Comcast, Cox slow BitTorrent traffic around the clock, study finds

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

UPDATE: Information in the fourth paragraph saying the tests of Cox's network were limited in number and Cox reaction in the eighth and ninth paragraphs have been added. And the word "first" before "reported" in the first sentence of the 14th paragraph has been removed.

U.S. cable broadband providers Comcast
and Cox Communications are
slowing BitTorrent
traffic at all times of the day, not just during peak traffic, according to
a new study by a German computer research group.

Comcast has insisted that it uses network management techniques to slow some
peer-to-peer traffic during times of peak congestion, but the study from the
Max Planck
Institute for Software Systems
suggests that Comcast and Cox are slowing
BitTorrent traffic "independent of the time of day."

The study,
using more than 8,000 nodes worldwide to test for BitTorrent blocking, found
that Comcast was interrupting at least 30 percent of BitTorrent upload attempts
around the clock. At noon, Comcast was interfering with more than 80 percent
of BitTorrent traffic, but it was also slowing more than 60 percent of BitTorrent
traffic at other times, including midnight, 3 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time in
the U.S., the time zone where Comcast is based, according to tests run by users
of the institute's Glasnost network testing tool.

Cox was interfering with 100 percent of the BitTorrent traffic at 1 a.m., 4
a.m. and 5 a.m., also Eastern Time, according to the tests. However, there were limited numbers of tests of the Cox network, with as few as two users testing during some time periods.

Comcast downplayed the results. P-to-p traffic makes up 50 percent to 90 percent
of a network's traffic, and BitTorrent users can be on the network at any time,
said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. That means network congestion from
BitTorrent doesn't just happen in the middle of the day, she added.

"P-to-p traffic doesn't necessarily follow normal traffic flows,"
Fitzmaurice said.

The Internet users who participated in the study may not be representative
of Internet users overall, she added. The users who run the Glasnost tests may
be "heavy users of p-to-p," Fitzmaurice said.

Cox issued a statement, saying it engaged in "reasonable network management."

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