March 27, 2008 | By Peter Eckersley

Comcast Reduces Discrimination, Plans To End It Altogether

Last month, shortly before the FCC held its first hearing in an investigation of Comcast's interference with BitTorrent and other P2P protocols, we noticed that Comcast was no longer injecting forged TCP RST packets in the simple tests we had been running on its cable network. Those tests had been showing interference through January 2008. Some sources with access to larger datasets informed us that the cable ISP was nonetheless still using RST packets against some BitTorrent sessions, just not the simple uses of BT and Gnutella that we had been testing. The status quo: Comcast is still interfering with P2P, but they are being more subtle about it.

Today, Comcast has announced that it will phase out its discrimination against P2P protocols entirely by the end of the year. According to the WSJ's coverage, the cable company is considering switching to non-discriminatory dynamic traffic shaping, which — as we've previously argued — is a much more responsible way of coping with network congestion. We're also pleased that Comcast is collaborating with the BitTorrent developers; we've been urging them to collaborate with the wider technical community for some time.

This is a big victory for common sense and a big victory for an Internet based on open standards, not the whims of major ISPs. But there's still more work to do.

In particular, the Internet community clearly needs to do a lot more testing for discrimination by the thousands of ISPs around the planet. EFF — and a number of other groups — have been working to build tools for those tests. In a follow-up post, we'll talk about projects that have already launched, and others that are in the pipeline.

[Update: The follow-up post is now online.]


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