Comcast Impersonates Users' Computers To Meddle With Internet Traffic

Comcast uses its own computers to masquerade as those of its users in order to disrupt and throttle internet traffic—specifically the peer-to-peer kind—whenever it chooses, according to nationwide independent tests carried out by the Associated Press. A Comcast rep dances around the charge by saying that the company doesn’t “block” access to anything—but he makes no mention of throttling or disrupting connections to shape traffic, probably because if he did, he’d have to admit to it or blatantly lie.

There aren’t many FCC regulations against traffic shaping—“the act of throttling a given piece of Internet traffic based on its type, like BitTorrent or VOIP”—but Comcast’s selective targeting and disruption of P2P services is the strongest evidence of a company intentionally degrading service by “actively impersonating” its customers’ computers.

Comcast’s technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user.

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.”

The president of BitTorrent tells DailyTech that some Canadian companies also block and/or degrade P2P traffic, but Comcast is the first U.S. company to engage in it this aggressively. Both articles point out that it affects the entire file-sharing network, including companies who use P2P for legitimate business services like Blizzard Entertainment, which distributes World of Warcraft updates via BitTorrent.

“Comcast blocks some Internet traffic” [MSNBC]
“Comcast Screws with File-Sharing Traffic” [DailyTech]
(Photo: Getty)

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