Packet inspection/traffic management

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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skillsss 12/5/2012 | 4:08:33 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak

-áone thing...but an ISP using its platform for social engineering purposes is quite another.

The American Public and the FCC need to keep an eye on ISPs. Comcast has been censoring conservative message board posters in my opinion. Because dominant ISP Comcast is a gateway to the internet, they control many eyeballs. Comcast's systematic censoring of conservative opinions on their News & Current Events message boards needs to cease and desist. If Comcast gets tax breaks from local government, then they have a civic, ethical, moral and perhaps legal obligation to provide fair and balanced moderation of their message boards. This type of social engineering is an outrage. Please get involved. Silence is consent. Post a conservative response to a News or Current Events thread here and see for yourself.


This is America...Not CHINA

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:03:45 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak who is this ernesto character anyway?
Larry, Monkey 12/5/2012 | 3:03:44 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak http://www.born-today.com/Toda...
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:03:43 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak RJS said " am waiting for the govt to sell the Interstate
highway system to some big corporation (most likely one of the oil companies or the above four).
Then we can all be very content paying 19.99 a month for the right to use it."

Well a Mexican company is about to build the Trans-Texas Corridor. The TTC is a tollroad from Mexico to Oklahoma and later on to Kansas. Any guesses what the toll will be a month?

But don't mess with Texans!


I just couldn't resist!
rjs 12/5/2012 | 3:03:43 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak ATT, VERIZON, TIME WARNER and COMCAST. The new
Ma Bells of telecom. Get used to the monopoly
and tacit understanding of maintaining it.

Comcast has already more customers for the VoIP than
Vonage and the P2P on Comcast sucks.

I am waiting for the govt to sell the Interstate
highway system to some big corporation (most likely one of the oil companies or the above four).
Then we can all be very content paying 19.99 a month for the right to use it.

The policy makers just don't get the point about common carriage and why it should be kept separate. Wholesaling should be mandatory to prevent these monopolies from getting out of control.

ozip 12/5/2012 | 3:03:42 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak As the article states, many operators attempt to control the distribution of traffic to ensure fair usage. Put mores simply, this is no different than the old days of enterprises prioritizing telnet over FTP. It seems reasonable because they want their customers to have a good interactive experience using http.

However, there is a more complex problem. Most DPI boxes claim that they can look at the complete contents of every packet that goes through them, however in practice, this is usually not the case either due to the way the product was deployed, such as the long suffering in-line or out-of-line debate; or the processing power/cost of the device trade-off.

Therefore DPI vendors end-up building "black box" applications that run on their platforms using the minimum amount of hardware resource while attempting to address the problems when out-of-line is used. The solutions show promise when tested on a smaller scale but other problems such as this appear at scale.

I would bet that this is an unintended consequence of the mechanism that Sandvine is using to manage p2p traffic. The big question is whether its a bug, or a fundamental design problem.

Unfortunately, the structure of the routing business (and CMTS) is such that DPI technology isn't in the routers where it should be, and operators are forced to attempt to solve legitimate problems with these add-on devices.

jwmarc 12/5/2012 | 3:03:41 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak And there have been enough RFPs and deals to substantiate the market....remember "net nutrality"??.. the thought was to have product in place if the battle was won and immediately proceed with throttling the likes of Google,Yahoo and all the other big portals that were getting the "free ride" as a major telco executive said publically....
jwmarc 12/5/2012 | 3:03:41 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak And carlos Slim...is he the benefactor??
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