BitTorrent, Comcast could end neutrality dispute


WASHINGTON -- Two of the warring parties in the battle over network access known as network neutrality announced an armistice of sorts Thursday morning as Comcast and BitTorrent agreed to take steps to end their dispute.

BitTorrent, a P2P service, and the nation's biggest cable operator have been fighting over the issue after Comcast blocked their service citing network management concerns.

In a statement, the two companies said they "will undertake a collaborative effort with one another and with the broader Internet and ISP community to more effectively address issues associated with rich media content and network capacity management."

Comcast went even further saying the were "in discussions with other parties to help facilitate a broader dialogue and cooperation across industries."

Discussions between the two parties have yielded promises by both sides that could end their dispute, which includes a proceeding at the FCC.

Comcast announced that it will migrate by year-end 2008 to a capacity management technique that is protocol agnostic.

"This means that we will have to rapidly reconfigure our network management systems, but the outcome will be a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today's emerging Internet trends," said Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner. "We have been discussing this migration and its effects with leaders in the Internet community for the last several months, and we will refine, adjust, and publish the technique based upon feedback and initial trial results."

BitTorrent acknowledged the need of ISPs to manage their networks, especially during times of peak congestion.

"While we think there were other management techniques that could have been deployed, we understand why Comcast and other ISPs adopted the approach that they did initially," said that company's chief technology officer Eric Klinker. "Recognizing that the Web is richer and more bandwidth intensive than it has been historically, we are pleased that Comcast understands these changing traffic patterns and wants to collaborate with us to migrate to techniques that the Internet community will find to be more transparent."

Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell said the private-sector agreement was a better one than could've been imposed by the government.

"I am delighted to learn that BitTorrent and Comcast have reached a resolution to their dispute. Consumers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this agreement," he said. "As I have said for a long time, it is precisely this kind of private sector solution that has been the bedrock of Internet governance since its inception."

But Democratic commissioner Michael Copps saw things differently.

"Today's announcement confirms my belief that the FCC needs to play a proactive role in preserving the Internet as a vibrant place for democratic values, innovation and economic growth," Copps said. "If it had not been for the FCC's attention to this issue earlier this year, we would not be having the conversation that we are having now among network operators, edge content providers, consumers and government about the best way to implement reasonable network management."