Space Ramblings

Comcast Keeps on Spinning their P2P Blocking

Everyone hates their cable company. It’s only natural. But Comcast is currently earning new levels of hatred from everyone, even people not their customers. Whether it’s Comcast’s arrogance, their lousy service, their monopolistic behavior or their constant rate hikes– it was enough to make a 75 year old woman smash up their offices with a hammer and for the national press to praise her for it. Even the dimmest Comcast executive should be able to grasp that when someone smashes up your office and the New York Times praises them– you’ve got PR trouble.

Well on top of the PR problems the AP did its research showing that Comcast was blocking P2P traffic in violation of network neutrality, which they insisted we don’t need anyway. While Comcast might have tried to defend that as an anti-piracy measure, the AP sent across the bible. To make matters worse followups by Ars Technica (it’s fun to say with a British accent) showed that it doesn’t end there. Comcast blocks file transfers in programs like Lotus Notes that are by no stretch of the imagination pirate haunts. I suspect file send features in messaging programs would also be affected.

So now Comcast has emerged with the usual PR spin. We’re not blocking traffic, we’re managing it. They claim it’s a consequence of packet shaping and that files sent are only occasionally blocked, giving a facile comparison to a busy signal. Does anyone trust Comcast’s word? Nay and nay again. The Times says it best.

But the company is clearly trying to have it both ways. It claims it is a neutral Internet service provider that treats all packets equally, not blocking or “shaping” its Internet traffic. Meanwhile it also positions itself as the champion of average Internet users whose speeds are being slowed by file-sharing.

The result of that discrepancy is that Comcast has a major public relations problem on its hands. In the absence of a transparent explanation about what the company does to disadvantage certain applications in the name of managing traffic on its network, anecdotal reports and conspiracy theories are filling the vacuum.

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