back to article FCC tells Comcast to unblock P2P

US Federal Communications Committee chairman Kevin Martin realises that Comcast has its very own definition for the word "delay." America's second largest ISP continues to say that it's delaying peer-to-peer traffic on its network, not blocking it. But Martin isn't that gullible. Speaking before the Senate Commerce Committee …


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  1. Ash
    Paris Hilton


    Or impotent rage?

    Will this make a difference?

    Paris, because the icon doesn't get used nearly enough for stories with no relevance to her.

  2. Phillip Dixon

    P2P Pirates

    Can I pose the question...

    Does anyone actually use P2P networks for legitimate stuff? Or is it just the illegal file sharers?

    If you're downloading dvd's, music, games, etc then why should you have any right to continue to do this? Should it be the ISP who is the gatekeeper of the Internet? Who should the music industry be chasing?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    P2P Pirates

    Erm, the BBC recently launched a new service called iPlayer. You may have read about it. I'd suggest that within 4 months, in the UK at least, there will be more legal P2P traffic than illegal, simply as a result of this mainstream government-funded system.

    However, whether the content is legal or not is irrelevant. Consider this - if I post a pirated copy of a DVD to a friend, does the Post Office have a legal right to stop my mail? It's the same thing here.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    If only....

    ...OFCOM had teeth this sharp.......

  5. Test Man

    Re:P2P Pirates

    It's immaterial if it's being used for legal or illegal stuff, the very fact that Comcast are blatantly breaking p2p connections is what is generating uproar. Seeing as it CAN be used for legal stuff (the BBC iPlayer and developers using it as a distribution method for their software are two methods) they shouldn't be restricting it AT ALL.

  6. Sebastian

    @Phillip Dixon:

    I use it for legal downloads!

    Many Linux-distriutions or large free programs are shared over BitTorrent

    because it's fast and doesn't need large scale servers with big connections ...

    There are always side-effects as illegal downloads but you can't fight them

    with forbidding a legal technique ...

  7. Solomon Grundy


    Did you really just ask that? Jesus.

    I think you are one of the spies that have been planted at El Reg by mainstream lobbyists and such. I know the spies are here because there is always some complete idiot that makes silly, inane comments about every story.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    P2P != crime

    Assuming that P2P is only for stealing others software/films/music is like assuming that the internet is for pr0n

  9. Darren Sandford


    The online game with the largest number of players in the world - World of Warcraft - uses P2P to distribute it's patches. This is a legitimate use.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Most of these comments seem to come from people who hide their monkey-spanking weekly inside an unread copy of The Times and claims that whats in their hands is legitimate reading material !!!

    @Mark Otway

    The PO isn't an automated system so comparing them to manually intercepting your pirated DVD is a pointless waste of internet bandwidth.

    @p2p != crime

    Yes it is. Big time. My ISP limits the amount of data I get to upload/download for free. If the BBC starts using my bandwidth to the extent that I start paying my ISP for bandwidth that I did not authorise to use then that is a MAJOR CRIME. The amount paid in license fees should allow the BBC to pay for their own internet feeds.

    PH because her videos use up most of the internet bandwidth

  11. Guy

    I thought the internet was for pr0n.

    ...and you got all this other stuff thrown in to make it more difficult to find

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    How about Ubuntu installers, Open Office updates, et al?

    If you googled before you posted, you could probably have answered your own question.

    Hell, Paris could have answered your question.

  13. An ominous cow herd


    "Assuming that P2P is only for stealing others software/films/music is like assuming that the internet is for pr0n"

    Oh? There's something in the interweb thingy, you say?

    My coat's on, nothing underneath it though....

  14. Anonymous Coward

    What made the Internet

    What made the Internet boom since the 90's was the proliferation of freebies, in the form of pr0n, music mp3s, illegal copies of games and applications, cracks and whatnot.

    When some people started sharing more stuff, more people wanted to get a piece, so they asked and paid for fatter pipes and larger infrastructure to manage them. The Internet we see now was built because of that amount of traffic.

    When I pay for a fast connection, I don't do it so that I can read TheReg in a blinding flash of HTML goodness, but to download more stuff, faster than before. I believe that the majority of users want pretty much the same. It's only now that the legal content is starting to ramp up, but it's still mostly DRM hobbled or of lower quality than the illegal.

    So what do you expect ? That I pay through the nose multiple times for the same song in whatever format the distributor peddles, or that I'll get the most convenient torrent that has the complete album in FLAC, with all bells and whistles too ?

    Until the legal distributors get their acts together and figure some way of getting me to pay a tax/levy on my pipe and not encumber me with stupid legislation and locked down content, I'll be voting with my feet and getting my stuff from where it's most easy and convenient.

  15. Mike Kamermans


    <<If the BBC starts using my bandwidth to the extent that I start paying my ISP for bandwidth that I did not authorise to use then that is a MAJOR CRIME.>>

    No, that is you not reading the instructions that come with the p2p program you are using. If you ISP charges you by the Mb, then obviously the first thing you do is check whether the programs you use to access the internet do not have settings that allow them to perform unsupervised data transfer.

    P2P data distribution is perfectly legal. Whether it causes problems for you due to personal circumstances is then your own responsibility - don't use it if if will negatively impact you.

    Along same line of reasoning, it is the user's responsibility not to distribute illegal data. You *can*, but that doesn't mean you should, or should get away with it. That said, there are plenty of legal P2P applications (video, large tester or plain free applications, data sharing amongst specialised communities such as university science faculties and corporate R&D centres). Blocking all forms of P2P distribution because a fairly large but by no means 100% part of the users use it for illegal data distribution is solving the right problem the wrong way, by doing something illegal yourself.

    And yes, the post is a fully automated system, only requiring human help when it encounters letters and packages it cannot determine the destination for, or are odd-size and so do not fit through the automated systems. It already scans your mail for certain substances, it would be trivial to add in an extra screening for CD shaped objects with a little slot they fall through straight to the shredder. Would that work? yes. Would it be illegal? equally yes, because it would be indiscriminate (you could burn a CD with 100% legal data on it and mail it to someone, and it would get shredded just the same as the illegal DVD Mark would hypothetically send.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

  16. Mo


    The BBC isn't stealing your bandwidth; if you don't want to use (legitimate, or otherwise) P2P applications, don't install them. Simple.

    For most of the rest of us, though (including those of us who pay a tad more than the bargain-basement Tiscali offerings), P2P is an entirely sensible distribution mechanism for content, and its use for legal content is only increasing over time.

  17. Phillip Dixon

    Can of worms

    I've struck a nerve with the P2P users.

    My original question was "does anyone use if for legitimate stuff?", so a yes or now would have done. Then I posed the question "if you are downloading stuff illegally why shouldn't you be stopped?", maybe what Comcast are doing is not legal or right but is it right to turn a blind eye to illegal use?

    @Solomon Grundy - You sound like a serial killer and a little paranoid, maybe you should reconsider your smoking preferences. If only I were a spy my desktop job would be a whole lot more exciting. If it's not contributing to a discussion then don't bother commenting.

    @Mark Otway - Posting illegal DVD's, should the royal mail stop them? Chances are they'd lose them anyway but what it the package contained Anthrax? Should the royal mail deliver it to it's destination?

    As it happens I'm a big fan of P2P but every now and again I like to have a discussion to keep me entertained. Nobody can deny P2P has a future; online gaming, patch distribution, iPlayer, etc but until someone sorts the good traffic from the bad more and more ISP's will use sledgehammer tactics to solve "the P2P problem"

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    So who thinks that OFCOM will follow suit here and tell virgin media to stop traffic shaping P2P ?

    I think no chance, since they more than likely wont understand it and even better another chance for the government to shaf its citizens. Maybe in 10 years we will have it just like the sad broadband story where we got DSL a decade after Europe and the US did.

  19. Chris Cheale

    It's Comcast's service...

    surely they can just say, "Hey, THIS is the service we're providing - take it or leave it" - as long as they make it clear that they're not providing anything like a comprehensive service? Might be commercial suicide, but that's up to them really.

    If ISPs charged per GB transferred this wouldn't be an issue as people would suddenly find transferring pirated DVDs a _LOT_ more expensive. Most users would be, at most, nominally affected (hell, might even see the price for their connection come down) since most software, including games patches, is comparitively small.

    About 110MB for Open Office, maybe 70MB - 250MB for a games patch (depending on the game), <80MB for most applications including web browsers, dev software (Apache, PostGRES, MySQL), the Gimp and even Apple stuff like Quicktime and iTunes.

    I've never yet worked out how, without watching a lot of video streams (or downloading the equivalent files), anyone manages to exceed 2GB worth of data download a month - I've done it once with a full game beta which I was testing (that was a 2.3GB download).

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Scare quotes...

    ...not needed around 'reset flag', which is a technical term being used correctly and in its literal meaning. By constrast, they are entirely justified around "network management", where they indicate that it's something of a stretched metaphor, much as if you had described it as 'so-called'.

    Just a little note for your house style guide. HTH!

  21. dr2chase
    Thumb Down

    @ Philip

    YES. Shared out about a terabyte when we had DSL, before noise on the line made it unusable. Only downloaded legal stuff: SXSW showcased artists, Star Wreck/In the Pirkinning, Helmholtz Reciprocity, A Decemberists video from their site.

    Last time I checked, P2P uploads ran at about 5% (4KB/s) of potential maximum (80KB/s), 10% of what I limited rate to (40KB/s). If I could switch I would; FIOS ends at my neighbor's house.

    The issue, for Comcast, is that their infrastructure can't support widespread use of P2P, but they can't say that, so they talk about piracy and try to imply that P2P users are hogs. I was amused to read recently that Verizon has made nice with some P2P people, and they probably intend to start promoting services that work best with P2P, so as to gain a (well-deserved) competitive advantage over Comcast.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @ Phillip

    Oh dear, you didn't know that everyone using P2P is only ever doing it legally for updating their Linux installs and patching WoW!

  23. Kanhef

    re: can of worms

    ISPs have every right to kick someone off for violating TOS. However, they do not have the right to interfere with everyone's traffic, irrespective of the content.

    I'm reminded of the early objections to VCRs. They /can/ be used to infringe copyright, but that is by no means their only use, so a blanket ban on them is not justified.

  24. Keith Doyle


    Yes, it's Comcast's service, but they essentially have a negotiated monopoly in cable in their service areas. Can you choose Time Warner cable instead? No-- that's not how cable works, at least in the USA. You get to choose from one cable company, just like you get to choose from one phone company-- but that monopoly comes with some responsibilities to deliver the appropriate service (exactly what that is, is what is in dispute at this point). Comcast can't decide to just provide bandwith for email traffic and web pages and still be able to hold on to their service area guarantees, just like the phone companies couldn't if they chose only to provide phone service at certain hours of the day.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    On what planet P2P is sensible?

    "P2P is an entirely sensible distribution mechanism for content"

    No, it sucks. It would still suck if we all had symmetrical connections, but it sucks even more as we don't. If the content was legal, Bittorrent would disappear faster than a tickets for a free lapdance.

    Ever heard of multicast? I'm guessing not. They don't mention it very often at Torrentfreak.

  26. Robb Topolski

    It's not Comcast's Internet

    > "Hey, THIS is the service we're providing - take it or leave it"

    By selling Internet Access, Comcast has agreed to use the Internet Standard protocols and practices that the open bodies that govern the Internet have defined.

    These include the principles of non-discrimination, the use of TCP flags (including "RST") only by end-points, and the notion that interfering with the communications of others is abusive.

    As for the cost of supporting and using iPlayer in the UK, I offer this: It is much less expensive for an ISP to distribute content WITHIN its network. If your ISP has 1,000 iPlayer viewers and none of them can use P2P, then 1,000 video streams have to cross the toll-road between your ISP and its transit provider. But if 25%-50% of that data can come from other some viewers within the ISP, then the ISP is spending less money by not having to purchase as much additional external bandwidth to handle the demand.

    While the ISP has a problem dealing with a sudden crunch of demand in either case, with the help of P2P, his problems are cheaper.

    You cannot throttle (or block) progress!

  27. Daniel B.

    @ Phillip

    Comcast (and other ISP's) don't care if there is "bad P2P" or "good P2P"; they only know that it shafts over their contention ratio and their poor local loop infrastructure. So they'll go for the "P2P! BAAAAD!*" flag and use it to nerf the bandwidth-hogging traffic. However, I do notice that default configs for P2P eat away *all* the upload traffic, screwing over any other internet use. This was sadly true for me, when I used another ISP and a P2Per came to my house with his laptop. Oops! 10 seconds after jacking in, all my connections went dead.

    I still wonder what happened to all that "dark fiber" that went "unused" as the telco's had laid too much infrastructure and nobody was using it. Seems like they gotta turn it on now...

  28. Anonymous Coward

    And the Rest

    What about illegal downloads in general, should ISPs block ALL internet traffic?

    I know I know I'm going..........

  29. Inachu

    RE: Does anyone actually use P2P for legitimate stuff?

    Blizzard uses P2P for distribution of World of Warcraft updates/patches.

    There are also online P2P paying customers watching P2P TV online.

    So I am surprised you think this is only about pirates.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    It's not just P2P Comcast is blocking

    I podcast my own original music from a machine with a cable uplink here in the US. After Comcast bought Insight, my former provider, Comcast started blocking any repeated attempt by a client to download the mp3 files linked in my podcast. What happens is that after the first download the client's browser is blocked from downloading *any* mp3's from a host for 10+ hours. Not the client's IP, but the particular browser which I think Comcast is identifying by headers, because some browsers still work. So do mp3's that the server doesn't identify as mp3's. (like in a default Apache config, that don't have the extension .mp3)

    This is for my own original music, that I own the copyright for. And I don't publicize my podcast, so it's very, very low traffic. It's just for my friends and family so they can hear my music.

    More than one workaround can be accomplished with 1-2 lines of code. So this technique will only deter the least technically-savvy file-sharers, while sweeping up legitimate users in its completely unreasonable dragnet.

    Oh yeah, and for extra credit, did Comcast a) lower rates or b) raise rates after they bought Insight?

  31. Michael

    @ Phillip

    >>Then I posed the question "if you are downloading stuff illegally why shouldn't you be stopped?", maybe what Comcast are doing is not legal or right but is it right to turn a blind eye to illegal use?

    I would argue that it is not Comcast's role to police the legality of user actions. That's the role of...ahem...police. Unless and until Comcast can separate the legitimate P2P usage from the illegitimate P2P usage (without infringing on a user's privacy, I might add), then they can do this. Until then, cutting off someone's arm because their fingernail is gangrenous is more than a bit ridiculous.

    >>Posting illegal DVD's, should the royal mail stop them? Chances are they'd lose them anyway but what it the package contained Anthrax? Should the royal mail deliver it to it's destination?

    There's one glitch here. The royal mail doesn't KNOW what's in the envelope. The proper analogy would be for the post to refuse to deliver any shipping crates because once there was a bomb in one, and they'd need to refuse to deliver plain white envelopes, because once there was anthrax in one. If one does not know whether a communication is legitimate or not, they must give the benefit of the doubt and assume that it is legitimate until shown otherwise.

    The simple fact is that Comcast advertises "blazing fast internet", and charges accordingly, while having no desire to actually provide the speed the advertise and charge for to the user which have purchased it. If only DSL didn't suck...

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Re: multicast

    To the AC earlier, know any ISPs that support multicast? Please, let us all know. Know any ISPs that don't support BitTorrent? Very few, and they will hopefully be forced to stop Comcast-esque shenanigans.

    Come back again in a few years when the providers have upgraded their networks, and you might get taken seriously.

  33. David

    @ Insight AC

    Well, duh! It's Comcast... of COURSE they raised the rates! It's CRAPTASTIC!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we stop calling them ISPs?

    They really arent ISPs anymore. Can we call these companies content providers?

  35. Andraž Levstik

    @Chris Cheale


    If ISPs charged per GB transferred this wouldn't be an issue as people would suddenly find transferring pirated DVDs a _LOT_ more expensive. Most users would be, at most, nominally affected (hell, might even see the price for their connection come down) since most software, including games patches, is comparitively small.

    Try running your own mail server/web server/ftp server or doing daily offsite backups using ftp/scp/etc... I get 4GB/day just from the backups... I use so little bittorrent compared to for what I really use my internet connection... A single ISO for a gnu/linux distro is 700mb a dvd of it is 4.3GB... so now you want to enforce this against gnu/linux users that might want to experiment etc... Over 95% of the traffic on my link is completly legit and non-P2P...

    Let's face it... the only way to improve the situation is to add some flat rate tax on the connections. I'd be more than willing to pay 10-20eur/month for such a tax... But since nobody is offering such I can't really do much...

  36. Gilbert Wham


    "Assuming that P2P is only for stealing others software/films/music is like assuming that the internet is for pr0n"

    I don't know what internet *you've* been looking at...

  37. Law
    Paris Hilton

    RE: Can of worms

    Did you really just compare seeding a section of the latest Britney Spears single to a few other sad losers who want to listen to it - to something as serious as posting Anthrax to some poor unsuspecting innocent?!?!

    Oh yeah, I see what you did there...... good point.... but moving on....

    Maybe saying it this way will make it clearer, as you are clearly not an opensource fan, a developer, and a bit of a techno-phobe (why are you here exactly??).

    So - here goes: Stopping p2p the way comcast are doing it, is the same as blocking all phonecalls, emails, http traffic, and best of all - slashing the tyres on your car. Why I hear you ask? Well - it's simple - because the majority of emails are spam, phones are used by terrorists, most http traffic is porn, and the majority of criminals on TV use get away cars. As far as I'm concerned they are all evil and must be stopped - and like you said with copyright infringement, is it right to just turn a blind eye to all of this?!

    FYI - I rarely use Bittorrent, but when I do it is normally because a new Linux distribution has come out.

    Paris icon - because deep down I'm sure she likes all her packets mishandled. :)

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dumb P2P fanboys...

    All you P2P fanboys really miss the bigger picture here. You know that agreement you agreed to when you signed up for service with your ISP? Pretty much every major Cable/DSL ISP has rules about running 'servers' off your home connection - its been that way for a long time. Reason being upload is generally more expensive than download, and they don't want to have their RESIDENTIAL network taxed with COMMERCIAL services. Uploading on bittorent is acting as a server - plain and simple. You agreed to it, quit whining, or find a new ISP that is ok with your pirating. And the open source software BT downloads is BOGUS. I run alot of these types of things ( Gentoo linux, OpenOffice, FreeBSD, etc. ), all of which provide torrent downloads - they ALSO provide direct http links (often mirrored on MANY hosts ). I don't know ANYONE who bothers with the torrents when a fast http download is available. I would bet a large amount of money that if illegal torrent downloads where no longer available ( Infeasible - I know, hypothetically here. ) - all of a sudden there would be no 'public outcry' over comcasts 'sins'.

    For the record, I have no issues at all with the fact that the content is being stolen... I'm not making a case against pirating....just about the ISP's right to dictate how their network is to be used - and to be able to take action when users break these rules.

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