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Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak

Comcast responds to allegations that it throttles peer-to-peer traffic

August 21, 2007

2 Min Read
Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) denies that it throttles certain types of peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic on its networks. The cable company offered its rebuttal when asked about a popular Web report by TorrentFreak that claims Comcast users have been unable to upload files using the BitTorrent Inc. file-sharing application.

The TorrentFreak report states that Comcast used the Sandvine Inc. traffic management platform to throttle traffic. According to the report, "Sandvine breaks every (seed) connection with new peers after a few seconds if it's not a Comcast user."

"We're not blocking access to any application, and we don't throttle any traffic," says Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesman.

Douglas didn't explicitly deny the use of deep packet inspection or traffic shaping products. "[Comcast] has a responsibility to manage our network to ensure our customers have the best service, and we use available technologies to do so."

TorrentFreak founder and writer "Ernesto" (who won't divulge his real name) says he has heard from at least 20 Comcast subscribers that claim to have a problem seeding BitTorrent files outside the Comcast network after they are finished downloading. Seeding refers to the practice of immediately sharing a newly downloaded torrent or file as soon as you've finished downloading it.

Ernesto says Comcast is not the only ISP throttling P2P traffic and he claims there are "at least a dozen [ISPs] in North America throttling or limiting bandwidth" for P2P applications.

Tom Donnelly, executive VP of sales and marketing at Sandvine, wouldn't comment specifically on the Comcast reports but says he "wasn't aware of any service provider blocking BitTorrent traffic or seeding."

Donnelly says it's common for service providers "to have policies in place that treat different types of traffic differently." He adds that certain service providers "may differentiate between on-net and off-net traffic," and that some policies may choose to "address unidirectional traffic flows rather than bidirectional flows."

While not explicitly blocking P2P traffic, these types of policies fall in line with the behavior described in the TorrentFreak post, where unidirectional traffic is only available to "on-net" Comcast subscribers.

Donnelly didn't single out Comcast, but he does defend such service provider policies in general by saying they "maximize the aggregate usage" of service provider networks, providing all users with a good experience.

"Doing nothing is not going to result in the satisfaction of the largest number of users," he says.

— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

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