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Comcast Invests in P2P 76

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the evil-until-it-saves-the-man-some-money dept.
AHTuttle writes to mention Comcast, recently under fire for throttling P2P traffic, has decided to invest in a P2P video-delivery startup called GridNetworks. "Seattle-based GridNetworks on Monday said that Comcast would make an unspecified investment in the company and collaborate on developing so-called peer-to-peer file-sharing techniques that are 'friendly' to Internet service providers."
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Comcast Invests in P2P

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  • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:22PM (#23468112)

    peer-to-peer file-sharing techniques that are "friendly" to Internet service providers.
    "Friendly" meaning, of course, that the customer pays the ISP extra for it.

    • by justsomecomputerguy (545196) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:28PM (#23468170) Homepage
      Well, yes, there's probably that, immediate upfront scratch is not to be ignored...

      but I worried about the idea that they'll try to force subscribers to load their P2P software on any/all machines that want to connnect, even if you don't WANT to use ANY P2P. This is just pure paranoia on my part of course, unless I'm right.

      Why not "legally" turn ALL their customers into "bots" via the seducing promise of better video sharing on "their" P2P network. I'm just saying...
      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:42PM (#23468326)

        but I worried about the idea that they'll try to force subscribers to load their P2P software on any/all machines that want to connnect, even if you don't WANT to use ANY P2P. This is just pure paranoia on my part of course, unless I'm right.


        Even with all the corruption in ISPs, I doubt that it will be passed. Because the effort of monitoring it and the effort of making a cross-platform P2P application would take tons of effort if they want at least some business as it would have to be ported to Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows CE, The Xbox, The Xbox 360, iPhone OS, Mac OS X, Earlier versions of Mac prior to OS X, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PS3, PS2, Gamecube, Linux (all distros), FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, other versions of *BSD, UNIX, Solaris, various cell phone/PDA OSes, other Internet appliances, and all this software has to be not just maintained for older versions, but new versions yet to come out. So no, I don't think this will happen for a long while...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Nope, they'd force everyone to use XP or later, and leave everyone else out in the cold.
          • But MS, Nintendo, Sony and others won't be too happy to see that their revenue streams have dried up because people can't download games from services owned by them, and may be able to launch an anti-trust case. And if exceptions were made for game consoles then it won't be to long until you can just add a patch to your wireless router which removes the Comcast P2P check.
            • Microsoft? Are you kidding? If anything, it would put them in a dominant position, as they own windows, and can push updates to their xboxes which would fix the issues. Then, they'd be able to offer similar services to Sony or Nintendo, for a fee that is.

              Overall, I don't see why Microsoft would object to something like this. In fact, I think that they'd be happy to have the dominant p2p protocol restricted to windows only, as it would give them the upper hand.
    • was there not some study that showed that if you use local peers instead of "some random" peer it was a win/win situation both for the ISP and the "consumer", just some while ago on slashdot.
      tried the demo, needed windows, funny thing one of the demo thing was "Elephants Dream". Looks like the application is a .NET thingi with a mozilla extension, havent really looked to close, only run strings on the setup
      • If it's better for the consumer, then given enough time, the consumer will, on his or her own, adopt an independently-developed method of implementing the technology. An ISP only interested in better network performance would encourage its customers to adopt such technology without the need to develop its own "brand".

        The only reason for an ISP to sponsor their own implementation is to gain control over it, most likely so they can either charge extra for it or so they can provide preferential placement of c
        • Agreed,
          The "network friendly" solution proposed by the ISPs will probably be a centrally controlled network and link to an ISP server for peer coordination but also so the ISP could exercise control over what happened on the network.
          In this case if the RIAA wanted to stop a file and catch pirates It would become very easy.
          They would go to the ISP which would delist the file from all controlled clients and report all who had downloaded it, essentially nuking the file from their network.
    • by jeske (7383)
      How about "Friendly" just meaning that it understands and makes efficient use of network topology, instead of typical p2p which abuses the network in really terrible ways.
    • by trawg (308495)

      "Friendly" meaning, of course, that the customer pays the ISP extra for it.
      Well, I'd guess that in this context "friendly" would mean the p2p traffic only goes to Comcast customers - meaning it wouldn't cost Comcast anything as no traffic would leave or enter their network.

      I am wondering if this might be the start of the evolution of US-based ISPs to follow the model we have here in Australia - more content made available locally on each network.
  • by bennomatic (691188) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:22PM (#23468116) Homepage
    It's the age-old philosophy of "understand or destroy." Once they realize something can make or save them huge bucks, they'll no longer demonize it. Or at least not their own brand of it...
  • by Doug52392 (1094585) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:23PM (#23468126)
    Now that Concast are trying to show the federal government - not the customers - that they are good, I _still_ have issues with BitTorrent! It still takes over 30 minutes to get a consistent speed greater than 100kbps on a so-called High Speed network! So I will NEVER buy anything that comes out of this service because of what Concast did (completly forbid me from using BT for over 2 years)

    First post w00t! :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Are you sure you're just not downloading torrents with poor seeding?
      Have you tried any of the better, private trackers?
      Are your ports properly forwarded?
      Is your client configured correctly?

      Etc, etc, there are so many things that you could be doing wrong, I wouldn't be so quick to blame your ISP. Not completely ruling it out, but I'd doublecheck everything first.
      • by joshtheitguy (1205998) on Monday May 19, 2008 @06:00PM (#23468502)
        When you have Comcast or Cox Cable, it is a good bet to blame the ISP first.
        • by Darby (84953) on Monday May 19, 2008 @08:20PM (#23469674)
          When you have Comcast or Cox Cable, it is a good bet to blame the ISP first.

          That's true, but don't fall into the trap of thinking it must be so.
          We recently moved to a VOIP system at my work, and we have a lot of employees who work from home. Some of them are having problems. They can make a call, it connects, but no audio. One of my first thoughts was, "Stupid ISPs blocking traffic to sell their voice service". Our tech from the company we bought the system from took a phone that worked fine connecting to our office from their office to his house where he has Comcast and it failed the same way, lending another data point on that side.
          I took my phone home today, plugged it in and it works fine and I'm also on Comcast in the same area.
          My boss did the same and we had a nice clear conversation.
          So I can't blame Comcast on that one. I'd like to blame my users (obvious next step), but as of right now, I think it's probably just an issue with certain brands of home firewall/routers. Of course, if more than two
          users had even responded to our request for issues, I might have more data upon which to base my opinion.

          So, while it's good to keep in mind that they're sleazy operators and *will* lie about it, other things still fuck up ;-)

          • If it's a Cisco VoIP system, then it's likely however whatever is set up.
            We use their 'soft phone' and it is so hit and miss that me and the other remote workers routinely forward it to landlines.
            Nothing better than calling a client and they can't hear you.
            Cisco VoIP is a piece of shit, but it bought the CIO another year in his tenuous job.
            Stay the fuck away from it. Long on promise, short on delivery.
            • by Darby (84953)
              If it's a Cisco VoIP system, then it's likely however whatever is set up.

              It's from Intertel. Luckily, the soft phones and hard phones at least seem to be screwing up the same when they do.

              I gave up on Cisco after dealing with them once. When you need to pay for an account to log in and download software that only does anything if you own their hardware, then that's a level of sleaze I just won't deal with ;-)
              We had DOA hardware that they refused to deal with until we paid extortion.

              Fuck Cisco.
        • <blue_l0g1c> I have Cox and I've never had any issues with them.
          *blue_l0g1c is away - gone, if anyone talks in the next 25 minutes as me it's bm being an asshole
          <blue_l0g1c> HAHAHA, DISREGARD THAT. COX SUCKS!
        • by msromike (926441)
          I get 850 kB/s from Comcast all day long for days on end. That is where I have it capped. If I let it run unlimited then I fluctuate from 0 to 1800 kB/s then back down like a big sine wave.
    • by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#23468210) Journal

      still takes over 30 minutes to get a consistent speed greater than 100kbps on a so-called High Speed network!

      Slow down there, champ. The BitTorrent protocol uses an approximate tit-for-tat strategy -- more peers will upload to you if you upload to more peers. This can take a while, which is why BT speeds generally trend up slowly, although I'll admit 30 minutes is a bit much even in my experience (I used to have comcast, now have at&t -- they're both crap, in short). It's all explained in this very clear and easy to read paper by Bram Cohen (the original protocol author) : Incentives Build Robustness in BitTorrent [www.sics.se] (PDF link).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      *nodding* using a tool that was posted here on Slashdot recently I tested for Comcast BitTorrent tampering over the weekend. It came back and said that every single way it could run a test BitTorrent transfer, it was being tampered with by Comcast.
    • by Zorque (894011)
      I'm having the same problem- and it started the instant as I switched to Comcast a month ago (I moved, and have no other option for now). It's ridiculous that they guarantee you a speed they won't give you and expect you to pay hundreds a year for it. As soon as I get the opportunity I'm switching to Qwest, they're running fiber in my city and guaranteeing 20 megabit (and you actually can use all of it).
    • by jon207 (1176461)
      Why don't you (US citizens) run a class action against ISPs like Comcast for blocking p2p traffic ? Here (France) we don't have class actions (one or two years ago a law should have give us class actions but it was cancelled), but when a company don't give us what we pay for, consummers associations go in court to attack them. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that consummers are less protected in USA and defend themselves less.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:24PM (#23468140) Journal
    An ISP will be stuck carrying traffic for whatever systems are deployed. It can't deploy one of its own and try to force people to use it (at least not without coming under fire on antitrust grounds).

    And the commercial product will not become widely adopted and displace the other P2P applications. To do that it would have to be about 10 times as good an application and there isn't that much headroom available. (As for slowing down the other P2P applications, see above.)

    Finally, it won't even be able to compete equally on a level playing field because it will certainly be hobbled with DRM.
    • by easyTree (1042254)
      So, in future, it won't be comcast throttling the bt of the evil users, it will be comcast's honest, holier-than-thou users legitimately using comcasts own p2p to such an extent that the poor unfortunte evil users' service is regrettably disrupted?
    • I for one won't pay for their version of it, and I know I'm not alone. Furthermore I'll bet you a dollar that their version of it will closely monitor what you're transferring to who, and I'll bet you another dollar that it'll be riddled with spyware to boot.
  • by ViperOrel (1286864) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:30PM (#23468190)
    Don't they understand that they could cut their P2P traffic down to 0 by just providing the MP3s and MPGs for free on one of their own servers?

    Sheesh!
    • by XHIIHIIHX (918333) *
      I already do.
    • Don't they understand that they could cut their P2P traffic down to 0 by just providing the MP3s and MPGs for free on one of their own servers? Sheesh!
      This technology already exists, it's call usenet servers, and most ISPs do have them. They just don't have the warez groups and/or limit the download speed so it's only reasonable to read text articles.
  • What do you think, does "ISP-friendly P2P" mean implementing local swarming algorithms and the like, or some sort of net-neutrality-breaking official P2P?
    • I don't care about time shifting when they play the shows over and over. I care about skipping commercials. Commercial skip is often disabled with these provided DVRs, so I won't use them.

      I'm sure some content will be disallowed on their P-2-P systems, so I won't use that either.
  • Aren't they just trying to speed up their internet for the average user, and bitTorrent just happens to be the biggest bandwitdh hog?

    Do they really care if you're downloading newestLinuxDistro.iso or newestDVDrelease? I wouldn't think so.

    On the other hand, if Comcast was my ISP, I would prefer faster p2p over normal web browsing. I want an open Internet. Period.
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:41PM (#23468312)
      Aren't they just trying to speed up their internet for the average user

            No, they're not. How does using method A vs method B change the amount of megabytes of data that user X wants to download? It's irrelevant, unless you can prove to me that their "method" uses less "overhead" (the amount of stuff in each packet that isn't actual data). But downloading 400MB via bittorrent, limewire, Kermit or a binary dump is still going to amount to a 400MB download.

            However you may have a bright future in either marketing or politics.
      • It reduces the load on their upstream peering/transit links if you use an intelligently designed protocol that understands subnet affinity. That does, in fact, make that ISPs internet faster and more reliable for everyone.

        BitTorrent is really an awful way to distribute data, from a network engineering perspective. A CDN or mirror network works much better, but is also more accountable and takes some effort to set up, so it's not suitable for mass infringement, pirate bay style.

        • They can't stream 100 movies over insufficient bandwidth from a Central office, but if they stream 1 movie to your DVR and then your DVR streams it to your neighbors DVRs the bandwidth at the CO stays lower, while delivering the 100 movies to DVRs all across town. I met a company at NAB talking about just this sort of thing. If you want to deliver real time PPV vs certain time PPV, then BitTorrent and P2P can actually help by keeping the bandwidth usage "in the neighborhood" and off the backbone. A movie
      • What this sort of thing _can_ do for comcast (etc) is keep the bandwidth usage from crossing one of their (toll road) borders.

        Back when "the internet was monitized" and companies started charging for everything by "actual us" as opposed to "bandwidth promised" these super-smart companies discovered that they had footbulleted themselves. Now they pay X to get an OC12 but then then pay Y to actually transmit data over that link. E.g. live by the meeter, die by the meeter.

        So if comcast can get you to use _th
      • But downloading 400MB via bittorrent, limewire, Kermit or a binary dump is still going to amount to a 400MB download.
        However you may have a bright future in either marketing or politics.

        Have you ever used Bittorrent at home and then tried to surf the web - Vs. - downloading off a mirror and surfing the web? bittorrent is very very chatty. 400 packets via bittorrent is far less data than 400 packets from an FTP site.

        Do a tcpdump on a machine running bittorrent and then one downloading any other way. 400MB may be 400MB, but most of the packets with bittorrent are establishing connections and do not have any data toward that 400MB.

    • The "average user" doesn't know speed from a hole in the ground. If their internet experience is slow, they go buy a new computer thinking that it's just old and too slow -- nevermind the fact that it's probably riddled with spyware, trojans, and virii. The "average user" checks their email a few times a week, maybe buys things online once in a while, and their kids look stuff up. They don't even NEED speed, and they don't even NOTICE when it's slow.
    • by Zorque (894011)
      The problem is that they're promising bandwidth they can't deliver, and if anyone starts using their alloted 6Mbps or whatever, they get cut so someone else can use it. If they weren't selling you a service they couldn't provide, they wouldn't have to throttle anyone.
  • Antitrust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bovius (1243040) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:38PM (#23468278)
    This screams antitrust and conflict of interest. It screams it from every cell phone tower and internet backbone.

    No, we don't have a problem with P2P...as long as you're using ours. Yeah, I know, people will always find a way around it as long as there's a network somehow connecting two computers, but that's not the point.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529)
      It doesn't even come close to screaming antitrust. Now, if Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, etc. all banded together and backed a single P2P solution while throttling any others, that would merit antitrust action.

      What this screams is desperation. Comcast really hasn't a clue in this area and it's showing more and more every week.
  • Legal is key (Score:3, Informative)

    by ViperOrel (1286864) on Monday May 19, 2008 @05:39PM (#23468300)
    FTFA - it looks like they are focusing on the "legal" downloads and rentals aspect of the application. If I had to guess, they might be heading in the "hey, we provide a legal alternative to BitTorrent, so what's all the fuss" as they drop torrent packets or turn off that traffic all together.

    How exactly does one download a rental from a peer?
    • Fortunately, as long as the network is based on the Internet Protocol, whatever special tags go on "blessed" P2P packets can be quickly and easily duplicated on third party P2P packets, and everything is the same as before.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ViperOrel (1286864)
        Actually, if the "blessed" P2P software calls home to an approving server with each up/download, you're pretty much at their mercy. (At least that's how I would design it if I was an evil bastard.) An easy protocol (this might be their reason for the investment) would be both clients call home for a key, and the clients will only talk to e/o if the key matches. If they wanted to they could even piggyback their protocol on top of what is being used by the current P2P apps, (and in that way allow you to se
        • I imagine that eventually frustration if nothing else would drive most of Comcast's users to use "their" software...

          Can't speak for anyone else, but if it gets that bad then I can find a better use for the $110/month I pay the bastards for internet and cable.

        • i imagine that eventually frustration if nothing else would drive most of Comcast's users to use "their" software...

          It also stands a solid change of driving Comcast's users to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Broadband...

          I realize that Comcast has a total monopoly on broadband in many areas, but not in mine. I have zero problems with calling up Verizon, or AT&T, or even DirecPC if it ever came to that.

          (this probably explains why I don't really see any heavy P2P throttling in my area, as opposed to areas in which Comcast is the sole provider. I wonder if anyone has done any sort of differential study based on monopoly

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      BitTorrent isn't illegal though. It would be like saying HTTP is illegal because I can download ROMs, MP3s, Cr@ck3D Warez just the same as via P2P. P2P just happens to be able to download things very, very, very efferently, so therefore people *gasp* download things on it because it is better and faster then via HTTP. As for the "legal" downloads, I am sure that

      A) This program will be proprietary and won't work on platforms other then Windows and possibly Mac
      B) Doesn't include a repository of all lega
  • While I don't support Comcast's business or network management practices, it is fair to say that P2P is *not* ISP-friendly. BitTorrent and its peers (pun intended) are actually designed to chew up bandwidth, under the premise of "there's plenty and it's free". More broadly, though, Comcast continues to use any means possible to drag out their disruption of P2P traffic. They want to avoid and/or delay any legal input by the government, so they will try to keep up appearances of being open to "appropriate"
  • Read the title as "Comcast Invents P2P". It seems like something they'd actually claim.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Monday May 19, 2008 @07:00PM (#23469066) Homepage
    I gotta say, this is impressive.

    A corporation which has a fiat monopoly in many places (granted by local governments) has been using their monopoly to degrade one company's service. A practice for which they are already under investigation by congress. And now they are investing in that company's competition.

    I gotta say that again, because I can barely believe it.

    A company which has government granted monopolies in many communities has been degrading a company's service. They have come under congressional scrutiny for this behavior. And, while still under investigation, they are investing in a competing company.

    The chutzpah is truly impressive. I haven't seen a pair like that in a very long time.

    How completely pathetic is our monopoly abuse enforcement that a company would actually try this? would think this is a low-risk move?
  • Dick Cheney donating to American-Arab Friendship society.
  • by monxrtr (1105563) on Monday May 19, 2008 @08:54PM (#23469956)
    Comcast wants a slow hobbled P2P network because P2P ultimately threatens their fat juicy monopoly cable television content delivery monopoly. I don't believe it's oversold bandwidth for one second. Those fiber optic cables are just proportioned 90% cable television crap channels, 10% internet (if not 95/5%). The profit margin on internet is probably ten times greater than the profit margin on cable channels, but losing the cable channels monopoly probably represent a threat to 66% of their revenue. It's all about controlling the delivery of electronic bits.

    If bandwidth were to start growing like CPU power grew, every cable television company will be competing against every cable television company in every city market for content delivery. That means eventually a la carte cable television channels. Why is it that allegedly oversold bandwidth doesn't have the slightest effect on the delivery of cable television content?

    It looks like Comcast wants to move in on P2P so they can try to dominate it, eventually infest it with commercials, and control it so that it doesn't threaten their content delivery business. Right now almost every Comcast cable television customer is paying for a whole bunch of commercial infested crap they don't really want. Who has time to watch all 200 channels of crap being sent through fiber optic cable 24/7? Comcast could increase internet bandwidth a *hundred fold* if customers could start choosing to knock out the total waste of bandwidth caused by delivery of content nobody wants to watch, including HD bandwidth hogging versions of content nobody wants to watch.

    It's imperative for Comcast's long term business survival that they become a P2P middleman, or they are screwed. Since they can't shut down P2P without politically unfeasible anti-trust violations (threatening every web site, every VoIP business, everything on the internet), they are going to try and grab a hold of P2P and use their dominance to try and shape P2P. You damn kids consumers trying to skim the skim, trying to middleman the middleman.

    This is Comcast 2.0, as in become the 2 between the Ps.
    • by Fatal67 (244371)
      Wow..

      When they deploy their 250GB a month cap, they make more money allowing p2p than blocking it.

      If Comcast were to upgrade their plant to unlimited bandwidth forever, it would not allow them to sell somewhere they don't have infrastructure, IE, other providers markers. Car analogy incoming. Just because I upgrade I-75 to 20 lanes each direction, doesn't mean I can now drive to california faster. I-75 doesn't go to California.
      If everyone was allowed to select the shows they wanted to watch, ala carte, ban
  • 1. Buy your own p2p network

    2. Throttle every one else's p2p networks with Sandvine

    3. Profit!

    Seriously, if there were any reason for net neutrality, this is it....What's next? Throttling Vonage?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I guess we'll be seeing a ton of Sandvine equipment hitting the surplus market "real soon now" ! Just commodity Intel mobos running BSD, might make some handy Linux boxes! Yes folks, that's SVC on the TSE - don't forget to short them before they buy back all their own stock!
  • developing so-called peer-to-peer file-sharing techniques that are "friendly" to Internet service providers."

    If you'd give us data detailing how your network is set up and IP addresses are allocated, we (OSS in general, but specifically uTorrent, Azureus, Transmission, etc) would be perfectly happy to do this for free. It's a win-win - expensive uploads stay (increasingly) in your network, the customer (no, not advertisers - the subscriber) gets better speeds, and you don't get your asses handed to you for investing in an OBVIOUS COPYRIGHT CIRCUMVENTION TECHNOLOGY!!!111!1!

    Mmkay? It's not that hard

  • I thought that post about Comcast acquiring BitTorrent was a joke, turns out it was a prediction.
  • Finally, we will get an application to correctly implement rfc 3514 [ietf.org] for "The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header".
  • This way, they can claim that the other P2P systems "compete" with their product, so they can legitimately block them with the full backing of congress. After all, why should they be forced to share "their" networks with competitors?

    Check mate, Comcast wins.
  • Just in case people didn't understand, the GOAL here is not to make general P2P downloads easier for their customers but to suck up some of their customers' bandwidth to use for the coming IP video distribution system. So if you have "digital cable", part of your bandwidth will always be used for P2P to distribute the latest episode of "Lost" to other Comcast customers.

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