Vuze, a video distributor using BitTorrent peer-to-peer technology, petitioned the Federal Communications Commission Nov. 14 to establish rules prohibiting Comcast and other broadband providers from "throttling" network traffic. Vuze contends the practice violates the FCCs network neutrality principles.
Throttling involves blocking or slowing the uploading and downloading speeds of lawful applications and content. Vuze, of Palo Alto, Calif., complains that Comcast, the nations second largest broadband provider with nearly 13 million subscribers, is actively interfering with its users ability to access legal content by cutting off P2P file-sharing networks like BitTorrent and Gnutella.
Comcast, headquartered in Philadelphia, initially denied the accusations but admitted the week of Oct. 22 that it does delay some Internet traffic in the interests of network management.
"Now is the time to embrace the sea changes in entertainment consumption that are occurring," Vuze CEO Gilles BianRoa said in a statement. "The rapid convergence of the entertainment and Internet industries has enabled the delivery of high-quality video, and these throttling tactics represent growing pains as ISPs resist inevitable change."
The Vuze petition claims throttling is often accomplished with a "man in the middle" technique commonly used by hackers, creating false computer messages that cause Internet connections to shut down. To keep their traffic flowing to users, content providers and distributors are forced to play a high tech game of cat-and-mouse.
"While Comcast has apparently justified its actions as legitimate network management or mere traffic shaping, Vuze believes that such overbroad and clandestine attempts to interfere with traffic—regardless of the legality of the content or the specific impact on the network—cannot amount to reasonable network management," the Vuze petition states.
Comcasts actions have also prompted a Nov. 1 network neutrality complaint to the FCC from public advocacy groups and legal scholars from Yale, Harvard and Stanford.
"The FCC should act immediately to enjoin Comcasts secret discrimination and, even before deciding the merits, issue a temporary injunction requiring Comcast to stop degrading any applications," the complaint states. "Upon deciding the merits, the Commission should issue a permanent injunction ending Comcasts discrimination."
Like the Vuze petition, the complaint asks the FCC to establish that blocking P2P communications like BitTorrent violates the agencys Internet Policy Statement, four principles issued in 2005 that are supposed to "guarantee consumers competition among providers and access to all content, applications and services."
Although the principles do not carry the force of law, the FCC said that when issuing them, "should we see evidence that providers of telecommunications for Internet access or IP-enabled services are violating these principles, we will not hesitate to take action to address that conduct."
Free Press and Public Knowledge also filed a separate complaint against Comcast, seeking a fine against the company of $195,000 per customer.
Comcast was unavailable for comment, and the FCC does not comment on active complaints.
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