The headline says it all, I think. Comcast did what they did in secret, denied it when confronted, and furthermore tried to cover it up when it was exposed. Why did they do it in secret, and deny it when they were confronted? Because they knew it was wrong. It really is that simple.
But we can’t ignore those, who, like Ed Felten uncovered the truth about what Comcast was doing, and further publicized it so quickly. Another data point in how wrong folks like Andrew Keen are, perhaps?
Ed Felten notes the lack of honesty by Comcast, and the fact that their measures were very specifically targeted at certain protocols:
Comcast Blocks Some Traffic, Won’t Explain Itself
October 23rd, 2007 by Ed Felten
Comcast’s apparent policy of blocking some BitTorrent traffic, which has been discussed on tech sites [example] for months, has now broken out into the mainstream press. Comcast is making things worse by refusing to talk plainly about what they are doing and why. (This is an improvement over Comcast’s previously reported denials, which now appear to be inconsistent with the facts.)
To the extent that Comcast has explained itself, its story seems to be that it is slowing traffic from heavy users in order to keep the network moving smoothly. This would be a reasonable thing for Comcast to do (if they were open about it) — but it’s not quite what they’re actually doing.
For starters, Comcast’s measures are not aimed at heavy users but rather at users of certain protocols such as BitTorrent. And not even all users of BitTorrent are targeted, but only those who use BitTorrent in a particular way: uploading a file to non-Comcast users while not simultaneously downloading parts of the same file. (In BitTorrent jargon, this is called “seeding”.) To get an idea of how odd this is, consider that an uploader who is experiencing blocking can apparently avoid the blocking by adding some download traffic.
Ed further notes the technical details of this interference, and how Comcast is interfering directly, in a very non-neutral way with a specific protocol:
There are well-established mechanisms for dealing with traffic congestion on the Internet. Networks are supposed to respond to congestion by dropping packets; endpoint computers notice that their packets are being dropped and respond by slowing their transmissions, thus relieving the congestion. The idea sounds simple, but getting the details right, so that the endpoints slow down just enough but not too much, and the network responds quickly to changes in traffic level but doesn’t overreact, required some very clever, subtle engineering.
What Comcast is doing instead is to cut off connections by sending forged TCP Reset packets to the endpoints. Reset packets are supposed to be used by one endpoint to tell the other endpoint that an unexplained, unrecoverable error has occurred and therefore communication cannot continue. Comcast’s equipment (apparently made by a company called Sandvine) seems to send both endpoints a Reset packet, purporting to come from the other endpoint, which causes both endpoints to break the connection. Doing this is a violation of the TCP protocol, which has at least two ill effects: it bypasses TCP’s well-engineered mechanisms for handling congestion, and it erodes the usefulness of Reset packets as true indicators of error.
Certainly, this discriminates against those who want to use Bit torrent to distribute (or get) stuff, and one of the methods that linux distributions use to distribute stuff is Bit Torrent. If fact, Bit torrent was the only way to get the SuSE 10.3 DVD’s, before the final edition was pressed and made available through retail channels. This post, in fact, is being written on a computer running SuSE 10.3 Release Candidate 1, DVD install and the only way to get is Bit torrent.
Certainly some who distribute linux do so in order to dismantle the oppressive and highly centralized power structures that have arisen around monopoly software companies, companies which effectively have declared war on the first amendment. So Comcast and those Corporate Power advocates should not be surprised when people are outraged. We like our First Amendment.
It is obvious that those who have worked hard to uncover the truth about what Comcast are heroes, and have been critical in the process which has resulted in energizing deeply the net neutrality movement.