How Comcast blocks your Internet traffic
The broadband company’s audacious scheme to interrupt your data proves why network neutrality rules are crucial.
By Farhad Manjoo
Oct. 19, 2007 |
Bless the Associated Press for unearthing, through careful and diligent investigation, Comcast’s shameful, hidden Internet traffic-management scheme.
Comcast, the AP determined, actively manages data on its network by using software to essentially masquerade as its subscribers’ machines. When non-Comcast Internet subscribers request files from your Comcast-connected machine — as happens in peer-to-peer file-sharing applications — Comcast’s technology steps in and tells the non-Comcast subscriber you’re not available.
This is a difficult story to explain, but it’s quite important. For years, consumer advocates have been demanding that Congress and/or the Federal Communications Commission impose “network neutrality” regulations that would force broadband providers (like Comcast) to treat all data on a network equally. Lawmakers have so far failed to do so.
Broadband providers, meanwhile, insist that they do treat all traffic equally, but they reserve the right to use certain technologies to “manage” data on their network. The Comcast plan suggests that broadband providers mean something very broad by “traffic management” — including, it appears, purposefully stepping into your network sessions to shut them down.
To understand why this whole process is so egregious, let’s look at it in FAQ format.
What is Comcast doing, and why?