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Comcast, BitTorrent join hands on P2P

Thu, 03/27/2008 - 9:15am
Mike Robuck

"Why can't we be friends?" seemed to be the refrain from today's announcement that Comcast and BitTorrent will work together to resolve issues around bandwidth-intensive peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing.

Comcast and BitTorrent said that they will undertake a collaborative effort to more effectively address bandwidth issues that are associated with rich media content and network capacity management.

In October, an investigation by the Associated Press concluded that Comcast actively interferes with some high-speed Internet subscribers' attempts to share files over the Internet.

Comcast responded by saying that it "does not block access to any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent." However, the nation's largest cable operator and second-largest ISP did acknowledge that it slowed down some P2P traffic during peak usage times.

P2P file sharing included online piracy of content by some users during the early days, but now BitTorrent is working on a more mainstream model of sharing content among users' computers.

While BitTorrent and Comcast have been in active discussions, they have also reached out to other unidentified parties in order to facilitate a broader dialogue with, and cooperation across, industries.

One immediate result of the discussions between Comcast and BitTorrent is that Comcast has said it will migrate toward a capacity management technique, which is protocol agonistic, by the end of the year.

"This means that we will have to rapidly reconfigure our network management systems, but the outcome will be a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today's emerging Internet trends," said Comcast CTO Tony Werner. "We have been discussing this migration and its effects with leaders in the Internet community for the last several months, and we will refine, adjust and publish the technique based upon feedback and initial trial results."

BitTorrent's olive branch to Comcast included acknowledging that ISPs need to manage their network traffic, especially during peak times.

"While we think there were other management techniques that could have been deployed, we understand why Comcast and other ISPs adopted the approach that they did initially," said BitTorrent CTO Eric Klinker. "Recognizing that the Web is richer and more bandwidth intensive than it has been historically, we are pleased that Comcast understands these changing traffic patterns and wants to collaborate with us to migrate to techniques that the Internet community will find to be more transparent."

BitTorrent also said it would work on enhancing its client applications to make them better suited for ISPs' networks and share the information it learns with open forums, standards bodies and other industry entities.

Since the Associated Press investigation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been looking at how Comcast delays information between computer users over the Internet.

Increased speeds will ease P2P dilemma

Earlier this year, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts stumped for the increased Internet speeds from bonding channels on the downstream, which is part of the DOCSIS 3.0 feature set. Roberts has said that Comcast expects downstream channel bonding to increase download speeds to up to 100 Mbps over the next two years, and even reach speeds of up to 160 Mbps farther down the road.

In today's press release, Comcast said it would also increase upstream speeds through channel bonding, which will give P2P faster upload times to go with the faster download speeds from downstream channel bonding.

"Earlier this year, Comcast announced its plans for the aggressive deployment of wideband Internet services using the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which we project will be available in up to 20 percent of Comcast's households by the end of this year," said John Schanz, Comcast's EVP of national engineering and technical operations.

"Additionally, we plan to more than double the upstream capacity of our residential Internet service in several key markets by year-end 2008," Schanz continued. "We plan to take advantage of multi-carrier technology to further increase upstream capacity for all of our broadband customers in advance of the full DOCSIS 3.0 rollout."

More Broadband Direct:

• NCTA's Dietz comments on Verizon's FCC petition 

• NCTA announces keynote speakers, sessions for Cable Show '08 

• Cox launches music service to Va. broadband subs 

• Verizon Business using Juniper's J-series services router 

• Broadband Briefs for 3/27/08 

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