16 January 2008

FCC Investigates Comcast Packet Blocking

For what it's worth, if Comcast finds it necessary to throttle some applications, they should be open about it to customers and prospective customers.

What happened here was that they were forging TCP reset packets to throttle the traffic, and then lying about it.

The problem is threefold, first, it interferes with non-Bit Torrent applications, I've read about it interfering with Lotus Notes, second, it makes troubleshooting problems with other applications very difficult, and third, the customer is being defrauded.

FWIW, traffic management, if necessary, should be based on bandwidth, which is what the ISPs sell, not application. It, or so I've been told, a trivial operation.

To quote Wetmachine: Harold Feld's Tales of the Sausage Factory:
1) The FCC issued a public notice asking for comment on our Petition for Declaratory Ruling that Comcast's “network management practice” of messing with BitTorrent uploads violated the FCC's “Broadband Policy Statement,” which includes a principle that network operators may not block or degrade content or applications. In a separate public notice (but as part of the same proceeding), the FCC also seeks comment on the Vuze Petition for Rulemaking on how broadband access providers handle and shape IP traffic generally. (Copy of Vuze Petition here, copy of our Petition here).

2) Separately, the FCC issued a separate public notice seeking comment on a Petition filed by Public Knowledge and the usual suspects asking the FCC to declare that wireless carriers cannot deny short codes or block text messaging. This goes after Verizon's high profile “oopsie” of denying a request by NARAL for a short code. Although, as we pointed out in the Petition, the more likely and pernicious problem is with plain old anticompetitive blocking, such as denying a short code to VOIP provider Rebtel.com and denying applications to major banks offering competing services.

3) Comcast confirmed that the FCC has lanched a formal inquiry into whether it violated the FCC's broadband policy statement. Comcast reiterated that it will fully cooperate with the FCC, and expects any investigation to show that Comcast did not block content and has engaged in legitimate network management practices.
I think that the problem here is largely cultural. To paraphrase Lilly Tomlin from Laugh-In, who originally said this about the phone company, "We're the cable company, we don't have to care."

That said, for the complex minutiae of how this is proceeding, and what it all means, go to the link. The process is confusing.

In particular, look at his, "How Do I File Comments?" section. If you want your voice heard.


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