A Look At Comcast’s P2P Network Shaping [12:03 pm]
The Comcast controversy strikes at the heart of some of the biggest debates engulfing technology, including how much control network operators should have over the flow of information and entertainment over their systems and how aggressively they ought to monitor content and adjust delivery speeds. Comcasts moves reflect a basic assumption that peer-to-peer networks are primarily used to send pirated material, including songs, TV shows, and full-length movies. Specifically, charges have focused on Comcasts throttling of files sent using a peer-to-peer standard called BitTorrent that by some measures is as popular for sending video today as Napster NAPS was for sending music in the late 1990s.
But reaching conclusions over the fairness of Comcasts moves and the legitimacy of peer-to-peer content wont be easy, since not all peer-to-peer traffic is made up of ripped-off tunes and flicks. Companies such as Joost, Vuze, and even BitTorrent—whose founder, Bram Cohen, created the original peer-to-peer protocol—have struck deals to use peer-to-peer technology to distribute programming by dozens of mainline content owners such as CBS CBS, PBS, and Viacoms VIA Showtime. These content owners see peer-to-peer techniques as a promising means to go from todays grainy YouTube-quality content to deliver full high-definition resolution to consumers via the Internet.
What’s more, many experts contend that Comcast and other network owners will never succeed in accurately filtering out peer-to-peer traffic, and certainly not just the illegal stuff. Files can be easily disguised to avoid detection with a few programming tricks—say, adding some descriptive bits to make a movie clip look like an e-mail.