Comcast goes beyond traffic shaping for file-sharers

Comcast, one of the largest cable telcos and ISPs in the US market, has come under fire for modifying the file-sharing requests flowing to and from its Internet subscribers.

Like most ISPs, Comcast uses traffic shaping on BitTorrent, Gnutella and similar file-sharing packet flows, but the Associated Press reports that the ISP is now actively intercepting the file-sharing headers and deliberately inserting a `cleared IP call' packet into them.

This means that someone using a file-sharing client like Azureus could `see' the other users' file copy across the Net, but when the request for the initial set of packets goes out, Comcast's servers will apparently intercept the request and return a `cleared IP call' packet.

This, of course, effectively shuts down the IP connection between the two file-sharing clients and cancels any file transfers.

As you might expect, Comcast subscribers are reported to be up in arms over this latest trick, although Comcast itself says it is just one of the ISP's methods to stop file-sharing traffic from hogging excess bandwidth.

Comcast may hit problems with its subscribers, however, as BitTorrent in the US is increasingly being used to more effectively distribute legitimate files between Internet users.

According to the Associated Press, this interferes with the process of Net Neutrality - the principle of treating all IP transmissions flowing across t'Internet equally. As such, the ISP could be in the soup with the Internet authorities.

Of course, if the ISP classes its `cleared IP call' packet insertion system as part of its regular traffic shaping, then it's anyone's guess as to whether subscribers could claim against the ISP for offering allegedly sub-standard service...