In the course of pursuing its grievance with the FCC over broadband traffic management, Free Press and its allies have developed annoying tendencies to overstate the qualifications of its “experts” and to make wild technical assertions unsupported by empirical data. They pass Robb Topolski off as a “network engineer” when he was, while employed, a low-level tester of PC software. David Reed, who was in the design loop for TCP/IP in the 1970s but has gone in other directions since then, is represented as having worked continuously for 35 years on the advancement of Internet protocols. Free Press now employs Topolski and increasingly relies on him for analysis.
Comcast has finally said “enough is enough” and filed a document with the FCC addressing the inaccuracy of Free Press and Topoloski’s claims about their management systems:
â€¢ First, Comcastâ€™s High-Speed Internet customers can and do access any content, run any application, and use any service that they wish.
â€¢ Second, our network management practices are similar to those deployed by other Internet service providers in the United States and around the world, and are reasonably designed to enable, not hinder, the high-quality user experience that the Internet Policy Statement contemplates and that competitive marketplace considerations require.
â€¢ Third, although Free Press and its consultants believe they know and understand Comcastâ€™s network and how it manages that network, they do not, and they have made no legitimate effort to gain such an understanding (as others have recently done).
â€¢ Fourth, Comcastâ€™s network management practices are not discriminatory and are entirely agnostic as to the content being transmitted, where it is being sent from or to, or the identity of the sender or receiver.
â€¢ Finally, Comcastâ€™s customer service agreements and policies have long disclosed that broadband capacity is not unlimited, and that the network is managed for the benefit of all customers. Comcastâ€™s disclosures have always been comparable to — and are now far more detailed than — almost any other Internet service providerâ€™s disclosures.
The bottom line is this: the Internet is a web of shared communication links provisioned by statistical predictions about traffic. Any application or user which uses more bandwidth than the typical profile takes it away from others. The owner/manager of every link has a responsibility to assure fair access, and allowing applications with enormous bandwidth appetites to gobble up an unfair share of communication opportunities is a failure to own up to this responsibility.
Comcast has been charged with degrading an innovative new application, but the facts don’t support the charge. Actually, the innovative new application – P2P as presently implemented – has the effect of degrading traditional applications. Hence, P2P has to be managed.
So the only interesting questions are how. There are several members in the set of reasonable means of managing P2P traffic. The burden is on the FCC and the petitioners to show that the Sandvine system isn’t one of them, and they haven’t seriously attempted to do so.
Hiding behind wild claims and overblown rhetoric doesn’t help consumers, doesn’t protect free speech, and doesn’t improve the nature of broadband networking.
Sober analysis does, and that’s what we try to do here. Kudos to Comcast for standing up to these bullies.