Thursday, March 27, 2008

Comcast, BitTorrent Announce Collaboration (But High-Volume Downloaders Still Need Not Apply)

Wait, wait, is this the same Comcast that has been throttling P2P traffic of late? It is? Hmmm.

Today in a joint press release Comcast and BitTorrent announced they are now working together. Yes, I know it's hard to believe. So, by the end of 2008, Comcast isn't going to throttle P2P traffic. Sounds great, eh?

In fact, BitTorrent will be working to optimize its protocol, with president Ashwin Navin saying the in the press release:
"In the spirit of openness and fostering innovative solutions, BitTorrent will take the first step in enhancing our client applications to optimize them for a new broadband network architecture. Furthermore, we will publish these optimizations in open forums and standard bodies for all application developers to benefit from."
Good news, good news, right? Nope, not really. What they're going to do instead is throttle all file transfers for high-usage consumers.

What Tony Warner, Comcast's chief technology officer told the WSJ (paid subscription required) is that rather than throttle P2P, Comcast will throttle all traffic for those high-usage customers. Of course, as with Comcast bandwidth caps, the exact definition of "high" wasn't elaborated upon.

So, as we move toward more services that require high usage, such as IPTV, Hulu, Netflix's streaming service, iTunes movie rentals, and the like - ISPs are telling us "don't use so much." How can this conundrum be resolved?

Simple, unfortunately. It seems likely that ISPs will begin to move en masse toward the tiered structure that Time-Warner Cable is trying out. The "all-you-can-eat" accounts will - though it will take some time - eventually peter out, if the trend continues.

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