Cox Accused Of Blocking P2P, Too

Cox Communications appears to be impeding peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic in the same way Comcast has, according to a study released Thursday by a German research group.

Germany’s Max Planck Institute, a science and technology research organization, analyzed a test of 8,175 Internet volunteers around the world and found that both Comcast and Cox are blocking peer-to-peer traffic over their networks during all hours of the day.

In a statement, Cox said it "ensures the highest-quality online experience for all our customers by using reasonable network management practices, which are explained in our user policies. ... Cox’s network management practices ensure that bandwidth-intensive applications don’t negatively impact our customers’ Internet service."

The company said it allows the use of file-sharing and peer-to-peer services for uploads and downloads, "and we allow access to all legal content, but we must manage the traffic impact of peer-to-peer services, as most ISPs do for the benefit of the customer. We’ll continue to seek even better ways to manage our network to ensure a high-quality experience for our customers."

Cox also noted that its subscriber agreement has indicated since at least 2006 that it uses protocol filtering to manage network resources.

The Max Planck study found that 82 of the 151 Cox broadband subscribers (54%) that voluntarily tested their connections through the research group’s site had their P2P connections blocked. Of the 788 Comcast subscribers participating, 491 (62%) were blocked.

Comcast, in a statement, reiterated in response to the study that it "does not, has not and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent. We have acknowledged that we manage peer-to-peer traffic in a limited manner to minimize network congestion."

Max Planck researchers identified a third cable operator, Singapore’s StarHub, as also blocking P2P connection attempts. Researchers found evidence that other seven other U.S. cable operators interfere with P2P traffic, but they said the number of blocked connections was too low to conclude that they were actively interfering with connections.

The brouhaha over P2P “blocking” was stirred up last fall, after tests by the Associated Press showed Comcast selectively delayed BitTorrent peer-to-peer connections. The Federal Communications Commission subsequently launched a probe of the technique. 

As a result, Comcast in March said it would work collaboratively with BitTorrent and that it plans to “migrate by year-end 2008 to a capacity management technique that is protocol agnostic.”

With the Max Planck study, advocates who want to impose “network neutrality” laws on broadband providers renewed their calls for Congress to enact legislation that would prohibit such network-management practices.

"Consumers have no reason left to trust their cable company,” Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, which was among the advocacy groups that petitioned the FCC to force Comcast to stop “blocking” BitTorrent traffic.

“This independent study confirms that Comcast is still blocking its customers from using popular applications,” Scott continued. “And worse, the harmful practice appears to be spreading through the marketplace. Unimpeachable research from network engineers in Germany now demonstrates that Cox Communications is also blocking Internet content, lining up right behind Comcast.”

A Max Planck researcher, however, told the AP that the tests did not conclusively show that Cox or Comcast were blocking traffic, because theoretically the traffic could have been disrupted as it traversed trans-Atlantic networks to Germany.

The cable industry opposes net neutrality legislation, as do telecommunications providers, arguing that such regulations would inhibit the growth of the Internet.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow, at a hearing this month before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said Congress should refrain from adopting a network neutrality law because cable operators are managing their broadband networks in an open manner and don’t engage in anticompetitive conduct.

A study released last month, by P2P video distributor Vuze, found that the eight biggest Internet service providers in the U.S.—which collectively serve more than 54 million broadband users—all “artificially interrupt” peer-to-peer traffic to some extent.

AT&T, for one, refuted the findings of the Vuze study and the telco asserted that it does not reset P2P connection attempts.