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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fiber_r_us 12/5/2012 | 3:02:13 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak It is only a matter of time until your choices for Internet service plans look like this:

chip_mate 12/5/2012 | 3:02:13 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak Early in 2007 TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) quietly floated the idea of buying back all the Federal Highways in Texas, making them TxDOT property and putting Toll Booths on all the entrance/exit ramps.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (TX) is outraged with her own State DOT and has introduced legistlation to ban this not only in Texas but the other 49 States as well.

So, the earlier post, meant to be humorous, wasn't that far off the mark of what's really happening.
BigBrother 12/5/2012 | 3:03:32 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak It is stated in the Contract that the ISP deliver the service in the best effort that is why the ISP does not want to let you know that they throttled your service as it is a violation of the contract since it is no longer a best effort.

Also most of the protocol that is currently being use for P2P have their own behavior, so even with encryption, the behavior is still there and this behavior is used to detect the type of protocols you are using. In general the DPI only needs to look at the first few packets and can tell what protocol you are using. A lot of time, you are blindly thorttle even though you may be using some legal content using Torrent.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:03:33 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak I don't run an ISP and I'm not a crypto expert but I would think that encryption would make the theft of intellectual property harder to detect. Also, I don't think a corporate VPN is required for one to hide from accountability as the Bit Torrent drug dealers will help out there.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:03:33 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak The internet will change the value of books, music, entertainment, communication...copyrights even?

I sorta agree, though I don't think the value will change but rather the price that can be extracted from unprotected works. We're seeing the superimposition of the free rider problem that the new digital networks have so far enabled.


It's not really new. Broadcast radio (and later TV) already went through the same lifecycle. The free stuff ends up as little more than ads as the thieves and free riders make it such that a direct market can't function. A modern day tragedy of the commons.
tailpin 12/5/2012 | 3:03:33 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak Interesting post rjmcmahon - a valid but discussable post.

The MSO's walled gardens are not the first or last of the breed. The internet, as a whole, probably reduces the value of information. It has the power to make books...free. Same with music or any other e file. Try to think of the publishing industry -in any media- as anything BUT a walled garden. It was simplex, with a long time constant, and little or no, feedback. Started by the printing press.

People, in their burst of inspired laziness, tried to make it easier to communicate. They came up with the Net. (We should probably start capitalising it - like God). Now it is so easy to communicate, that the value of the previous methods is changed, or changing. It won't fully change until we find some way to filter the noise something akin to the old recording signing agents and book editors in order to make what is out there interesting. We'l lose the financial ability to keep that process in place and the old medias will disappear.

So, what am I saying? The internet will change the value of books, music, entertainment, communication...copyrights even?

Enloy the music and books now, they will not be the same in a decade.
tailpin 12/5/2012 | 3:03:34 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak Does p2p work okay (as in not throttled) thru a corporate VPN?

It seems to me that encryption should not allow the id'ing of p2p traffic.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:03:34 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak Gilmore formulated: "The Internet treats censorship as a fault, and routes around it."

MSOs probably won't be acting as agents for Gilmore's internet. They have a tendency towards walled gardens. If you're in the content business, even as a reseller, P2P really isn't a viable product as it erodes the value of content since most who use this method of distribution aren't respecting copyrights and nobody gets paid.
tailpin 12/5/2012 | 3:03:35 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak It appears to me that something should be happening soon because -

Gilmore formulated: "The Internet treats censorship as a fault, and
routes around it."

Seems to me some smart young person will come up something simple and elegant, will go off and become a legend, and the world will carry on.
melao 12/5/2012 | 3:03:36 PM
re: Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak In my opinion.
There should be state in the contract that certain applications could be throttled.
Meaning, different prices for different services.
If you want to have an "open pipe", pay more.
If you are an average user, pay less.

But what happens right now is that you pay for a service that you dont have it.

The point is, if they want to limit P2P users, it should be stated in the contract when the service is bought. In my opinion it is illegal to limit a service without any agreement.
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