The Associated Press released a report in October claiming that Internet service provider Comcast was interfering, and in some instances blocking, their subscribers from certain types of Internet use. This alarming report was then confirmed by a study conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that was released last Wednesday. Several media watchdog organizations have cried foul on Comcast, stating that it violates the tradition of “Net neutrality” – the policy of treating all types of Internet traffic with equal access.
The AP report found that Comcast was inhibiting traffic on certain popular file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent, Gnutella and eDonkey. These sites allow users to upload content and then share with other users. Comcast was found to block the connection from those who upload to those who download, not allowing the content to be shared. In this blockage, Comcast posed as a user to break the connection, and did not identify that the company was interfering.
Comcast denies the allegations, but said they use “reasonable management” techniques to ensure the system runs smoothly. They refused to elaborate on what these techniques entailed.
Managing Net traffic is important. File-sharing activity constitutes a very large part of Internet use, and it can bog down connection. “Traffic shaping” is already popular with Internet providers, who give preferential treatment to certain types of Internet use and slow down others, like file-sharing. However, Comcast took the next step in outright blocking file-sharing completely.
It is frightening that Comcast would have the gall to control what we do on the Internet, and essentially has decided for itself what kind of Internet service and uses its paying customers can receive.
Networks that prioritize certain types of Net use could lead to the providers giving priority to certain Web sites or information found online, or they could be able to track completely what we do on the Internet. Comcast should use the money it spends on surveillance and Net control to provide a better service to the customers it already overcharges. This would ensure that file-shares aren’t overloading the bandwidth, and keep Comcast out of our computers.