Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Internet Traffic Control Conflict

Yesterday, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin announced the Commission will investigate complaints that Comcast interferes with file sharing application Internet traffic. These BitTorrent based peer-to-peer file sharing applications are commonly used to exchange large video and audio files on the Internet. Here's a quote from an Associated Press release:

A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars asked the agency in November to stop Comcast from discriminating against certain types of data. Two groups also asked the FCC to fine the nation's No. 2 Internet provider $195,000 for every affected subscriber.

The complaint filed by Free Press is linked here.

The Associated Press release continues:

"Sure, we're going to investigate and make sure that no consumer is going to be blocked," Martin told an audience at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

In an investigation last year, The Associated Press found that Comcast in some cases hindered file sharing by subscribers who used BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program. The findings, first reported Oct. 19, confirmed claims by users who also noticed interference with other file-sharing applications.

The key word in Martin's statement is "blocked". Here's a piece from a DSL Reports release:

Martin's choice of words is telling. If you're a network neutrality supporter eager to see someone clamp down on application throttling, you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for the FCC. The policy statement (pdf) that guides the FCC's hand in matters of network neutrality is not law, and is intentionally vague enough to allow providers to get away with anything short of an outright traffic blockade.

The final footnote in on the FCC policy statement is most interesting:

Accordingly, we are not adopting rules in this policy statement. The principles we adopt are subject to reasonable network management.

I can see both sides of this argument: On one hand it is extremely frustrating to see my broadband data connection significantly slow in the evenings - I've often wondered how much of the slowdown is due to BitTorrent based file exchange along with streaming video, audio, etc. On the other hand BitTorrent is being used by companies that sell video and game content for distribution - if I've purchased a video online I don't want my ISP throttling the speed of my downloads.

I'm hoping the FCC can step in, mediate the disagreement and set a policy that works for all - BitTorrent based file exchange is not going away.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Keep up the good work. Cheers:-)