Saturday, October 20, 2007


Comcast Violates Network Neutrality

The Associated Press has confirmed by its own testing that Comcast is blocking BitTorrent uploads. Susan Crawford reports that
Comcast [is] slapping an RST flag [this is a TCP protocol element -- David I] on your packets. And any packets crossing the Comcast network that were coming from the “outside” but were part of this conversation were also having the RST flag slapped on them as they crossed into Comcast territory. Neither user had any idea this was happening. They could just tell that things were moving really slowly and then stopping, as both machines politely agreed to reset themselves - thus cutting the conversation off.
This is a clear violation of the Internet's end-to-end principle [.pdf] in its most basic form. It is direct interference with the TCP protocol, which is designed to be between two endpoints. In other words, Comcast is spoofing the uploader's endpoint.

Here's what's important: BitTorrent is widely used to carry video objects. Comcast's main business is providing video. By blocking BitTorrent, Comcast is keeping its customers from accessing disruptive technology dangerous to its main business.

Note: this is not the first time Comcast has been accused of messing with upstream packets in a discriminatory manner! I reported this and this in March of 2006. Also see this and this.

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