November 2, 2007 1:34 PM PDT

Thanks to BitTorrrent, Net neutrality debate reignites

The controversial issue of Net neutrality is surfacing again amid allegations that phone companies and cable operators are throttling BitTorrent traffic and perhaps even censoring politically charged language.

Net neutrality, as it's often called, is the principle that all content transmitted over a cable or a phone company's network be treated equally and without preference. Last year, several consumer groups and Internet companies banded together to lobby Congress to pass a law to protect this principle. But those attempts failed.

Now Net neutrality is back in the political spotlight after a string of potential abuses have come to light. Last month, the Associated Press reported that it had carried out experiments across the country proving that Comcast prevented some users from uploading content to peer-to-peer networks including BitTorrent. Comcast disputed the results.

Over the summer, during a Webcast of the Lollapalooza concert in Chicago, AT&T bleeped portions of the Pearl Jam song "Daughter," in which singer Eddie Vedder altered lyrics to include anti-Bush sentiments. Other bands had also been censored on AT&T's Webcasts, including the John Butler Trio and Flaming Lips. AT&T admitted that these remarks had been deleted, but the company said these were mistakes made by an overzealous contractor hired to monitor the performances for obscene language.

Cell phone companies have also been accused of limiting access to their networks. In September, Verizon Wireless denied a request from an abortion rights group to use its mobile network for a new text-messaging campaign. After The New York Times wrote an article about the denial, Verizon changed its mind.

The Net neutrality issue has even crept into the 2008 presidential race with Sen. Barack Obama publicly saying earlier this week that the issue would rank high on his list of priorities in the first year of his administration. Obama added he would make Net neutrality support among appointed Federal Communications Commissioners a priority.

The broadband market is really at an inflection point. And it's important to establish laws now because it will essentially set the ground rules for how the market will play out in the future.
--Tim Wu, professor, Columbia University Law School

"The broadband market is really at an inflection point," said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University Law School and a supporter of Net neutrality legislation. "And it's important to establish laws now because it will essentially set the ground rules for how the market will play out in the future."

Some supporters of Net neutrality claim that a 2005 Supreme Court decision that changed the regulatory environment for DSL and cable modem service gave too much freedom and control to the Internet service providers.

In the Brand X case the court refused to recognize cable modem service as a "telecommunications" service. Instead, it classified it as an "information" service. This ruling meant that cable operators were not bound to a requirement in the telecommunications service regulation that forced phone companies to provide open access to competitors on their networks. To keep cable and phone companies on equal footing, the FCC changed the classification of DSL service to also be an information service.

Net neutrality supporters say that this change in regulation gives cable operators and phone companies too much control over what applications and content travel across their networks. Large phone companies and cable operators, however, say that no new laws or regulations are needed to explicitly grant protection for Net neutrality. Instead, they believe that a free market is the best protection against abuse. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin agrees that no new regulation is needed.

But Net neutrality supporters point to these recent incidents as evidence that something needs to be done. The most glaring accusation of abuse is Comcast, which critics say is filtering and blocking BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic. Sites that use the protocol have been targeted by the movie industry to stop the illegal distribution of copyrighted video. But there are also many legal uses of BitTorrent.

CONTINUED: Eating up bandwidth…
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The last two sentences are what it's all about...
Posted by rnieves1977 (105 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I agree that the legal and illegal uses of Bittorrent are what it is all about. While I download SOME copyrighted things off Bittorrent and other file-sharing networks, I take a line at downloading ANYTHING that I can get legally in the United States, such as American movies, music and games...... at least until that last thing, games, are no longer available in stores. THEN, I have no problem with downloading them if they are no longer available because I am not taking money out of the pocket of the game maker.
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Link Flag
Carriers want to turn the Internet into Cable TV
If you read Christopher Yoo's paper (funded by the cable companies), you can see what the carriers are up to. They point to pay-per-view cable (e.g., NFL on DirectTV) as their aspirational example.

The carriers' plans are obvious. Is the FCC completely bought and paid for by the telco lobbyists? The answer is obvious even to a casual observer.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by directorblue (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More than just neutrality.
The ability to develop extra bandwidth services via buffer/cpu arrays across home and businesses in local areas.
Who gets to make use of future changes to the internet infastructre.
How to make everything work in realtime and how to satisfy all our demands.
Adopting internet 2 advances into the internet at large.
How much should local governent make use of the future internet world to extend the commons.
Is it best to run everything from a giant central cluster or can the internet be so much more.
Should anything have a central server point at all.
How well can you make full use of global P2P systems and does making it hybrid with central servers help it.

To know how this should all unfold technically america needs atleast a 6 year of engagment
during which telecommunications companies should be allow to experiment and certian neutrality issues should be upheld amounst other mesures to ensure fainess and a really engagment towards the best future solution.

The probblem is mistakes will cost the potential extendend economy improvments can make orand cost potential growth and economy of systems allready in place.

This current wangle is just the tip of the iceberg.
intervention is needed and it's about making the right desisions to ensure the best possible future.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Picture Power
Ok so 6 years have pasted and the internet world has changed.
All you can do is send pictures via P2P with windows or mac os basic software and all the wesites are having to pay to give you access to their vids.
This does still let you produce youtube vids but dosen't really let anyone small compete properly nor does it let you get all the stuff you want.
What do you do?, your tied down at your connecting.
Even to have a vid on your web site you now have to pay youtube.
Horrid ain't it, horrid little horris rules again rest assure you'll only see of comming wars what your supposed to.

Surley there must be a clever way round such a problem.
Well compression is all about curves and that power you'll have in your home computer you'll be able to curve that data up loads more effectivley than you can today.
So you may have a little peice of software that reads special lossless pictures ona site as a video.
The software might also collect and send pictures similar to how bit torrent works allowing you to do all the stuff you could before the crack down on neutrality.
The software could also change things that it does to stop people stopping it doing what it does.

The flaw with controling people who have computers as opposed to people who have TV's is that they have computers not TV's and so long as theres data going round theres a loop hole in the control actions of others and no law can ever come out that can preempt your technical way around the law and the system.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Link Flag
the world has some cool psysics
If your are cheesed off with the idea you might be limited soon on the internet have you ever thought of researching Quantium computer systems with regards to generating large quantium data packets along the earth frequencies. That way no one can stop you.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: the world has some cool psysics
I don't mean to be a pest but could you please define the words "psysics" and "quantium" as they're not familiar to me.
Posted by AgentSTS (101 comments )
Link Flag
Too much RRR?
Hey aren't there too many R's in the headline? It should BitTorrent, not BitTorrrent right?
Posted by matthewcsims (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well there you go.
See what happens. You write about someone else's typo and make your own. Should be BitTorrent. Ok Karma has convinced me to go to bed now.
Posted by matthewcsims (19 comments )
Link Flag
BitTorrent will come back
A lot of people not trust with FCC. Just ignore them. Keep upload files and give away free. We not feel so good. We and people are feel little upset right now. Please solve the problems now. We don't want hear from FCC anymore in the future. Keep sharing files with people and make them happy and calm down. You see? That why, I told you.
Posted by guest86 (264 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does water co ask what you use the water for?
Does the water company ask what you are using the water for? No.
Does the electric company ask what you are using the electricity
for? No. Does the phone company ask what I'm going to be talking
about? No. Why should my supplier of Internet data ask what I'm
doing with the bits? It's not their responsibility.
Posted by lepton68 (28 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I was going to use this argument too, but then I realized that they also charge for how much you use, rather than just an open ended service.
Posted by yukkione (5 comments )
Link Flag
lame arguement
Yes, the water company CAN limit how you use your water. Look at watering bans during peak times during the summer. The power company doesn't care what you use your power for but charges you for its use, as does water. So neither one of those is a good comparison to bandwidth from your ISP, unless you want the ISP's to start charging per bit you use.

I admit, Comcast was dumb about this. If they had just stuck with restricting BT uploads and been forthcoming about it, no one would have made a big stink about it, since its their right to monitor and control the bandwidth on their network. However, they were idiotic enough to try and hide what they were doing, plus going the extra step and forging customers id's and sending abort msg's to both ends of a BT upload.

However, as being part of the telecommunications industry, I do not want to see the ISP's lose the right to manage their network, and on the flip side I dont want them to get too much control over what and how they control on their network. It all comes down to a balance, not one side over the other. But, this is American politics, so you know thats not gonna happen.
Posted by tanis143 (122 comments )
Link Flag
Net Neutrality Laws are Needed!
Not only for things like this. But, to keep the web accessable for all users and all businesses. If companies like Comcast, AT&#38;T, etc. are allowed to control traffic based on who pays the most or who has the most favorible relationship with companies that control traffic flow on the net then only the large companies with deep pockets like Yahoo, Google, etc. will have any type of quick access.

The rest of use unless we want to pay millions will be out out of business and basically told who's information we can read and who we can do business with because gaining access to everything else will be slow and problamatic. This will set up the perfect environment also for blackmail and extortion type setups. If you don't think big companies would do things like this then you need to pull your heads out of the sand. Remember Enron, Health South, etc. etc.

Companies who's only goal is to make money can not be trusted to keep the web open and accessible for everyone. Greed will always win out this is why Comcast has increased their cable prices 93% over the last few years. Not because they give more, but because they just simply want more of your money. Greed will always win out over honesty and fairness.

Unfortunately, this also applies to the US government who is just run by a bunch of old idiot's. Who will do whatever the biggest contributor will ask them to do. As an example the DMCA!

Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
the summary
"The whole Net neutrality issue is really about a power struggle," he said. "It all comes down to a scenario where the phone companies and cable operators want to call all the shots about which applications enter the market. And while that may be good for them, I'd argue it's very bad for the country."

nuff said
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Should be illegal!
the torrents are just full of stolen stuff!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://fakesteveballmer*" target="_newWindow">http://****************</a>
Posted by ceoballmer (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
net nuetrality
I had Verizons Fios, they cut me off after a billing error from over a year ago "resurfaced". When trying to get service restored they would not give me help because i do not have a verizon phone. Also if I downloaded anything with BT, I would find my service was interupted and i would have to reset my router. This industry needs regulation.
Posted by yukkione (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you need to be rescued?
&lt;,This industry needs regulation.&gt;&gt;

You have bad service from 1 provider and thus you conclude that the Federal Government must come to the rescue?

Wrong. Capitalism works. And if you don't like Verizon's service, you'll go to another provider, and Verizon will lose money. Why do you need the federal government to solve all your problems? Haven't you realized yet that government regulation of the Internet is a "Bad Thing?"
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
New BitTorrent Service
A solution to keeping the BitTorrent protocol open is to have a new public announcement service built upon it. Something like a decentralized internet warning system, where keeping a connection open is vital to information being passed around. Of course this whole idea would have to be thought out correctly, but by making the BitTorrent protocol necessary for some "good" uses, you also keep it open for everything else.
Posted by dgiamanco (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I love all of the "Do-Gooders" out there..
First off.. I use Bit Torrent to download huge files that are totally 100% legal. Linux ISO files are one. Bit Torrent software isn't in legal to use. It's not just about the bandwidth.. it's about ComCast tell "You".. the customer and the user, what internet applications you can and can not run. So all of you "Do-Gooders" that think this is just about stopping downloading of music and movies.. your shooting your own freedom in the foot. Period. Read More and learn: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by sys6656 (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are correct that this is not about illegal music. You are correct that this is about freedom.

Where you go wrong.. is that you only consider your own freedoms. It is a very selfish perspective. Essentially, what you are saying is... "I know exactly what kind of service I want, and I want the government to force ABC Company to give me that service."

Well... what just happened to ABC Company's freedom? You stomped all over it, didn't you. Providers need to be free to run their own networks. If you don't like their service, you'll find a new provider. Its just that simple. If a provider loses too much business, they'll be forced to switch strategies. It is sad that you thin "Saving" the Internet is somethign the Federal government can do. The Internet matured w/o government interaction, and will survive as a robust and ever-changing platform, so long as we keep government's meddling hands out of it.

Support freedom of the Internet. If I build MY network, and you connect to it, then I get to make the rules. If its your network, you make the rules. If you don't like my rules, pay somebody who has better rules. This is the essence of freedom. What you suggest is the opposite. You suggest government revocation of the rights of network owners. Why should you enjoy freedom while the people who build businesses to service you are forced into regulation?
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Neutrality is never good!
When in neutral you go nowhere!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://fakesteveballmer*" target="_newWindow">http://****************</a>
Posted by ceoballmer (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too bad the Comcast/bittorent issue has nothing to do with net neutrality
The ignorance by the CNET staff is alarming.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Reply Link Flag
An ISP limiting the bandwidth to a certain service has absolutely nothing to do with net neutrality... The ignorance by some people is alarming.
Posted by BullyBalla (2 comments )
Link Flag
Neutrality is a mute point
The US ranks 17th in broadband connections per capita. And in terms of average speed of a broadband connection in America, it's a joke. Japan leads the world in broadband speed with an "Average" connection of 60Megabits where the US average speed is lagging under 10 closer to 5 Megabits. If the ISPs in this country would just concern themselves with giving us fast connections, mainly fiber to the home, then all this talk about throttling anyone or anything will cease immediately. TV through your ISP is already a reality in Japan, and in HighDef. There's a lot of business to be done on a 60Megabit connection to the house, cable and phone companies need to wake up to this.
Posted by jmarcellais (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
links for stats
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by jmarcellais (2 comments )
Link Flag
WTF! Thanks to Comcast . . .
The headlines for this article are so biased, I won't even bother to read it.

Who decided to attribute Comcast's recent bad behavior to a P2P app that's been around for years? Pheh. Pteui. Ach.

As for "Eating up bandwidth . . .", not even worth commenting on.
Posted by criticny (5 comments )
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