updated 12:15 pm EDT, Thu March 27, 2008
Comcast Eases Torrents
Comcast on Thursday made a surprise reversal of its past practices and said that it would halt its practice of blocking BitTorrent traffic on its cable Internet service. The provider revealed that it would instead work towards a management system on its network that will remain strictly neutral, preventing a bias towards or against any one distribution format. The move is publicly claimed as a recognition of the use of BitTorrent as a legitimate mechanism for business, which requires that it receives equal treatment along with other traffic, according to the company.
Adjusting these practices will demand that Comcast "rapidly reconfigure" its network monitoring but should more accurately reflect online reality, said the company's CTO, Tony Werner. Comcast noted that it was in discussions with BitTorrent for future plans and that it would openly publish its techniques to ensure that both customers and developers are aware of how data will behave on the cable network.
The Internet provider's action is widely understood to be a partial reaction to recent statements by FCC chair Kevin Martin, who argued this month that Comcast's approach to its Torrent-oriented practices was deceptive and didn't rule out the possibility of investigating the practice. In its existing form, the Comcast technique uses software from SandVine that cuts the peer-to-peer BitTorrent or Gnutella links between Comcast subscribers and others on the Internet under certain conditions, severely limiting download and upload speeds.
The cable firm admitted that its discussions with BitTorrent were meant to resolve problems without government intervention.
Comcast's gesture may also have been prompted by efforts on Verizon's part to optimize peer-to-peer traffic for known legitimate services, which the DSL service provider said would not only reduce costs on its end but improve the speed for end users.