Comcast wants to block BitTorrent… How about you?

Matt Keil


Category: Firewall

ANALYSIS – Comcast, the Internet Service Provider, has allegedly been throttling traffic for subscribers who are using peer-to-peer (p2p) applications such as BitTorrent. Comcast has justified this action by claiming BitTorrent and p2p applications are most well known for sharing music files, movies, videos, and software applications, with most of the files being shared illegally. This blanket stance does not take into consideration the legitimate p2p uses:

  • Legally sharing large files that aren’t copyrighted.
  • Commercial uses such as BitTorrent’s DNA service that is a fee-based streaming video service and Valve software which uses the BitTorrent protocol in their Steam media streaming frontend.
  • Gaming uses such as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft which uses the BitTorrent protocol to send game updates and GunZ: The Duel, which has a built in BitTorrent client. Valve software uses the BitTorrent protocol in their electronic distribution platform called Steam.

    The question is why is Comcast trying to control P2P traffic like BitTorrent? Comcast is an ISP so wouldn’t this be an opportunity to sell more bandwidth? Is it a legal decision, protecting themselves from copyright infringement? Perhaps it is a security issue? Is it a customer satisfaction issue, where they are tired of trying to placate those that the P2P traffic is stepping on? Or is it purely a profit decision to avoid the cost of an infrastructure upgrade to address bandwidth demands? Perhaps it is a combination of all or something entirely different. What is clear and somewhat of an eye-opener is that Comcast is concerned about P2P traffic and if they are, then perhaps enterprises should be (more) concerned as well?

    If ISPs are concerned about how much bandwidth BitTorrent and other P2P applications are consuming on their networks, shouldn’t enterprises be worried about it as well? And if enterprises are worried, and many clearly are, do they have the proper tools to provide the visibility and control required to gain the upper hand?

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