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Comcast Accused Of Setting Precedent To Scrap Net Neutrality
ISP revealed to be covertly interfering with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online

Steve Watson
day, Oct 19, 2007

It has been confirmed that Comcast, the second largest ISP in the U.S., has been employing technology to block some some of its high-speed Internet users attempting to share files online, setting a precedent to overturn the established tradition of treating all internet traffic equally.

The AP reports that Comcast's technology is preventing users of peer to peer file-sharing networks, such as BitTorrent, from uploading complete files in order to share with other users:

Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: "Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye."

Comcast appears to be blocking the uploads in order to save on bandwidth, more of which is taken to power users sharing files.

Peer-to-peer applications account for between 50 percent and 90 percent of overall Internet traffic, according to a recent survey and many providers have complained that a small amount of peer to peer users are slowing up other users' connections.

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But the fact remains that the founding principle of the world wide web was that it is a decentralized communication medium born as a “neutral network”, there are no overriding controllers, as there are with television and telephone networks, to whose protocols users and content distributors must adhere to. The principle of equal treatment of traffic has been referred to as "net neutrality". This is what defines the internet as truly free.

As the AP states, though some regulations protect it, neutrality is not officially the law. It is, however, supported by major web heavyweights such as Google and Amazon whose existence would be doubtful without it.

Comcast's slowing down and even blocking some forms of traffic, like file-sharing, while giving others priority sets a dangerous precedent as Paul "Tony" Watson, a network security engineer at Google explains:

"It's their network and they can do what they want," said Watson. "My concern is the precedent. In the past, when people got an ISP connection, they were getting a connection to the Internet. The only determination was price and bandwidth. Now they're going to have to make much more complicated decisions such as price, bandwidth, and what services I can get over the Internet."

The move signifies another step on behalf of large corporations towards killing off neutrality and implementing a system whereby Internet carriers can offer preferential treatment of traffic from certain content providers for a fee. Last year Internet carriers, including AT&T lobbied Congress to make amendments to neutrality regulations, much to the chagrin of net enthusiasts.

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The precedent to clamp down on internet neutrality also dovetails with the move towards the designation of a new form of the internet, of which we have consistently warned our readers, known as Internet 2.

This would be a faster, more streamlined elite equivalent of the internet available to users who were willing to pay more for a much improved service. providers may only allow streaming audio and video on your websites if you were eligible for Internet 2.

Of course, Internet 2 would be greatly regulated and only "appropriate content" would be accepted by an FCC or government bureau. Everything else would be relegated to the "slow lane" internet, the junkyard as it were.

The proponents of the various "Internet 2" style projects all maintain that the internet in it's current form is "dead" or "dying", citing the problem of providing more and more bandwidth as it grows. The fact of the matter is that bandwidth is unlimited, as long as carriers are prepared to provide it, but the continuation of a neutral internet means less control and less profits for the corporate elite.

We are witnessing the first steps on a road of control and corporate centralization of the internet, a move to guarantee the internet serves the commercial and political purposes of large corporations. An internet without neutrality would be a direct attack on the right to information free of censorship or control.

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