October 19, 2007

Comcast and BitTorrent

There is something really strange going on here, but it's extremely difficult to tell what it is.

A story's going around about the Comcast high-speed internet service allegedly interfering with user's ability to use BitTorrent. I recently had occasion to download a large Linux distribution (sigh, note this is completely legal), and so saw the problem firsthand. There's definitely a network issue somewhere.

But ... it's very subtle. And given the intense politicization of anything have to do with so-called "Net Neutrality", I have to confess I'm deeply put-off from getting involved. It looks like we're in for yet other round of extensive political campaigning drowning out any real analysis of the technical issue.

[Update: See Richard Bennett's posts]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on October 19, 2007 02:17 PM (Infothought permalink)
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The "network issue" is artificial, and created by Comcast - the packet analysis shows that. (It's rather a good piece of investigation.)

Comcast decides how much P2P traffic it's going to allow, regardless of legality (after all the arrival of BitTorrent the company confuses the matter of what content is "legal" thoroughly). Its network isn't quite neutral - though whether something gets blocked seems to depend simply on total volume, not the fact of being BT.

The issue is whether that's right or not. Well, first why it does it.

Posted by: Charles at October 20, 2007 08:45 AM

Yes, but the exact nature of the network issue isn't clear, in that there's a lot of unknowns concerning WHY those RST packets are being sent. People are assuming the worst motives, working from a muddled picture.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 20, 2007 10:36 AM

I found an interesting discussion of this topic on the NANOG list:


Many of the participants are current or former ISP network administrators.

Posted by: Wes Felter at October 22, 2007 02:45 PM

Wes, that's interesting, thanks.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 23, 2007 02:53 PM