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Verizon: No 'need' to degrade P2P traffic...yet

In light of reports about Comcast's interference with BitTorrent, rival VP says Verizon isn't blocking or slowing down file-sharing traffic right now--but it's keeping its options open.

WASHINGTON--Verizon Communications doesn't currently block or slow down peer-to-peer file-sharing applications like BitTorrent on its broadband network, but it can't rule out doing so in the future, a company vice president said Monday.

Verizon Executive Vice President Tom Tauke Verizon

The comments by Verizon executive vice president Tom Tauke arrive as Comcast has taken heat for throttling BitTorrent traffic in the name of "reasonable network management" and as the Federal Communications Commission is studying whether Internet service providers should be permitted to manipulate P2P traffic. Consumer interest groups have asked the FCC to declare that "degrading peer-to-peer traffic" violates the FCC's Internet policy statement, which says consumers can generally use the applications and access the Web sites of their choosing, with an exception for "reasonable network management."

Tauke, for his part, said Verizon has "more robust" networks than its cable competitors, in part because its customers have direct lines to their homes, rather than sharing capacity with the rest of their block or neighborhood.

Because of that set-up, "we see no need at the current time to slow peer-to-peer traffic," Tauke said in response to a reporter's question during a roundtable discussion at the company's offices here.

Still, he also talked at length about the importance of what he variously called "legitimate" and "appropriate" network management in ensuring the network runs smoothly for all subscribers. If, for example, large file transfers were hogging bandwidth, Tauke said Verizon might choose for a time to prioritize voice traffic, which is quite latency-sensitive, over, say, e-mail traffic, which could perhaps stand to arrive half a second later without causing great inconvenience to the recipient.

In doing any network management, however, Verizon recognizes it has to be very careful not to interfere with the transfer of "legitimate" messages (as in, nonspam material) or alter the content of any packets being sent across the Internet, Tauke said.

Tauke is the same Verizon executive who, as reported by CNET last month, said his company wants nothing to do with policing for transfer of copyrighted content on its network. That position was clearly meant to differentiate his company from AT&T, which has revealed plans to try to do just that..

Ever interested in setting his company apart from the competition, Tauke implied that if Verizon's practices were to change, it would let consumers know--a clear shot at accusations by consumer interest groups that Comcast hasn't been transparent enough about its treatment of peer-to-peer traffic.

"One of the most important things is transparency," Tauke said. "Any impact on consumers should be fully disclosed."

On a related note, Tauke said Verizon still believes there's no need for so-called Net neutrality regulations prohibiting Internet service providers from prioritizing content.