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Comcast Admits Bandwidth Throttling Under FCC Pressure

Posted by Alex Bailey On February - 14 - 2008

For months now Comcast has been under scrutiny on how they ran their network and treat their customers. From their P2P throttling, to the invisible bandwidth cut off mark, there have been thousands of dissatisfied customers. Comcast, now under pressure from the FCC is being a little more open about how their network works. They’ve also changed their terms of service to reflect their “new” policy.

Standard torrent traffic is upload and download, meaning a user both uploads and downloads the file at the same time. Since Comcast has as many as 500 house holds on one node, only a handful of users can greatly effect network speed. When seeding (allowing people to download files off of you), multiple individuals on one node can clog up the network for all other customers. Comcast has in return came up with an algorithm to determine if customers are “abusing” their bandwidth. If a user uploads a file for an unspecified amount of time without downloading they will issue reset packets. This will trick your client in to thinking the connection was lost and stops the upload.

Torrents are an extremely efficient way to move large amounts of data across computer networks. Many Linux distributions use torrents to release large pieces of software, sometimes gigabytes large. This takes quite a load off the server as the file is downloaded off many people rather than a single location. So why is Comcast against such a brilliant idea?

It looks like it’s time for Comcast to adapt or fail. With almost as many P2P users as TV show watchers, bandwidth usage won’t decrease anytime soon. Bandwidth hogging services such as Xbox Live and other consoles, VoIP, P2P, and the transfer of large high definition media aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

As a Comcast customer myself, I definitely feel the lag spikes they’re talking about. Usually occurring at peak time, web sites will load extremely slow – or not at all. I find what helps the most in these situations is steer clear of Comcast name servers, and opt for OpenDNS. However, penalizing paying customers for utilizing a service they pay for is wrong. Instead of blaming users, maybe Comcast needs to take a look at their network’s topology.


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