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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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October 24, 2007 10:00 AM

Comcast - Why Are You Adding Fuel to the Net Neutrality Fire?

Just when I sensed the net neutrality debate was cooling off and the opportunity for a rationale dialogue finally seemed possible, Comcast had to go and stick its finger into the eye of the net neutrality camp.

Here's what's happened:

In August, Comcast denied it was filtering or shaping P2P traffic powered by BitTorrent.

Last week the Associated Press and Electronic Freedom Foundation released results from nationwide testing they conducted to confirm whether or not Comcast is actively harming BitTorrent traffic.

The results? A resounding yes, and not just to BitTorrent but also other P2P protocols, and not just to P2P traffic but also other applications like Lotus Notes when someone tries sending too large of an attachment over the network.

What does Comcast have to say about all this? They're now admitting they are actively slowing down file sharing traffic.

The stated reason of these actions is so that they can preserve the user experience for customers on their network, which they claim is threatened by P2P file sharing networks.

Now, there may be some truth to this. P2P networks are notoriously bandwidth and network intensive. And with cable systems being shared assets, what one user is doing can affect another.

But I can not express how disappointed I am in how all this played out.

What was one of the biggest arguments against enacting net neutrality legislation at this time? That there hadn't been many or any egregious examples of a network operator actively degrading a specific application's traffic.

Well, here you are: a specific example of one of the biggest network operators in the country degrading actively interfering with an application on their network.

The thing is, I'm very much in favor of a network operator's right to manage traffic on their network. The network is their asset and they should be able to do with it what they may.

Yet at the same time, how could Comcast be so short sighted as to try and get away with this practice under the radar?

First off, there's an entire army of net neutrality supporters out there looking for an opportunity like this to identify these behaviors and trumpet them as evidence for their cause. So it's nigh impossible to get away with anything that even hints at degrading traffic without somebody finding out.

Secondly, if file sharing traffic truly is a significant problem on your network, then why not be more open about that fact, tell people what you're doing, and then try to work with the applications developers and your customers to come to a mutually agreeable solution?

I just can't comprehend how this possibility was lost on Comcast. When I read through the series of articles listed above I literally smacked my forward in exasperation.

And what makes this even more challenging is that while P2P networks are notoriously rife with illegal media distribution, they're increasingly being used for legitimate purposes. An example listed in an article about is that someone was blocked from downloading a copy of the bible from a P2P network, which is content that's in the public domain. So you can no longer hide behind the argument that all P2P traffic is evil and illegal because that's simply not the case.

This is the single worst/best thing (depending no your perspective) that's happened to the net neutrality debate since Ed Whitacre's infamous comments that Internet applications shouldn't expect to continue getting a free ride on AT&T;'s network.


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Comments (2)

These guys really can't help it. It is their COAX network that is the problem, specifically the Upload side of the network. This is where the P2P and Gaming Users kill them. It is bad enough that their customer have to share a 30Mbps link but it really gets bad when they (MSO) limit the Upload speeds on their services to 128 or 512Kbps.
The key words here are "Symmetrical Services".
I wonder why it has taken the FTTH providers, like Verizon FIOS, so long to leverage their Fiber nets ability to deliver a true 5 by 5Mbps or even a 10/10Mbps service.
I agree the MSO have a right to manage their network services, but they do need to offer these users an enhanced or Premium ($$$)level service.


Posted by Jim A on October 25, 2007 1:40 PM

Great points. If people were truly educated about the problem, they may be more open to listening to a solution. Especially compared to how they react to having their use of the Internet tampered with without their knowledge.

Posted by Ed Kohler on October 25, 2007 5:55 PM

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