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Comcast, Pando Call For P2P Bill Of Rights, Responsibilities

Despite the cable provider's plans to work with BitTorrent and other ISPs, critics say companies should not create consumer protection plans.
Comcast and Pando Networks want to create a "P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities."

The companies announced this week that they plan to lead an effort to create industry standards for peer-to-peer users and ISPs. They plan to recruit industry experts, ISPs, P2P companies, content providers, and others to establish best practices.

The companies said they want to clarify the choices and controls consumers should have when using P2P applications, as well as the processes and ISPs should employ to manage P2P applications on their networks.

"At Pando, we have always believed that good P2P applications give users control," Robert Levitan, CEO of Pando, said in a news announcement. "Now we are committing to lead the industry in codifying that."

The companies also said they plan to test Pando Network Aware P2P technology on Comcast's network to analyze data flows from downloads through Pando's P2P application. The test is one of several that Pando plans to conduct on ISP networks, including cable, DSL, fiber and wireless. The tests will measure performance, speed, distance, geography, and bandwidth consumption impacts on ISPs.

"We need more data and analysis of how P2P applications deliver content over a variety of different networks," Levitan said. "By sharing the test methodology and results, all P2P companies and ISPs can learn how to more efficiently deliver legal content. This will ultimately benefit consumers who are relying on P2P programs as well as content providers who are interested in delivering their content to consumers where and how they want it."

Several groups have criticized Comcast, alleging the company's network management practices blocked peer-to-peer file sharing and discriminated against BitTorrent. The Federal Communications Commission recently held related hearings and launched an investigation into Comcast's network management practices. Comcast admitted to delaying file transfers during peak traffic times in order to protect some users from delays caused by people transferring massive files over the Internet.

Groups promoting network neutrality cried foul, saying that Comcast and other Internet service providers should not be able to slow traffic based on content.

Last month, Comcast announced plans to work with BitTorrent and other ISPs to examine how rich media content affects network capacity and how to best manage file-sharing traffic management.

Pando has been working on methods to ease network congestion and speed content delivery over cable, DSL, and fiber broadband networks.

The companies said that Pando's test will help Comcast develop protocol-agnostic network management methods by year's end.

And, they touted the plans as examples of how businesses can resolve issues without government intervention.

Critics, including Free Press and Public Knowledge, have blasted Comcast's plans again.

Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said the agreement is "another way for Comcast to try to evade punishment for its blocking and degrading of peer-to-peer services for its customers." Sohn said the agreements with Pando and BitTorrent are "long on rhetoric and short on detail," and a way of "pretending to solve the problems of the Internet that it helped to cause."

"The fact that Comcast is trying to come up with a Bill of Rights for customers is ludicrous," Sohn said. "This is the company that not only lied for a year about the workings of its Internet service, but also created such ill will among its cable subscribers that one elderly woman busted up a customer service office with a hammer because she and her husband were kept waiting for hours in the heat."

Free Press issued a statement echoing those words and saying the entire situation shows a need for government to ensure network neutrality.