Vuze Joins Group Asking FCC To Ban ISP Peer-to-Peer Interference

Online video company Vuze has joined the growing roster of groups asking the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules banning Internet service providers from interfering with traffic to peer-to-peer networks.

"The public interest is harmed whenever network operators restrict innovation and access to content, censor political speech, or unreasonably discriminate against or frustrate the legitimate efforts of their competitors," the company argues in a petition it recently filed with the FCC.

The move was sparked by the recent revelation that Comcast deliberately delays some traffic to peer-to-peer sites including BitTorrent and Gnutella.

Vuze, which distributes video from TV networks including A&E, The History Channel, National Geographic, BBC and PBS, says it's had to play a "cat and mouse" game" with network operators to avoid disruptions. "In order to preserve the integrity and efficiency of its delivery systems, Vuze has been required to modify its technical systems and alter the way it does business through implementation of a number of counter-measures," the company alleges.

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Comcast says it only slows down a small proportion of bandwidth-intensive traffic to peer-to-peer sites to manage its network. The company argues that occasionally interfering with some traffic to file-sharing sites enables the vast majority of Comcast subscribers to surf the Web without delay.

But net neutrality advocates argue that this type of action--degradation of service to peer-to-peer sites, which potentially compete with Comcast for eyeballs--shows the need for laws banning ISPs from discriminating against Web sites.

In 2005, the FCC issued a statement endorsing net neutrality in principle, but saying that Internet service providers still could use reasonable efforts to manage their networks.

Comcast argues its interference with some peer-to-peer traffic amounts to nothing more than reasonable management techniques. Vuze rejects that position, calling Comcast's actions "overbroad" and "arbitrary" in its petition.

Vuze isn't alone in complaining about Comcast. Consumer advocates including Free Press and Public Knowledge have complained to the FCC about the company, as have think tanks like the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. They argue that this type of degradation of service to peer-to-peer sites, which potentially compete with Comcast for users, shows the need for laws banning ISPs from discriminating against Web sites.

Vuze CEO Gilles BianRosa says that the company had noticed some attempts to interfere with its traffic by Comcast and other Internet service providers for the last 12 to 18 months. He says that even though Vuze has been able to avoid disruption, the company filed the complaint in hopes of curbing future interference with traffic. "We want to make sure that going forward our business is not threatened by these techniques," he says.

The disclosure about Comcast also sparked California resident Jon Hart last to file a putative class-action lawsuit last week. He alleges he had problems accessing peer-to-peer sites after he upgraded to a super-fast broadband service specifically to visit such sites.

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