"Comcast Blocks Some Internet Traffic", states this New York Times headline...here's the issue:
"Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.
The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.
If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content."
Here's the rub:
"The principle of equal treatment of traffic, called ''Net Neutrality'' by proponents, is not enshrined in law but supported by some regulations. Most of the debate around the issue has centered on tentative plans, now postponed, by large Internet carriers to offer preferential treatment of traffic from certain content providers for a fee.
Comcast's interference, on the other hand, appears to be an aggressive way of managing its network to keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth and affecting the Internet speeds of other subscribers.
Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV operator and No. 2 Internet provider, would not specifically address the practice, but spokesman Charlie Douglas confirmed that it uses sophisticated methods to keep Net connections running smoothly."
And here's how it fits into a larger issue:
"The practice of managing the flow of Internet data is known as ''traffic shaping,'' and is already widespread among Internet service providers. It usually involves slowing down some forms of traffic, like file-sharing, while giving others priority. Other ISPs have attempted to block some file-sharing application by so-called ''port filtering,'' but that method is easily circumvented and now largely ineffective.
Comcast's approach to traffic shaping is different because of the drastic effect it has on one type of traffic -- in some cases blocking it rather than slowing it down -- and the method used, which is difficult to circumvent and involves the company falsifying network traffic.
The ''Net Neutrality'' debate erupted in 2005, when AT&T Inc. suggested it would like to charge some Web companies more for preferential treatment of their traffic. Consumer advocates and Web heavyweights like Google Inc. and Amazon Inc. cried foul, saying it's a bedrock principle of the Internet that all traffic be treated equally."
Feels like Sony Rootkit all over again.
A major company doing something that it thinks is right for it's own interests, but does so disingenously, hoping that how it's doing it doesn't really get noticed by it's customers and others with a stake in how the whole system works. And the specific situation being a small piece in a much larger issue.
It's also a big deal since a lot of the next generation, mainstream, and legal applications on the internet involve peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies, with video programming (a la Joost, etc.), as an example.
Here we go again.