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.
While I realize it's a slippery slope argument, I do worry when ISPs start to block certain types of traffic on their networks. Sure, they may be blocking BitTorrent today, but they may block other Web sites in the future. And as a consumer if I pay Comcast for broadband, I want to be able to control my Web experience.
I can hear some of you typing your e-mails already. Traffic shaping is a necessity for proper network management. All Comcast is doing is just making sure that it can deliver consistent quality of service. Not true:
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.
Comcast is going out of its way to block a specific type of traffic here and that is the kicker.
While I remain sympathetic to ISPs on some level (especially when it comes to lawsuits from the RIAA and other media groups over file sharing on IPS networks), I am not that sympathetic.
I hate arguments that we as consumers are supposed to feel sorry for carriers when users start absorbing more bandwidth. Sorry, Comcast (and other service providers), get more bandwidth. Cable MSOs like Comcast tend to charge more than landline telecoms for their broadband, so why not spend some of that money on, you know, growing network capacity rather than on regulating a select group of users.
And why do they block certain bandwidth intensive applications, like BitTorrent, but not others? Isn't the whole idea of broadband supposed to be that's it's more bandwidth?
What do you think? Does Comcast have the right to manage its own network, even if that right interferes with net neutrality? Or is Comcast setting a potentially dangerous precedent?