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November 15, 2007 11:06 AM

The Comcast P2P Situation Continues to Snowball

Comcast's policies towards its heaviest users have been covered in AppRising on more than one occasion, but they're like the gift that keeps on giving as more news continues to come out as the storm around their decision to interfere with P2P traffic grows ever larger.

On November 1st a handful of consumer groups asked the FCC to step in and stop Comcast from interfering with P2P traffic. No word yet on if, when, or how the FCC might step in, but rest assured this incident is significant enough to force their hand into acting one way or another. I don't think they can punt on this one.

On November 7th the net neutrality crowd gained a surprising uproar in their effort to press the FCC: a letter from the anti-net neutrality group Hands Off the Internet citing their concerns that Comcast may have in fact violated the four principles of open Internet access the FCC has previously set out. This is an interesting move that highlights the fact that while there are unresolved questions regarding proper network management practices, there is a growing consensus regarding the need to protect fair access to Internet content and application among both sides of this debate.

Then on November 14th, a class action lawsuit was filed in California for breach of contract, breach of implied convenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violating ca consumer legal remedies act. This suit seemed inevitable after the story first broke. The interesting thing will be seeing how the courts differentiate between what's right and what's legal as I'm not entirely sure if the two match up in this instance.

One thing that's surprised me somewhat about all this brouhaha is the relative silence by the telcos. If I were them, I'd be crowing from the rooftops about how bad Comcast is and I'd start touting how my network doesn't discriminate like that (assuming they don't, of course). The combination of this latest P2P fiasco combined with Comcast's much-reviled policies towards its heaviest users create a huge opportunity to position DSL as a service unencumbered by these restrictions, though I haven't necessarily seen this tact taken yet.

For better or worse, Comcast has reignited the net neutrality debate. And since I'd be surprised if this issue found any resolution before the end of the year (unless Comcast backs off from its belief that it has the right to do this), it sets the stage for 2008 to bear witness to further struggles over the issue of how network operators should be allowed to manage traffic on their networks.

Whether or not this means we'll actually start having a real dialogue instead of just two sides shouting past each other is very much still left to be seen...


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