FCC to Rule Against Comcast in Torrent Scandal

Regulators at the Federal Communications Commission will rule that communications giant Comcast violated U.S. federal policy by throttling network performance of the BitTorrent file sharing protocol, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Comcast claimed it throttled traffic to prevent its network from being bogged down by heavy users of the file-sharing protocol. While BitTorrent is regularly used for legitimate purposes—Kojima Productions' Metal Gear Online (PS3) employs the service to distribute patch updates—it is often utilized to share movies, music, and other copyrighted data.

Comcast is expected to challenge the decision, which also requires the company to make its practices explicit to its customers. If successfully upheld, the ruling would set a precedent restricting communications companies such as Comcast from selectively limiting data speeds for particular services.

No fine was given as part of the ruling, which requires Comcast to stop blocking or slowing internet traffic and make its practices clearer to its customers. Comcast had already reduced the traffic shaping following widespread criticism, and promised to introduce a new capacity management system by the year's end.

"We continue to assert that our network-management practices were reasonable, wholly consistent with industry practices and that we did not block access to Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services," said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice.

Comcast is currently exploring other means of managing the disproportionate network usage of a small number of its customers. In May, it was revealed that the company is evaluating a new bandwidth cap for subscribers that would see additional fees charged for every 10GB transferred over a 250GB monthly cap.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 28, 2008 2:45 PM

    "it is often utilized to share movies, music, and other copyrighted data."

    oh god, gasping for air..."often"...

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      July 28, 2008 2:57 PM

      WoW has 10 million users and its patches are distributed via BitTorrent. Legitimate uses of it are becoming more and more common

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        July 28, 2008 3:11 PM

        id Software also distributes their patches, demos and whatnot through BT (although they use a real torrent tracker, not a proprietary client like Blizzard).

        I think it's sad that throttling BT bandwidth in the end just makes companies turn it down if they consider using it, because they may fear it'll be filtered. The throttling itself helps BT continue to be an "underground" protocol only.

        Also a lot of people don't understand the positive sides of BT because they don't need it - when they live in huge urban centers, they have everything close to them, the fastest speeds, so they're too quick to label BT as being "something pirates use". But living in Brazil, having a torrent to download (instead of being forced to use a http link that may die at 99% after a 5-hour download without the ability to resume) is a godsend.

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      July 28, 2008 2:59 PM

      It happens once a day, that's often.

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      July 28, 2008 3:06 PM

      There's an X-Box site, frequently linked from the Shack, which puts all of their game movies on BT. For those interested in saving them bandwidth.

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      July 28, 2008 4:16 PM

      I downloaded pics of your mom last night from bit torrent. Are those copyrighted?

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        July 28, 2008 7:23 PM

        No. Unless they are artfully done in a way that can warrant their sale. Simply a picture of someone is not copyrightable.

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          July 28, 2008 7:26 PM

          Unless, of course, Porkasaurus's mom happens to be famous, then it gets complicated.

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