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2 edits

Comcast and P2P filtering (Sandvine)

Comcast admits openly they use Sandvine (but they don't call it that). If you go to comcast.com, and click on the internet demonstration page (the Learn tab), and then click on the FAQ/Connections, you will see numerous explanations about p2p and "network management."

I will cut and paste some of the info:

Why does my connection sometimes fail when I am attempting to "seed" a P2P file?

Since it is our responsibility to protect our customers' Internet experience, we use several network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay P2P traffic during periods of heavy congestion on the Internet. This process may delay P2P packets from reaching their destination, but will not stop the traffic from eventually reaching its destination and at the same time allows us to deliver the best overall experience for all of our users.

Do you block access to peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent?

No. We do not block access to any Web site or applications, including BitTorrent. Our customers use the Internet for downloading and uploading files, watching movies and videos, streaming music, sharing digital photos, accessing numerous peer-to-peer sites, VOIP applications like Vonage, and thousands of other applications online.

Do you discriminate against particular types of online content?

No. There is no discrimination based on the type of content. Our customers enjoy unfettered access to all the content, services, and applications that the Internet has to offer. We respect our customers' privacy and we don't monitor specific customer activities on the Internet or track individual online behavior such as which Web sites they visit. Therefore, we do not know whether any individual user is visiting BitTorrent or any other site.

Is my peer-to-peer activity going to be impacted by Comcast?

We never prevent peer-to-peer activity or block access to any peer-to-peer applications, but rather manage the network in such a way that this activity does not degrade the broadband experience for other users.

We have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience and we use the latest technologies to manage our network so that you can continue to enjoy these applications. Peer-to-peer activity consumes a disproportionately large amount of network resources, and therefore poses the biggest challenge to maintaining a good broadband experience for all users, including the overwhelming majority of our customers who do not use peer-to-peer applications.

What do you mean when you say you manage your network?

Network management is absolutely essential to provide a good Internet experience for our customers. All major ISPs manage their traffic in some way and many use similar tools.

Network management helps us perform critical work that protects our customers from things like spam, viruses, the negative effects of network congestion, or attacks to their PCs. As threats on the Internet continue to grow, our network management tools will continue to evolve and keep pace so that we can maintain an excellent, reliable, online experience for all of our customers.

----End of FAQ---

Now, as you can see, they do admit to using something like Sandvine, but they try and make it sound like they only use it to "block viruses, spam, and help network congestion." This is obviously BS. The sole and only reason they use Sandvine is to control those pesky p2p users. They make it sound as if "network congestion" is something that is not the fault of the user, but when they say network congestion, they mean p2p.

"Viruses and spyware" have nothing to do with Sandvine or network throttling. They just throw the scare words "virus and spyware" in there to trick the average Joe Blow computer idiot into thinking this network monitoring is a good thing and can somehow stop viruses (it can't). "See, we are protecting you from the nasty side of the internet," Comcast will proclaim.

The only way Comcast could stop viruses is through their e-mail system. Other than that, unless they were to monitor every file you download, they have no control over viruses.

Some of their answers are contradictory. They say they don't prevent p2p, but on the other hand say they "delay it." They also say they don't monitor what you do online, but if you download music, you will likely receive a copyright infringement e-mail from Comcast. Sure, it may be true Comcast was just "passing on" the e-mail they received from the music industry, but don't think for a second they don't know if you use p2p. Though they may not view the actual files, I guarantee they know who uses p2p and who doesn't. This sounds like monitoring to me.

If you notice in the question about "do you monitor me" they say essentially, "no we don't, so you can use BitTorrent if you like." This is disingenuous. It's obvious they monitor the p2p apps. If you notice, Comcast is the one who brought up BitTorrent in that question, not the questioner (if it was indeed a real question received from a customer).

Comcast would love to just block all known p2p ports, believe me. But, to do so would be suicide. Most people who sign up for HSI want to download files, not check 2 KB sized e-mails. So, on one hand they know that to block p2p would kill their business, but on the other hand they are trying to promote that "hey you can use BitTorrent with us, don't worry" while throttling it to a crawl at the same time. This way they cover their ass. They get the best of both worlds: they keep bringing in customers who want p2p (90% of them) and then have plausible deniability when it comes to how slowly p2p apps work on their network. They will just say "must be network congestion" or blame it on the p2p app.

I am no TCP/IP guru, but I think we will never solve this bandwidth problem unless a new protocol replaces the Internet protocol. I don't think, by its very design, it will ever be possible for millions of people to pass files through the TCP/IP at blazing speeds. There will ALWAYS be limits, no matter what wiring technology is used. I may be wrong on this, and wouldn't mind if a computer engineer here would explain the pros/cons of the IP.

It kills me when FIOS people think higher speeds = more bandwidth. The fact is, bandwidth and speed are NOT synonymous. All these increased speeds do is make you hit your cap sooner, thus making your service be disconnected sooner.

So, am I trying to bash Comcast? No. I have their service and am happy with the speeds. I just wish they (and other ISP's) would simply be honest about what they are up to (caps, the hatred for p2p etc). I know bandwidth for them costs money, so they are only doing what they have to do: LIMIT it. It's not their fault that the internet backbones they connect to are very limited.

Runs from Clowns
Sandvine discussion here, please ---> »Comcast is using Sandvine to manage P2P Connections

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