Comcast, lying

Here we have Comcast’s own statement regarding Bit Torrent:


And here we have observation by Ernesto over at Torrentfreak:

Comcast Throttles BitTorrent Traffic, Seeding Impossible
Written by Ernesto on August 17, 2007
Over the past weeks more and more Comcast users started to notice that their BitTorrent transfers were cut off. Most users report a significant decrease in download speeds, and even worse, they are unable to seed their downloads. A nightmare for people who want to keep up a positive ratio at private trackers and for the speed of BitTorrent transfers in general.

Now there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth about this all over the place. Some think that what Comcast did was wrong, but don’t think that the solution is to legislate net neutrality. Others, and I would say this seems to be the majority opinion, seem to think net neutrality case has been strengthened here. (I am pretty much in that camp) Ed Felten seems to agree, to a point, but because he thinks actually enacting net neutrality into would be very difficult, he doesn’t advocate that.

There are even a few folks who think what Comcast is doing is perfectly OK, although those people don’t explain why Comcast lied about it, or try to justify their continued evasiveness on this issue. Market forces seem to me to be part of the answer, but due to the very limited choices, many can not vote with their pocket books. The market is not functioning, as there are just one or two suppliers almost everywhere. And Comcast is doing what it can to prevent markets from working: concealing information, information that it’s customers would use to make informed decisions about their purchase of internet services.

I am not a big fan of knee jerk government intervention, so I wonder if there isn’t a middle ground, between enacting net neutrality, as difficult as that is, and doing nothing, as distasteful as that is.

What I have in mind is legislating transparency. There’s plenty of precedent for this in the history of monopolies and near monopoly industries. For example, in terms of laws that set railroad transport pricing. Or in consumer protection laws, setting standards in how interest would be computed on consumer loans in the rent to own industry. So a simply rule on pricing transparency for ISP’s would go a long way in getting information out there. As von Hayek noted, the market really is largely about information flows, and more and better information means better operation of authentic market forces. That is what I propose.

Simple stated, ISP’s should charge either a flat fee for access, or a metered fee. And they must disclose all protocols used and those that they interfere with. It really seems a lot simpler than legislating net neutrality. It seems that law alone would have prevented Comcast from trying to do what they were doing–because they lied about it so much. A really simple observation–if someone lies about something, they probably realize they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

So, first let’s try to legislate open pricing, clearly defining what services (protocols) are and are not interfered with. IF that does not work, then we can talk about legislating net neutrality.

However, a couple of possibilities I am waiting for: some entity like Comcast using the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to go after those who do forensics on their network. Also possible: Comcast canceling service to those who were involved in diagnosing their strange handling of Bit torrent traffic. Either of those should be a big red flag that Comcast has decided to fight this one out, rather than change their repressive policies.

Comcast, lying

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