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  (Source: Binary Heroes/DailyTech)
David Cohen skips the pleasantries in refuting Kevin Martin's claims

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin received a nasty letter (PDF) from Comcast VP David Cohen last Friday, full of disappointment over Martin’s choice of words in a Thursday statement responding to the recent Comcast-BitTorrent agreement.

Martin originally said that he was “pleased that Comcast has reversed course and agreed that it is not a reasonable network management practice to arbitrarily block certain applications on its network.”

“Your response,” wrote Cohen, “was perplexing; it repeated erroneous characterizations of Comcast’s network management practices and disclosure policies that we have taken great pains to clarify on multiple occasions.”

“As we have unambiguously stated on the record, Comcast’s customers have been, are, and will continue to be free to access any lawful Internet content and to use any application and service of their choice, including those that utilize peer-to-peer (‘P2P’) protocols.”

Cohen called his company’s policy a “delaying” act, allowing Comcast to better allocate what it claims to be scarce resources: a system that is “reasonable,” “minimally intrusive” and switched on “only when necessary to prevent network congestion.”

“These practices do not deny our customers’ access to these applications and services, but rather facilitate and enable the use of these and countless other applications and services by all of our customers,” he said.

The trouble with Martin’s “characterization,” as well as Cohen’s response, is that both are accurate in some ways and inaccurate in others: when Comcast’s “data discrimination” was originally discovered in October 2007, it was found to adversely affect a large number of protocols, including BitTorrent, e-Donkey, Gnutella, and even Lotus Notes.

For BitTorrent downloads, Comcast’s “delaying” – which manifests as Comcast’s servers injecting spoofed “reset” messages inside a given BitTorrent connection, causing both ends to disconnect – would only kick in after the user’s torrent switched to “seeding” mode, which occurs after it finishes downloading. This means that while the file in question wasn’t truly “blocked” per se, Comcast is responsible for hurting the health of the overall swarm (the collection of all computers involved in a given BitTorrent download) and, in some cases, rendering BitTorrent downloads to be unacceptably slow for users both in and out of Comcast’s network.

Martin also questioned Comcast’s timeline, wondering why its current policy is set to “continue throughout the country until the end of the year and in some markets, even longer.”

“It is not at all obvious why Comcast couldn’t stop its current practice of arbitrarily blocking its broadband customers from using certain applications,” he stated.

 “We just cannot turn off our current system overnight,” replied Cohen, “ and put our customers at risk of network congestion. For the benefit of our customers, it is essential that the migration be appropriately timed, a reality that BitTorrent and numerous commentators acknowledge.”

While the Comcast-BitTorrent agreement has indeed received wide praise, it is not without its skeptics: Vuze, Inc., makers of the popular BitTorrent client Azureus Vuze and the Vuze legal media portal, also filed a brief with the Commission, arguing for government regulation regardless of what becomes of Comcast’s agreement (PDF).

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By uhgotnegum on 4/4/2008 10:37:50 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not a business guy or an economics guy, so I apologize for any incorrect assumptions I mistakenly make...but...

I'm unsure whether I'd prefer big businesses controlling a number of the services I use or not. One the one hand, I think they allow for improved innovation, standardization (read: *hopefully* facilitating progress/growth), and access. But, what does this cost me? The bigger the business, the less it is that I can negotiate the terms of my service (i.e., no personalizing). Thinking from Comcast, I "seem" to negotiate my cable packages, but the reality is that I'm only trying to reduce their extra profits down to a level where they are only making regular profits.

I also want competition. It seems less advantageous to have bigger businesses because fewer businesses can compete with them. However, it also seems like bigger businesses can charge less for certain items or services, and I welcome the idea of spending less.

I guess this opinion really boils down to which option I think has more advantages and fewer disadvantages. Maybe I just fail to understand why there can't be an option that incorporates (no pun intended) the best of a big business model with the personalized attention a smaller business can afford to its customers.

There's my 2 cents, anyway...With a few more, I still wouldn't be able to buy anything.

By glennpratt on 4/4/2008 12:08:14 PM , Rating: 2
Here's my opinion on that. The problem isn't the companies so much as the conflict of interest and micro monopolies. Comcast and the rest see themselves as a media company, phone company and cable company because they own the lines to your house. That's wrong in my opinion. First, they should never be granted exclusive access to lines that run on public easements and private property, they should be controlled by a seperate entity or their shared use should be regulated. Second, one company shouldn't be selling cable, internet and voice. It's a natural conflict of interest. If Comcast only sold internet, do you think they'd be worried about limiting what's un-'lawful' in thier minds or would they be worried about providing the best internet possible, period?

By TruthasIknowit on 4/4/2008 8:27:36 PM , Rating: 2
Now we are getting into a discussion of Communism verses Capitalism. Those cable companies and their predecessors built those lines and in many cases are still paying off the debts they incurred doing so. Are you proposing that the government takes away there property? Have you ever requested anything for a government agency and received the most efficient service? The cable companies have a bad rep, with good reasons, but not THAT BAD.

(To the best of my knowledge cable companies have to pay local governments for every pole and easement they use. Most of the new players in this industry, like the Bells, have negotiated some slick deal with the government which give them some advantages.)

Completion is what we need. Since the cable companies started taking telco customers from the Bells have started to reduce pricing and improve services. The Bells are starting to make the cable companies feel the pain, with internet and video, and the reverse is starting to occur. More competition the better.

By phxfreddy on 4/5/2008 5:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
Here here!

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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