* Posts by Mary Coleman

1 post • joined 25 Jan 2008

Hogging the Trough: The EFF Strikes Back

Mary Coleman

Throttle Away Comcast

I am a Comcast customer in the U.S. I noticed some time ago, while using Transmission, that I was suddenly unable to upload to peers the Torrents I'd downloaded. I switched torrent clients and that solved the problem (at least for the moment). I read this piece with much interest. The argument is absolutely sound. P2P traffic has to slow down any network used. It's why the Onion Network developers ask the P2P traffic be kept off of that resource; it simply can't handle the load.

Given the validity of the fact that a certain kind of traffic slows down the network, the problem is this: Comcast sells a product by touting its speed levels. If one visits the Comcast page for US customers, one reads, "Stop crawling the web and start burning rubber with scorching speeds up to 4 times faster than 1.5 Mbps DSL, up to 7 times faster than 768 Kbps DSL, and up to 100 times faster than 56 Kbps dial-up!" Under the Terms, one reads: "Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed. Many factors affect speed." Ok. Caveat emptor. They'll do their best to get my service up to those minimums. In testing my connection, however, I have never reached an upload speed anywhere near Comcast's advertised maximum. My upload connection always hovers around 360 Kpbs.

Finally, nowhere is the Terms of Service on Comcast's website does the company state that it will shape its bandwidth, and/or interfere with the software users choose. U.S. law says Comcast may not shape its bandwidth, and must remain neutral is handling various kinds of traffic. The fact that the company was "caught" shaping traffic and then proceeded to lie about it resulted in the FTC's intervention. Comcast officials lied because what they did in response to Bit Torrent's unanticipated and extensive use of its network was to break the law and kill the traffic. It was plainly stupid, at best. I throttle my Torrent speeds voluntarily; I know others do, as well. It's a network, not a trough.

I don't think there's a simple answer to this dilemma. Using the US Mail to commit a crime is a felony. However, clerks may not open your letters at the Post Office to determine whether you are breaking the law. P2P software enables users to break copyright laws in various countries; Comcast is abetting this, and has come under tremendous pressure from those agencies that guard various copyrights. In my opinion, Comcast is between a rock and a hard place.

I am waiting for RIAA and MPAA to start offering companies like Comcast money to block P2P traffic. Paying network providers would be infinitely less expensive and less repugnant than suing college students and other individuals.

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