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Comcast and BitTorrent: Enemies Become "Net-Neutral" Friends

CNBC.com

Comcast, the cable giant, and file sharing web site BitTorrent, seem like natural enemies. The cable company wants to keep "broadband-hogging" BitTorrent from slowing down its system.

And BitTorrentwants its users to be able to use as much broadband as they need to get files through its system, super-fast. And the cable company and web company have been ad odds since Comcast said it blocked BitTorrent's traffic at peak times because Bit Torrent consumed so much of its broadband space, it was slowing internet speeds across its system.

But now, a monumental collaboration between the two. Comcast will no longer discriminate against specific applications like BitTorrent, which takes up half of Comcast's bandwidth. And the companies will work together to transport data efficiently, to improve consumer experience.

That means Bit Torrent is willing to change its software's structure so it doesn't take up quite so much space. One reason Comcast was biased against sites like BitTorrent was because they effectively cost them more by taking up so much bandwidth. BitTorrent's president tells me that by building a better network together, Comcast will be able to get a bigger bang for its buck.

Comcast likes this collaboration because it should help avoid government involvement and regulation. The issue of whether broadband service providers can be biased against certain sites has been a hot-button one in Congress.

The buzz word is "Net Neutrality," and whether broadband service providers can be forced to be "net neutral"-- i.e. give access to their broadband to all sites equally, even if some are hogging it and slowing down the system for everyone. This is the kind of collaboration that'll allow the likes of Comcast to be net neutral without slowing down their system.

And BitTorrent's happy if it can give its users fast service. It also happens that Bit Torrent, which started out as an illegal file sharing service, is increasingly trying to legitimize its now-legal approach.

This compromise also comes as file-sharing software is increasingly used to distribute digital video. If this is going to be the fastest way to get online video in the future, Comcast's smart to get with the program instead of trying to block it.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.