BitTrickle: It’s Comcastic!
We compete with Comcast with delivery of content over the Internet. What we have here is a horse race and in this contest, Comcast owns the race track, in fact, the only track in town. They also own a horse. We are being told they are only slowing down our horse by a few seconds.”
The network-management hearing at Harvard University this morning is turning out to be something of a comcastrophe for Comcast (CMCSA). Called before the Federal Communications Commission today to explain why it has been “throttling” or limiting BitTorrent traffic on its network, Comcast was criticized out of the gate for the practice.
Seems some folks don’t buy the company’s claim that throttling is necessary to prevent file-sharing traffic from consuming too much bandwidth. And others–specifically, advocates of Net neutrality–feel it’s outright discriminatory. “The Internet is as much mine and yours as it is Verizon’s and AT&T’s and Comcast’s,” said U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in his opening remarks to the commission. “The commission should be wary of the need of a significant network management position. Perhaps if we had competition, this wouldn’t be such an issue.”Such intercession into a user’s access to the Internet should not result in … the transformation of BitTorrent into BitTrickle. That’s a problematic result … whether it is purposeful or purely circumstantial.”
Comcast, for its part, insists results like those described by Markey aren’t problematic at all, but necessary. The company must “shape” file-sharing traffic to ease the strain on its network. “Independent research has shown that it takes as few as 15 active BitTorrent users uploading content in a particular geographic area to create congestion sufficient to degrade the experience of the hundreds of other users in that area,” David L. Cohen, an executive vice president of Comcast, explained in written testimony. “Bandwidth-intensive activities not only degrade other less-intense uses, but also significantly interfere with thousands of Internet companies’ businesses. Far from managing our network in a discriminatory way to benefit our own offerings–other than managing our network to make our high-speed Internet service faster and better–our limited network-management practices ensure that everyone else’s applications and services, even those that may compete with our services and use P2P protocols, work.”