Friday, March 28, 2008

Comcast and BitTorrent: Best Buddies?

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Yesterday, Comcast and BitTorrent announced that they're working together to help Comcast address network congestion problems in a "protocol-agnostic" way. This is perhaps the ultimate marriage of convenience for both companies. Comcast's unannounced throttling and blocking of BitTorrent traffic, identified first by TorrentFreak and verified by the Associated Press, made Comcast into the poster boy for net neutrality. By the same token, had Comcast continued its traffic interference unimpeded, other service providers would have undoubtedly adopted the same techniques, and BitTorrent's attempt to turn itself into a legitimate competitor of Akamai, Limelight Networks and other Content Distribution Networks would have failed.

It remains to be seen how "agnostic" the resulting techniques will be. Will they favor BitTorrent's content provider-oriented DNA protocols over those of competitors, or will it be some kind of agreement by Comcast not to block P2P seeding completely, but rather, to limit the available bandwidth for P2P by some other methods? So far, the statements from Comcast and BitTorrent are fairly content-free as to what's actually going to be done.

In any event, Comcast may succeed in getting the FCC to back off on its investigation of the company's traffic throttling practices, while BitTorrent may remove an enormous impediment to sales of its services.

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