Comcast: "We Throttle Traffic To Help Other Users; Besides, It's Not Permanent"

Comcast is in heavy PR-spin mode this week following last week’s reports that they spoof customers’ computers to cancel peer-to-peer connections, and have been blocking corporate users from sending large attachments via Lotus Notes (that blockage was “fixed” last week, around the time this story broke). Comcast says that they don’t “block” anything but rather delay requests, and that it’s only done to improve overall performance for their customers.

A senior VP at Comcast said,

“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.”

The AP tests seem to support this claim to some degree: one of their test downloads was able to be resumed 10 minutes after being blocked. The other tests were stopped at the 5-minute-mark, so there’s only one corroborating example.

However, the EFF and Open Internet Coalition are calling bullshit on Comcast’s overall explanation. Peter Eckersley at the EFF says,

“Characterizing that as delaying traffic I think is … a stretch. What they are doing is spoofing traffic or jamming traffic. I think they are trying to create as much confusion about this story as they can because they’ve done something really scurrilous and out of line for an ISP, and I’m sure they’ve been burned by the community’s reaction to it.”

“Comcast Admits Delaying Some Traffic” [Wired]

“Comcast Tries To Sterilize, Decapitate BitTorrent”
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. remusrm says:

    when will america wake up and have a revolutions… i was in one in 89… come on… you right, power and dignity it is take away by the corporations…

  2. parad0x360 says:

    Delaying p2p traffic is just as bad as outright blocking it, in fact probably worse.

    Lets say someone requests piece 132/1000 of a file from you, you send that piece to them but it gets “delayed” now whats going to happen after about 60 seconds or less is they are going to request that piece again from you and someone else…and it gets blocked. Now its going to request again and again and again and keep going until they get it.

    So fast forward 10 min when comcast starts sending these “delayed” packets and you now have 1000x more traffic coming through then what needs to be there. They are in effect timeshifting bandwidth use and at the same time creating a massive waste of said bandwidth.

    Im sure they really arent delaying a thing and they are blocking but either way delaying is far worse if alot of peers are on a comcast node.

  3. ShadowFalls says:

    This is all like saying, “I didn’t stick my foot up your ass, I just re-adjusted my foot’s position.”

    All they are trying to do is confuse the mass population that do not quite understand what they are doing. If people have not noticed, word play seems to be a big thing used by the government and corporations.

  4. stinerman says:

    If there is regularly congestion, you need to order some more bandwidth. Plain and simple.

  5. louisb3 says:

    So the commentators who claimed that Comcast was couching their denials in deliberatingly obscuring language have been utterly vindicated.

    Delaying traffic is effectively the same thing as blocking it, methinks. Communications networks need to travel at a certain speed – you wouldn’t want your mail to take three years instead of three days, and you wouldn’t want your intertubes to take ten minutes instead of ten seconds.

  6. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    Bye bye Common Carrier status!

  7. pepelicious says:

    What do you expect from the company that brought us the “we’ll deliver cable, internet, and phone all on the same infrastructure only charge you as though they were entirely separate” scam. And then call it something catchy like “Triple Play” so people will think they’re getting this amazing offer. Sorry folks, triple play means inning over and you lose.

  8. JiminyChristmas says:

    Comcast is just digging itself into a deeper hole with their deliberate abuse of the English language. As far as what one experiences when they are sitting in front of a computer, ‘delaying’ something for an indeterminate period of time is no different from ‘blocking.’ It’s technically not blocking if it gets there eventually? Please.

    In addition to their so-called ‘managing’ of their current network, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is part of a plan to introduce additional ‘tiers’ of service. I’m sure if they could find a way to meter your downloads by the kilobyte (with a minimum monthly charge, of course) they would love to do that.

    As it is, the Comcast service I subscribe to is advertised at 6mb download. I’ve never experienced better than 4mb, and it averages closer to 2.5mb. They also offer a more expensive 8mb download service, but why would I pay for that? So I can actually get the 6mb allegedly included in what I am already paying for? How about Comcast delivers on its current promises to begin with?

  9. Buran says:

    Saying “stop transmitting, I don’t want this anymore” and pretending to be the person you’re sending to/receiving from isn’t “delaying”. It’s “causing cessation of transmission” which is the same thing as blocking considering it has the effect of stopping the connection — and it just happens again if you try to re-start.

    Comcast is trying to semantically bail itself out of the hole it dug itself into.


  10. darkclawsofchaos says:

    the picture is awesome, but I wonder who in comcast actually made the decision and who carried it out

  11. Guimmer says:

    sounds a little like what i s happening here in Canada. I read somewhere that Rogers is slowing all encrippted connections to counter the encription done by Torrent clients. This has affected my use of all my email (windows live mail in particular)

    Anybody else see this from Rogers? I have been considering going to bell.

  12. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Kinda like how the US Govt. is telling us we are taking away your civil liberties and rights to “protect” you.

  13. Segars says:

    Anyone else having any problems with their Xbox Live service, or in particular Halo 3?

    A couple weeks ago there were no problems, but my connection drops/lags out during every single match.

    I highly doubt this is a coincidence.

  14. Pop Socket says:

    Lately all my downloads get delayed by an easy 60 seconds before they start. Whether or not that is vengeance against my son’s bit-torrenting or not, I don’t know. I just know that as soon as Verizon turns on the dark fiber in my front yard, I’m switching providers.

  15. bravo says:

    @Jaysyn: and AT&T would say “thanks very much” to that.

  16. bravo says:

    @Jaysyn: correction: Comcast

  17. legotech says:

    we need a spreadsheet to keep track of the number of stories coming out of Comcast about this…first they said no we don’t do any of that, then they said, we don’t stop it we “shape it”, now they say that they just delay it? I think I missed one of the claims in there too….anyone else able to keep track of which is the explaination of the hour?


  18. JustAGuy2 says:


    They’re not a common carrier. Cable modem is an information service. They’re exempt from prosecution for the _content_ they deliver, so long as they don’t screen it. So, as long as they don’t try to block Transformers torrents, but allow Bible torrents, they’re fine.

  19. BrianH says:

    When will these companies learn? (Sony w/ their rootkits, Comcast ‘man in the middle’ packet impersonation, etc.)

    When the consumer finds out that you were surreptitiously f***ing with his traffic, AND THEN LIED ABOUT IT INSTEAD OF COMING 100% CLEAN ONCE YOU’RE BUSTED, you instill anger, outrage, disbelief, distrust and hostility in said customer.

    Step 1: Stop fiddling with the bits in a hostile way. If you want to cut my throughput, just throttle it overtly rather than inserting masqueraded RESET packets to both sides. I’ll still hate you for your actions and I’ll leave, but I’ll respect your forthrightness and candor.


  20. IphtashuFitz says:

    A few weeks ago I ran into a Verizon guy outside my condo who is preparing to enable fios service as an option for all the units. I can’t wait for that to be finished so I can get rid of Comcast once and for all!

  21. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Anyone willing to write an easy-to-understand cheat sheet about this for our dum-dum representatives on Capitol Hill? Otherwise, we’ll soon get another totally fair and helpful law passed like the DMCA. Only this one will be called The Network Neutrality Common Carrier Act and it’ll protect Comcast from the abusive practices of its customers, who, annoyingly, persist in trying to use the services that they paid for.

  22. mantari says:

    It is interesting the terms they they select to use and how they apply at either the network level, or the application level. Saying that they delay is incorrect at the network level.

    Because they are a network provider, and not an application provider, they should contain their explanations to what they are doing at the network level.