Analysis: Comcast sets its sights on peer-to-peer apps

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The following article is reprinted from PC World’s Neil McAllister on Software blog at the PCW Business Center.

Comcast, one of the leading providers of broadband cable Internet access in the U.S, has your rights at heart. Of course, exactly what rights you have remains to be seen. But Comcast plans to let you know, just as soon as it’s decided what they are.

That was the gist of Comcast and Pando Networks’ joint announcement Tuesday, calling for a “P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.” But skeptics worry that such a plan is likely to be light on the rights, heavy on the responsibilities.

At issue is peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software, such as BitTorrent, which Comcast and other broadband providers claim takes up an inordinate amount of their network bandwidth. Worse, such software is often used to share copyright-infringing material, which could land both ISPs and their customers in hot water.

Read more about net neutrality at Macworld.com.

Comcast describes the solution it proposes as “self regulation.” It’s a term that’s been applied in the past to the film, television, music, and video-game industries, each of which have applied voluntary ratings to keep adult-themed material out of the hands of minors.

But critics argue that what Comcast really wants bears little resemblance to the warning labels placed on entertainment content. Instead, they say, Comcast is looking for a way to justify the practice of throttling or blocking outright any traffic coming from P2P applications, something they allege the broadband provider has been doing for the last year.

According to some critics, that practice violates the principle of net neutrality, which dictates that Internet providers must offer network access the same way that local utilities offer electricity: Once you pay for the service, you’re free to use it in any way you like, and no one customer gets preferential treatment over any other.

Not everyone agrees, of course, and Internet providers in particular are becoming increasingly vocal about it. Neil Berkett, incoming CEO of the UK’s second-largest broadband provider, recently described net neutrality as “a load of bollocks,” and suggested that customers who don’t play by strict rules might end up in “Internet bus lanes.”

This story, "Analysis: Comcast sets its sights on peer-to-peer apps" was originally published by PCWorld.

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