FCC vs Comcast – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The FCC has finally ordered Comcast to cease its practice of throttling back users who use BitTorrent and who use vast amounts of bandwidth while downloading files. But is the FCC decision enough? Since it only applies to Comcast, what happens if other ISP’s restrict bandwidth usage? Do we need a court case to decide what ISP’s can do?

These are some of the questions that are going to be needed to be answered, before we as consumers can jump up and down and claim a victory against bandwidth throttling. Over at The Huffington Post, this one statement says it all:

But nobody should confuse “groundbreaking precedent” with an adequate solution to the problem of broadband service providers using their bottleneck powers to pick winners and losers on the Internet. Yes, the Comcast decision will be powerful and significant. But it will not be enough to check the telco-cable duopoly.

Here is why the Comcast decision has its limits: First, the decision will apply only to Comcast. Second, the decision will apply only to the peer-to-peer throttling techniques that Comcast used. 

Surprise! Over at Comcast they have a different take on the decision. Comcast states:

 “We are gratified that the Commission did not find any conduct by Comcast that justified a fine and that the deadline established in the order is the same self-imposed deadline that we announced four months ago. On the other hand, we are disappointed in the Commission’s divided conclusion because we believe that our network management choices were reasonable, wholly consistent with industry practices and that we did not block access to Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services. We also believe that the Commission’s order raises significant due process concerns and a variety of substantive legal questions.  We are considering all our legal options and are disappointed that the commission rejected our attempts to settle this issue without further delays.”

One can conclude that Comcast may not just roll over and play dead. Comcast could challenge the FCC decision on several fronts, including the right of the FCC to even have made a decision. Comcast could also cite that it is being treated unfairly by the FCC since no other ISP’s were sanctioned in the decision.

So I guess the questions that need to be answered are:

Does anyone believe that it is only Comcast that is throttling back on downloads? Shouldn’t the FCC make a broader decision and state that no ISP should throttle back?

Comments welcome.

Huffington Post

Comcast Press release

Bell Canada Plans To Throttle Back On Useage

Our friends to the north in Canada are facing a new throttle back program by Bell Canada that appears will cost consumers more. It appears that the new plan, once in place, will charge for those who go over a set limit per month on downloading. Though Bell Canada does not mention how much the overage charges will be, one can guess it will not be cheap. According to this p2pnet news article:

Just got back from the conference and here is what Bell is proposing.

512Kbps service will be limited to 2GB per month
5Mbps service will be limited to 60GB per month

They did not disclose what the overcharges will be, but don’t expect  it to be cheap. Simply put DSL as we know it right now will no longer exist.

We find this proposal to be totally unexceptable [sic]. The only good news  is that it will not affect current clients. So as long as you don’t  change ISP’s you can keep your current unlimited connection. Bell proposes to start shadow billing in October and usage based billing in Jan of 2009.

This has given me a new sense [of] urgency to setup our own equipment at the CO. I will be approaching a few other ISP in the next little while to see if we can come to some type of agreement. We prefer not to do this alone.

 So it looks like Canada is facing some of the same problems we are facing here in the US. Which makes one wonder? Does making more money on the Internet for the ISP’s going to hurt the implementation of broadband?

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


FCC To ISP – You Will Be Spanked

The chairman of the FCC has stated that the agency is ready to punish some of the ISP’s that secretly control users web traffic. Though not specifically mentioning any names [Comcast], it is fairly common knowledge that one of the big cable providers was caught doing just that. Consumers have complained to the FCC that the cable giant does throttle back their connections when they are online and have cited file sharing restrtions imposed by the cable company. In an article it states:

“The commission is ready, willing and able to step in if necessary to correct any practices that are ongoing today,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in opening statements of the hearing at Harvard Law School´s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Martin said service providers should be allowed to take reasonable steps to make efficient use of their networks at a time when consumers´ growing appetite for Web video threatens to bump up against networks´ capacity limits. But he said such management policies must be disclosed.

“Consumers need to know if and how network management practices distinguish between different applications, so they can configure their own applications and systems properly,” Martin said.

Consumer groups and a provider of online video have filed complaints alleging Comcast hampered traffic between users without notice, violating the Internet´s tradition of equal treatment of traffic. Two of the groups also asked the FCC to fine Comcast.

The issue got broad attention after an Associated Press story in October documented Comcast´s practices. Comcast later acknowledged that it sometimes delays file-sharing traffic for subscribers as a way to keep Web traffic flowing for everyone.

The bottom line seems to be that any ISP must disclose to their users their intent to throttle connections if they use such sites that share files.

Do you think this is fair?

Comments welcome.

Full article is here.

[tags]fcc, isp, comcast, throttle, file, sharing, websites, fair, connection,  [/tags]