EFF Exposes Comcast Lies

Nov 29th, 2007 | By | Category: Digital Video Downloads, General, Podcast Distribution

packetsThe Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published a comprehensive account of Comcast’s packet-forging activities and has released software and documentation instructing Internet users on how to test for packet forgery or other forms of interference by their own ISPs.Separate tests in October from EFF, the Associated Press, and others showed that Comcast was forging small parcels of digital data, known as packets, in order to interfere with its subscribers’ and other Internet users’ ability to use file-sharing applications, like BitTorrent and Gnutella. Despite having been confronted by this evidence, Comcast continues to issue incomplete and misleading statements about their practices and their impact on its customers.

“Comcast is discriminating among different kinds of Internet traffic based on the protocols being used by its customers,” said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. “When confronted, Comcast has been evasive and misleading in its responses, so we decided to start gathering the facts ourselves.”

File-sharing protocols like torrent, though best known for sharing pirated content, are used by some podcasters as a way to distribute very large media files, such as video podcasts, efficiently.

EFF is also developing information and software tools intended to help Internet subscribers test their own broadband connections.
Protocol-specific discrimination gives ISPs a tremendous amount of power over the kinds of new applications and services that can be deployed by innovators and competitors. To the extent that practices like those employed by Comcast change the “end-to-end” architecture of the Internet, those practices jeopardize the Internet’s vibrant innovation economy.

“This recent interference by Comcast in their subscribers’ Internet communications is a cause for grave concern,” said EFF Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. “It threatens the open Internet standards and architecture that have made the network such an engine of technical and economic innovation.”

In addition to an account of the results of EFF’s independent testing of Comcast’s packet forging activities, EFF has also issued a detailed document and software to assist other networking experts in conducting their own testing.

“If ISPs won’t give their customers accurate information about their Internet traffic controls, we have to detect and document them for ourselves,” said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen.

Update: ArsTechnica makes a good point, noting that “Network neutrality supporters have long argued that the lack of competition in the broadband market makes it possible for Internet service providers to abuse their network control with impunity in the absence of stricter regulation. The FCC’s response to widespread allegations of Comcast P2P blocking will indicate whether or not the current system has adequate safeguards.”

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