Comcast sets the record straight

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:

• First, Comcast’s High-Speed Internet customers can and do access any content, run any application, and use any service that they wish.

• 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.

• Third, although Free Press and its consultants believe they know and understand Comcast’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).

• Fourth, Comcast’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.

• Finally, Comcast’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. Comcast’s disclosures have always been comparable to — and are now far more detailed than — almost any other Internet service provider’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.

3 thoughts on “Comcast sets the record straight”

  1. Comcast should give a big bonus to the lawyer who wrote that document. It’s the best they’ve ever published — clear, concise, backed up by good citations and references, and free of the “attitude” that was present in some of the others. Will the FCC (particularly Commissioner Adelstein, who is surely the “swing” vote) listen? We can only hope. A ruling against Comcast would harm every broadband provider, but especially the smaller ones and the ones that are breaking new ground by covering previously unserved areas.

  2. A bunch of activity in the docket during the past few days.

    Topolski, who seems now to be in the employ of the lobbying group Free Press (Gee, I wish I was a big money lobbyist with the cash to hire just one person, let alone dozens, to lobby in DC — but instead I’m doing something productive with my life), has fired back, with a response that comes across as rather petulant and whiny, at

    The Nation Cable & Telecommunications Association (a cable providers’ industry group) has filed a very good comment noting that every top tier university in the United States restricts or filters P2P; see (And thank Heaven that the schools do it; research would grind to a halt if they did not.)

    Free Press lawyer Marvin Ammori and MAP lawyer Harold Feld met with Kevin Martin’s office and encouraged the FCC to stick it to Comcast.. (Gee, where do these two corporations — actually, they’re three corporations, because Free Press is composed of two corporations as a way of circumventing the tax code — get the money for all of these lawyers? We small ISPs, as legitimate businesses with budgets, can’t afford them.) See

    MediaCom points out that its own AUP also prohibits P2P and the operation of servers, and that this is appropriate and good for quality of service. See

    Ammori visited with Commissioner Copps’ office, undoubtedly providing unsolicited advice on how to strangle Comcast. See

    The CWA chimes in to support Free Press, demonstrating that the entire issue is becoming polarized along party lines: Democrats and unions on one side, Republicans (except for Kevin Martin?) and corporations on the other. And the actual small ISPs like me who can provide competition? I don’t get to speak to the Commissioners; I’m lucky if I can get a few minutes with their aides. See

    A law firm hired by Comcast fires back with a brief refuting the recent submissions by the lobbying lawyers of MAP and Free Press. See

    And so it goes. All that money flying about, and no one considering the actual issue of what’s best for citizens. Well, about all I can do is go out and climb onto another rooftop (I’m installing for another rural resident this afternoon whom we’ve just freed from having to use dialup.) If the FCC won’t let me and people like me make a difference (and if they regulate us, we won’t be able to), they’re hurting our country.

    By the way, I was gratified today to see one single submission in the docket that wasn’t from a lawyer, a paid lobbyint, or the Free Press astroturf “spam generator.” It’s from the host of this blog, Richard Bennett, at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *