Category Archives: network managment

Bugs in Twitter

I was writing about how Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., had praised FCC Chairman Michael Powell for his articulation of the “four freedoms” of Internet, or his early articulation of Net Neutrality rules. (It got duplicated on Twitter, and then my delete snagged both items. The same duplication happened with Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.)

Pickering went on to claims that current FCC Chairman continues that approach (four freedoms) on Net Neutrality.

Pickering concluded: “We do not want government intervention, regulation, but we want the private sector to take the leadership in preserving an open business model, and that is my purpose for joining with Mr. Markey on this legislation.”

Net Neutrality Critics Now in the Limelight

In the wake of the Federal Communications Commission’s “network management” event in Cambridge, Mass., on February 25, it looks as though Net Neutrality critics are finally enjoying their day in the sun.

 

Last week, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation hosted two of the most knowledgeable critics, Richard Bennett and Brett Glass, at their own forum on the subject. At the event, Brett unveiled a list of his own seven Net Neutrality principles. For Glass, it’s all about disclosure — full disclosure of the Internet Service Provider’s terms of service, disclosure of the behavior of software, and “no obfuscation” about the way that software has on network management.

 

Bennett was one of a handful of Net Neutrality critics to also testify at the FCC event at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, the majority of whose witnesses spoke out sharply against Comcast’s decision to delay traffic to the P2P application BitTorrent. Bennett posted the slides that he presented at the ITIF event, in which he articulated his own eight questions on appropriate network management practices:

 

  1. Does the practice support a rational goal, such as the fair distribution of bandwidth?
  2. Is it applied, adapted, or modified by network conditions?
  3. Does it conform to standard Internet practices, or to national or international standards, and if not, does it improve on them?
  4. Has it been communicated to customers?
  5. Has technical information that would allow for independent analysis been made available to the research community and the public at large?
  6. Does the practice interfere with customer control of traffic priorities or parameters consistent with terms of service?
  7. Is the practice efficient with respect to both the upstream and downstream data paths?
  8. Does the practice accomplish its purpose with minimal disruption to the network experience of customers as a whole?

 

Bennett’s talk highlighted how Japan’s 100 megabits per second delivery to the home has created a traffic mix dominated by peer-to-peer applications. On his blog, he noted that now it appears as though Japan’s Internet service providers are going to go after P2P piracy.

 

Meanwhile, the debate about piracy and network management is about to get more complicated here at home. Last week Motion Picture Association of America chairman Dan Glickman waded into the debate by opposing mandatory network neutrality rules.

 

In a speech at the ShoWest Convention in Las Vegas, Glickman said: “Government regulation of the Internet would be a terrible reversal of American innovation policy … would impede our ability to respond to consumers in innovative ways and impair the ability of broadband providers to address the serious and rampant piracy problems occurring over their networks today.”

 

The Independent Film & Television Alliance responded in a letter on March 14 that it was “astounded” to hear that the major studios “denounced the principle of ‘net neutrality’ and its advocates.”

 

Other critics of Net Neutrality are raising fears of an “Internet Traffic Jam,” which was favorably reported on by Steve Lohr of The New York Times on March 13. According to Lohr’s story, many experts are warning that the new World Wide Wait is being caused by P2P video users hogging all of those fat pipes that the cable and telco providers spent billion to rollout.

 

Predictions to the contrary aside, the fights over Net Neutrality aren’t over. Not at all.

In Comcast vs. Verizon, Comcast is Down Two Counts

By Drew Clark

 

Dominance in the broadband market is a battle of both technology and politics. Right now Comcast, America’s leading cable company, is losing on both counts.

 

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen emerged from the Federal Communications Commission’s hearing on Internet practices in Cambridge, Mass., as unable to defend himself and his company against charges of blocking the peer-to-peer (P2P) Internet application BitTorrent.

 

Comcast also came out looking like the kind of bullying corporation that resorts to packing the auditorium with its own employees.

 

Besides, Comcast is not a very good FOK, or Friend of Kevin — as in Kevin Martin, the chairman of the agency. Martin has done nearly everything in his power to harm Comcast and the cable industry since he took over the FCC in March 2005.

 

That political battle with the cable industry is all about a la carte, or per-channel television programming. But it comes right back to Comcast’s technological disadvantage: cable — unlike both fiber and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line service) — is a “shared service” among many consumers. The network was designed to “broadcast” video in a cable pipe, and not to facilitate large uploads by P2P users and others.

 

By contrast, Verizon Communications and its Executive Vice President Tom Tauke emerged from the hearing, held at Harvard Law School, with a squeaky-clean image. “At the current time, we have found no need to have a network management tool,” said Tauke. “We don’t have a shared network.”

 

Note even the pre-ordained and subtle digs, visible in this photograph: It is “The Honorable Tom Tauke” on the left, but merely “David L. Cohen” on the right. (Tauke received this honorific because he is a former Congressman, a Republican from Iowa.)

 

Cohen’s basic point was as follows: we don’t block P2P applications, but we do manage them by “delay[ing] the request for uploads; we don’t block it.”

 

Said Cohen:

Comcast not block web sites, applications, web protocols, including P2P services.

What we are doing is a limited form of network management, objectively based upon an excessive bandwidth consumptive protocol during limited periods of network congestion.

 

But he wouldn’t say what those “objectively based” forms of management are. No user has any way of knowing when they are exceeding the speed limit. Nor did he address the counter-arguments of Professors Yochai Benkler, of Harvard Law School, or Timothy Wu, of Columbia Law School — that delaying a BitTorrent transmission is tantamount to blocking it.

 

“Comcast has been blocking Bittorrent, and that is the end of the story,” said Wu. “That is a violation” of the FCC’s Net Neutrality principles.

 

The basic problem for Comcast is that users of P2P applications like BitTorrent do consume an extraordinary amount of bandwidth . But BitTorrent users aren’t hogging the fat, downstream pipe that cable offers. It’s the the scrawny upstream trickle that everyone is fighting over.

 

DSL service, in general, has the same “asymetrical” character, offering far greater downstream speeds than upstream speeds. But the cable modem service’s shared network compounds this problem.

 

Contrast this with the message that Tauke imparted. Given the capacity of Verizon’s fiber optic service (FiOS), “at the current time, we do not have the necessity of thwarting or curtailing traffic.” Tauke even touted Verizon’s 20/20 service, or 20 megabits downstream and 20 megabits upstream. The Bell company announced this symmetrical during the same week in which the revelations of Comcast’s BitTorrent behavior surfaced last fall.