NEW YORK (Reuters) - Comcast Corp said on Monday that file transfers on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent may be delayed by bandwidth management technology, but it denied blocking access to any applications or content.
As the second-largest high-speed Internet provider in the United States with 11 million customers, any move by Comcast to favor or block certain types of content moving over its network would be extremely controversial as it would be seen as flouting ‘net neutrality.’
Net Neutrality is the principle of allowing all content that flows over an Internet service provider’s (ISP) network to be treated equally without any preference. Although it is not law, it is supported by a wide range of pressure groups and businesses concerned that ISPs will start charging to prioritize the delivery of users content.
The Associated Press reported over the weekend that it had carried out experiments across the country proving that Comcast prevented some users from uploading content to peer-to-peer networks, including BitTorrent.
Such networks are used by consumers to share large quantities of files such as music, videos and photographs.
Comcast issued a statement on Monday that again refuted allegations that it controls what content flows over its network, but said it manages its bandwidth to provide the best possible experience for its customers.
“Comcast does not block access to any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent,” the company said.
Comcast said its Internet access service allows the transfer of digital files via services including peer-to-peer services, as well as Internet-based phone networks like Vonage Holdings Corp without any hindrance.
But the company confirmed its bandwidth management technologies may slow a peer-to-peer service as part of a technique known in the industry as bandwidth shaping, which is the targeted constraining of delivery pipes. This could delay the delivery of a file but not block it.
For example, the technology could prioritize telephone calls over movie downloads.
“We have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience and we use the latest technologies to manage our network so that they can continue to enjoy these applications,” the company’s statement said.
Comcast has repeatedly denied it is favoring any content or data flowing over its network.
Over several weeks, users on various blogs have accused the company of preventing users uploading content to BitTorrent.
Narus, which supplies network intelligence software to Internet service providers, said the ISPs are left with little choice but to constrain certain use of their network as a disproportionate amount of bandwidth is being taken up by a relatively small number of peer-to-peer users who are exchanging large files such as movies.
Up to 60 percent of bandwidth is used by peer-to-peer networks on some ISPs, according to Steve Bannerman, vice president of marketing product management at Narus Inc, a supplier of network intelligence software to ISPs, including AT&T Inc, but not Comcast.
“U.S. ISPs are not preventing anybody from getting to the applications, but they are preventing some users of P2P services from hogging all the bandwidth and slowing down the experience for other users,” Bannerman added.