Monday, March 31, 2008

Comcast v. the FCC

A couple weeks ago I commented on the Comcast - BitTorrent kerfuffle.
The two companies now appear to have settled their differences. In a joint press conference last Thursday, they announced that they are now working together to insure that Comcast's efforts to manage its network did not unfairly single out any applications. Comcast promised that by the end of 2008 they will only restrict bandwidth for individual users, and then only during peak usage periods when not to do so would cause service disruptions for others. BitTorrent said it was revamping its software to improve efficiency, and that it would work with Comcast to make the software and network function better together.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin, who had threatened Comcast with penalties over the BitTorrent restrictions, was much less charitable. While he said that he was "pleased that Comcast has reversed course" he also said it is not reasonable to "arbitrarily block certain applications," and went on to complain about the pace of Comcast's announced changes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hillary versus the US Constitution

Following the announcement of Admiral Fallon's early "retirement" after he repeatedly and publicly disagreed with the Bush Administration over Middle-East policy, Sen. Hillary Clinton urged her colleagues to back a bill requiring Bush to get congressional approval before taking any military action against Iran.
This is one of the most absurd political maneuvers in a long line of such moves. While I think that any military action against Iran would be a terrible mistake, for many reasons, this bill is patently unconstitutional, and, should Sen. Clinton be elected, I'm sure she would ignore it, citing the president's role as Commander in Chief.
This is a strong hint that Sen. Clinton may have just as little regard for the Constitution as the current president. The real loser in this showdown will be the American people.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Comcast, TimeWarner, BitTorrent, and network neutrality

As the FCC proceeds with its investigation into Comcast's blocking of BitTorrent uploads by broadband subscribers, it's interesting to note the different approach that Time Warner Cable has selected to deal with the same issue.
Comcast, intent on alienating both its customers and the FCC, argues that a "very small number of broadband users employ certain (peer-to-peer) protocols that utilize immense amounts of bandwidth in ways that are unpredictable and inconsistent and that can threaten to overwhelm network capacity and harm the online experience of other users. That is why, even with continuous upgrades and constant investment, the fact remains that network capacity is not - and never will be - unlimited."
Time Warner Cable, while supporting Comcast's arguments regarding network management, does not engage in any blocking or slowing down of traffic itself, instead announcing that it may start charging higher fees to heavy bandwidth users later this year.
Ashwin Navin, president and co-founder of BitTorrent, said that in an average month, over 40 million people use its software, a fact he said refutes Comcast's argument that the issue is about a small number of people using software applications like it.
The most insightful comments came from Marvin Ammori, general counsel at the public interest group Free Press, who suggested that network operators like Comcast are facing the reality that the Internet hasn't developed how they thought it would. He observed that when Comcast was building the bulk of its network, it bet on the fact that most of the traffic would be downstream, or into customers' households. As file-sharing applications grow in popularity, Internet service providers are having to fall back on network management as a way to ensure their networks don't collapse under the weight of customer-generated content.