AT&T Denies Using False Reset Messages

When it comes to ISPs throttling Peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, the denials fly as quick as the accusations. First the FCC contradicts Comcast's claims that it only throttles P2P traffic when there is network congestion; now, as reports, AT&T rebuffs claims from BitTorrent client developer, Vuze, that AT&T uses false reset messages to impact P2P traffic:

"In response to your specific question about AT&T's network management practices, AT&T does not use "false reset messages" to manage its network. We agree with Vuze that the use of the Vuze Plug-In to measure network traffic has numerous limitations and deficiencies, and does not demonstrate whether any particular network providers or their customers are using TCP Reset messages for network management purposes. Given that Vuze itself has recognized these problems with the measurements generated by its Plug-In, we believe that Vuze should not have published these misleading measurements, nor filed them with the FCC. Moreover, as Vuze and others have acknowledged, TCP resets are generated for many reasons wholly unrelated to the network management practices of broadband network providers, which explains why resets may appear on networks of companies such as AT&T who do not use TCP resets for network management."

If looked at closely, AT&T's response could be interpreted as spin doctoring. The company denies that it uses false reset messages to throttle P2P traffic, but the response does not actually say that AT&T doesn't throttle P2P traffic using other techniques. In fact, back in January, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that AT&T is interested in a "technology-based solution" for monitoring potentially illegal P2P traffic. In a news story from last January reported by DailyTech, AT&T executive James Cicconi admitted that AT&T is at least interested in throttling P2P traffic:

“We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies,” said AT&T executive James Cicconi, “but we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies … to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

The January DailyTech story goes on to explain that if AT&T implements technologies to throttle certain types of network traffic, the consequences could be far reaching:

"Such a move would affect more than just AT&T’s subscribers, as the company’s network investments represent a sizable chunk of the internet’s backbone – which results in almost all Internet data passing through its network at some point."

Such moves on the part of AT&T and ISPs such as Comcast could be interpreted as looking out for the best interests of its law-abiding customers as well as kowtowing to corporate copyright holders. Others interpret such activity as punishing a large group of people for the acts of a handful of lawbreakers. At the very least, this certainly heats up the net neutrality debate even more; and it is doubtful that this is the last set of accusations and denials we'll see of traffic throttling by ISPs.

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