Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Empirical Evidence of Net Bias—Now What?

A widely distributed and unassailable study by the Associated Press (see http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/10/19/ap4240786.html) confirms what many Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) industry observers had speculated: some ISPs exploit deliberately ambiguous subscriber contracts to reserve the option for blocking, dropping, and downgrading certain types of traffic even when network conditions do not necessitate such congestion abatement strategies. ISPs frame the issue in terms of their contractual right to “shape traffic.” However such traffic “management” tactics generate false congestion and trigger delayed or dropped packets.

For years ISPs representatives and their snarky, righteously indignant sponsored advocates stated unequivocally that ISPs would never deliberately degrade the Internet access experience for any paying subscriber. See http://www.filmfestivaltoday.com/article_item.asp?ID=853 quoting Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg: "We don't block anything…never have, never will." see also, http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/judiciary/hju27225.000/hju27225_0.HTM.

Later they shaped the debate in terms of fair and appropriate allocation of their costs among low and high volume users. Now they consider the issue one of how they manage their network to maximize service to their subscribers.

In fact ISPs have two very key reasons for creating congestion of packets, just like Enron created congestion of electrons:

1) blocking, delaying, and degrading certain types of expensive to handle traffic, such as peer-to-peer file sharing, delays or forecloses the need to invest in costly network upgrades; and

2) blocking, delaying, and degrading certain types of expensive to handle traffic, such as peer-to-peer file sharing, can enable an ISP to create a new customer service tier for unblocked peer-to-peer traffic at premium price.

Heretofore I have stood midway between the groups claiming “no problem”camp and the “curtains for the free world” alarmists. However I have consistent stated that an ISP violates a reasonable sense of network neutrality, appropriate even for private carriers, when an ISP deliberately creates artificial network congestion to achieve an ulterior motive. See http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/m/rmf5/.

I would support Comcast’s option to create a premium “power user” peer-to-peer network optimized service. But I would equally protest any ISP strategy to extort such payments, or simply to punish peer-to-peer networkers, when the ISP network can easily handle such traffic without degrading service to other subscribers.

In another post I will Comcast examine whether Comcast and other ISPs can lawfully use language in subscriber contracts to degrade peer-to-peer traffic streams regardless of network conditions.


lotto said...

To the owner of this blog, how far youve come?

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