back to article Comcast details BitTorrent 'delay' tactics

Responding to August's landmark order from the FCC, Comcast has provided an extensive description of its infamous BitTorrent blocking - though it has yet to admit that blocking is the right word. According to a statement (PDF) filed Friday with the FCC, the big-name ISP began using a traffic switch from Sandvine Inc. in May …


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  1. James

    bollocks on a stick!

    I use comcast and they certainly block the hell out of bit torrent. They also penalize bit torrent users by blocking http requests when a torrent is being downloaded or seeded. I fixed this "issue" by putting my torrents on port 80. Comcast are lying bastards. They are still doing this today. They block it by infinitely delaying it. They only delay it until the TTL expires. thus effectively blocking it. Comcast should be forced to remove the offending equipment from their network.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Time Warner

    I'm glad I don't have Comcast. I've had Time Warner for over 10 years now, and while they aren't the nicest company around, I've never had a problem with them throttling my bandwidth.

    Paris, cuz she can throttle me any time ...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    "until the TTL expires"

    You realise of course that the TTL expires as the packet passes routers? It decrements for every router it passes through, and expires when it reaches zero. It's not a time based process, it's governed by the number of hops the packet goes through, and is used to flag and prevent infinite routing loops.

    So how exactly do Comcast "delay it until the TTL expires"? What does that mean?

  4. ranga
    Thumb Down

    Have separate subscriptions

    ISPs should have separate subscriptions with only those accounts permitted to use these protocols. Otherwise, the low-traffic users are subsidising the high-traffic users.

  5. Tommy Pock


    Comcast still has subscribers? Why?

  6. soaklord
    Paris Hilton


    If I am paying for unlimited web access at a specific speed because that's what I was sold on, how exactly are you subsidizing me? Heaven forbid I *use* my connection!!! That would be practically unfair! Let me guess... I should only be using my broadband connection, that's advertised as always on and faster than dial up just long enough to log on to Comcast so I can pay my bill online. That way they don't have to worry about paper, mailing, etc. How am I doing? Does that unsubsidize the low traffic users? If Comcast is going to advertise that they offer always on service, that they offer a specific usage (unlimited) and that they are fast, then they should meet those requests. I have never heard anyone bitching and moaning about how all those unlimited minutes users are ruining the mobile phone gig for the rest of us. How is this different? Paris, cause she knows about using mobiles at *any* time.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    ATT/Sbcglobal doing the same

    though they haven't fessed up and it hasn't come to light as a user of the subscription I have found that when I use torrents or P2P my connection "mysteriously" goes into an inactive state. Usually have to shut the connection and reconnect.

  8. Brett Harris
    Paris Hilton

    To Ranga

    Stupid comment personally.

    I totally agree with soaklord, you pay for a service, the only reason they are throttling the bandwidth is because there hardware cant cope with the amount of traffic on it.

    I can only speak for the UK situation and its obvious the system cant cope but they dont want to throw billions of £££ into upgrading it, so they throttle the high users, and throw spin on it to make those who dont torrent look like they are loosing out to the torrenters.

    My only suggestion is vote with your feet and find another provider.

    paris, cos I heard her bands width is 9 inches.

  9. Moss Icely Spaceport


    This is the future, everything will be free!!!

    FREE !!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ISP's should be forced to provide the service they sold and stupid twats like yourself who defend their deceptive business practices should just bogoff.

    AFTR I don't use torrrents (or any other equivalent download technology)

  11. Chris C

    re: Puzzling

    "Comcast still has subscribers? Why?"

    Because we have no choice. In terms of faster-than-dialup Internet access, we have between one and five choices, depending on whether each of these is available in the area:

    1. Cable -- Provides access to the entire town/city. You are limited to the one cable company providing service to your area. Moderate price.

    2. DSL -- Provides access only to customers within range of the CO, does not provide access to to entire town/city. In reality, you are limited to the one phone company, though you may be paying someone else who effectively leases the line from the phone company. Low to high price depending on maximum speed and type of DSL (ADSL, SDSL, etc).

    3. Satellite -- Provides access only to areas which can get a clear signal to/from the satellite. Some services require dial-up for upstream. Typically there's zero or one providers available. Expensive.

    4. Cellular -- Provides access only to areas which can get a clear cellular signal. This is the option which has the most competition because while there are only three of four companies to pick from, "three or four" is still more than the "one" available with cable or DSL. Extremely expensive.

    5. Fiber -- Provides access only to specific areas of specific metropolitan cities (at least in the US). You are limited to the one phone company. Price unknown.

    My friend just bought a house, and DSL isn't available, so his only choice is cable. My only choices are cable (Comast) and DSL (Verizon). It's easy to say "you should leave and let your money talk"; it's another matter when you have no other option. That's why we call them monopolies.


    re: "Have separate subscriptions" @ranga

    I couldn't agree more. In fact, I'm sick of subsidizing all those wimps who feel the need to use SSL when paying by credit card. Don't they know SSL takes up a lot more bandwidth? I'm also sick of subsidizing all those people who endlessly forward email and those who use HTML email. Don't they know all those forwards and all that HTML content uses a lot more traffic than plaintext? Don't even get me started on base64-encoded attachments...

    In case you couldn't tell, we call that "sarcasm". An ISP shouldn't care what protocols a customer is using. What they CAN care about is how much traffic and how much bandwidth a customer is using (you did know that traffic and bandwidth aren't the same thing, right?). However, since Comcast sells their service as "unlimited", they have absolutely zero right to complain about any traffic or bandwidth issues arising out of a customer's use of the service.

    But since you feel so strongly about it, may I ask why you feel that P2P is worse than any other protocol (for instance, HTTP)? If my neighbor wrote a book and distributed a text copy of that book via P2P, how is that any worse than me VPNing into a client and transferring backup files? Or somebody using Google or another space-for-rent host and uploading files to the host for backup purposes? Hint: it's no different.

    The only legitimate thing any ISP can do is throttle an individual user for going over a specific threshold (whether that threshold is traffic, bandwidth, number of connections, etc). And even that is not legitimate when the ISP sells their service as "unlimited". In no event is it valid or legitimate to throttle a protocol. What's next? Throttling HTTP or HTTPS once enough BTers start using ports 80 or 443? How about throttling HTTP (80) and SMTP (25 and 587) for everybody if one customer is sending out lots of spam? Maybe throttling DNS (53) if people still insist on using names instead of IP addresses? You see how stupid it sounds? But in reality, those scenarios are no different than what Comcast is already doing. And if you even think of saying "But they would never do that!", please bang your head on your keyboard until you're unconscious.

  12. Daniel Garcia
    Thumb Down

    ISP:" It's not my fault, it's the PIRATES"

    If i contract a service which claims to be unlimited and 24/7 then i have the right to use it at maximum 24/7, that it.

    It is the ISP the one not doing its part of the deal if for my maximaze used they got bandwidth issues.

    Less b*ll*ck and more new infraestructures or make realistic offers without AdsSpin,...

    you decide Mr. ISP.

  13. Gulfie
    Thumb Down


    The accuracy of your statement "the low-traffic users are subsidising the high-traffic users " depends on what Comcast have sold their customers. If customers have paid for an 'all you can eat' package then low bandwidth users are not subsidising high bandwidth users - they all get the same package, they just use it differently. If low bandwidth customers don't need 'all you can eat' then they should choose a more appropriate package for their needs which will also save them money.

    Personally I moved ISP (I'm not US based) from a supplier that when I signed up claimed 'no limits - this package is suitable for occasional BitTorrent users'. After about 18 months they started throttling - if you used more than 1Gb of bandwidth, in peak time, your connection was throttled back to 128Kbps for the rest of the billing month. I am now with a different ISP with a different billing model. I get an unthrottled connection and 25Gb do do what I want with. If I use more, I pay more. My real connection speed is much faster, particularly in the evenings, and because I have a fixed IP, I don't need to keep resetting my router.

    Most likely Comcast sold a package they couldn't support - they offered something that was far beyond the capacity of their network to support if even a small percentage of their subscribers made heavy use of their connection.

    I actually like the concept of offering packages with P2P disabled but the problem is that this technology is is more and more being used by commercial companies for completely legal purposes - for example, BBC iPlayer uses P2P, and I get my Linux distributions via P2P.

    ISPs need to build more capacity and charge a realistic price for a service they can deliver on. Look at most packages on offer today however and you'll see that the terms and conditions with respect to speed and bandwidth useage are full of holes. What the consumer needs is a Service Level Agreement - guaranteed minimum and average speeds for peak and off peak - then the ISPs can plan capacity to satisfy these hard numbers. Different packages have different service level agreements, now you are really tieing desired speed and intended usage to price, which is not happening at the moment.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should be more specific when they say "delay"

    Their idea of "delay" seems to be to degrade the service. Why completely degrade the service? If the user is excessively uploading, "throttling" the upload should have little consequence to download (especially if most of the download traffic is not related to the upload traffic).

    What they should employ for their "delay" policy is to lower the priority of the packets of the user. Also, the priority to either upload or download should depend on which direction is being "abused" ..err.. consumed more overall (or both upload and download, depending again on the situation).

  15. InsaneGeek

    People are not getting unlimited right

    Stepping into the inevitable frying pan, but this stupidity annoys me to know end, and it is plain and stupid to continue the same complaint.

    Coming from an ISP back over a decade ago when POTS line modem were all the rage... the phrase unlimited came into ISP lingo because there were hourly limits per month. i.e.

    5 hour plan/month

    10 hour plan/month

    unlimited plan

    You could have timed service or you can have unlimited time on the internet.

    All the people saying it's advertised as unlimited service, YES it is unlimited service, but they make no guarantees about anything else. They don't cut you off if you are using your service 24x7, which is all that unlimited covers. You can piss and moan all you want but look at your terms of service document, that's what it meant 10 years ago and that's what it means today. You can't just come in now years later and say that because you think it has a different meaning it automatically does (heck I wish by repeating over and over "Angelina Jolie wants me" would automatically make it true).

    Additionally knowing what the monthly price of an OC-12 circuit is... well all I can say is that if they only sold 1:1 ratio lines your speed would be measured in kilobits/sec vs megabits/sec for the price (62x 10mb Comcast customers would fill a OC-12 circuit). You will *never* get 1:1 ratio lines from an ISP unless you are willing to get dial-up speeds or pay hundreds of dollars a month, if you want something in the middle you ONLY will ever get a shared line period end of story.

    I'm not saying they shouldn't be bitched about, but something so wrong being constantly repeated over and over by uninformed people blathering on about it acting like they actually have some facts behind them annoys me to no end. So stop with the stupid arguments about unlimited supposedly meaning something else because you look like a fool

  16. kain preacher Silver badge


    Dont were you are located , but it did change. I can remember aol charging more for a 14.4 connection then 9600.

    Why do DSL companys charge more for higher speeds if thats the case ??

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