BitTorrent Inc. + Comcast = Love, Peace, Harmony…Not!

Opinion

When Robb Topolski made the initial discovery that Comcast was interfering with BitTorrent traffic, he couldn't have imagined that it would lead to an FCC hearing or, more importantly, to apparent reconciliation this week between Comcast and the rest of the world. Thing is, Robb doesn't believe a word of it.

Ever since the news broke that Comcast had been using ‘hacker-like’ techniques to hamper BitTorrent traffic, Comcast’s name has been dragged through the mud, with claim after claim of dirty tricks, lies, half-truths and strategic omission. It seems that nothing could go right for the company. Until this week, that is.

Apparently, everything in the Comcast garden is rosy these days, with previous arch-rival BitTorrent now working things out together over afternoon tea. However, not everyone is celebrating.

In 2007, Robb Topolski discovered and documented the Comcast interference, informed TorrentFreak and we published an article which ignited the whole debate. It’s safe to say, he’s been following this one closely.

Here are his thoughts on the Comcast / BitTorrent reconciliation:


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I’m probably a key figure as to why we’re all talking about Network Neutrality again. I was having a problem uploading on Gnutella in early 2007. I tracked it down to Comcast using Sandvine-injected RST packets. Blog stories led to press stories which led to independent confirmation. And here we are today. Peace and harmony? Probably not.

Today Comcast and BitTorrent seems to have solved world hunger — and I’d love nothing more than to be optimistic about it. But I cannot be. As they say on Slashdot — show video, or it didn’t happen. This deal is treachery, relies on how much we can trust the word of Comcast, and leaves the public interests out in the cold.

I think it’s strange that anyone believes a word that Comcast says. This is the Comcast that:

1. Told the FCC in 2005 that they would not degrade traffic in order to convince the FCC that network neutrality regulations were not needed.

2. Started degrading P2P traffic the very next year, and failed to tell anyone what they were doing.

3. Used a system that utilized forgery, and successfully placed blame on the other peer instead of Comcast.

4. Denied it when caught.

5. Then changed their story when the denials were not believed, but still never came out and said what they were doing.

6. Then they justified their actions by throwing their other Cable-Internet brothers and sisters under the bus with their “they do it too!” defense

7. Then stealthily changed the AUP days before an FCC filing where they referred to the new provisions.

8. When the changed AUP started getting press attention, they stated that a prominent story on Comcast.net alerted millions of visitors of the change and accused Marvin Ammori of crying wolf. (Google cache proved that nothing alerted users to the changed AUP until the day after the press started asking questions.)

9. Then they packed the Harvard FCC hearing.

This company has not demonstrated that you can trust its promises, nor can you believe its assertions. Comcast just used BitTorrent Inc. as a tool to try and defang the FCC.

BitTorrent Inc. is a content provider. Vuze, who actually DID make a complaint and petition to the FCC, is a competitor. Neither BitTorrent, Vuze, nor Comcast represents the interests of 12 million Comcast users nor the The Internet Society nor the public. And this middle-of-the-night deal was made without their input.

Nothing has changed. The RST interference continues. It was a wrongful act. BitTorrent Inc. has no right making a deal with Comcast allowing it to continue to commit wrongful acts until it finally decides it is ready to stop. The correct relief is to stop the interference immediately and to FULLY DISCLOSE what it did and to accept responsibility for those actions. (Even today, Comcast’s Policy VP refused to answer questions about the interference.)

Their word is worthless. Until the interference stops, I have no reason to believe it will. Until either meaningful competition returns to broadband, or until sufficient government regulation enforces Network Neutrality, we have no reason to think that this agreement will last through the night.

Robb Topolski

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TorrentFreak confronted Ashwin Navin of BitTorrent Inc. with Robb’s comments, and he told us: “We decided to collaborate with Comcast because they agreed to stop using RSTs, increase upload capacity, and evaluate network hardware that accelerates media delivery and file transfers. We’re at the beginning of the formal collaboration, but Robb’s work was instrumental to identify the offending practice. We need him and the community to keep an eye on ISPs across the world.”

“Our work with Comcast will benefit all P2P development because Comcast has agreed to manage traffic at Layer 3 (the network layer) rather than Layers 4-7 (the protocol/application layers). This is a core component of the neutrality debate,” he added.

As always, time will tell…

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