Thursday, April 10, 2008

University of Colorado was wrong. Comcast is not blocking web traffic

The researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that they were able to generate the same type of forged TCP reset packets used by Comcast to block ("delay," according to the cable provider) BitTorrent uploads. During peak traffic periods, the researchers saw TCP reset packets popping up all over the place, which they said were "aimed at any new TCP connection regardless of the application-level protocol."

With Comcast having recently announced its intention to adjust its traffic management practices, alarm bells went off. Instead of giving up the practice of using TCP reset packets to manage BitTorrent traffic, it appeared that Comcast was doing the opposite: extending it to cover all sorts of traffic.

In an official statement, Comcast said it had yet to make the announced changes to a protocol-agnostic network management policy. "We are currently attempting to contact the PhD students and associate professors at the University of Colorado to better understand their analysis," the company said in a statement.

Not long afterwards, the researchers confirmed that they were reexamining their data with the help of Comcast. "Comcast has approached us to better understand our test, the equipment we used and the results of our analysis," they wrote. "We understand that their current network management techniques should not be producing the results we found and that they are not blocking access to any Web sites or e-mail applications. We are committed to working together and will update our analysis once we have additional information."

That analysis has been updated and the verdict is in: their conclusions were wrong.

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