back to article SaveTheInterneters to save the internet from Comcast

Members of the Coalition hope to save the internet from Comcast. Joining forces with a few internet-savvy legal scholars, several of the coalition's spunky public advocates have formally asked the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent America's second largest ISP from secretly throttling peer …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have limited sympathy

    Bittorrent users need to get real. Ask yourself what is more important: do you want web browsing to be a pleasure or a chore as you wait for each page to load? Do you want your telnet session to work with a minimum of latency? Do you want your VoIP call to work at all?

    Or is it more important that your movie downloads in three hours instead of three and a half?

    Like it or not, net bandwidth is a shared resource. Yes, you can say that your ISP should install more but there is always going to be a limit to the bandwidth available so that simply moves the arguments rather than fundamentally alters them. The bittorrent users who download hundreds of gigabytes a month from a standard personal account are not paying their fair share and are slowing things up for everyone else.

    It makes sense to prioritise other traffic ahead of P2P applications - we are talking about non-realtime bulk transfers versus other applications where a user is actually waiting for that traffic, and yes, their application may not simply slow down but become unusable due to the actions of selfish freeloaders.

  2. Chad H.

    Comcasts Defense is Bogus?

    Thats like, Totaly Gnarly man, so totaly radicool, its like Tubular.

  3. David Tonhofer Silver badge

    LOL WUT?

    This is politicis (thus a he said/she said thing), but it can be saved by numbers! Do we have numbers? We need numbers!!!

  4. Tom Silver badge

    It makes sense to prioritise other traffic ahead of P2P applications?

    You think so? I think they are prioritising their profit. You think a phone company is going to prioritise Voice of IP? Will the cable company prioritise streaming video?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're not shaping

    There's a difference between QoS traffic shaping to prioritize VoIP over P2P traffic and what Comcast is accused of doing. They're accused of shutting down sessions to "control" traffic. That's like terminating VoIP voice calls to control traffic. That's not the same thing and is not an acceptable way of doing things. If they just slowed down the packets (lower priority queues in their switches) for non realtime activities, that might be acceptable (or better yet, just give priority to detected realtime traffic rather than slowing detected low priority traffic -- this would be more effective).

  6. Tom Silver badge

    Sounds like an oppurtunity to me...

    ...for the DSL providers to launch an ad campaign. Comcast had the silly turtles liking "slow DSL" lines, all they need to do is remind everyone who won the race, the Tortoise, or the Hare. Thankfully I've got very nice DSL, while limited in upstream traffic, they don't terminate TCP connections. The bandwidth is quite nice, thank you.

  7. Joseph


    Whis is Comcast qualified to judge that your VoiP call is more important than the file I could be uploading???

    For all they know you might just be shooting the shit with a couple of buds while I am trying to share some ultra important document that pertains to Monday's meeting.....

    Yet we both pay the same monthly payment....hmmmm

  8. Dave

    RE: I have limited sympathy

    Oh yes, only illegal filesharers use P2P dont they, there isnt any valid reason for using such things as the Bittorrent protocol is there.

    Try telling that to the 2 million World of Warcraft players in North America that get their updates using torrent protocol. Having to search the net for FTP updates of patches (possibly compromised too) because their ISP chokes the official download.

    There are numerous legal applications for P2P usage around the net but its the self righteous morons such as your self that seem to have the voice just because it takes an extra nanosecond for your knickerless britney photos to appear.

    Heres a quid....go to the shops and get a clue

  9. Arif Rashid

    There is another way...

    I work for a major UK ISP. We 'traffic shape' torrent traffic, but with a difference. Bit Torrent traffic is ALWAYS allowed on the network and not 'dropped' in anyway. The difference is that it is 'throttled' (i.e. slowed down) during peak browsing times. This peak browsing time is between 5pm-8pm when everyone comes home from work etc and steadily declines after 9pm. We still allow torrent traffic to pass, but the amount of bandwidth for torrents during that time will progressively decrease until the end of peak time. This way everyone gets a balanced service and their torrents...

    At first I didn't think this method is fair, but once I actually saw the amount of bandwidth being eaten by torrents (anywhere between 30-55% of total traffic!) I realised that in this instance, its fair. People downloading torrents need to be a bit fairer; you can't leave your PC on 24/7 constantly downloading, why not just download overnight?

  10. Kevin

    Makes sense...

    My system does all it's heavy downloading overnight. uTorrent comes with a scheduling function that allows me to throttle my downloads myself during the day. And interestingly enough, my friends who don't have recieved warning letters about their consumption, while I have been just fine and dandy.

  11. Gilbert Wham

    @ Arif Rashid

    Don't suppose you'd care to say *which* one, would you? Just so's we could be sure not to use them...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: I have limited sympathy

    Dave, your counterarguments to my original post are somewhat disingenuous. For a start, I made no mention of the legality or otherwise of P2P downloads. That is a separate argument, and in any case P2P tools are not being blocked which would be the case if this was being pursued for a legal or moral purpose.

    Rather the issue is simply one of traffic management. It makes sense to prioritise interactive, low bandwidth uses over bulk transfers. Consider my original question: is it more important that web browsing and other interactive traffic for you and a hundred other users is quick, or your download in 20% faster. I'm not talking about blocking P2P, I am simply saying that as a user is not sat there consciously waiting for the traffic to arrive it should be shifted at a lower priority to traffic where that is the case.

    Consider for a moment what you would do if you had an internet connection that was metered according to the bandwidth used and the priority that traffic had, and you had two options - a bulk service at a certain rate or a service twice as fast for ten times the rate. I figure most people would opt for the express service for their web traffic for a speedy browsing experience, and because the data transferred is fairly small, but they wouldn't want to pay that rate for bulk transfers - after all, the data will still arrive, just a little slower. Before you say this is academic, this is the kind of sum ISPs have to do when judging how much bandwidth to put in place, it is only flat-rate deals that shield the customer from considering this kind of issue themselves.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    RE: I have limited sympaty

    It really sounds like you are talking about illegal downloads: "Or is it more important that your movie downloads in three hours instead of three and a half?" At least, that was my first reaction to reading your post.

    There are many legitimate businesses that use torrents for sending files to other business, and schools, too. As a computer major, I get a bunch of stuff as torrents - it's actually faster than a regular download, when the ISP lets it go through. If I need something for a class, I can't be waiting three days because the ISP thinks I'm downloading illegal music and movies. If an executive needs an important file for a meeting, he can't be sitting there twiddling his thumbs because the file is coming in bit by bit (or is that byte by byte?). Maybe the ISP will see he is a business and release it, but will they see that I need my stuff for class? I doubt it.

    The point is, ISPs need to realize that we aren't all criminals the way the MPAA and RIAA do. Torrents have legitimate uses as well as illegitimate ones. While Arif's company's way does sound the fairest (after work hours) it's also when I do my school downloading - when I get home from work. I don't leave my computer on all the time to conserve energy. So I'm damned if I and damned if I don't?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Intelligence to the rescue?

    The idea that p2p traffic could choke up a network and ruin the experience of people at other nodes seems like a design flaw. Surely there are some bright people out there who can invent scheduling and prioritization algorithms that would make everybody happy. Why not allow everybody a certain number of bytes per 10th of a second and prioritize those high and everything else low? Then web surfers and VOIPers are getting good latency and torrenters get the rest of the bandwidth.

  15. J
    Black Helicopters


    "We engage in reasonable network management to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience"

    Then I guess somebody ought to be sued for false advertising or whatever. Oh, sorry, I forgot. Here in America the companies can do whatever they want...

    They are selling me an 8 Mbps connection (and charge accordingly, and it's not cheap). If they are *purposefully* slowing it down, for whatever reason, then why should I be paying the 8 Mbps price? If they can't deliver it, why are they allowed to sell/advertise it?

    I'm sure there must be some small print somewhere saying they can do whatever they want, but it does not change the fact that it is wrong.

  16. Aubry Thonon

    I may have missed something, but...

    Why would someone who wants to use VOIP to make cheap phonecalls because they don't want to pay phonebills have priority over someone downloading a Ubuntu installation?

    And yes, that was a bit of sarcasm in the last paragraph - just reversing the "VOIP-users good, Bittorrent-users pirates" attitude used by those who agree with the strangling of P2P.

    And for the record, I use Azureus with a "choker" plugin to restrict downloads during peak times... and I don't download movies or MP3s.

    All the anti-P2P sentiments I have seen here so far come down to "my use of the bandwidth is more important than yours".

  17. RGT


    I agree with J, I have paid for an 8 Mbit, always on connection. I want my 8 million bits every second all day.

    If the ISP doesn't have the backend bandwidth to supply the 8 Mbits to all the people it sold it to at the times they all decide to use it at once thats unfortunate, but NOT MY PROBLEM!

    I always resent the implication that I'm being unfair by making use of the entirety of the service I paid for. Its the same as selling me a sandwich, then taking half of it back because someone at the back of the queue didn't get one...

    What protocol I'm using is entirely irrelevant. Its the internet, NOT just the world wide web with some other stuff added around it...

  18. Fenwar
    Thumb Up

    Traffic shaping is better for the majority of users.

    I use my net connection heavily for both torrent downloads (TV shows) and gaming (Counter-Strike: Source). I leave my torrents going overnight because I don't care whether the next episode of Heroes arrives in 4 hours or 8 - but I turn them off when I'm playing games, because an extra 50ms of latency can mean the difference between winning and losing.

    If your download is time-critical, don't expect to rely on .torrent. It's excellent for preventing excessive load on a single chokepoint and thus reducing the data costs of, say, a free software distribution.

    "As a computer major, I get a bunch of stuff as torrents - it's actually faster than a regular download, when the ISP lets it go through."

    Torrents are only as fast as the upstream provided by connected peers. I only occasionally reach my connection's advertised speed on torrents, whereas downloading an equivalent sized file directly over http/ftp I will usually see maximum speed for the entire download. The only exception is when the remote server is throttling (which happens to me when downloading free mp3s from - again a non-time critical download...

    "If I need something for a class, I can't be waiting three days because the ISP thinks I'm downloading illegal music and movies. If an executive needs an important file for a meeting, he can't be sitting there twiddling his thumbs because the file is coming in bit by bit (or is that byte by byte?)."

    The ISP doesn't even "think you're downloading something illegal". They think you're using a protocol designed for bulk transfers that will use a large portion of the available upstream in your area of the network. If an executive is downloading an important file at the last minute before a meeting, he is guilty of bad planning (and lax security, why the hell is he using peer-to-peer transfer for mission-critical files?). I can't imagine what torrents you would *need* for a class but if you wanted to review, say, an old TV documentary for a research assignment, surely you have plenty of time to start your download a few days beforehand when the assignment is set?

    ISPs are far from blameless - selling "unlimited" internet access is still wrong. But what's equally stupid is people trying to force them to actually *deliver* unlimited access...

  19. Shakje

    If the ISP sells you a speed...

    you should get that speed. What is with all the people that have decided that even though they paid for something, it's perfectly acceptable if that service is reduced? Why is it so stupid to try and get what I pay them for?

    I have a serious problem with throttling because it suggests to me that they have sold something that they cannot cope with. Are they going to double speeds in another 5 years and throttle it more, or cap it more because they still can't provide those speeds? When you're allowed to download 50meg before you get reduced to 1/3 of your internet speed will you still say it's fine and dandy and only partially the fault of ISPs?

    Regardless of what I'm downloading through it, it could be important and legal, it might not be, it's not the ISPs decision to throttle it based on WHAT I'M DOWNLOADING. They have got themselves into the pickle of more people using streaming video and music, and not having the bandwidth to support it because they never thought everyone might want to use all their bandwidth, so they're resorting to throttling p2p so that they can have the 'moral highground' while keeping the masses happy. If anyone questions them seriously, they'll say that the majority of downloads through torrents are illegal anyway.

    Throttling based on what is using the bandwidth is a thousand times worse than throttling in my book, if you can't supply what you sell then admit it, if you're going to throttle, then throttle everyone. If someone downloads a huge file over http surely they're having just as much effect as someone who downloads a torrent over the same amount of time at the same speed?

    Re: Limited Sympathy bloke

    The issue that you have missed is that they are accused of breaking connections for torrents, not throttling. What are your views on that (not meant to sound judgemental, just came out that way)?

  20. Fenwar

    want to buy a bridge?

    "Why is it so stupid to try and get what I pay them for?"

    If a gullible tourist pays £500 for Tower Bridge, no matter how much they try they are not going to get the con man to give them Tower Bridge.

    Yes - the ISPs are effectively con men. The situation is their fault, because they can't deliver on their promises.

    But they can, as it happens, deliver a very good, stable and reliable service. My ISP uses throttling at peak hours (which it states in its Ts & Cs) and guess what - I get great download speeds when I need them, I can still use torrents whenever I want to, and I get a steady, low ping perfect for gaming in the evening when that's what I want to do.

    I agree that Comcast oversteps the mark by blocking/disconnecting torrent traffic (is this happening at peak times only or at all hours?) when it is technically feasible to throttle or simply prioritise other traffic.

    I would like to see legislation to change in the way ISPs sell speed and bandwidth. If they have to say up front "torrents/bulk transfers will be throttled or blocked at peak times," then fine - they can do what they want; I'll choose an ISP which suits my needs, and you can choose one which suits yours.

  21. bambi


    It all comes down the one word that is in most ISP terms & conditions, “acceptable” use.

    Who defines what is “acceptable use” of an internet connection. In my books the words acceptable use kind of reverse the claim of unlimited downloads* (There is always a *)

    It’s a bit like the speed claims they quote for their services, up to 20Mb* (With that * again)

    The little * with small print enables them to get out of jail free for not providing you with the service you thought you were paying for.

  22. Daniel
    Paris Hilton

    WOW your all full of it

    Right well first of all, torrents arent illegal, second of all. most of them are. there are many more illegal torrents than there are legal. so all of you bitching because "my legal torrents are being capped" get off your high horses because we are all being punished for those annoying Tw*ts who download 24/7 illegal movies. Second of all, due to the high amount of bandwith and legality questions surely its a no brainer to cap the bandwith used? rather than giving anyone a crappy service?

    It seems a lot of people here jumped on the "torrents are illegal" bandwagon and then other people retaliated without thinking. "i use it to share work files" what sized files are you sharing?? what kind of files (work related) would you possibly want to host on P2P that are that large that it would take hours and hours at a capped rate?! and dont answer with something along the lines of video files or 3d renders etc... because you know your making it up.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Gilbert Wham

    It sounds very much like the setup at a certain BT owned ISP. You know, the one that keeps deleting customers email :P

  24. TK

    I'm just sayin'....

    I don't know about Comcast's TOS, but assuming they use the same boiler plate as Charter, the TOS specifically forbids the operation of a server on a residential account. Given that in order to function properly the P2P services have to function as a server, Comcast might be within their rights to not only limit the traffic but to cancel the offending user's account.

    Having said that, the insertion of the false packets to mimic the user's traffic and thereby disrupt it is a pretty clear no-no. Of course I'm sure if people sent in lower amount checks to Comcast so that the user could limit the impact on his/her bank account for the good of all their creditors Comcast would understand, right?

  25. Daniel B.


    As a sysadmin / network administrator POV, I'd cap the UPlink for my users. Why? Because I can eat all I want on the downstream, but if the upstream's clogged, everything goes down. I absolutely hate those eMule users that don't know, or don't want to set the upload limit, then bringing my link to a complete halt because they're uploading 128 kbit/s and clogging everything up.

    That said, I'm talking about *my* network. My DSL is sold as 1Mbit/s (1024kbit/s) downstream, 128 kbit/s upstream; and I expect it to run at that speed and nothing less. Fortunately, I've had no problem with this, not even with torrents. (And yes, I do limit my uploads at 4KByte/s)

  26. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Look you lot ...

    Here are some facts of life - bandwidth costs ! I know that might be a surprise to some of you, but the ISPs pay REAL money for their bandwidth - real money, not just some loose change from down the back of the sofa !

    If you really, really want to have 8Mbps available all day, every day, then you CAN have it - but you won't want to pay for it ! Seriously, you will NOT want to pay for it. Think what you pay for your residential service now, and shift the decimal point a place or two to the right.

    Now, assuming that you've picked yourself up off the floor after finding out what a real "unlimited" service would cost, now think about how you actually get your service for what you do pay. The facts are quite simple, the ISP relies on diversity - not everyone will use all the bandwidth all the time. This worked fine for a few years when the bulk of the traffic was of an intermittent nature - but then along came P2P which allows people to use lots of bandwidth for lots of the time.

    Unfortunately, here in the UK (don't know about the US), a sizable part of the ISP community decided to paint themselves into a corner by competing on how cheap they could be. The result now is that they have lowered the expectation of cost to the point where it's not possible to provide the service people are expecting at a price they are expecting to pay.

    Also unfortunately, may of the same ISPs have decided to simply try and hide the facts - in effect they tell porkies, like anyone in possession of the facts would believe you can have "unlimited" traffic for a tenner a month !

    The result is fairly predictable - the ISP don't have the capacity to handle the users traffic carrying expectations, and they don't have the cash to upgrade because they've screwed themselves down on price.

    So ANY ISP with intentions of running a half decent service will HAVE to employ some level of traffic shaping. They prioritise the traffic so that a) no one user can hog all the bandwidth, and b) certain types of bulk traffic (ie P2P) can't make other traffic unusable. There are three types of ISP when you consider this :

    1) The ones who are open about it (not many)

    2) The ones that do it but claim they don't (most, liers !)

    3) The ones that don't so it and their service is crap - forget about using VoIP or any delay/packet loss sensitive application) on anything run by these cowboys.

    The comment from an ISP employee sounds very much like my ISP - definitely in group 1 above, and guess what, the service is fine ! P2P works any time of the day, but is slower at peak times. Even when they are dropping millions of packets/s, VoIP and browsing are fine.

    Yes I really did write "dropping millions of packets/s" - because that's what ALL ISPs do at peak times. Most won't admit it, but they have a finite bandwidth down a pipe, finite buffers in the routers, and so some packets get dropped. That's a fact of life unless you are all prepared to pay AT LEAST ten times what you pay now for bandwidth.

    So for those that said comments to the effect of "I'd like to know which ISP so I can avoid them" - well if you want to go and buy a worse service AND be lied to, then go ahead !

    Having said all that, what Comcast appear to be doing is totally inexcusable. It's one thing to buffer traffic (and drop packets when the buffer overflows), it's something altogether different to fake packets to drop connections.

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