Associated Press Confirms That Comcast Blocks Some BitTorrent Traffic; Despite Comcast Denials

from the someone's-not-being-totally-honest-here... dept

Back in August, there was a report that Comcast was throttling certain types of BitTorrent traffic making it difficult to impossible to seed a download. In response, Comcast vehemently denied this was happening, despite many people saying they were experiencing it. Specifically, Comcast said: "the company doesn't actively look at the applications or content that its customers download over the network. But Comcast does reserve the right to cut off service to customers who abuse the network by using too much bandwidth." The EFF went and spoke with Comcast and got the same story. However, with so many people reporting the same thing, some were wondering how truthful Comcast was. Now the Associated Press has done their own investigation (trying to transfer the Bible since it's in the public domain) and found that Comcast is clearly blocking the ability to upload completed files via BitTorrent, inserting a message to a computer trying to upload a file pretending to be from the downloading computer, telling it to stop sending. This seems to go against what Comcast originally said, though when the AP asked for a comment, Comcast subtly changed its story. Rather than saying it doesn't look at applications or content, now it says: "Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent." No, it doesn't block "access" but it does limit the functionality greatly (including perfectly legitimate uses of BitTorrent) without letting people know about it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Michael G., Oct 19th, 2007 @ 3:33pm

    And this is a surprise why?

    Sooner or later 'Big Business', who's now the major player in the internet, will sooner or later change the rules to accommodate their selfish need, the need to make more money.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    I really don't understand why they can reserve the right to cancel someones service under a contract, but the consumer can't.. Also this story pisses me off

     

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      TriZz, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      I don't have much experience with getting in and out of internet "contracts", but I'm pretty sure that you can leave whenever you want to also...without an ETF.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:12pm

    Follow the Money

    #1 and #2 have it right.

    Our government's job is to protect businesses (big contributors) rather than citizens. It's not "we the people" anymore. It's "follow the money".

    Just look at how political campaigns are covered in the media - mainstream and otherwise. They cover elections as though they were sporting events. A candidate is only as serious as the money they can raise. It's not about their ideas anymore.

    And nary a complaint from the citizens about this sad state of affairs. Most buy in, or simply ignore the whole scene.

    And down the tubes goes our Constitution, and our country's future with it.

    "A republic," as Ben Franklin said, "if you can keep it."

    Maybe we can't.

    If you think this is an over-reaction to an article about Comcast, you are mistaken. The Comcast situation is just one tiny section of a much larger picture. Look around with open eyes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:16pm


    Comcast subtly changed it's story. Rather than saying it doesn't look at applications or content, now it says: "Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent." No, it doesn't block "access" but it does limit the functionality greatly (including perfectly legitimate uses of BitTorrent) without letting people know about it.



    I don't understand what the attempted reasoning is about how this is not blocking access. What do you mean that they don't block but instead 'limit functionality greatly'? This isn't throttling, Comcast fakes a message to induce both sides of the transfer to terminate their connections. This is as close to blocking access as it gets. Do they mean that customers are not blocked access to run the application binaries even though the network communications these binaries make are blocked? Do they mean that they do not institute blocking 100% of the time?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:35pm

      Re:

      Should have the Wired article: they speculate that the reasoning is that they only block upload and not download (Normally this also results in severely limited download on Bittorrent). If that really is their reasoning it is laughable; obviously you are still blocking access to a significant subset of functionality of Bittorrent. Seeders -- clients that propagate files, only uploading and not downloading -- are completely blocked under Comcast. It's like saying that the phone company wouldn't be blocking your telephone conversations if they muted one party.

       

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    Gunnar, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:25pm

    from the article

    They block the upload, not the download. So bittorrent works in the sense that it gets the file. It doesn't work in the sense that I can't upload my band's album onto oink.

    If there were competition this wouldn't matter. But my only options for internet when I move into my apartment will be dial-up and $52-dollar-per-month Comcast.

     

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    B. the Tech, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:43pm

    No great surprise

    human reality dictates that freedom is an illusion, guess the illusion is becoming more believeable.

     

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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Oct 19th, 2007 @ 4:53pm

    P2P will evolve.

    "The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it."

    VPN the transfers and the handshaking. Only leave peer discovery traffic open for Nazi-ISP packet inspection.

     

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      matt, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 5:40pm

      Re: P2P will evolve.

      vpn the transfers seems to be all thats needed. I provided rob my logs to verify the situation and we have done research since then. Lets just say it hasn't stopped.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    MountainKidd, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 5:13pm

    Comcast response to my whining

    Thank you for contacting us regarding your Comcast High Speed Internet
    service.

    I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.
    Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent.

    We respect our customers? privacy and we don?t monitor specific customer
    activities on the Internet or track individual online behavior, such as
    which websites they visit. Therefore, we do not know whether any
    individual user is visiting BitTorrent or any other site.

    We have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good
    experience online and we use the latest technologies to manage our
    network. This is standard practice for ISPs and network operators all
    over the world.

    We rarely disclose our vendors or our processes for operating our
    network both for competitive reasons and to protect against network
    abuse.


    If you have any more questions feel free to reply to this e-mail, or you
    can chat with one of our Online Customer Support Specialists 24 hours a
    day, 7 days a week using the following link:

    http://www.comcastsupport.com/chat

     

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      mkam, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 11:08am

      Re: Comcast response to my whining

      I waver between hating Verizon more or Comcast more. I guess I am going to go back to Verizon now. Yea for broadband competition.

      CHAT DIALOG

      user Me_ has entered room

      Me>Clarification on Bit Torrent Issue

      analyst Comcast has entered room

      Comcast>Hello Me_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Monica. Please give me one moment to review your information.

      Comcast>I am sorry Me.

      Comcast>I am not sure I understand your question.

      Me_>Can you please explain, from Comcast's side, what is the policy on bit torrent traffic? Does Comcast perform deep inspection on packets? What does Comcast do exactly to not 'limit access' but slow bit torrent traffic?

      Me_>It has been all over the news.

      Me_>about comcast and bit torrent traffic. I just wanted an explanation of the policy.

      Comcast>Me Comcast does not limit access.

      Comcast>Where did you read this?

      Me_>http://www.p2pnet.net/story/13717

      Me_>http://www.techspot.com/news/27530-comca st-uses-dubious-tactics-to-halt-p2p-traffic.html

      Me_>Just google bit torrent and comcast

      Comcast>One moment please.

      Me_>There are over 300 articles from the last 2 days on google news.

      Comcast>I am sorry Me I am technical support. I would not be able to comment on the validity of these articles. I have always been advised that we do not limit access.

      Comcast>I will see if I can find you some contact information.

      Comcast>One moment please.

      Comcast>One moment please.

      Me_>Could you send me to someone to explain the policy, and what is going on?

      Comcast>I can give you the link to the service agreement.

      Me_>I have it in front of me.

      Me_>I understand no limiting of access, and by the letter of the law you are right.

      Me_>But I wanted to know about the policy with bit torrent and whatever comcast is doing.

      Me_>Here is good one from the Associated Press. There are a pretty legitimate news organization. http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gxRiQSVfgK4sLbVRE_X4MOlM9q0AD8SCGPQO0

      Comcast>I have no information on this subject. I do not know that we have a policy on this. Bit Torrent is not a Comcast product.

      Comcast>I have no control over these published articles.

      Comcast>Not everything you read on the internet is true.

      Comcast>Me, I will suggest that you contact your local office and request a manager.

      Me_>How can what you say be true, when everyone else is saying something different?

      Comcast>You will be able to find the closest Comcast local office by visiting Comcast.com and completing following steps:

      Click the Customer tab at the top of the page.
      Select "Payment Centers".

      You will be prompted for your address information.

      Me_>I just wanted an explanation.

      Comcast>This is why I am not able to comment.

      Comcast>This is beyond the scope of my position.

      Me_>Can you get me someone in scope?

      Comcast>Please contact managment for your local area.

      Comcast>Is there anything else I can help you with?

      Me_>you didn't really help me with anything yet. but no there is nothing 'else'.

       

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        Trevlac, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re: Comcast response to my whining

        Honestly this was the wrong approach. I'm a computer tech repair guy and I understand that if someone came to my counter to ask difficult legal questions about the business that supports us I can't give them answers. They have to call 1-888-BEST-BUY for that. I'll grant you that I've never done it myself so I don't know what happens when you do call but seriously, asking the tech support people is not going to get you anywhere. When something exceeds their position they have certain steps they have to follow to get you to someone who can help.

        Now reading that, one line from that person disturbed me;
        "Comcast>I have no control over these published articles.

        Comcast>Not everything you read on the internet is true."

        The way the person said it just sounded like a threat.

         

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          mkam, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 8:14am

          Re: Re: Re: Comcast response to my whining

          I didn't figure the tech support people could help. I was trying to get them to find me someone that could. I called my local office after this and 1st the manager 'was not available', and later the manager stated the same access line and hung up.

          I just want them to own up to what they are doing. I am already switching to Verizon because of this.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    John Markel, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 6:23pm

    Comcast to FIOS

    Almost everyone on both sides our street just switched to FIOS from Comcast for any one of several reasons. Ours reason was 20/5 internet and $94.95 for all three services compared to $159. from Comcast with a 2 yr. contract. Comcast is going to get hurt with their pricing and secret restrictions in the end.

     

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    You gotta love those telcos, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 12:18am

    Comcast & Co. also blocking inbound traffic

    Comcast is not only corrupting the customers' data, they are also blocking all incoming traffic. That means, for example, Comcast customers cannot run their own web servers on their computer. Other US ISPs and telcos do the same. They sell this junk Internet as "unlimited Internet". This is fraud and censorship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    no, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 11:05am

    Other...

    Instead of screwing with my traffic, why don't they just throttle my entire connection when the following conditions are met:

    - I am using too much bandwidth
    - During a high-peak usage time.

    If I'm using a lot of bandwidth out-of-hours and it isn't affecting anything, leave me alone. If I'm using too much during a high usage time, throttle my connection so it doesn't affect everyone else. Waiting all month and then giving me a warning if I do it again means everyone else has to suffer a poor connection for two months (right?). So we know that can't be how they really deal with it... they wouldn't let one user make everyone suffer for two or more months when they could just shape traffic.


    Further, this doesn't only affect "bit torrent" usage, but what about World of Warcraft and other games/applications which RECEIVE THEIR PATCHES VIA BUILTIN TORRENT CLIENTS?!

    For that matter, what if I'm not using bit torrent, but I'm uploading a large file to my own remote server via FTP or SSH or SCP or something?! Why can't I do this? What business is it of theirs?!

    This is why we need the protection of net neutrality. They're ALREADY treating various bits of data differently and this bit torrent blockage will affect users of very valid services, such as the upcoming commercial-based legitimate bit torrent pay-per-use services. What's to stop them from deciding to screw with traffic that comes from my auction site, but not eBays (as long as ebay pays them, of course)?

     

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    Melted Metal Web Radio, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 2:26pm

    Why is everybody so surprised??

    These are huge capitalistic businesses that care about nothing but profit, control, and power. Do you actually think that Comcast is looking out for the freedoms of lowly individuals? The only power you have is what is given to you by the Constitution, as it exists today. With just a bit more apathy and we won't even have that ..

    http://www.meltedmetal.com/scorch/save-net-radio/
    http://www.meltedmetal.com/

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Oct 20th, 2007 @ 2:43pm

    So what do those those who are opposed to net-neutrality legislation have to say in the face of this evidence?

     

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    MrScott, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 7:49pm

    They chose their words carefully

    I just switched from Comcast to FIOS on Sept. 18 '07 and what a difference on Azureus! I hardly EVER had remote connections when downloading a torrent while on Comcast. I did have a few, but not many, and it would connect to many peers, but my DL speed wasn't that great.

    Now that I'm on FIOS, what a difference! I get full download speed, and I now have many remote connections along with my local connections.

    Now, read the fine print on some of the last posts. Comcast says that they don't block applications, including BitTorrent and other P2P applications. That's true, BUT see how cleverly they chose their words? But they DO "hinder" P2P applications by sending both peers the "stop transmitting" bit to stop the connection between two clients, or severely slowing their speeds. It's nothing more than carefully choosing their words to keep themselves out of hot water.

    Choosing their words carefully is the same as a car dealer commercial telling you that ALL credit applications will be accepted! Well D U H!!! Of course all applications will be accepted. That's law. Where they're confusing you is not all applications will be APPROVED, but they won't tell you that. It's a ploy to get you in there and buy a car because you didn't totally think about the difference between the words "accepted" and "approved". See the carefully chosen words there?

    I'll never go back to Comcast again. Their level 2 techs had less intelligence than I have, and I've been working on computers for 20+ years. I had an issue that they would not agree with me on, so I just gave up and went to FIOS. Showed them, huh? LMAO!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 4:37am

    comcast contacted me and advised me the i had "exceeded" their bandwidth expectations...downloading 364GB worth of stuff... I pat for 8mbps download speed sooo why cant i use that 24/7 at 8mbps i pay for it??

     

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    kneeL, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 8:38am

    not an opinion

    I use Comcast, involuntarily, because they took over TimeWarner here, however... I have seen these reports of Comcast blocking torrent seeding, etc, for a few months,
    and I seed/leech torrents like there is no tomorrow. never saw a problem. No encyrption turned on, no SSH tunneling unless i have to get around corporate VPN(s).

    Whats the deal? Maybe they are only blocking it in certain areas? I didn't know they denied it, months ago the reports were confirmed by Comcast that they were using it and they even said what software they used

     

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    Jeff, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 1:34pm

    Not a surprise, whatsoever

    A buddy of mine recently switched from Comcast to Qwest (in Denver) because he absolutely couldn't use BT at all. I forwarded ports for him and he told me that Comcast called him about it the next day and told him to undo the port-forwarding or Comcast was going to terminate his service. Unless someone whips out the DMCA-hammer, the only time Qwest (in Denver, at least) will hassle you is if you max your connection 24/7, no matter what you're uploading or downloading.

    The fact that Comcast just expected people to not notice shit like this is retarded, do they think their customers are all dumbass soccer moms who just "wanted the internet for my AOL?"

    Fuck Comcast, I hope they tank.

     

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    encryption, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 2:23pm

    how can the see encrypted traffic?

    If you use port 443, encrypt all traffic and require anyone connecting to be encrypted, how can Comcast tell what you are doing?

     

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    Ted, Oct 23rd, 2007 @ 6:47am

    The Cure For It All

    Ok guys, four months ago we were all b*tching about gas prices. Which at the time and still today is an issue. Big Goverment, the hidden dictatorship. Well never fear, I have a cure. So here it is. BIG TRUCKS!! That's right your everyday 18-wheeler going down the road. Guys these truck drivers have the world in there hands there just not smart enough to realize it. Well let's say a majority is a couple sandwiches away from a picnic. None the less, if all the truck drivers went on strike until let's say gas prices went down to $1.50. How long do you think it would take before gas prices went down to $1.50? Big trucks deliver everything we consume. Let me know what you think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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      gman, Nov 20th, 2009 @ 11:43am

      Re: The Cure For It All

      What you are saying is true, but the trucking industry is a cut throat business and there will always be another company step in and haul the freight....... Hey the just about sums up all businesses.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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