Feeds

Feds to probe Comcast's BitTorrent busting

What is "reasonable network management"?

Top three mobile application threats

At long last, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will investigate claims that Comcast has put a choke hold on P2P file-sharing traffic.

Speaking yesterday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), FCC chairman Kevin Martin finally acknowledged four-month-old press reports questioning the American ISP's commitment to net neutrality.

"Sure, we're going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked," he told VIPs at CES.

Of course, "blocked" is a loaded word in this case.

Comcast's efforts to throttle P2P traffic were first uncovered in May, when an independent network researcher named Robb Topolski posted the results of several tests to DSLReports.com. But this news didn't reach the web at large until Topolski's tests were spied by the P2P-happy blog TorrentFreak.

In essence, Topolski had shown that Comcast was preventing P2P users from "seeding" files. When one machine attempts to trade a file with another, Topolski's tests proved, the ISP was sending a duped "reset flag" to break this peer-to-peer connection. Two months later, The Associated Press published its own tests showing this was indeed the case.

In response, Comcast insisted it was not "blocking" P2P traffic. "Comcast does not block access to any Websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent," read the company's statement.

But no one was accusing the ISP of blocking traffic. At issue was whether Comcast was throttling traffic. Later in its statement, the ISP copped to such behavior - though it used the word "managing" rather than "throttling".

"Our customers use the Internet for downloading and uploading files, watching movies and videos, streaming music, sharing digital photos, accessing numerous peer-to-peer sites and thousands of applications online," the company said. "We have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience and we use the latest technologies to manage our network so that they can continue to enjoy these applications."

Is this acceptable behavior? The SaveTheInternet.com Coalition thinks not. In early November, members formally asked the FCC to give Comcast a look-see.

"In 2005, when the FCC adopted an order reclassifying wireline broadband as an information service, it sought to ensure that network providers of Internet service, like phone and cable companies, would not violate network neutrality," SaveTheInterneters said. "Consumers are entitled to access all applications, services, and content of the consumer’s choice, and entitled to competition among providers of networks, applications, services, and content."

Meanwhile, Comcast argues that this FCC policy statement gives ISPs free rein to practice "reasonable network management." "We engage in reasonable network management to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience, and we do so consistently with FCC policy," Comcast has said. "As the FCC noted in its policy statement in 2005, all of the principles to encourage broadband deployment and preserve the nature of the Internet are 'subject to reasonable network management.' The Commission clearly recognized that network management is necessary by ISPs for the good of all customers."

With his appearance at CES, Kevin Martin has now said that the commission will investigate if Comcast's practices fall within its rules. "The question is going to arise: Are they reasonable network practices?" Martin said. But even if Comcast's practices are reasonable, he added, the ISP should lay all its cards on the table. "When they have reasonable network practices, they should disclose those and make those public."

You think the FCC should take Comcast to task? Richard Bennett - the man who wrote the first standard for Ethernet over twisted-pair wiring - thinks you're wrong. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
AT&T threatens to pull out of FCC wireless auctions over purchase limits
Company wants ability to buy more spectrum space in auction
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.