Comcast, Pando call for pact on P2P rights

Comcast and Pando Networks, a maker of peer-to-peer software, have kicked off a drive to create a “P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” to help settle the conflicts between broadband providers and some P2P users.

The two companies will collaborate with ISPs (Internet service providers), P2P companies, content providers and others to seek consensus on the roles of consumers and service providers, they said on Tuesday.

The move comes a few weeks after cable operator Comcast said it would work with P2P software company BitTorrent on network management. Comcast had come under fire for throttling back some BitTorrent traffic being exchanged by its customers. As part of the March 27 deal, the companies said they would get the broader Internet community involved.

P2P software lets individual users exchange files over the Internet without relying on a central server. Exchanging large files such as music and video can consume a large amount of network capacity. Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., acknowledged managing its network load by targeting particular protocols such as the ones used by BitTorrent. The service provider has since said it will stop doing so.

The controversy has become a flashpoint in the argument over what the government should do to enforce network neutrality. On Tuesday, the FCC invited Comcast and Pando to participate in a public hearing the agency will hold at Stanford University on Thursday.

The “Bill of Rights” Comcast and Pando are calling for would define what choices and controls P2P users should have and what practices ISPs should use to manage P2P applications running on their networks, the companies said.

Comcast and Pando will also test technology from Pando, called Pando Network Aware, on Comcast’s network. Pando Network Aware can capture and analyze the data flow associated with downloading files with Pando’s P2P software, they said. The test will measure the impact on bandwidth consumption on the network, as well as speed and other factors. Pando will conduct similar tests on DSL (digital subscriber line), fiber and wireless networks. The company says it can reduce network congestion and speed up content delivery by routing P2P traffic more effectively. Information from the tests will help Comcast move to a protocol-agnostic network management scheme, they said.

Also Tuesday, the Distributed Computing Industry Association called on other concerned parties to get involved in crafting the P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The group includes Pando, BitTorrent, Cisco Systems, AT&T, and other vendors, service providers and content providers.

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