel is closed, whereas in fact traffic is subject to 5- to 10-minute delays.

So you can’t start downloading your pirated copies of Spider-Man 3, Knocked Up or Ratatouille right away? Boo-hoo, brother.

In any event, neither AP story addressed the fact that BitTorrent’s file-sharing protocol is not the most reliable piece of technology ever invented.

There are a number of reasons why an attempt to download a file via BitTorrent might fail. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Why? Could be the BitTorrent “tracker” that points to “seeds” hosting the requested file is offline, or it may have changed its address, or your computer may be firewalling the file-sharing protocol.

If you’re feelin’ holy (or holier than thou), by the way, the Bible’s already posted all over the Web.