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The Internet Networking Your Rights Online

Comcast Hinders BitTorrent Traffic 537

FsG writes "Over the past few weeks, more and more Comcast users have reported that their BitTorrent traffic is severely throttled and they are totally unable to seed. Comcast doesn't seem to discriminate between legitimate and infringing torrent traffic, and most of the BitTorrent encryption techniques in use today aren't helping. If more ISPs adopt their strategy, could this mean the end of BitTorrent?"
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Comcast Hinders BitTorrent Traffic

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  • solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by imbaczek ( 690596 ) <> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:12AM (#20275301) Journal
    here []

    iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -dport $TORRENT_CLIENT_PORT -tcp-flags RST RST -j DROP

    it's not mine so don't blame me. it's ugly, don't blame me. if it doesn't work, don't blame me. blame Canada.
    • Ha! Comcast's method of "throttling" torrent traffic is sending RST packets, and hoping the client's TCP stack plays nice? Why? Why not just drop all associated packets once you've identified a TCP BitTorrent connection? I suspect that's what they'll do soon if this "solution" gets around.
    • Doesn't quite work (Score:5, Informative)

      by SIGBUS ( 8236 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:36AM (#20275901) Homepage
      It seems that they're now directly interfering with the connections, above and beyond sending RST packets. If I stop my client and then restart it, it will send for a while, then quit, even with the RST packets being dropped. I tested this by running a client on a backbone-connected server that I have. Aside from dropping the RST packets, I've been logging them as well, and they are being dropped. Since my server doesn't have any arbitrary restrictions or throttling, it's clearly something being done by or on behalf of Comcast.

      My choices:
      - Only seed torrents from my server
      - Switch to AT&T (yuck, and they'll no doubt be doing the same crap)
      - Switch to Speakeasy (the Best Buy deal gives me the creeps)
      - Switch to Covad (expensive)
      - Switch to a local fixed wireless provider (my employer has this, and it sucks for VoIP)
      - More cat & mouse games with Comcast
      • by netcrusher88 ( 743318 ) <netcrusher88@gmai l . c om> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @12:48PM (#20277055)
        Sorry, but you're wrong. If Comcast sends RST packets to both ends of the connection (and why wouldn't they?), it doesn't matter whether or not you're dropping them, it matters that the other guy isn't.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:14AM (#20275315) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't it be simpler for the telcos to charge per GB delivered in addition to the size of the pipe?

    Give all your customers your fastest residential speed. Set your rate so 90% of your customers don't exceed the "monthly allowance" for your low-end rate plan.

    For the other 10%, bill them on a pro-rated basis based on how much they use. If they use 2x the allowance, they pay 2x. If they use 100x, they pay 100x.

    To prevent runaway bills, allow customers to set their own "caps" and "throttle-down speeds" that would kick in after the cap was reached. If a customer never wanted to pay more than $20, he could set his "monthly cap" at 80% of what $20 would buy, and set the throttle-down rate low enough that he could never use up the remaining 20% even if he was maxing out his connection.

    This seems a lot simpler and fairer than traffic shaping by protocol.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Wouldn't this be a monumental pain in the ass to administer and enforce?
      • by longword ( 2293 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:22AM (#20275371)
        We just have to invent some kind of "computational" device to automate the process...
      • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:26AM (#20275405) Homepage Journal
        Metered billing is the easy part. In the long run, it's even easier than the cat-and-mouse game of fighting a particular popular protocol.

        The other features, like giving the customer control of monthly caps and throttling, will take a bit of work.

        One unintended side-effect is the effect on home users who run wireless networks. "Stealing" bandwidth from an inadvertently unsecured or under-secured wireless connection without permission will now be literally stealing, as the poor subscriber will be stuck with the bill. Expect a few prosecutions under theft or fraud statutes if this becomes commonplace.
        • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @11:14AM (#20276177) Journal

          Little of which is the problem of the ISP. Internet access is now low in cost compared to most of our bills, but it's come to be regarded as a necessity by most of us. Therefore the market is ripe for a profit-hiking on the part of the telcos. But there are two things that prevent them all just simply bumping the prices up by a whopping margin. The first is that there may be issues in terms of price-fixing and anti-competitiveness if everyone just gets together and agrees to up prices. Secondly, there is the backlash from the customer at the sort of outrageous price increases that these ISPs would like.

          Confusing the issue by breaking things up and charging extra for service X, is a confusing and obfuscating way of adding artificial value to the service. Especially when with increasingly efficient and expanded infrastructure, bandwidth is getting easier to provide. We pay now for bandwidth and this system works. Establishing the idea that we have to pay extra according to certain types of traffic has no good basis in effort on the part of the ISPs. In fact, it takes additional effort to introduce this monitoring.

          It's about squeezing more money out of people and its based on collusion between ISPs. Customers should tell Comcast where to stick it.
          • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @11:35AM (#20276385) Journal
            I'm not sure I understand your point.
            I pay my hosting bill based on three factors: Bandwidth consumed, disk space used, and CPU used. I can set up in my account panel limits on any of these three. Since I don't want my sites to go dead just because I exceeded my bandwidth I simply throttle my connection speed once the bandwidth hits 80%. Sure my site gets slower, but it's not down. Upstream and downstream bandwidth is set in the modem on most cable and dsl modems, so all you need is a user side app that lets you see where you are in the billable elements and choose how to deal with it: Kill the connection for the last couple days of the month, or slow it down. Set the defaults such that the average customer won't pass the 80% point (so a peak month results in no additional or a minimal bill), but a power user can up the limits as needed. The infrastructure is all there already, all you need is one additional application and you're done.

            Tiered plans that have a higher base price but allow more bandwidth are already available, and they change the plans almost monthly for their new customers or for "specials" so it's not like that's an issue either.

            All in all it's an ideal technical solution, and like a gp post mentioned, in the long run it's both cheaper and more honest than the current cat and mouse game.
    • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:22AM (#20275385) Homepage
      It might also be construed as profiting from illegal behavior.

      But at least if they were to do something like that, they'd move closer to returning to "common carrier" status. Any interruption or prioritizing risks their losing that status.
      • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:37AM (#20275487) Homepage Journal
        Do cable carriers even have common carrier status?

        If they do, throttling all bittorent is a clear violation.
      • It might also be construed as profiting from illegal behavior.

        What "illegal behavior"? The transfers are encrypted, how do they know what's transferred?

        Come to think about it, how do they even know it's BT traffic if you use full mandatory encryption? The only way I can think of is to spy on the tracker connections. Which can be also encrypted if the tracker supports HTTPS (why don't they, usually?) or via the Tor network.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by janrinok ( 846318 )
          The people who manage the Tor network specifically ask you not to use it for BitTorrent. Mind you, it confirms that you are downloading something illegal, because otherwise you would simply use Torrent as it is muchfaster than going via Tor.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Crayon Kid ( 700279 )
            Not for transfers, only for tracker connections. And I wouldn't have to do this if the ISP's wouldn't force me too. They don't seem to care what I download via BT, only that I'm using it.
    • Joe Internet (apologies to anyone reading this named Joe) doesn't know or care enough about bandwidth or the Internet to set such an elaborate policy (which means very little gain for rather a lot of work on the ISP's end), and people who want to Torrent lots would just end up paying more for the privilege (which means they'd continue to soak up the bandwidth in spite of the measure). This is probably meant to increase the overall bandwidth for everyone (though it's not the best way per se).

      I'm the network

    • by atamido ( 1020905 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:53AM (#20275589)
      Wouldn't it be simpler to use transparent bittorrent caching? The cable modem endpoint lines would still be saturated, but their other lines would be fine. They would save bandwidth, and increase the quality of service.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Metered internet is the norm in Australia. Low-end plans give you around 5GB per month, high-end plans give you around 100GB per month.

      Given that traffic costs are 10-20 times lower in the US than in Australia, this would mean that US ISPs could easily offer "starter" plans with 50-100GB of downloads, and high-end plans with 1000+ GB per month.

      That way, big downloaders would pay for their usage, and there would be no need for shaping traffic and other nonsense.
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:55AM (#20276055)

      This seems a lot simpler and fairer than traffic shaping by protocol.
      There's no need for fixed transfer limits. And shaping by protocol is the problem, not the solution, since the content (including the protocol) is really none of the carrier's business.

      Timesharing CPU schedulers have been solving this problem better for, what, 45 years now? You don't look at the filename of the executable somebody is running to see if you will schedule it. You don't suddenly kill their process if they exceed 60 seconds of CPU time. Instead, you simply de-prioritize "cpu hogs" - or in this case, bandwidth hogs. If you are a bandwidth hog, your "prime time" bandwidth should fall very low - lower than others who *only* use bandwidth at that time - but at 3am it should ramp up again, since you're only "competing" with other bandwidth hogs.

    • Wouldn't it be simpler for the telcos to charge per GB delivered in addition to the size of the pipe?

      WOuldn't it be simplest for the ISPs to not offer "unlimited" service when they obviously have limits?

      Give all your customers your fastest residential speed. Set your rate so 90% of your customers don't exceed the "monthly allowance" for your low-end rate plan.

      And, after the top 10 percent are limited by this, re-calculate. Repeat each month until everyone is at dial-up speeds! (and paying for broadband!)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Znork ( 31774 )
      "Wouldn't it be simpler for the telcos to charge per GB delivered in addition to the size of the pipe?"

      Sure it would be simpler. And even better, it'd give the local netbourhood thugs a really great business opportunity. Either you pay up to them, or they flood your pipe and you get to pay up to your ISP.

      Metered access is not something you want when anyone in the world can make your meter run.
    • by jumperboy ( 1054800 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @02:03PM (#20277957)

      Because, ultimately, the end user has little control over how much bandwidth they use. A Pandora's box was opened when the Internet was targeted as a way to deliver rich multimedia instead of text. Even the links featured on /. are usually a few bytes of content surrounded by many kilobytes of ads, spread over multiple pages. Compared to analog television and telephony, the quality of online video and voice communications is horrendous, but demand is only a tiny fraction of what it's going to be. The ISPs promote multimedia heavily when they sell connectivity, so they're just as culpable as the content providers. Throttling bandwidth at today's poor quality is not going to be a satisfactory solution for consumers. Increasing capacity is the only solution. I have a family of four, and when each of us want to experience the rich content we were promised (like VOIP, online productivity applications, video-on-demand, and streaming music), you're going to call us bandwidth hogs? I don't think so.

  • by Nero Nimbus ( 1104415 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:19AM (#20275345)
    I thought it might be some obscure router setting, but I've been having this problem for a few months. Since I barely download things anymore (re: Linux ISOs), it hasn't affected me nearly as much as it would have, say, 2 years ago. Still, this entire situation is pretty ridiculous. Comcast basically says "You can get this speed for $xx.xx a month! It's Comcastic!" but then they act like a bunch of little girls when somebody actually uses what they're paying for. For that reason alone, The guys in suits just want to be able to milk their current infrastructure for longer, and I don't have any sympathy for them. What I find funny about this is that broadband probably wouldn't have gotten as big as it is right now (At least in the U.S.) without warez. Stop and think about how many of your local broadband ISPs were pushing the ability to get music, movies, and games more quickly a few years ago. Comcast was doing that back before legal download services got big. It's like they baited us with the promise of more warez in less time, and now that we're locked in, they want to screw everybody.
    • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:58AM (#20275617)
      There is a looming problem [] with the amount of bandwidth available via the cable companies' aging infratstructures. Comcast has oversold the bandwidth its infrastructure can provide, now Comcast has to figure out how to deliver the promised bandwidth wile annoying the fewest (or only the least important) customers.

      Blocking BitTorrent traffic is an easy way to reduce traffic. It doesn't affect anything important (from Comcast's point of view).

      It is a short-sighted decision, at best, and is typical of Comcast's damn the customer approach to customer service.

      • by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @01:00PM (#20277179) Homepage
        This draws fairly interesting parallels with Tiscali and TalkTalk complaining about the Beeb's iPlayer [] here in the UK.

        They sold internet connections at lower than cost of the bandwidth, betting on the customers not using anywhere near their bandwidth entitlement. Then the BBC produced iPlayer, which is encouraging people to use up more of their bandwidth and thus causing the ISPs to make a loss. So the ISPs are demanding that the BBC pay them to cover the shortfall.

        To cut a long story short: the ISPs underpriced their connections and advertised them as "unlimited", were caught out when people actually tried to use what they had paid for and are now demanding that a third party bail them out of their mess. I certainly hope the BBC tell them to go screw themselves - I'm not going to be happy if part of my licence fee goes to propping up idiot ISPs who can't deliver on their commitments.
  • ISP vs WAP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eddy ( 18759 )

    Maybe it's the start of customers demanding an actual INTERNET Service Provider and not a Web Access provider, which most so called "ISPs" try for today. Subset-Internet Provider. Shit, SIP is taken too. Oh, well.

    One can dream.

  • by node159 ( 636992 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:20AM (#20275357)
    God dam it so annoys me when the ISP's bitch and moan about the customers actually using the bandwidth they have signed a contract, and paid for to use.

    I have no sympathy for ISP that oversell their services and fail to invest profits in infrastructure.
    • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:50AM (#20276007) Homepage

      God dam it so annoys me when the ISP's bitch and moan about the customers actually using the bandwidth they have signed a contract, and paid for to use.

      We're the people who build and run these systems. Comcast...or anyone for that matter...can't win that fight. I've worked with you wankers for 15 years, you're clever, relentless, and infinitely creative in a mischievous kind of way. If Comcast closes off BitTorrent, you'll find another way to disguise the traffic. They'll figure it out after a while and you'll figure out something else or go somewhere else. It may be difficult some days to motivate you at work, but you'll drive yourself until the early hours of the morning figuring out how to get around whatever filters they put in place. I've seen this arms race take place in every type of communication technology out there and you've won every time. Telephones, mainframes, PC networks, the internet. The road of technology is littered with the bodies of people who underestimate the technical genius of people who don't like being regulated.

      We run your switches, your networks, firewalls, databases and your web sites. We are root and domain admins, we have the back door passwords to your routers. We run packet sniffers and Snort, know what a clever fella can do with xp_ extended stored procedures and javascript, we grew up on ping and tracert....we don't need no steeking GUI.

      You can work with us or spend your life on an endless treadmill fighting a losing battle. But one thing history should have taught you... not fuck with us.

    • I'm canceling. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by visualight ( 468005 )
      From Comcasts Terms of Service:

      We may change our prices, fees, the Services and/or the terms and conditions of this Agreement in the future. Unless this Agreement or applicable law specifies otherwise, we will give you thirty (30) days prior Notice of any significant change to this Agreement. If you find the change unacceptable, you have the right to cancel your Service(s). However, if you continue to receive Service(s) after the end of the notice period (the "Effective Date") of the change, we will consi

  • by saterdaies ( 842986 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:21AM (#20275365)
    No one will like this suggestion, but I think it's a valid one. ISPs should start charging for bandwidth used just like electric, gas, and other utilities. Right now, they have "unlimited" plans. This gives ISPs a great incentive to try and control what you do online. It just doesn't cost the same to serve the user who just browses the web (at maybe 100k a page which happens sporadically as users have to take time to read the page) and the user who decides that they want to use their cable modem as a movie downloading service - or even legitimate uses like downloading a new Linux distro every week. ISPs shouldn't care how you use your connection - they should only care how much bandwidth you use. ISPs shouldn't even care whether your bittorrents are illegal or legitimate. That has no affect on them. The amount of data transfered does. So, for the sake of network neutrality, for the sake of our freedom to use the internet how we want to use it, we need usage fees.
    • by Nasarius ( 593729 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:26AM (#20275411)
      And suddenly things like downloading videos from iTunes become a whole lot less attractive. Torrent-gobbling nerds aren't the only ones using a lot of bandwidth, and that will become more and more true in the near future.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Adblock and Flashblock on the other hand get a lot more popular :P
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by echucker ( 570962 )
      So if you want to charge for usage, do you charge just for down, or do you charge for up too?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QCompson ( 675963 )
      No one will like this suggestion, but I think it's a valid one.

      I don't like your suggestion. If telecoms begin to charge for the amount of bandwidth used, the way we all use the internet will be fundamentally changed. Many of the popular websites and attractions that have sprung up in the past few years (itunes, webcasts, youtube, etc) rely on heavy bandwidth usage. Personally, I don't want to be thinking about my monthly budget when checking out videos on youtube.

      Secondly, I have little doubt that the p
    • by Isao ( 153092 )
      This actually has a lot of merit. The providers are currently incentivized to deliver the lowest bandwidth we will tolerate at the highest price we can afford. This is similar to the Netflix problem in that their "best" customers (those who appreciate and use the bandwidth provided) are actually their worst problems, delivering the lowest revenue per resource consumed.

      Moving to a usage-based pricing model would correct this inversion. The provider would be incentivized to deliver high-bandwidth, low-la

    • ISPs should start charging for bandwidth used just like electric, gas, and other utilities.

      Charge by the minute ISP sucked, but it's nice of you to compare it to other monopoly services. You might as well tell me the break up of Bell was a bad idea.

      Outside of a monopoly, charge per bandwith will fail and drive most people right off the internet. 25% of windoze users are part of a botnet []. Disconnecting them until their computers are clean is a better idea than serving them a big fat bill. It would al

    • ISPs should start charging for bandwidth used just like electric, gas, and other utilities.

      Been there, done that in the mid 90's and earlier.

      People didn't like it and the ISPs who didn't change to a full whole hog 24/7 access plan died out or got bought by companies who did.
  • False advertising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:26AM (#20275407) Homepage Journal

    Someone should sue Comcast for false advertising. I constantly hear commercials on the radio about how much faster their Internet connections are than DSL's, about how "the other guys" sell you slow connections and make you pay extra for higher speed connections, and all sorts of other crap.

    Of course, they don't bother telling you that if you get Comcast, you might not even be able to use your connection, or that they're going to play mommy and tell you what you can and can't do, and punish you for doing things they don't like.

    If they're going to do this kind of shit, the FCC and/or the FTC needs to make them disclose it in their commercials. It's a substantial factor in the decision whether or not someone might want to subscribe. And I'd love to see what happens to their subscription numbers when they have to say something like, "We will restrict or forbid some popular services you might want to use on the Internet. Oh, and we require you to use the browser that we prefer [], even if you have a Mac and don't have access to it. And last, but not least, if you actually use the Internet, we'll cut you off entirely []."

    • Yeah, I used to have a Comcast cable modem, as it was pretty much the only choice in the area at the time.

      Now I have Speakeasy DSL, and while one could make an argument that Speakeasy is not like other DSL providers, regarless it's just as fast as my Comcast was if not faster, and far, far more reliable. Also no ridiculous, arbitrary restrictions on how I use it.
  • I noticed awhile back that if I run one or the other my traffic is slowed, but if I run both at once they speed up. Not sure if they are looking at it as "One P2P = Bandwidth Hog" but "Two P2P = Normal Usage" or some such nonsense. More on topic, my uTorrent with encrypted is seeding just fine after downloading, from Detroit MI downriver area. *hold up hand point to ball of lowest thumb joint*

    Jonah HEX
  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:27AM (#20275425) Homepage

    It is flawed because the ISP just needs to look at your HTTP usage and see you connect to a tracker. They can even get the port you are listening on from there! Even if you connect to the tracker via HTTPS, they can still see you connecting to a known tracker IP. Once they know you are on a tracker they can start limiting all traffic that looks like it's encrypted with RC4, because apparently this is identifiable.

    It is too much because you don't actually need strong encryption to stop traffic limiting. Simply adding some random padding and XORing the protocol with the torrent's infohash would be enough - it is a private key random enough that they couldn't check them all. The RC4 encryption was seriously over-thought, and what did it give us? Nothing, because apparently it is still identifiable as bittorrent (or at least as RC4 encrypted traffic).

    The only solution is to replace the current encryption and always connect to trackers via Tor or some other encrypted proxy. And even then it wouldn't be perfect, because it's plausible they could start limiting traffic on listening ports that get a lot of traffic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Racemaniac ( 1099281 )
      i also noticed that trackers are the current weak point of bittorrent. at my university, they blocked bittorrent by filtering the packets that request the peer list from the tracker, thus making it impossible to start any torrent since you'll never be able to get the peer list... (which i ofcourse circumvented by editing azureus so it replaces a char from the request to %## with ##the hexadecimal ascii, the same for the webservers that act as trackers, but the filter didn't catch it :p) if they can make t
    • And even then it wouldn't be perfect, because it's plausible they could start limiting traffic on listening ports that get a lot of traffic.

      Isn't that overkill? They'd be much better off just capping the overall speed/amount downloaded whenever a certain speed or amount are exceeded.

      The way I see it, they're not sure how far to push this themselves. Right now ISP's rely on identifying BT and limit BT alone claiming "it's illegal". It's stupid, for a lot of reasons. To name just 2, there's perfectly legal BT

    • So use IPsec in ESP mode.

      Ironically, I've hated IPsec since its inception. I always though security should be end-to-end on the connections, since in theory it was just the data, and the end point authentications, that were important. Now it appears that IPsec actually has a valid use. One problem is that it won't completely protect from provider abuses, since once they determine some IP address on the network is a Torrent or Tor site, they can throttle based on that IP address (source IP). And we also

  • So don't use them. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lheal ( 86013 )
    Find another ISP.

    But please, don't get the government involved. They'll bury the Internet providers under a mountain of red tape, until customer service will be the last thing on their minds.
    • by HoosierPeschke ( 887362 ) <> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:05AM (#20275689) Homepage

      Find another ISP.
      I hate this line. I have two ISP providers I can even think of subscribing to. Comcast and AT&T. I'm too far away from the central hub for DSL (AND I LIVE IN A FSCKING SUBURB OF CHICAGO!!!). The government allowed this to happen. The government should fix this problem. I don't wish the the government to over step their bounds (which is where your second argument comes in, because we all know they'll screw it up). But please quit saying "find another ISP", the free market doesn't apply for most of us...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I have two ISP providers I can even think of subscribing to. Comcast and AT&T. I'm too far away from the central hub for DSL. The government allowed this to happen. The government should fix this problem.

        The government allowed what to happen? That only one ISP chose to put the infrastructure in your area for broadband?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Many cable systems operate as local monopolies in the United States, as only one cable company typically receives the right to serve a region as a result of a franchise agreement with a local government. For some franchises the agreement is explicitly exclusive; for others the local authority retains the right to franchise overbuilders but does not do so. In some areas that is changing as competition has been allowed to enter the market, including, in some cases, city run cable systems. The rise of Direct B

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jsebrech ( 525647 )
          The government allowed what to happen? That only one ISP chose to put the infrastructure in your area for broadband?
          That infrastructure was put there using government subsidies. It is simple too expensive to provide physical cabling to everyone except in dense metropolitan areas to be able to enter into that market as a new business (and what you see in the US is that only dense metropolitan areas get decent competition).

          Network cabling is just the same as electricity lines, water mains, gas mains, sewer s
  • Drop Comcast (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GoldTeamRules ( 639624 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:35AM (#20275479)
    I was a Comcast customer (AT&T@Home prior to that) for about 8 years. I live in Utah and recently switched to one of the municipal networks (based on the Utopia project and I won't name the exact ISP because I don't want to be accused of being a company whore), and I've never looked back.

    Now, I only get data from them. I'm not interested in TV or phone, but as far as data pipe, I'm saving $20/mo and the connection speeds are faster.

  • UDP for no reset? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:37AM (#20275493) Homepage
    So would moving the bittorrent protocol to UDP solve this specific problem? UDP doesn't have a reset bit. And you can always just stick something exactly like TCP on top of UDP to make it almost no different.
    • That's great, until the ISP decides that they can block any UDP traffic that isn't DNS to their servers.

      A much better idea would be to simply make the connections look as much like HTTP over SSL as possible. They can't block that.

      • Re:UDP for no reset? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:23AM (#20275797) Homepage Journal

        That's great, until the ISP decides that they can block any UDP traffic that isn't DNS to their servers.

        Thankfully that will likely never happen since it would kill VOIP and many online game protocols use UDP. Killing UDP won't happen, since it would kill too many legitimate uses.

        A much better idea would be to simply make the connections look as much like HTTP over SSL as possible. They can't block that.

        This can, theoretically, already be done. (Sort of...) Since BitTorrent already runs over TCP and SSL (actually, TLS now) is simply a presentation-layer protocol, there's no reason BitTorrent can't be run over TLS.

        The problem is the "sort of." Since BitTorrent involves a lot more back-and-forth than HTTPS would (HTTPS would be small upload followed by large download), it's still almost certainly possible to block BitTorrent traffic that runs over TLS. There's really no way around this - the send/receive ratios for BitTorrent will always be different from HTTPS ratios.

        Besides, the ISP doesn't even really need that to throttle BitTorrent or P2P in general. All they really need to do is start blocking SYN packets from reaching their subscribers, or at the very least, throttle the number of SYN packets their subscribers can receive to, say, five every 30 minutes. About the only "legitimate" uses for subscribers accepting connections are active-mode FTP and various chat protocols. And even then, the only times chat protocols generally require the client to accept a connection is for direct peer-to-peer transfers, and the ISP won't care to kill those.

    • Re:UDP for no reset? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:40AM (#20275925) Homepage Journal
      No, it wouldn't help. I have had this issue with my ISP Atlantic Broadband [] for a good two months now. Incoming torrent connections are flat out blocked (you can open the port and test it, but once the first incoming torrent connection comes in, the port gets blocked). And while you tout UDP may be the answer, they do the exact same with KAD... first incoming KAD packet and the port is blocked.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cpghost ( 719344 )

      So would moving the bittorrent protocol to UDP solve this specific problem? UDP doesn't have a reset bit

      IMHO that would be terrible and not advisable. UDP doesn't have flow-control; and you can easily get overwhelmed with misbehaving UDP clients endlessly sending layer-7 connection-request packets at a mind-boggling rate. Even ICMP source quench packets back to those misbehaving hosts won't help because they're often blocked on the path due to the increasingly firewalled nature of the backbones themselv

  • Inflated fears. (Score:5, Informative)

    by delire ( 809063 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:51AM (#20275573)

    could this mean the end of BitTorrent
    What? Because if American ISP's unilaterally block bittorrent it would suddenly mean the end of the technology?

    As a guide,Europe has more internet users [] than the entire population of America itself. Oh, and then there's the other billion or so internet users in those other countries [].

    America is certainly a fairly big country but it's far from being a lone influence of the world's technological development and trends.
  • Isn't seeding kind of like operating a distribution server? I mean, sure, you don't actually spend all the bandwidth yourself but you are acting as the primary distributor, correct?

    Does comcast have a no-server policy? Many residential ISP's do. If they do, this just seems like it's enforcing that policy.

    Does it suck, yeah. Does it make comcast evil? I'm not so sure.
  • I know everyone hear is dead-set against Net Neutrality legislation, but wouldn't Net Neutrality prohibit Comcast from engaging in this sort of behavior?
  • End of Comcast? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by griffjon ( 14945 ) <> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:05AM (#20275685) Homepage Journal
    We can dream, can't we?
  • Eh (Score:2, Interesting)

    Change your isp? If they start losing customers they may reconsider their business decision.
    • Re:Eh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jZnat ( 793348 ) * on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:48AM (#20275985) Homepage Journal
      What ISP? There aren't any other ISPs other than Comcast in many areas of the US. In some areas, the only alternatives also do the same bullshit, so there's nothing you can do.
  • by D4C5CE ( 578304 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:14AM (#20275739)
    ...the end of a few of these ISPs?

    Unless there is a legal loophole allowing them to unilaterally change the terms of consumer contracts from Internet to Throttled Censornet, only customers having no other choice would stay with companies trying to force them back to the days of scary time- or traffic-based metering (especially given the risk of excessive traffic due to botnets these days) and/or walled gardens with little content exclusively picked at the mercy of one's provider.
  • Does this have any effect on that at all? IANAL, but it seems like it certainly would. Is it the fact that they are just blocking/throttling a particular type of traffic and not basing blocking/throttling on content?
  • Comcast, as well as other cable broadband internet providers advertise X Mbps connections yet they are filtering high bandwidth content? Can't we just slap these bastards with false advertising? I use bittorrent to download LEGALLY DISTRIBUTED SOFTWARE, ie linux distros. wtf?
  • Around here... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:28AM (#20275845) Homepage Norway prices are high, but you get what you're paying for. I've been with three different providers (two DSL, one cable) over the last 4-5 years because of moving, and every time it'll run full speed 20+ hours a day. Nobody complains if I load it out 24/7, and if they did I'd take it up with the consumer protection agency that's got real teeth. Whatever weasel words they used in the contract won't matter, if you're not delivering they slap you around good. How the US companies get away with promising "unlimited" plans, disconnecting heavy users, throttling heavy traffic and deliver such shitty service I don't know. "The market" don't fix things in a mono/duopoly, and from what I gather most are stuck with at most one cable and one DSL operator. At least here the phone lines are for rent, so you can pick from several DSL carriers (but the network build-out is still controlled by one ex-state company).
  • I have comcast. My connection lately has been passing the speakeasy speed test at 20Mbit down, 2Mbit up.

    I use bit torrent to get game demos and betas, Linux distros, and to share music that I have composed and hold copyrights for.

    I can seed just fine. You have to find that sweet spot. (the point at which your upstream starts to impact your downstream). for me, it's about 80KBps.

    That being said, I am forced to use peer guardian 2 and alternative ports to see to it that my traffic gets to its intended loc
  • Business account (Score:5, Interesting)

    by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @11:26AM (#20276305) Homepage
    You want to run a server without hassle? get a business account. I have Comcast workplace at my home and I get 6m/768k with 6 static ip addresses and no port blocking or restriction on servers for $100/month.

    Look, I'm not totally happy about it, but this is how it works today. You want a restrictive, "client only" connection to the internet you can do that for $20-$60 a month. You want a real internet connection you are going to have to pay $100+ a month in most places (in the US).

    Frankly, I am hoping the ISPs finally just come clean and admit that their bottom tier service is client only, practically web/email only. There is a market for that and there is nothing really wrong with them selling it that way.

    Verizon's FIOS service supposedly has a comparably priced business tier as well, and they are laying fiber on my street as we speak. I might check that out when it lights up (although I generally find Verizon slightly more evil than Comcast).

  • by cableguy411 ( 1144417 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @12:25PM (#20276859)
    I would know the answer as to how and why they do it because I help set up the hardware that does it locally for my system. It doesn't affect all markets nor does it affect customers all of the time. They can do it because of the no server clause in the contract. It doesn't however have to be determined by someone that you're running a server. How it works is there is an actual piece of hardware that is placed into the routing of packets. It inspects the header bits of the packets and determines if the packets being sent are p2p or simply network/server traffic. If it is p2p traffic then the routing priority level for those packets matching those identified are dropped by one level. This is exactly the same way the voip works, but in opposite manner so as voip packets have a higher routing priority than any of the other user traffic. This being said it leaves us with a packet routing priority from top to bottom of user generated traffic looking like: VOIP, Network/HTTP, P2P. Looking at this it's easy to see why some people would experience 'throttling' as it's being called. Unless you can figure out a way to bypass traffic being generated to or from a bunch of private (ie individual ip's not registered with DNS)then your out of luck. This does still leave newsgroups untouched however since the traffic is being routed through a registered server. One more thing. Many of the Comcast systems are implementing what they have termed 'Powerboost'. It doesn't cost anything and it's being done at the server/CMTS level. There is no way to sign up for it or anything. It's either on, off, or hasn't been implemented in your area yet. The rollout of this has been detemined by network capacity for whatever fiber node you're being fed out of. In my current location we've implemented it in appx 90% of our nodes on the downstream and 60% of the nodes on our upstream channels. What this does is allows a user trying to push through large files use of the unallocated bandwidth above and beyond their provisioning rate. Some people here are consistently seeing more than 20Mb/s downstream and 2.4Mb/s per second upstream (being provisioned for 6Mb downstream and 512k upstream). However the servers will not allow that rate to be sustained. It holds a small percentage of the bandwidth available for other demand and keeps the total usage under X% capacity or else it will suspend the additional bandwidth to that user. ****Take notice I didn't say it allows the user to make use of all or even most of the unallocated bandwidth, but just more than they are provisioned for. This is being tightly controlled and regulated to make sure capacity and network stability are maintained while allowing bursts of up to and over 20Mb's. I wouldn't expect to see the number much more than about 20/22 Mb's though depending on the market. Some of the higher capacity/speed markets are running more than the standard 6Mb we're running here in my market. Those people might see something a little more out of powerboost, but don't bet on it for now anyways. Hope this helps, but I don't think it will resolve any of your difficulties any more than just an understanding would do.
  • I call bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @01:09PM (#20277305) Homepage Journal

    Last year we had a discussion whether traffic shaping is good or bad, and ISPs made it pretty clear that they do not like P2P applications like BitTorrent. One of the ISPs that joined our discussions said: "The fact is, P2P is (from my point of view) a plague - a cancer, that will consume all the bandwidth that I can provide. It's an insatiable appetite.", and another one stated: "P2P applications can cripple a network, they're like leaches. Just because you pay 49.99 for a 1.5-3.0mbps connection doesn't mean your entitled to use whatever protocols you wish on your ISP's network without them provisioning it to make the network experience good for all users involved."

    Here's the thing:

      - You folks want common carrier status
      - You want subsidies from taxpayers instead of spending your own money on infrastructure
      - You advertise your services as always on and unlimited

    And yet, when customers actually take you up on that offer you want to reneg after the fact.

    When you advertise a service, accept payment for it, and refuse to deliver on it, that, my friend, is called fraud. Considering that you mail bills to your customers charging them for unlimited services, isn't each and every statement you mail one count of mail fraud? Isn't that what took down several mafia families, if the reference in The Firm is to be believed?
  • by jerkychew ( 80913 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @03:01PM (#20278611) Homepage
    I've had Charter in Massachusetts for a couple years now, and BitTorrent has always been throttled. BitTorrent downloads take forever to download, if at all. I've tested this by connecting to the same trackers with the same client on my old work's Verizon 1.5Mb DSL (I'm running 6Mb Charter at home) and the downloads were exponentially faster on Verizon.

    It sucks because WoW updates and several of Microsoft's large downloads are sent via BitTorrent. I have to hunt and seek every time I want to update a new WoW installation.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian