Comcast, BitTorrent and spam spam spam

Spam, which uses the same port as regular e-mail traffic, thus becomes the convenient excuse for eliminating the open Internet and creating a new, carrier-controlled network in which innovative services like Netflix Video on Demand can be killed, because they threaten cable's business model.

Spam from Hormel
In all the words being written about Comcast's violating net neutrality and throttling down BitTorrent, no one has pointed to their excuse.

Bandwidth. (To the right, a yummy pork shoulder and ham product from the good folks at Hormel.)

Many small ISPs, especially if they're based on WiFi, routinely throttle down BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer applications. They have done so for years. Their bandwidth costs them real money, and the only way they say they can assure adequate speed to all is to minimize the movement of big files.

But what's the biggest bandwidth hog out there? Spam. I use Comcast, and over 95% of what comes through my Internet connection each day is spam. Cleaning it out of my own Internet pipes with Mailwasher helps, but it's like clearing out a sewer next to a construction project that lacks retaining fences. You have to do it all the time.

Very little is done about spam, but ISPs are very upset over people they label "bandwidth hogs" -- users of peer-to-peer services who keep data flowing in-and-out all the time. This has led many to buy "traffic management boxes" from firms like Ellacoya, which use deep packet inspection to control what users do with their connections.

Comcast is merely one of the larger companies to deploy this kind of technology, but it's an industry-wide trend. By inspecting what packets are doing inside a network, an ISP can decide which get through and which get stalled. They can, in other words, define the Internet to suit their business model, rather than have customers on either side of a connection define it to suit their needs.

Spam, which uses the same port as regular e-mail traffic, thus becomes the convenient excuse for eliminating the open Internet and creating a new, carrier-controlled network in which innovative services like Netflix Video on Demand can be killed, because they threaten cable's business model of deciding what you can watch, and getting a rake-off on it.

The Internet, the dumb network, is dead. Meet the CorporateNet. The new boss is not the same as the old boss. And if they can kill BitTorrent, they can kill open source. All they need is an excuse.

Thus it's no coincidence that the U.S. is no longer the technology king. Once people who control bottlenecks are able to throttle down change, and are given both legitimate (spam) and illegitimate (monopoly) reasons to do it, that's the inevitable result.

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