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Comcast admits it can do the impossible

'We will stop busting BitTorrents'

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Comcast's new management techniques don't require bigger pipes. In its press release, the company said it will soon roll out the wideband DOCSIS 3.0 standard. But when the end of the year hits, this will reach only 20 per cent of the company's customers. And its new management techniques will apply to the other 80 per cent as well.

And these techniques don't require changes to the BitTorrent protocol. "There is no dependency on BitTorrent changing anything," Klinker said. "Any changes at the application (ours or others) will be the result of future dialogue between the companies. Comcast will implement their protocol agnostic network management techniques without any modifications to the BitTorrent application, completing the roll out by the end of the year."

Meanwhile, as we wait for Comcast's new solution, the FCC will continue to probe. Yes, managing a cable network is a difficult task. But when Comcast began surreptitiously busting BitTorrents back in the winter of 2007 (or earlier), that wasn't the company's only option. At the very least, it could have told the world what it was doing.

"A hallmark of what should be seen as a reasonable business practice is certainly whether or not the people engaging in that practice are willing to describe it publicly," Kevin Marin has said. And the FCC wants to ensure that nothing less than a reasonable business practice prevents American internet users from accessing all the (lawful) content they're interested in accessing.

Comcast has argued that the FCC doesn't have the right to regulate internet service providers. And no doubt, the company has trumpeted its BitTorrent "agreement" in the hopes that the FCC will back off.

But we would argue that after today's revelations, there's all the more reason to investigate the company's behavior.

According to Jonathan Kramer, a telecoms-savvy attorney with the Kramer Telecom Law Firm, the FCC does have the right to regulate the country's ISPs - and it should exercise that right.

"The FCC is already fully empowered to operationalize Congressional intent by ensuring the orderly and fair development of applications and websites on the internet," he told us. "It can do this by ensuring by regulation that the dominant market players who control pipeline access and throughput don't have unilateral ability to quash applications or sites that they don't like or that might conflict with their bottom lines.

"Players like Comcast, who have a the stranglehold on the neck of the Net for millions of users, pose a real and great threat to implementing Congressional intent for free Internet development. The FCC, as the regulator of interstate telecommunications, is the agency best situated to remove those fingers, one-by-one, from the neck of the Net, and to ensure that Congressional intent is realized through, and not by avoiding, proper regulation."

Today, Comcast acknowledged that its cable network can be managed without a BitTorrent choke hold. And it showed a willingness to make the switch. But clearly, this wouldn't have happened without some encouragement from the FCC. ®

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