AT&T ready to become Internet cop

So Comcast says it is not blocking but slowing certain kinds of traffic in order to preserve the viability of its network. As a cable provider, Comcast is much better able to offer downstream bandwidth than upstream, therefore mostly what it blocks is upstream peer-to-peer traffic, primarily BitTorrent.

So Comcast says it is not blocking but slowing certain kinds of traffic in order to preserve the viability of its network. As a cable provider, Comcast is much better able to offer downstream bandwidth than upstream, therefore mostly what it blocks is upstream peer-to-peer traffic, primarily BitTorrent.

Even if you accept the argument that Comcast has a need, even a duty, to shape its bandwidth, that is, to degrade service for, say 2% of users, in order to preserve reasonable performance for the other 98% ...

"Comcast is in an interesting position because the amount of outbound and inbound traffic is constrained in their network," Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic.net, a California ISP, said in a telephone interview. "In an asynchronous network, as the amount of outbound traffic grows, inbound rates will decrease." Thus in order to maintain service quality for inbound traffic, which is important to all users, Comcast is throttling outbound P2P traffic. [Comcast Impersonates Users To Control P2P Traffic]

... even if you accept that, you can't help noticing that the application that gets blocked is the one that transmits exactly what Comcast itself transmits: high-resolution video.

You will further notice that Comcast not only carries video content, it owns, develops and licenses content. Check out the groovy new Comcast site, Fancast.

So maybe there's an ulterior motive here, beyond network protection. Just maybe Comcast's Internet service is protecting the business interests of other parts of the Company. Or the interests of its partners, since BitTorrent not only delivers large-file video but also, overwhelmingly, copyright-violating content.

If YouTube et al can filter for copyright violations (indeed, they are practically compelled to do so), why shouldn't Comcast or AT&T or any other ISP? Last week the Times ran a brief piece from CES in which AT&T promised to do just that.

“What we are already doing to address piracy hasn’t been working. There’s no secret there,” said James Cicconi, senior vice president, external & legal affairs for AT&T.

Mr. Cicconi said that AT&T has been talking to technology companies, and members of the M.P.A.A. and R.I.A.A., for the last six months about carrying out digital fingerprinting techniques on the network level.

“We are very interested in a technology based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,” he said. “We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies. But we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies, including NBC Universal, to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

Funny thing is, says law prof Tim Wu, AT&T spent six years lobbying for the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which freed them from the responsibility for monitoring, according to Marguerite Reardon's piece on News.com.

Content owners are pressuring the ISPs to do more to protect their copyrights.

Rick Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel for NBC Universal, said, "I also make the argument that it doesn't make sense to allow people to utilize (the carriers') infrastructure to steal material that (the carriers are) trying to acquire for another part of their business," he said. "Can I say which consideration affects which ISPs? I can't answer that question. But I do think it's something they ought to take into account."

That's pretty blatant, huh? Copyright protection comes before network neutrality.

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