Comcast ruling on net neutrality ..

Interesting article from TelecomTv. as below. I have highlighted sections I find very interesting

Here in the UK, Virign is the biggest culprit on net neutrality

(which makes a contrast from Richard Branson’s talk about fair pricing in the airline industry!) with Virgin advertisements which are misleading about broadband speed

I was also concerned about their new Fibre optic broadband advertisers .. but plenty of others have also complained against the Virgin fibre optic advertisements .. and Virgin have been censured again!



Comcast ruling begins to clarify neutrality argument – a little

07/08/2008 13:55:00 – by Ian Scales

The FCC (in a close, 3 to 2 decision) delivered a sharp rebuke to US cable giant Comcast last week for throttling its users’ traffic and thereby violating Internet principles regarding neutrality.

The ruling should influence thinking in Europe and the rest of the world around the boundaries between traffic management and user punishment – a live concern in Europe with theTelecom Package appearing to clear the way for national governments to allow traffic throttling to be used as a sanction against illegal file sharing.

The FCC judgement followed a long list of complaints from users claiming Comcast was interfering with their peer-to-peer traffic flows, especially BitTorrents and that they, er, shouldn’t do it. Could they stop? The FCC considered the matter and came up with a judgement.

The verbals are worth a quote or two. “We find that it was unreasonable for Comcast to discriminate against particular Internet applications, including BitTorrent,” said FCC chairman Kevin Martin. “While Comcast claimed its intent was to manage congestion, the evidence told a different story,” said Kev (we like him), who went on to unpack a new version of the post office analogy we’re quite fond of on the ‘Throttle the Package” campaign. He said it was like “the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn’t want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped ‘address unknown – return to sender.’”

Comcast was given 30 days to disclose the details of its “discriminatory network practises” to the Commission and to submit a compliance plan describing how it plans to stop the practises by year-end.

The decision came as a surprise to many in the US (and us) who had expected something more muted, or even a decision which went the other way and exoneratedComcast. To that end there will be noisy appeals after which many expect a second decision to modify or overturn the first.

But even if the fat lady is still in her dressing room doing vocal exercises, we think the decision as articulated by Kev has crystallised some important principles.

First, it teases apart the technical and the commercial and makes it clear that players need to be sure they can show they’re doing the former and not the latter – this is good. Secondly it highlights the importance of being clear about what you’re doing and then telling people.

For too long ISPs have been able to shelter in technical vagueness over a range of matters, such as how fast connections are, and how and under what circumstances traffic will be ‘engineered’. The ruling makes it clear that ISPs can’t hide behind a “we don’t need to trouble the customers too much with the detail, just trust us,” defence. This is becoming increasingly unacceptable.

What the judgement has made clearer, both for the US and the rest of the world, is the distinction between pure traffic engineering and using it to punish or dissuade users from some behaviour you don’t approve of.

Perhaps most importantly, it highlights ‘motivation’ and consequent ‘behaviour’ as a subject for examination. Those – unfortunately very often in our own industry – who rail against the judgement on the basis that it’s a bureaucratic intervention by people who aren’t technical enough to understand the principles of network management, miss the point. This is not about ‘regulating the Internet’ as is often claimed. That would clearly be a non-starter and, as one of the main motivations of those of us who want to keep the thing open and neutral is to protect the freedom to innovate, would be totally self-defeating.

But there is clearly a role for regulators to protect the essential principles of the Internet by sanctioning corporate ‘behaviour’ which undermines them. Martin’s judgement is the result of considering the ‘way’ Comcast went about doing what it did.

What, the Commission asked, was Comcast setting out to do by throttling traffic? Was this about traffic management? Or was it just as much about protecting its own services by stopping file sharing behaviour it felt undermined them? If it was to reduce traffic congestion, then why did it pick on a specific application, why didn’t it throttle back all heavy traffic flows… and so on.

This is ethical oversight, not detailed regulation, and it’s no different from the sort of approach applied to things like abuse of ‘insider information’ in the financial markets. We should expect similar developments in our field.

At least the US system in this case delivered a reasonably transparent down-to-earth decision-making process through the FCC, whereas the European Union’s hugely detailed and ultimately opaque steps and stages (as with the telecoms package) often create a process capable of confusing any electorate (in 12 languages) as the legislative process grinds along.

It’s too often like one of those process flow charts which codifies what is actually a simple interaction into a birds nest of arrows and shapes: faultlessly logical, but ultimately self-defeating.


  1. Ed says:

    Whoa…! COMCAST was blocking ALL traffic from any ISP they ID’d as being the source of “abusive” P2P or bulk-mailing of SPAM. What abouit the poor household Emailer like myself who NEVER sent non-stop flow of junk…! I have several contacts at I even down-sized all snapshots and compressed small files. But my BLOCKAGE (read blacklisting) was permanent…! I would request unblocking, it was sometime granted, but then re-established immediately on their receipt of any traffic from my Email host ISP. They are shameless, very wideband greedy internet users. They need dressing down and ordered to be more discrete about blockages of any kind.