Comcast vows to stop BitTorrent hampering

After coming under fire from customers, net neutrality advocates, and the Federal Communications Commission over its hampering of BitTorrent traffic, Comcast has announced a reversal of policy. The Associated Press reports that the U.S. cable company has vowed to start treating "all types of Internet traffic equally."

Comcast will continue its traffic shaping practices for the time being, but the company says it plans to transition to a new, protocol-agnostic capacity management system by the end of the year. In the meantime, Comcast plans to publish details of its current traffic management technique and follow feedback from users. The company previously kept details of the hampering method secret for fear of users finding ways to circumvent it.

According to Comcast Chief Technology Officer Tony Werner as quoted by the AP, these moves will force Comcast to retool its network management systems over a short period of time but will yield "a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today’s emerging Internet trends." Werner also acknowledged that peer-to-peer file sharing "has matured as an enabler for legal content distribution" and that Comcast "[needs] to have an architecture that can support it with techniques that work over all networks." Indeed, a number of companies and organizations use the BitTorrent protocol to distribute legal content, including BitTorrent Inc. itself, Blizzard (for its World of Warcraft massively multiplayer game), and many open-source software makers.

In addition to making its network more open to file-sharing protocols, the AP says Comcast is in talks with BitTorrent Inc. over creating "better ways to transport large files over the Internet." Those talks are being held privately, though, and the AP doesn’t reveal many details.

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