Comcast has agreed to pay $16 million to settle class action litigation that accused the nation’s largest cable system operator of delaying, blocking, or otherwise discriminating against web-based transmissions emanating from BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing sites. Announced last week, the settlement ends a series of lawsuits, initiated in November 2007, that charged Comcast with sending “hidden messages to computers that are running file-sharing applications, [which] appear to the computer as coming from the other computers with which it is sharing files, telling it to stop communicating.” A related Associated Press investigation and the controversy that followed induced the FCC to rule that Comcast’s web traffic management practices violated the agency’s 2005 policy statement on net neutrality. While acknowledging it has delayed some bandwidth-intensive P2P transmissions in the interest of preserving network capacity during periods of peak Internet use, Comcast maintains that it “does not, has not, and will not block any web sites or online applications, including [P2P] services.” In settling the class action cases that were consolidated before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Comcast admitted to no wrongdoing, explaining, “although we continue to believe that our network management practices were appropriate and in the best interests of our customers, we prefer to put this matter behind us.” The proposed settlement covers Comcast high-speed Internet subscribers who used or attempted to use BitTorrent and four other listed P2P services between April 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008. Such customers would be eligible for a credit on their Comcast bill or a refund of their portion of the settlement, up to $16. The court is expected to grant final approval in June after affected subscribers submit their claims.