February 22, 2008 12:00 PM PST

Comcast vs. BitTorrent to be focus of FCC hearing

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This brings us back to the question currently before the FCC--what is "reasonable" network management, anyway?

On Monday, the FCC commissioners may offer a clearer glimpse of where they stand. The commissioners will have the chance to question Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, along with executives from Verizon Communications, BitTorrent, Sony, and online video-sharing site Vuze.

Each of the commissioners has already shown some indication of whether they're for or against Net neutrality-type regulations. Chairman Kevin Martin and fellow Republican commissioners Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell have tended to believe that regulations aren't needed and that the market can settle any concerns about unfair prioritization of Internet content, while Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have tended to favor stiffer rules against traffic discrimination. This is an echo of what happened in Congress, where votes took on a sharply partisan tone.

Martin has, however, indicated recently that a key part of "reasonable" network management practices is making them transparent to customers--something that critics say didn't happen in the Comcast episode.

The hearing is largely a response to public outcry over Comcast versus BitTorrent. Shortly after those reports emerged, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups that support Net neutrality regulations--including Free Press, Public Knowledge, Media Access Project, and Consumers Union--petitioned the FCC to proclaim that "degrading peer-to-peer traffic" violates federal broadband policy.

In a separate but similar petition, the video file-sharing application Vuze asked the FCC to "clarify" what it means by "reasonable network management"--and, more specifically, "to establish that such network management does not permit network operators to block, degrade or unreasonably discriminate against lawful Internet applications, content, or technologies."

The FCC is weighing whether to grant either of those requests.

Comcast, for its part, has already told the FCC in written comments that its actions are completely reasonable. The cable company said it slows down only file uploads that rise to the level of "excessive" and that could interfere with other users' experience during periods of peak network congestion.

But BitTorrent firms have countered that the behavior is "anticompetitive" because it stymies the flow of legal video content that competes with TV programming offered by the cable operator.

Verizon has said it sees no need to interfere with file-sharing traffic at this point, citing fewer bandwidth constraints than Comcast encounters, but it respects the need to do so.

"While Verizon is not in a position to address the particular facts, circumstances, or reasonableness of Comcast's network management practices, the petitioners' sweeping arguments ignore the real-world need for broadband providers to manage their networks in a wide range of contexts and using a variety of methods in order to deliver high-quality and safe broadband services to their consumers," Verizon wrote in comments filed with the FCC.

Sony said in its written comments to the FCC that as a major provider of video content, it supports Vuze's call for clarity on the "reasonable" network management definition. Without FCC scrutiny--or perhaps even regulation--there may be no way of ensuring that "facially legitimate network management tools" don't limit competition in the market for Internet video content, wrote Jim Morgan, the company's government affairs director.

Also scheduled to speak (PDF) at the hearing Monday are Massachusetts legislator Daniel Bosley, a Democrat who leads a technology committee; University of Pennsylvania law professor Christopher Yoo, who has argued against Net neutrality regulations; and three Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors who specialize in network management issues. And, of course, Rep. Markey is scheduled to appear.

The action isn't expected to stop beyond the hearing-room walls. The SavetheInternet.com coalition, whose members include scores of nonprofit groups, small businesses, and bloggers, said it plans to record testimony outside the hearing from members of the public who wish to speak their minds.

Vuze is also inviting Internet users to submit "video testimony" about broadband network management issues to the "FCC Channel" at its Web site. FCC Commissioners are planning to respond to some of the videos during the hearing, and they'll also be made part of the formal public record, Vuze said.

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33 comments

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Peak Congestion? 24/7?
Unfortunately I am a Comcast customer and I am very invested in the outcome of this battle. I don't believe that the FCC will actually do anything. But the added press on the issue is encouraging.

Even though Comcast states that they "shape" aka block traffic on peak congestion times it would appear to me, based on my meager testing over the last month that "peak" must mean 24/7.

Three months ago I was getting throughput as high as 6000 Kb/s downloading from services I pay for such as usenet and a few content vendors that provide their content via HTTP. Now, I am lucky to get about 200 Kb/s and my usenet downloads are at 1000 Kb/s. Sometimes my download rate drops to 25 to 10 Kb/s for hours on end. I checked with the services I pay for and they didn't change anything on their end. One can only conclude that it was a change in the ISP not the vendor.

I might also bring up that fact that the services I am mentioning are not like bittorrent they don't upload at all rather it is download only.

How does that fit into their convenient little lie.
Posted by zeroplane (286 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Technical Issue
Sounds more like you're having some technical issue. What Comcast has done was aimed strictly at BT. I would try a simple speedtest and see what you get, if its way below the speed your package is at, call them out to fix it.

Also, might want to check if your modem is Docsis 2.0 or 3.0 compliant. If not, that could be an issue as well.
Posted by tanis143 (122 comments )
Link Flag
Next the phone companies will listen in on our voice conversation
And if my wife starts idle talk, they will cut in and impersonating the other side say the call is over. Please explain how this is different.
Posted by saadhusain (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
regulation hinders growth
Rather than complaining about users tying up the bandwidth, perhaps they should be looking into research and development of new ways to expand the way information is processed. Technology will only continue to move forward when pushed. Regulation of that technology is simply a way for big business to keep things in their comfort zone while striving to get the most money as possible out of the system. It would be a mistake to regulate the internet or the bandwidth that connects to it. I think it is time to look at other ways of doing business instead.
Posted by nakoa (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The problem with that reasoning
Is that they will not look for other ways of doing business unless they have to by having regulators tell them that they have to.

Regulation of business is a double-edged sword, but in the whole history of the United States it has never, repeat NEVER, hindered growth of the country.
It has on occasion hindered competition, but even then those times are few and far between.
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Link Flag
Another flaw in your logic
Ok, who is going to pay for all that R&D? Or, who is going to pay for the upgrade in fiber, equipment, and such to move to higher speeds? Why should Comcast foot the bill when its applications like BT that flood the network and cause bandwidth tie ups?

Remember, bandwidth is never free, its paid for by someone. These companies that use BT do nothing but leech off other people's bandwidth. They are the ones that should pay for their own bandwidth.
Posted by tanis143 (122 comments )
Link Flag
Comcast is simply wrong
What Comcast is doing it not delivering the service that subscribers have purchased, plain and simple.

I use BitTorent for one purpose: to download the most recent version of Fedora when it gets released. No matter whether I download it via HTTP, FTP, or BitTorrent, the amount of inbound bandwidth I will consume is roughly the same.

The difference with BitTorrent is that the amount of bandwidth consumed uploading increases. But, this balances out in the end, because my computer would only transmit packets if somebody else wanted them, right? So, if my system is not transmitting the data, then the users are consuming bandwidth via HTTP or FTP. So, where is the increased traffic?

I think the real problem is that there is a huge amount of illegal content that gets shared in this manner. My guess is that if things like BitTorrent did not exist, then the overall bandwidth would decrease since people would not be otherwise downloading illegal content.

Whatever the case, every subscriber pays for service and it is Comcast's responsibility to deliver the service for which customers provided payment. What they do with that bandwidth is their business, no? If Comcast feels differently, then they should sell their cable lines to another company who would be more "net friendly."

Comcast always has the option to increase network capacity, increase subscriber fees, etc. They can always offer multiple tiers of service for those who use less bandwidth and those who use more.

The real solution, though, is to increase bandwidth. With more and more services on the Internet, lots of new streaming video services, increased utilization of video conferencing, etc., then there is absolutely no question that all broadband providers need to put a certain amount of revenue into constantly improving network capacity. I get the impression that Comcast does not want to make that investment.
Posted by paulej (1261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Comcast isn't managing their network, they're....
Covering up a massive under engineering problem. A properly
engineered network requires management to deal with abnormal
conditions... fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, terrorist attack,
etc. Covering up for being too cheap and sneaky, etc. to provide
the equipment needed to meet customer demand is not network
management... it is CRIMINAL behavior. If the phone companies
under engineered the way comcast does, you could die in a fire
waiting for dial tone or a line or both to reach 911.
Posted by Mike9302 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really...?
And squirrels are actually russian spies. I also heard that the world is going to end in 2012
Posted by smokified (307 comments )
Link Flag
comcast
Comcast is going to be a phone company just like rogers is now in canada. If they don't upgrade their networks soon, your phone will be screwed too
Posted by wp enterprises (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Protecting customer interests? Really?
AT&T wants to police the internet. Controlling downloads is a way - they say - not to penalize law-abiding "surfers." Comcast is limiting the bandwidth of connections to BitTorrent (and other p2p networks?) for the same reason(s).

But in fact, the consumer is - in both cases - the first one to suffer. Do we really need our service providers to police us? To patronize us? Isn't most of the Internet Traffic pornography? Any chance these control freaks do something about it? Of course not.

Our lives get more and more "internetized" every day. We pay online, we buy online, we rent online, we travel online, we fill taxes online... Our personal information is already out there, and we do not need our ISPs to have more power over. Letting them control where we go and what we do is a first step that should not be - legally - allowed.

But then again, who REALLY cares about - us - consumers?
Posted by jowewo (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do you suppose?
This "management of bandwidth" issue is directly related to Comcast providing telephony and streaming HD and standard video themselves? Hmmm... I might run out of bandwidth too if i didn't plan for the need for throughput. Not to mention if this passes and the FCC (Federal Criminal Conspiritists) does nothing or even worse allow this, it will only lead to limiting other services and site traffic. All in the name of "reasonable network management" of course.
This debacle does prove one thing IMHO however. Our representatives need to clearly understand that net neutrality legislation IS MOST ASSUREDLY NEEDED. I suggest we ALL write to these folks who are SUPPOSED to be working in our favor and tell them we will fire them if they don't stop pandering to BIG BUSINESS.

Period
Posted by nuckelhedd (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Comcast is right.
In our neighborhood, we don't have Comcast. But we do have two or three kids who monopolize the cable system by downloading illegal movies and World of Warcraft. The load is bad enough to slow everyone else in the neighborhood down. Vonage barely works. Our cable provider says that it would take thousands of dollars to beef up the system to add more bandwidth, and then those kids could soak up the added capacity right away. They say they could take measures to stop the bandwidth hogs but they are spooked by this FCC action and are waiting on the outcome of the Comcast hearing. Please, FCC, do the sensible thing and let our cable company stop the hogs and give us reasonable service.
Posted by menotbug (93 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dude, You got a crap ISP...
If they downloading illegal movies, the easy solution is a kick them off the service for good and call the FBI. However, if they are downloading legal movies from Vongo, Movelink, Netflix or etc tough luck. The same goes for any bandwidth used by game play, tough luck. Since when is it ok for the water company to run a garden hose to everyone's house and call that water service. Then to kick or slow someone down when they try to take a shower. Tell your ISP goodbye, because they are over selling their garden hose connection to the Internet. Unlimited means umlimited for legal content / traffic and not just until you go over the "magical amount."
Posted by SpaceDude2001 (25 comments )
Link Flag
Isn't the ISP the problem.
I don't understand. Why complain about the hogs? Why not complain to your ISP? They promised to provide you with a service. If you are not happy with your service, or your service does match what was promised then you should tell your ISP you want out of the contract unless they can provide the promised service.

Those kids that are hogging with World of Warcraft bought the service because they were promised they could play World of Warcraft as much as they wanted.

I'm sorry if your ISP made promises to both you and another customer that conflict in a way that the ISP cannot keep their promises to both parties. However, that is an issue you need to take up with your ISP. If they cannot provide the promised capacity to you then you are a victim of fraud by the ISP.

You should not be mad at other customers who are simply paying for the service that the ISP promised them.

Perhaps because you have paid money and bought into the ISP service you feel you have made a wise decision, and you don?t want to admit that your ISP is screwing you of the advertised service. Perhaps you are afraid that makes you look foolish. However, you do not look foolish because you are paying for something you are not getting. It happens to the best of us, and it is the basic nature of any fraud that anyone can fall prey to.

The bottom line is if your network connection is not up to par with what was promised you are the victim of a fraud. The quicker you realize it the quicker you can remedy your situation.
Posted by Imalittleteapot (835 comments )
Link Flag
Uninformed customers make the best speaker phone
let's see how much you know
How many people are on your node?
How do you know what the kids download?
How much did the kids download?
What is the capacity of your node?
How do you know if the kids are on your same node?
How do you know if it's not your cable provider problems?
How do you know if it's not the DNS problems?
i really doubt that anyone from your cable internet provider would tell you that they are spooked by FCC, especially level 1 & 2 support.
This is the same crap as Comcast tells you that you need to have cable tv before they can hook up cable internet for you. As a matter of fact, they used to hook up cable internet without cable tv service for the longest time. On the same BS level of how the upstream is capped because of capacity. Years ago, Comcast upstream is at about 1.5mbs.
If you want to pay $60 bucks for browsing and email like Comcast wants then feel free to do that. However, please refrain from spreading false informations that your low level tech supports told you.
Posted by vhac (68 comments )
Link Flag
Cable providers have to upgrade anyway...
...otherwise, the future of Internet media (HBO, movies, TV shows, etc, etc, etc) -- all of which is mentioned weekly in the Press -- will never get off the ground. Once the everyday-Joe becomes accustomed to watching their favorite TV programs and movies via the Internet, you and your cable provider will have MUCH bigger problems than what you're experiencing today. Unfortunately, you blame everything on a few neighborhood kids, too. No offense, but 98% of people out there don't know what defragging a hard drive is much less basic networking.

This fight against Bit torrent technology has nothing to do with bandwidth. It's a conservative scheme using illegal tactics to support big Money.
Posted by TBolt (70 comments )
Link Flag
no, no they are not
If they are so right then why did they alter the contract AFTER they were caught?
Posted by dcase99 (85 comments )
Link Flag
I also subscribe to comcast's 'unlimited' high speed internet, just as you and your neighborhood kids. For my area, its the only ISP, so Im stuck. Here's the important concept----When comcast finds people using it 'unlimited' as advertised and paid for however, they have been shown to throttle such high usage, and it is THIS throttling BY comcast is what slows you all down on your local loop. Mere high usage (--exactly what you are paying for--) does not slow everyone down... it is the throttling and attempt to limit bandwidth by Comcast when they see high usage, that slows all users down. The throttling, after we pay for UNLIMITED is exactly what is in question here, and Comcast has gotten a slap on the wrist for not giving us what we have paid for. You paid for unlimited and fast, and COMCAST..not your local kids..slows it down. Comcast has lied to you in trying to deflect blame to 'bandwidth hogs' ------when each and every one of us is owed the bandwidth speeds that WE HAVE PAID FOR. The FCC agrees and thus, this class action suit.

I pay for UNLIMITED internet with comcast, and high speed. I am disabled and entering my senior years and I play large role-playing games--it is my primary recreation and social interaction, and far better than the hours of tv I used to have to spend when there was no alternative. The software, expansions and patches for these games are delivered peer to peer. During the time period when Comcast was shown to be throttling peer to peer, I was unable to play due to their throttling. And I was not the only one, the web is full of posts by thousands of game-players affected by Comcast intentionally slowing the service that they paid for.

Another poster says it best. Comcast advertises high water pressure, then runs a single garden hose to the neighborhood, then slows down your water supply when you want to take a long hot shower. I'm filing for MY $16, but it in no way is adequate compensation for failing to deliver what they promise.
Posted by froggymorning (2 comments )
Link Flag
Strategy
Though I am avid supporter of internet neutrality, I believe that the best strategy to reinstate internet neutrality is to first elect a democrat as president.

Once a democrat is president we can campaign for internet neutrality with greater force and greater success.

So we should bide our time and strike when the chances of success appear to be greatest.
Posted by deloprator20000 (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Better Question: What does "free" mean?
This is the "Who-owns-the-airwaves?" debate transferred to cyber space. The answer is: No one--but broadcasters DO own the equipment and, by extension, their broadcast signals. Piggybacking on broadcaster signals is like squatting on private property. It's wrong--a clear violation of any individual's property rights, said rights beginning with one's own life, i.e., body & mind.

Now we have the same type of "squatting proposal" that gave rise to the Fairness Doctrine (among other forms of censorship) in broadcasting, except it's called "Net Neutrality"--that is, when it comes to property rights in cyber space, there are none. It should be called, for accuracy sake, "Rights Neutral."

Cyber space is open to all who wish to investment in the necessary infra-structure costs to become an ISP. That infrastructure and the "roadway" it lays on the Net is *private property." Those who wish to loot that wealth in the name of "fairness" haven't clue one about the meaning nor the application of justice.

Net Neutrality is a license to steal--to steal the billions of infrastructure created by Comcast, Cox, Time-Warner, etc.--and then to censor them by limiting their choices of what they may or may not send out (or limit) over/on their "broadcast signal."

Democracy is a very old and very failed form of political philosophy. Our Founding Fathers did *not* create a democracy when they wrote the Constitution. They knew history and knew well its failure. They create a Constitutionally limited (by property rights, including individual rights), democratic republic--with "democratic" strictly contextualized to mean the electorate (and their representatives) are to be checked & balanced AND trumped by the rights of the individual, whether that individual is a man or a corporation (of men).

If you want to see real Internet regulation, taxation and eventual censorship, just allow the FCC this toehold. Give a rat a cookie--and he'll next want a glass o milk.

As for academe's who support this trash, someone opined a few years ago, after the Soviet Union crashed & burned, that the only sanctuary left for Marxism was America's universityies.

As for the rich who declare their support of the State--whether it's increasing taxes, maintaining capital gains or inheritance taxes, establishing forced volunteerism or net neutrality--well, Hitler had his Krupps and Voglers.

And we have our Soros's, Buffets, Gates's & Newmarks's.
Posted by writeby (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
then why do I pay a monthly service?
I pay it to use that equipment... If it cost more to use that equipment unlimitedly then charge my ass for it. Don't tell me your going to provide a service at a particular cost and then jerk something out of it. If these corporations were up front then they and we wouldn't have this problem.
Posted by rnieves1977 (105 comments )
Link Flag
spoken
Writeby earned his/her kickback with the comment:

"Net Neutrality is a license to steal--to steal the billions of
infrastructure created by Comcast, Cox, Time-Warner, etc.--and
then to censor them by limiting their choices of what they may
or may not send out (or limit) over/on their "broadcast signal.""

Spoken like a true Comcast shill. How much did they pay you for
that garbage anyway?

Comcast is violating the principles of the internet by
purposefully TERMINATING BitTorrent traffic. I know they're
claiming they're just "shaping traffic" and holding it for a bit, but
in fact they're forging packets to terminate BitTorrent traffic.
Some people buy into the RIAA/MPAA bull plop, thinking it's
only affecting illegal downloads and pirates, but how do you
think open source OS's like Ubuntu perform their updates?
BitTorrent is just a technology, not inherently "good" or "evil" in
any way. Forging packets to terminate all BitTorrent traffic is just
wrong, period. This is why net neutrality is needed.
Posted by Dalkorian (3000 comments )
Link Flag
If you are paying for certain speed, you should get it
If customers pay for certain speed, comcast should provide that speed, not give the false impression that they provide almost unlimited bandwidth when that's not the case.

A new pricing structure is what is needed.

Do you go to an "all you can eat" buffet, only to be allowed one serving?
Posted by businesscontacts (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I concur
I'd ***** slap the waiter that told me I was eating to much then sue the crap out of the establishment for hurting my feeling insinuating that I was FAT... lol

Hope the FCC is as offended as a fat person at a buffet...
Posted by rnieves1977 (105 comments )
Link Flag
Comcast throttling users
If Comcast wants to be the big brother of the internet maybe if they concentrated on blocking spam and killing viruses before they even get to the users would be a better approach. My children are constantly downloading games and music which slows things down considerably but to just pick on provider of services and either slow down their cownloads or terminate the links is discriminatory.
Posted by mjd420nova (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mixed feelings
I hate the fact that power downloaders negatively impact my download speeds, but I also have concerns with Comcast doing this on the sly.

No easy solution.
Posted by MadLyb (1161 comments )
Reply Link Flag
High Speed Internet?
It's strange, I can't even navigate IsoHunt anymore PLUS when I post a bulletin on MySpace including any word relevant to Comcast it will not post. Even tried encryption ie Co mca st ect . .
Posted by Numbuh4 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Followup
I had called Comcast to address a limited / no connectivity issue; theire response - just use one computer at a time (which is usual scenario anyway); charged $39.99 for advice. Still cannot access full internet as $60 a month dosen't cut it I guess . . gotta change here
Posted by Numbuh4 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If you live in Va there is a criminal code for what they were doing, ยง 18.2-164.
Posted by kogashuko (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I also subscribe to comcast's 'unlimited' high speed internet, just as you and your neighborhood kids. For my area, its the only ISP, so Im stuck. Here's the important concept----When comcast finds people using it 'unlimited' as advertised and paid for however, they have been shown to throttle such high usage, and it is THIS throttling BY comcast is what slows you all down on your local loop. Mere high usage (--exactly what you are paying for--) does not slow everyone down... it is the throttling and attempt to limit bandwidth by Comcast when they see high usage, that slows all users down. The throttling, after we pay for UNLIMITED is exactly what is in question here, and Comcast has gotten a slap on the wrist for not giving us what we have paid for. You paid for unlimited and fast, and COMCAST..not your local kids..slows it down. Comcast has lied to you in trying to deflect blame to 'bandwidth hogs' ------when each and every one of us is owed the bandwidth speeds that WE HAVE PAID FOR. The FCC agrees and thus, this class action suit.

I pay for UNLIMITED internet with comcast, and high speed. I am disabled and entering my senior years and I play large role-playing games--it is my primary recreation and social interaction, and far better than the hours of tv I used to have to spend when there was no alternative. The software, expansions and patches for these games are delivered peer to peer. During the time period when Comcast was shown to be throttling peer to peer, I was unable to play due to their throttling. And I was not the only one, the web is full of posts by thousands of game-players affected by Comcast intentionally slowing the service that they paid for.

Another poster says it best. Comcast advertises high water pressure, then runs a single garden hose to the neighborhood, then slows down your water supply when you want to take a long hot shower. I'm filing for MY $16, but it in no way is adequate compensation for failing to deliver what they promise.
Posted by froggymorning (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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