Proof of Concept Gives Comcast Headaches
In the Net Neutrality debate, the last thing phone and cable companies want is a proof of concept. In fact, as one FCC commissioner has noted, avoiding these proofs is what has kept them on relatively good behavior recently. So, it was bad news when torrent users accused Comcast of degrading and blocking torrents over the weekend.
Reports from TorrentFreak went viral via Digg.com that Comcast subscribers using BitTorrent transfers were experiencing significant decreases in download speeds or were unable to send at all.
This report was coupled with another blogger who claimed something similar happened on Sunday afternoon. Christer Edwards, the author of the blog, then went on an elegant tear about how his torrent difficulties were another step toward the dreaded "tiered Internet":
The way I see it this is the first step toward a Tiered Internet, whether or not any such thing is approved in Legislation or by the consumers. Comcast doesn’t care. They are simply cutting off access to part of the Internet, plain and simple.
I would not be surprised at all to soon hear that Comcast will allow bittorrent traffic, for an additional fee. If you *really* want to use that protocol you can pay us more, but otherwise we don’t deem it as part of “normal internet usage”. Once that starts what is to stop the avalanche that will happen next?
“You want access to YouTube? It really uses a lot of bandwidth and we weren’t expecting most people to use more than casual browsing and email. That’ll be $5/mo additional.”
Indeed, and that is what AT&T has made clear they want in the past, while denying there was any problem at the same time.
Speaking of denial, a Comcast representative denied that his company was filtering or shaping traffic on his network, an assertion that lit another fire under TorrentFreak’s Ernesto, who begs to differ, with a little technical support from a commentator at Silicon Alley:
With Wireshark in the background run your BitTorrent application. Wait until completed and watch Wireshark, notice when it finishes seeding Comcast servers send out a reset command every second to your computer noted by the highlighted red line in Wireshark. It is 8:30 pm Monday pst and Comcast is still resting my BitTorrent connections. Maybe the PR guy didn’t get the email from the VP of Networking.
TorrentFreak also has video.
While Comcast’s PR guy (Charlie Douglas) is talking to the VP of Networking, he should also look for ways to distance the company from AT&T rock band censorship and their latest packet-sniffing developments as well.
He should also talk Christer Edwards into not switching to a slower DSL connection, as that furthers arguments that there is a competition crisis in the broadband space.
And he should also get all the PR reps from the other broadband companies together (shouldn’t be hard, there’s only a handful of them) so they can get their technical staffs on the same page as the spin-staffs.
After all, too much proof of concept stuff out there means a straight path to some nasty legislation they won’t like, so they need to be on their best behavior.