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Intellectual Property

Engineers: P2P is not "fair" usage; Reverse Robin Hood: Bandwidth rich steal from bandwidth poor

Three times a year the Internet Engineering Task Force meets to discuss and work through major Internet issues.

  • To my delight, one of the technical issues they recently discussed has great import to net neutrality and the FreePress petition on Comcast's reasonable network management.
  • Kudos to Iljitsch van Beijnum who wrote "Growth of P2P leads IETF to debate "fair" bandwidth use" in ars technica.
    • His excellent article explains a new paper being debated by the IETF that raises the core question, if the voracious bandwidth appetite of P2P is "fair" to non P2P users.

The paper and the article point out that users of "unattended" P2P applications use dramatically more bandwidth than users of "interactive" applications like web browsing -- and then poses the question of whether this excess usage is fair. 

Van Beijnum points out that the paper's authors suggest that P2P users are using 500 times the bandwidth as average interactive users. Moreover, he points out that this assymetric bandwidth dynamic disincents an ISP from upgrading their network because the assymetry would make them even less competitive. 

The fundamental point here is a question of fairness.

It's unreasonable for 1 "bandwidth hippo" out of every 10,000 users to gobble up everyone's bandwidth!

Another reason why the FreePress petition to block Comcast's reasonable network managment is so unreasonable is that it puts the bandwidth gluttony of a very few ahead of the needs of everyone else on the network.

The core premise and expectation behind the FreePress petition is outrageous and unreasonable.

  • The Moveon.org/FreePress people are essentially asking for radical net neutrality, which refuses to recognize Comcast's responsibility to reasonably manage network bandwidth scarcities to ensure that the few excessive abusers of bandwidth do not ruin the usability and responsiveness for the overwhelming majority of its Internet users.

Let's put Comcast's network management problem in perspective.

Weekly Standard: "Google and its Enemies" -- a great article on Google's Kleptomania in Digital Books

The Weekly Standard's cover story this week is "Google and its enemies -- the much hyped project to digitize 32 million books sounds good. why are so many people taking shots at it?"

  • It's a very good in-depth look at one ambitious aspect of Google's legendary kleptomania of intellectual property.
  • It also has some very insightful commentary about what this all means for Google's business model.

The article explains that Google is currently undertaking the most ambitious book copying project in human history, looking to scan 32 million books over ten years at an estimated cost of $800m.

EFF desperately trying to taint Comcast's network management as "packet forgery"

It appears that AP/Moveon.org/FreePress are panicking and have called for reinforcements to try and shore up their unreasonable characterization of Comcast's reasonable network managment of P2P traffic -- as somehow a net neutrality violation. 

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a new white paper ominously entitled: "Packet forgery by ISPs: A report on the Comcast affair."
  • Seems like they are desperate to try and add some "cyber-detective-story-drama" and new "buzzword blackmail" to get someone, anyone, to pay attention. 
    • This latest attempt by the "guilty-until-proven-innocent" net neutrality crowd, is obviously more focused on getting media attention than it is a serious attempt to influence the FCC.
      • News flash folks -- most all of the responsible press have caught on to your media and regulatory manipulation and tricks -- and are increasingly ignoring your desperate tantrums.  

One of the EFF's main claims in their report is supremely ironic and very telling:

Verizon's any device/any apps initiative proves competition/market forces work! -- 3 takeaways

Verizon's announcement that it will allow customers to choose any app and/or any device on its entire network in 2008 is proof positive that competitive market forces best serve consumers, not rigid net neutrality regulation or legislation.

I see three big takeaways from the Verizon announcement: consumer protection/reliability; market discipline, and more diversity of consumer choice.

Lawsuit against Comcast network management unlikely to go anywhere; court likely to defer to FCC

A San Francisco Bay subscriber of Comcast, Jon Hart, has filed a lawsuit against Comcast, for interfering with his file sharing, prompted by the AP story that alleged "Comcast Blocks some traffic."

  • Given that the AP was the first to file this story on its own story, (how convenient) it will be interesting to learn what ties, if any, Mr. Hart has to the AP reporter, or to the pressure groups behind the FCC petition, like Moveon.org's FreePress, Public Knowledge et al.

I doubt the court will waste much time on this lawsuit given that the normal avenue of recourse, in the appropriate governmental venue, is already being pursued by the petitioners at the FCC.

  • Usually courts are more than busy enough -- than to look for time-consuming, complex, minutia-laden cases, when normal established procedure and process (and Supreme Court doctrine) provide the court an easy way to defer to the expert government agency empowered by Congress specifically to deal with this type of issue.
  • Going immediately to court, and not waiting for FCC action, undermines Mr. Hart's case tremendously.  

I guess that Mr. Hart and his lawyer are aware that this case will likely go nowhere, but viewed it as helpful to the "cause" -- since net neutrality pressure groups are in constant search of "news hooks" to push their net neutrality crusade.

The unreasonable extremes of the FreePress Comcast petition

The FreePress Comcast petition alleging that Comcast's network management has violated the FCC's net neutality policy is based on at least four extreme and unreasonable positions by the petitioners.

First, the "pro-neutrality" petitioners are asking the FCC to actively discriminate in favor of the few p2p users at the expense of the vast majority's quality of service. 

  • It is extreme and unreasonable to petition that p2p traffic cannot be managed because p2p applications, by design, "efficiency shift."
    • They make downloading more efficient for the few who use the p2p application, by taking away the efficiency of the many by hogging other's bandwidth! 
    • There is nothing neutal at all about p2p!
    • p2p users reach out and consume bandwidth designed for the use of others.  
  • In other words, the petitioners have taken the extreme and unreasonable position that p2p users have the unlimited right to consume everyone else's bandwidth even when that usage harms the rights of everyone else. 
    • How is that responsible or rational?

The second extreme and unreasonable position is that the petitioners have proposed fines for Comcast that could total $2.3 trillion! Yes that is a "tr" with that illion.

Kudos to Ou/Bennett for slam dunking the bogus FreePress Comcast petition!

I most highly commend George Ou and Richard Bennett for bringing some much-needed adult supervision and technical excellence to the issue of Comcast's network management. Please read George's latest blogpost.

  • FreePress...read it and weep -- you have laid another high profile net neutrality egg.

George has produced the must read piece on this issue. In "A rational debate on Comcast's Traffic management" George explains, with the assistance of Richard Bennett's exceptional expertise, what is really going on with Comcast's traffic management. 

  • In a nutshell, they explain the real world design limitations of a shared cable network, especially on the upstream path, and how those limitations practically require network managers to limit how much traffic goes through a particular network point, just like traffic lights must do on highway ramps during rush hour to ensure that the highway does not degrade into a parking lot. 

The already low credibility of net neutrality proponents will fall even further as the FCC investigates this allegation and determines Comcast's network management to be well within the bounds of "reasonable." 

  • While net neutrality proponents and their activist reporter friends may like to play engineers on TV, noone would want to entrust them with operating anything more complicated than a mouse.   

The reason we have due process in this country is precisely to protect against this type of spurious allegation.

Why FreePress' Comcast Petition unreasonably defines "reasonable network management"

The FreePress Comcast petition has an unreasonable view of what "reasonable" network management is in the FCC's net neutrality policy.

First, the petitioners ignore the reason the FCC exists in the first place -- the absolute necessity for some network management in order for communications systems to function as needed.

  • The predecessor to the FCC, the Federal Radio Commission was created in 1927 because of the chaos of an completely unmanaged network (like the petitioners currently are advocating for) --
    • too many stations were broadcasting on too few frequencies making the airwaves a garbled and unworkable "tragedy of the commons."
  • The Government brought order to this chaos by granting the FRC/FCC the authority to make spectrum licensed property, grant licenses, and assign frequencies and power levels for each license.  

Second, the petitioners ignore that "reasonable network management" of communications is directly analogous to reasonable traffic management of our roadways.

Father of net neutrality admits "the whole net neutrality issue is really about a power struggle"

Tim Wu, the "father of net neutrality" because he made up the term a few years back, was surprisingly candid in a CNET article that: "the whole net neutrality issue is really about a power struggle."

  • Well we now know net neutrality is not about:
    • A supposedly longstanding non-discrimination "principle" of the Internet;
    • all bits being equal; or
    • freedom of speech.
  • It's about "power."
    • We knew it all along. 
      • It's really about the "power struggle" over corporate welfare for the dotcom billionaires at Google and eBay who want the consumer to subsidize their piggish bandwith demands in order to maintain their 90% gross profit margins.  

I also found another candid quote by the Moveon.org/FreePress folks that also tells us what they are up to:

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths