Comcast admits it can do the impossible

'We will stop busting BitTorrents'


Faced with continued scrutiny from the US Federal Communications Commission, Comcast has agreed to release its choke hold on BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic. It says it will soon adopt an alternative method of controlling upload traffic on its cable-based internet service.

This also means that Comcast has acknowledged there's an alternative method of controlling upload traffic on its cable-based internet service.

Today, with an early morning press release, the big-name American ISP and cable television provider said it would switch to "a capacity management technique that is protocol agnostic" by the end of the year.

"We will have to rapidly reconfigure our network management systems, but the outcome will be a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today’s emerging Internet trends," Comcast Cable CTO Tony Werner said in a canned statement. "We have been discussing this migration and its effects with leaders in the Internet community for the last several months, and we will refine, adjust, and publish the technique based upon feedback and initial trial results."

Werner did not point out that Comcast also spent the last several months publicly defending its right to bust BitTorrents.

Comcast's press release described the company's about-face as part of an "agreement" with BitTorrent Inc., the San Francisco-based company that uses the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol to distribute movies, TV shows, music, and video games. As part of this agreement, the folks at BitTorrent Inc. acknowledged that ISPs should be allowed to manage their networks.

In other words, it agreed to acknowledge the obvious. At the same time, BitTorrent Inc. CTO Eric Klinker told The Reg that network management should not include using forged reset flags to break individual BitTorrent connections. The company is happy with network management only if it treats all applications equally.

"The pursuit of protocol and application agnostic techniques are obviously the right answer here, not just for applications that are important today but for applications that will be important tomorrow," he said.

Klinker also made it clear that Comcast should adopt its new techniques sooner rather than later - and that the FCC should continue to investigate Comcast's treatment of BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer applications. The FCC is in full agreement.

"I am concerned...that Comcast has not made clear when they will stop this discriminatory practice," FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in his own canned statement. "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. The Commission will remain vigilant in ensuring that consumers have the ability to access the lawful content of their choice on the Internet."

Next page: The Cover-up

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