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P2P site cries traffic shaping foul at Canuck ISP

A question of resets

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Vuze wants to know if other ISPs are calling the same plays as Comcast.

Earlier this week, the Silicon-Valley P2P entertainment content distributor released a new study (PDF) that tracks the number of "reset packets" on the world's ISPs. Comcast - America's second largest internet provider - is facing an FCC investigation after using resets to throttle BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer traffic, and Vuze wonders if this sort of network management is happening elsewhere.

Vuze operates a peer-to-peer platform based on the BitTorrent protocol, and famously, it helped spark the FCC's Comcast investigation with a formal petition to Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners.

In mid-March, the company distributed an open-source traffic-tracking plug-in for its P2P platform, and over the past month, this was installed on 8,000 machines across the globe. Drawing on data collected by these 8,000 souls, the company's new study lists the "median reset rate" for more than 100 IP networks.

Vuze acknowledges that the study has its limitations - for some networks, the sample size is small - but a familiar name sits atop its list of ISPs. Five of the top six reset-happy networks are run by Comcast. The sixth is run by the Canadian cable ISP Cogeco.

On Monday, Vuze mailed letters to Cogeco and three other ISPs that sit high on the list - AOL, AT&T, and Cablevision - asking each to divulge their methods of network management.

"The results, while far from conclusive, appear to show that customers in certain service areas are experiencing disproportionately high reset rates compared to customers in other service areas," reads a statement from Gilles BianRosa. "While we know that reset messages naturally occur in ISP networks, we believe that the discrepancies we found at least justify directing fair questions to particular ISPs about their network management practices."

When we phoned Cogeco, the company denied that it throttles peer-to-peer traffic. "The sample size for the [Cogeco portion of the] survey was extremely small," said director of communications Marie Carrier. "And we do not do any intentional interruption whatsoever." Carrier also denied that Cogeco has received a letter from Vuze.

But Vuze tells us that all four letters were sent via registered mail. And users posting to BroadbandReports claim that Cogeco is indeed clipping certain uploads.

AOL acknowledged it has received a letter from Vuze, but declined to discuss it. AT&T and Cablevision did not respond to requests for comment.

Robb Topolski - the independent researcher who first uncovered Comcast's BitTorrent busting - has already shown that the American ISP Cox Communications its throttling P2P traffic, as he told the FCC at a commission hearing in Palo Alto last week.

Tests from Topolski and the Electronic Frontier Foundation indicate that Comcast is throttling traffic with BitTorrent, Gnutella, and eDonkey. ®

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