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Comcast Deal Raises Questions

The Comcast/BitTorrent Deal is Raising Questions
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Comcast Perplexed at Martin's Reaction
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Comcast and BitTorrent Form Collaboration to Address Network Management, Network Architecture and Content Distribution

March 27, 2008

Comcast Corporation and BitTorrent, Inc. announced today that 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. While BitTorrent and Comcast are talking directly, they are also in discussions with other parties to help facilitate a broader dialogue and cooperation across industries.

The Comcast and BitTorrent discussions have already produced meaningful results. On the one hand, 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. 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," said Tony Werner, Comcast Cable's Chief Technology Officer.

In turn, 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. 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," said Eric Klinker, BitTorrent's Chief Technology Officer.

"Earlier this year, Comcast announced its plans for the aggressive deployment of wideband Internet services using the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, which we project will be available in up to 20% of Comcast's households by the end of this year," said John Schanz, Comcast Cable's Executive Vice President of National Engineering and Technical Operations. "Additionally, we plan to more than double the upstream capacity of our residential Internet service in several key markets by year end 2008. We plan to take advantage of multi-carrier technology to further increase upstream capacity for all of our broadband customers in advance of the full DOCSIS 3.0 roll out."

BitTorrent and Comcast have also agreed to work with other ISPs, other technology companies, and the Internet Engineering Task Force, to explore and develop a new distribution architecture for the efficient delivery of rich media content. "In the spirit of openness and fostering innovative solutions, BitTorrent will take the first step in enhancing our client applications to optimize them for a new broadband network architecture. Furthermore, we will publish these optimizations in open forums and standard bodies for all application developers to benefit from," said Ashwin Navin, co-founder and president of BitTorrent, Inc.

"This new architecture would enable many new and emerging applications and will be based upon an open, non-discriminatory framework that could interface with or support multiple technologies. We believe that P2P technology has matured as an enabler for legal content distribution, so we need to have an architecture that can support it with techniques that work over all networks," said Werner.

Both BitTorrent and Comcast expressed the view that these technical issues can be worked out through private business discussions without the need for government intervention.

"BitTorrent and Comcast can serve consumers best by working together along with the broader ISP and Internet community to jointly develop more efficient networks and applications. This should prove to be a productive partnership that will provide consumers with a better Internet experience," said Doug Walker, CEO of BitTorrent.

"We appreciate the recent dialogue that we have had with Bit Torrent and the progress that we have made in addressing our respective concerns. Working together, we can deliver a truly superior experience to all of our customers," said Steve Burke, President of Comcast Cable.

NY Times article

MC News Update 3/31
Multichannel News

Statement of NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow:

"The initiative announced today by Comcast and BitTorrent is an important step forward that benefits consumers. We applaud both companies for their willingness to work together on immediate solutions to challenges like traffic management, and for their leadership in working with other industries to look for opportunities that will continue to ensure a vibrant Internet. Government interference in the development of this market could easily foreclose or otherwise prevent the emergence of efforts such as this one, and it could never anticipate the kinds of consumer-responsive approaches that further improve and enhance the user experience, including efforts to respect the rights of copyright owners and to fight piracy. Our industry will remain a constructive partner with Internet applications and technology companies in order to ensure that our customers continue to have what they have today: the best broadband experience in America."

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