Comcast argument raises ISP questions

Would UK ISPs ever consider blocking certain sites?

A fascinating row is developing in the United States centred on a cable operator that is defending itself over accusations that its 'traffic management' protocols actively block some internet file-sharing programs.

Comcast, which has more than 13 million subscribers, has agreed to change the way that it manages its network, but there are still rumblings that the changes will not go far enough after accusations that BitTorrent and other file-share programs were blocked.

"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," Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner said in a statement.


The argument is extremely relevant to a UK audience in which many of the big-name ISPs are arguing over the BBC iPlayer – a service that has proved to be so successful that it is causing huge traffic spikes.

Although Virgin Media told TechRadar that it was happy to cope with the increased burden to its network, Tiscali have openly questioned whether the BBC should be contributing money to the pot in order to cover the increased usage.

So how does Comcast fit into this? Well, if one of the ISPs decided to block access to the iPlayer, YouTube or indeed BitTorrent the outcry would be huge and the fallout potentially bigger.

Although it seems unlikely that any mainstream service provider would risk losing customers by cutting off such high profile services – it is a situation that merits a very close watching brief in the coming years.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.