Frisco Weekly into the Fray

A generally gushy article on the EFF and Comcast appears today in The Frisco Weekly, making one telling point:

A 2007 study by professors at Clemson University offered solid proof that as few as 15 BitTorrent users on a Comcast-like network could degrade downloads and uploads for everyone else, making streaming videos stutter, or causing other delays. The popularity of BitTorrent, combined with video-streaming sites like YouTube, now clogs up the Internet, Comcast says. That’s why the company says it performs “traffic management” to keep the lanes open for everyone.

Comcast has repeatedly denied that it can “block” BitTorrent traffic. Instead, a spokesman says all ISPs “manage” Net traffic to ensure all customers can receive e-mail and surf the Web. Peer-to-peer users of BitTorrent are a bandwidth-hungry minority, Comcast contends.

[BitTorrent creator Bram] Cohen agrees. In fact, it’s something he predicted when he first thought up BitTorrent. “My whole idea was, ‘Let’s use up a lot of bandwidth,'” he laughs. “I had a friend who said, ‘Well, ISPs won’t like that.’ And I said, ‘Why should I care?'”

Why indeed, as long as somebody else pays the bill?

6 thoughts on “Frisco Weekly into the Fray”

  1. What time is 91 o’clock? I’m guessing that’s a week’s worth of hours? I wish they had made that part clear, along with the A, B, and C numbers. It muddies their argument greatly, which I happen to agree with.

    What’s the “Other”? UDP traffic?

  2. Who’s paying for it? The ISP’s customers, when they signed up for service.

    If an ISP offers unlimited service, and then gets upset when protocols start to take advantage of it, they need to update their pricing plans.

    All you can eat ISPs are just like all you can eat buffets. They try to get people in the door, and then want them to eat the cheapest food possible.

    Comcast’s behavior is just what you’d expect from the skewed economic incentives they’re operating under. They should adopt a pricing model where they actually want people to use the service they offer.

  3. When 4% of the customers are eating 75% of the food, the rules of the buffet have to change. I don’t see any of the adverts for Comcast inviting people to overload the uplink, but maybe I need to look harder.

  4. Comcast did advertise unlimited. The word means what it means. If the network can’t handle it, the users who have taken advantage of the service they have purchased are not at fault. To their credit, Comcast has dropped the “u word,” but that doesn’t change the situation for the customers who have signed up under the impression that they really were getting the service that was advertised.

    It’s good we both agree that the rules of broadband need to change. I think your point, and it’s valid, is that Comcast’s actions are reasonable from a technological point of view. I just don’t think they are from a business point of view. The customers they have taken action against may be in the minority, but they are certainly influential as well as likely being technological early adopters. Just like Netflix caters to the movie buff in order that they tell their friends and bring in the masses, Comcast should be catering to heavy Internet and bandwidth users. They are currently taking action against those who could be their evangelists.

    Furthermore, anything less than full disclosure of *exactly* how they manage their network takes away consumer’s ability to make an informed choice between providers. Markets only function effectively when there is good information. It is never “reasonable” for them to engage in a practice that materially changes the product they offer, without disclosing that they are going to do so ahead of time– and notices like “we reserve the right to manage our network,” without more, just don’t cut it.

    Anyway, I enjoy your blog, and I appreciate how well you challenge many of my assumptions.

  5. Did they? That’s silly, given that there’s no such thing as an “unlimited network”, thanks to the laws of physics and whatnot. Awfully silly to advertise things you can never deliver.

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