Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Secret World of Bandwidth

Do you know how fast your Internet connection is? If you believe the hype on TV, DSL is a zillion times faster than dial-up and FiOS is a zillion times faster than DSL and Cable modems rock because of the triple play, blah, blah, blah.

But what do you really know about your broadband connection to the outside world? Does is take all night to upload a big flash memory card's worth of photos to Kodak Easy Share? Do you have a static IP address? Can you access the files on your desktop computer from off premises? How quickly can you upload your files to an online back-up service? Can you join a peer-to-peer (P2P) network and be a valuable node? Can you share a legally purchased movie file with yourself through a P2P service in the amount of time you would expect it to take based upon your ISP's specifications? Welcome to the secret world of bandwidth. It's a covert place where the dark arts of traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling are usually hidden from view.

But last week, the Associated Press reported that Comcast was "actively interfering with file sharing by some of its Internet subscribers." The report went on to say that, "The AP also found that Comcast's computers masqueraded as those of its users to interrupt file-sharing connections." Initially, Comcast denied everything. But just a few days ago, Mitch Bowling, senior vice president of Comcast Online Services, backtracked a little, saying: "During periods of heavy peer-to-peer congestion, which can degrade the experience for all customers, we use several network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay - not block - some peer-to-peer traffic. However, the peer-to-peer transaction will eventually be completed as requested."

As you can imagine, the blogosphere has exploded with pundits and commenters crying foul. Internet watchdog groups were up in arms denouncing Comcast's actions and conspiracy theorists everywhere were positing that other cable companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were doing exactly the same thing.

Via (NewsYahoo.)

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