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Martin blasts Comcast P2P defense

Wed, 04/23/2008 - 8:40am
Brian Santo

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin countered Comcast’s defense of its network management techniques and widened his scope to put all Internet service providers (ISPs) on notice that he is gathering evidence that few are innocent when it comes to blocking peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic.

In testimony before Congress yesterday, Martin charged that Comcast is using “a blunt means to reduce peer-to-peer traffic by blocking certain traffic completely” – not selectively, as Comcast has maintained.

Martin said he has heard from engineers and others who have led him to believe that the system Comcast uses is not content agnostic, and that it was not used only during times of traffic congestion. Martin dragged Sandvine’s name into the conversation; Sandvine reportedly provides the tools Comcast uses to monitor P2P traffic.

During his testimony, Martin insisted that the FCC already has the authority to regulate ISP behavior in this matter, derived from Title I of the Communications Act and buttressed by the Supreme Court’s Brand X decision in 2005.

“I do not believe any additional regulations are needed at this time,” Martin said. “But I also believe that the Commission has a responsibility to enforce the principles that it has already adopted. Indeed, on several occasions, the entire Commission has reiterated that it has the authority and will enforce these current principles.”

Separately, a document published by Vuze a few days prior (find it here) provides fuel for Martin’s fire.

The Vuze study purports to show that nearly every major ISP – including, but not limited to, the largest cable companies – occasionally blocks P2P traffic, using essentially the same technique that Comcast does. Vuze notes that Comcast appears to cut off traffic more often than most.

Vuze created a software application that users can voluntarily download to their computers. The application monitors all of the user’s Internet sessions and detects if any of those sessions are cut off by the user’s ISP, using a technique referred to as a “reset.”

Vuze’s conclusion states: “We believe that there is sufficient data to suggest that network management practices that ‘throttle’ Internet traffic are widespread. At a minimum, more investigation is required to determine whether these resets are happening in the ordinary course of business, or whether they represent the kind of throttling practices which target specific applications and/or protocols, harming the consumer experience and stifling innovation.”

More Broadband Direct:

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• Broadband Briefs for 4/23/08 

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