back to article Everyone's a winner in the Comcast - BitTorrent detente

So Comcast will stop shaping peer-to-peer seeding sessions with spoofed TCP RST commands. I caught up with the cable giant's CTO Tony Werner on Thursday for more details. The move should delight the company's critics. These innocent control packets have been compared to identity theft, to collusion with dictatorial regimes, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A little faith in the world

    This sounds like the fairest and best possible out come. Cheers to the FCC and Comcast, and the Net neutrality crowd.

  2. Robb Topolski

    What Standard Practice was that?

    --Quote--it's been standard practice for network operators to correct the TCP protocol's mistaken notion that fairness consists of the right to consume bandwidth in proportion to ones appetite by applying fair queuing at the entry to the first hop.--endQuote--

    How, did network operators do this? What did they actually do? In so much as a "hop" represents a router, and routers don't know about TCP or port numbers, then don't they just get packets and handle packets in series? Isn't (non-weighted) "fairness" at the first hop more of a natural "First-in, First-routed" act?

  3. Aslan
    Thumb Up

    Excellent Article

    Excellent article, good solution, I think all parties should be able to appreciate this. I hope that the system is not to invasive into peoples internet use and simply keeps a factual eye on the necessary numbers.

    I wouldn't mind setting the priority of my traffic on a per application basis if it eased network congestion and allowed me to transfer a similar amount of data per day.

    Fortunately I have regular Road Runner and such things are not a problem for me as everything moves quick on their networks.

  4. Robb Topolski

    A correction, an explanation, and cautious optimism


    I am not a peer-to-peer enthusiast. I am an enthusiast of historic films and music and I was trying to share them via peer-to-peer and I wondered why it didn't work. I'm also a protocol-and-networking guy, since the day when bitrates were so low I could practically decode them by ear. I do very little P2P.


    The "deal" is treacherous because Comcast has a long history of denials and deceptive answers.

    BitTorrent Inc. is a competitor Vuze (who has an official complaint in front of the FCC on this matter) -- yet the "deal" could not have been better designed to make the public believe that Comcast had made peace with everyone. Look at the terms of the agreement -- is there anything that BitTorrent gains? Is there anything in it that Comcast couldn't have simply announced and implemented without BitTorrent, Inc.? Comcast used it as a pawn in its PR-recovery plan -- and it would have worked, too, if it wasn't for us meddling kids!

    Comcast itself has committed to nothing except for "experimenting" with a protocol agnostic solution. They were already going to increase bandwidth in those markets by the end of the year (the upload speeds had to increase because increasing the download speeds with DOCSIS 3 creates more overhead on the upload side than today's uplink speeds would allow.).

    Meanwhile, the P2P interference continues on. It's been over a year now for me. The AP reported it 6 months ago. And Comcast says it plans to continue it for another 9 months. This is not the behavior of admission or apology, this is the behavior of arrogance.

    We should not let down our guard until we see something more than lip service.


    If it comes to pass, and the implementation is what you describe it to be, I'm not sure that I object all too much. I'm very concerned as they describe today's interference as occurring only during peak times, when I see the interference 24/7/365. And if this is such the better solution, I'm somewhat concerned as to why they didn't do this in the first place. What detail am I missing now that caused them to avoid this solution two years ago?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Well, I don't have any problem saying it: I'm delighted Comcast have climbed down, I'm extremely pleased they will no longer forge packets, I'm supremely content that they will allocate bandwidth fairly to their customers using proper traffic shaping techniques, I am exquisitely tickled pink that they will treat all our traffic equitably without regard to content, and unless there's some massive hidden gotcha, this settlement addresses all my complaints. The whole internetwork will benefit from the effort put into the development of these sorts of technologies, nothing about which is particularly new or unknown, and which would have been much higher up the ISP's agendas far earlier if they genuinely cared about the quality of the service they gave to their customers, rather than losing interest the minute they've got your money. And hey, nobody even had to repeal any laws of physics!

    As to your complaints about the "self-appointed guardians of net neutrality", well, that's between you and them, and quite beside the main point. It would be an ad hominem argument to claim that the strength or weakness of the argument against Comcast's practices stood on any perceived personal strengths or weaknesses of their characters as individuals. You haven't exactly said "I was wrong" in so many words yourself, but the argument against your position is not that you should say that, but that your position has been demonstrated incorrect by subsequent events, which you claimed would not be possible.

  6. b shubin

    Pull the other one, it has bells on it

    "...all of us who buy network services from the cable company should be happy about it."

    erm, this is Comcast, remember?

    so they finally decided to move from a hub-based aggregator to a switch-based one (hey, talk about timely, isn't this concept as old as switched networking? has 20 years gone by so fast? didn't DSL do this? and how about that switched landline phone network? back in the day, when we had only ISDN...i'm old).

    there are still PLENTY of reasons to avoid Comcast (painful tech support, constant price hikes, resistance to a-la-carte, inferior products, monopoly tactics, and then of course, there's the lying, the constant, endless lying...). one negative less, does not a kudo make.

    this was a decision they should have made long, LONG ago, instead of deploying Sandvine or similar, but they chose to lie about it instead. for that alone, a fine should be in order. in many areas, Comcast is a monopoly, and it should be treated as such, when it acts this way.

    corporations should not be rewarded for rational behavior, that should be their SOP; it's a business they're running, fer fsck's sake, not a high-school cheer section or religious cult (with all due respect to Messrs. Jobs, Ellison, Gates, Torvalds, etc.)!

  7. Richard Bennett

    Interesting comments

    @Robb Topolski: I suggest you read the Nagle RFCs I mentioned in the article for an understanding of how fair queuing and weighted fair queuing work and their status in Internet operation for these past 20+ years. Most networking guys have this stuff cold, but if you ever return to SQA with Intel in Hillsboro you might ask some of the Digital Home guys how their Wi-Fi WMM system prioritizes gaming and video streams over web surfing. I can't buy the logic that "company x is evil, therefore all they do is evil." If it looks like a good deal, it is a good deal, and if it looks like a rook it is a rook. I'm easy to please.

    @AC: How was I wrong exactly? I said that I couldn't figure out a better way than RSTs to handle the traffic load given the equipment limitations Comcast had pending the DOCSIS 3.0 upgrade, but they gave themselves a better option by installing some gear that handles traffic in-line with the CMTS. This stuff is expensive, but they're willing to shoulder the expense on your behalf. That means that Comcast is better at running their network than I am, and I more or less expect that.

    @b shubin: Corporations are rewarded for rational behavior by making sales, and that's what makes the world go round. Comcast certainly isn't in the same game as Jobs and crew, they're just a simple little TV company. I appreciate them because they're willing to sell me a broadband connection I can abuse to my heart's content, while AT&T doesn't even want to offer me a DSL option. Nothing that they're doing involves switches vs. hubs, BTW, because they have a single-cable network. You've apparently missed the signature difference between DSL and cable.


    How long until we get the usual caped crusader saying "they sell me X bandwidth and I should be able to use all of it 24x7?" I always appreciate that one.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Great as long as they really do it.

    I think this sounds like a great solution, but I'm not so sure I really believe Comcast will do it. After all they just spent at least 6 months lying and changing their story about the filtering they were doing so they've earned my skepticism fair and square.

    As for this: "Corporations are rewarded for rational behavior by making sales, and that's what makes the world go round." it's not a good argument and you should know it because you go on to say: "I appreciate them because they're willing to sell me a broadband connection I can abuse to my heart's content, while AT&T doesn't even want to offer me a DSL option." I'm in the same boat, if I want anything beyond dialup Internet speeds my options are Comcast, Comcast or Comcast. I don't have an option to go with someone else or I already would have, and a good chunk of their operations are monopolies like this. So they're going to continue to make money from a large chunk of their customers (because they have no choice), and Comcast knows it.

    Personally I think the only reason they've decided to compromise is because the FCC appears to be heading toward a negative finding against them. And as for what the FCC does on that complaint, Comcast shouldn't be left off the hook, they did act poorly in the past and this new solution won't be in place in most areas for quite some time. Even if you think their blocking Bittorrent traffic was OK, the way they lied about it wasn't. And they're still lying! I also see the filtering occurring 24/7/365 just like Robb Topolski reports PLUS it's not just on Bittorrent. I'm getting really bloody sick of their screwing with my SSH connections in particular. I can't use SCP to copy files over 1MB in size to servers I manage any longer because Comcast sends out the reset packets and the transfer permanently stalls. This is a serious inconvenience to me and it's damn well legit traffic so this shouldn't be occurring!

    So while this sounds great and I hope they do it, I'm also looking at several more months of connection hell thanks to Comcast. This isn't leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling by any means, a ripped off and abused feeling perhaps. I still hope the FCC nails them to a wall for those reasons. Just promising to behave better doesn't cut it, until they stop the misbehaving they shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt. Nothing they've done since this all came to light has earned them that benefit, only the truly guilty lie so much to hide what they'd done.

  9. heystoopid
    Dead Vulture


    Essentially , the same old , same old push off couched in other terms , as Comcast has now self created a work around to their dumb ideas in the first place , which means that they have literally help shaped the next generation p2p end to end packet encryption including stop and start bits , which locks out that technology very much quicker then they can play catch up !

    So what they are really saying whilst you caught us out cheating by overselling bandwidth to all on the basis the average punter will at best need less then 5% in peak and say about 20% off peak to business hours , so what ! , back to business as usual ! , whilst thumbing their noses to both the regulators and their unfortunate customers at the same time where they dominate or control the market place !

    When alternate competitors appear , such predatory customer unfriendly behaviour is usually awarded the flick pass as the more astute users quickly move away to another more friendly provider ! It will be interesting to see what happens when alternatives like Broadband by the power line comes on line like Manassa , thus bypassing their very deliberate DSLAM bottleneck ?

    But sadly with attitudes shown thus to the end user who pays their wages it explains why the US is rapidly lagging behind and given the centric shift now happening with the intertubes will no longer be the main dominatinating country all within less then a decade !

    It is intriguing , given that the future of many things to come down the tubes , will forever exceed their ability to supply the full bandwidth needed for it to function correctly . Thus reading between this spokespersons lines he is virtually saying to all " up yours suckers !" , and tell it to some one who cares because we don't care anyway , now bugger off !

    The old saying "Seeing is Believing" but until then , they will remain guilty as charged until proven other wise ! As any cynic would say , once a suck always a suck , as leopards never change their spots no matter what window dressing they use , the coat always remains the same underneath !

    el reg bird because this is what comcast think of all customers , to be bled dry at every opportunity possible !

  10. michael

    "they sell me X bandwidth and I should be able to use all of it 24x7?"

    UP UP and AWAY!!!!

    seriousley they do so I should if they can not suply what they say they are selling why sell it??

    it is a bit like buying a bottle of milk and them saying I can not drink all of it??

    yes mine is the one with the cape atached

  11. peter Silver badge

    5237 and counting...

    "Since the days of three-digit RFCs..."

    Lol! That line brilliantly captured the growth of the internet. And it made me laugh. A lot.

    How long before we're remembering the halycon days of four digit RFCs?

  12. Dazed and Confused


    Perhaps they need to change their marketing model then. With my ADSL lines the deal has always been :

    It'll work up to this speed, but you share it and this is the contention ratio.

    Before I had ADSL the ISP I used back then similarly made it clear.

    We have "X" modems for "Y" customers to share. We have "Z" external bandwidth.

    If you want a guaranteed bandwidth you can go to BT and buy a nice leased line, or rather ever they call it these days. They'll happily sell you loads of mega bandwidth. But even there, there is no guarantee that any given download will work at full speed, the site you want to download might not have enough bandwidth, or the other parties ISP or upstream provider might not have a fast enough link.

    I can't remember the figure that BT quote, I think it used to be 50:1. If your exchange has 50,000 lines, 1,000 people trying to use their connection 24x7 at max speed would be enough to saturate it. fortunately most people don't use their network connection like that so as long as the contention is shared out across enough lines normal users don't see a limitation, and even the few users who do want to use their link continuously don't see a problem, but only because most people have a life.

  13. b shubin

    RTFA, Noob

    @ Bennett

    no, i have NOT missed the difference.

    i had both services (not by choice - i got FIOS once i had choice), and the "hub" model of the cable aggregator was always obvious from the packet loss versus "switched" DSL. where DSL would send a backoff to slow down traffic from the endpoint, cable would simply drop traffic. this was endlessly documented, for years, on DSLReports among other places (i read it at least 5 years ago, maybe more - it was that long ago). you apparently read none of the (reams of) docs online about the cable back end, and managed to not read (or understand?) the article where you posted the comment, as well. kudos!

    before you patronize others, make sure you at least RTFM.

  14. michael

    @Dazed and Confused

    more or less what I was saying they are advitising what they can not provide another anaolgy for you is a plane company saying they can fly a plane from london to newyork but knowing that if the plane is full the fule will runout halfway so when pepol turn up at the gate they stop half of the pepol getting on

    actuley now I think about it that is what some budegt airlines do

  15. Magnus

    @ Michael

    Yup, that is indeed what airlines used to do. Sell you a ticket and then sometimes bumped you off the flight when they overbooked it. It happens far less these days now they have to compensate passengers when that happens...

    Draw what conclusions you may out of this.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Jam tomorrow

    So, merely on the promise of good behaviour, all the clamouring for punishment of a company caught redhanded breaking the law, just goes away?!?

    Oh I forgot, US teleco = retrospective immunity.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Where you were wrong, Mr. Bennett. (from OP)

    "That means that Comcast is better at running their network than I am, and I more or less expect that."

    That would explain /why/ you were wrong, not explain it /away/. But the entire "Dismantling a Religion" article is an attack on the EFF's claim that

    "[Comcast] can set a limit on the amount of data per second that any user can transmit on the network. They can also set these limits on a dynamic basis, [ ... ]"

    as being unfeasible. And you wrote

    "That's why the EFF's suggestion about dynamic bandwidth caps, even if it were possible to implement, wouldn't solve the problem."

    Wrong on both counts.

    "The internet's traffic toolkit is nearly barren, so it's no wonder that Comcast and its peers would use mechanisms such as Reset Spoofing"

    (and from "Hogging the Trough")

    "Comcast has little choice but to do what they're doing"

    You repeatedly made this argument, which is based around an incorrect inference of necessity based on incorrect assumption of paucity. And a fair amount of all your articles was spent denigrating your opponents as delusional, wanting the laws of physics repealed, engaging in magical thinking, and other irrelevant ad hominems. Yet in the end, Comcast has decided that their proposed solution is both affordable, feasible, and in everyone's best long-term interests. They completely pulled the rug out from under the substantive part of your argument.

    How much more wrong could you possibly have been?

  18. michael


    maby pepol should sue if they are throtled or spoffed?

  19. Richard Bennett


    Comcast will have to install some new equipment to apply per-user priority quotas enforced by the CMTS. This scheme wasn't actually suggested by EFF as you claim; they asked for across-the-board floating bandwidth caps in the cable modems and metered pricing.

    The big change is new equipment that enables control of the CMTS scheduler, something Comcast couldn't do before. And in fact I proposed a system of this sort in the talk I gave at the ITIF on March 12th, so you can make of that what you will.

  20. Danny O'Brien

    What about EFF's own support for Comcast's new behaviour?

    After accusing the organization of religious zealotry in arguing against per-protocol restrictions through faked packets, and for fairer and publicly stated bandwidth controls, it seems odd not to link to the post where it agrees that this is a good move:

    Or does that spoil the narrative?

    (Due disclosure: I work for the EFF. Hello, Register-land!)

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps this is what Comcast meant...

    University of Colorado researchers suggest Comcast is now sending resets for ALL protocols rather than just bittorrent...

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