Last year, we were the first to report that Comcast was actively disconnecting BitTorrent seeds. Comcast of course denied our allegations, and ever since there has been a lot of debate about the rights and wrongs of Comcast’s actions. Today the Register published an article that begs for a reply.
Here’s one of Bennett’s conclusions taken from the article: “It’s acceptable for Comcast, as a matter of reasonable network management, to employ TCP Resets to prevent BitTorrent doing harm to the web browsing, standard file downloading, and VoIP sessions that are the typical behavior of the Comcast customer.”
This is of course a non-argument. The fundamental problem is that Internet providers offered flat-rate all-you-can-eat broadband access without considering that some users would actually use the offered product at full capacity. The providers’ tradition of selling a product at a ten-fold, known as overbooking, is starting to cause them trouble now companies, artists and their consumers start to utilize the benefits BitTorrent offers. But, is that the consumers’ fault?
Comcast, and other ISPs advertise with certain upload and download rates, conforming to simple DOCSIS capacity numbers. However, they miscalculated and found that there is more to the Internet than browsing, gopher, and email. Heavy-users broke their excel return-on-investment predictions and marketing campaign promises. Their flat-rate offers simply became too popular for the capacity that was bought and installed.
Maybe Comcast should start 2-new services “newb Internet”, designed only for emails, and “regular Internet” aimed at every single other person in the world who used the net for more than sending a text-only emails. That should make things more transparent.
Now they are whining and manipulating heavy users to undo the flat-rate contracts, instead of investing in more Internet gateway capacity, 10Gbps interconnect ports, and peering agreements. BitTorrent users do not slow down the Internet experience of others. They simply use the capacity they bought and show that the network capacity planning department screwed up.
There is one quote from the Register article that I agree with though: “Everyone who’s argued with religious fanatics has seen them dig in their heels and flail when confronted with challenges to their belief systems.” But the ISPs are the fanatics here, not the EFF who stands up for network neutrality.
I see a parallel with the entertainment industry here, clinging to business models that are outdated. Comcast should move on and invest in the future instead of throttling and interfering with the traffic their customers paid for. BitTorrent is here to stay, the files and the number of heavy users will only grow. Don’t fight your customers, think ahead and adapt!