Will Comcast's BitTorrent Throttle Choke P2P CDNs?

The AP reports what many Comcast cable-modem subscribers concluded months ago: the Internet service provider is messing with its customers’ BitTorrent peer-to-peer connections. Nationwide tests performed by the AP indicate that the cable company’s subscribers can download files using BitTorrent with no problems — but that uploads of completed files are being blocked or delayed by Comcast.

Why does that matter? With peer-to-peer file transfers, a person can only download what another person is uploading. So by interfering with its customers’ uploads, Comcast would also interfere with downloads — and ultimately make it difficult to use BitTorrent or other P2P file transfers.

The problem: while BitTorrent and P2P are historically associated with illegal software, movie and music downloads, some companies — including BitTorrent — are relying on the same type of file-transfer technologies to run legitimate businesses. Streaming media analyst Dan Rayburn counts at least 10 companies in the content delivery network (CDN) industry offering peer-to-peer transfers to deliver files on behalf of their clients. If Comcast (CMCSA) is deliberately interfering with peer-to-peer transfers, the cable giant could significantly handicap peer-to-peer CDNs, among others.

Comcast rep Charlie Douglas “would not specifically address the practice,” the AP says, but he “confirmed that [the ISP] uses sophisticated methods to keep net connections running smoothly.” Douglas has denied Comcast’s supposed BitTorrent throttling in the past, but the AP’s story contradicts his claims. (He did not immediately return our calls for comment this afternoon.)

Meanwhile, two of Comcast’s biggest rivals are making more constructive progress. Telecom giants AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) are part of a working group called P4P, which includes peer-to-peer companies like New York’s Pando and LimeWire, BitTorrent, VeriSign (VRSN), and gearmaker Cisco (CSCO). Their goal: figure out a way to make peer-to-peer transfers more efficient for both the CDNs managing them and the ISPs who own the pipes they ride on.

Related: Comcast: We Don’t Throttle BitTorrent, Comcast Vs. Downloads Will Only Get Uglier

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