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Spam a bigger concern than network neutrality

Open source depends upon a level Internet playing field. The Comcast abuse of BitTorrent, an open source protocol, shows how that playing field is already being tilted. The result of this fight may determine the fate of open source.

Comcast logo
My most controversial post of 2007 was probably the October story called Comcast, BitTorrent and Spam Spam Spam.

BitTorrent logo
My idea was that Comcast broke net neutrality principles in banning BitTorrent, while ignoring the bigger bandwidth-wasting problem of spam. It was the 5th most popular post this year.

The story drew heavy comment, much of it negative. Here were the critics' two main points:

  1. The movement of big files through p2p protocols like BitTorrent is a much heavier bandwidth load, commenters said. They're right -- spam is mainly an issue for routers, not core links.
  2. You're conflating two separate issues, others said. I didn't think so then, and don't think so now. In both cases we're talking about the behavior of a major ISP, fighting some issues on behalf of its business interests, ignoring other issues which don't threaten those interests.

Since the story appeared the problem of last-mile ISPs twisting the Internet to suit their ends has only grown worse. I'm convinced that  CorporateNets, monopoly Internet access networks run for the self-interest of their owners, will only increase in 2008.

How does this relate to open source?

At risk of repeating myself, open source depends upon a level Internet playing field. The Comcast abuse of BitTorrent, an open source protocol, shows how that playing field is already being tilted. The result of this fight may determine the fate of open source.