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[ NNSquad ] Re: FCC paths to Internet network management? (from IP)
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: [ NNSquad ] Re: FCC paths to Internet network management? (from IP)
- From: Brett Glass <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 19:27:30 -0700
- Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org
At 07:35 AM 2/27/2008, David Farber wrote:
So lets get down to details. What exactly do you want to FCC to do
about network management. Details -- not just enforce NN -- that is a
motherhood statement. Details and then maybe the conversation can get
I agree. Let me start by responding to some remarks in Brad
Templeton's posting to IP, since these responses lay the groundwork
for a workable solution. I'll follow with seven specific suggestions.
In this case, with BitTorrent, users trade their spare upstream
bandwidth -- which in many cases, such as the typical DSL ISP is otherwise
going unused and wasted --
This is fundamentally incorrect, and it's important to understand
this. All bandwidth, and especially upstream bandwidth, is a scarce
and precious commodity.(This is especially true for ISPs, such as
mine, which buy economical asymmetrical pipes to support fast Web
browsing. Without them, many ISPs' balance sheets would go
negative.) We need absolutely every shred of bandwidth we buy,
because at the prices we pay we can't afford to waste it.
to other users in exchange for their
upstream bandwidth in return. (Or, in a "pay it forward/golden
they sometimes just do it out of philanthropy or in the hope of
promoting a system
where they will be rewarded later.)
Actually, as Brad should be well aware, with BitTorrent the
"contribution" of bandwidth isn't voluntary; it is compulsory. And
just as "sharing" the copyrighted materials which constitute all
but a vanishingly small percentage of P2P traffic is not really
sharing, so too P2P is not "sharing" one's own bandwidth but taking
bandwidth from the ISP in violation of its terms of service.
It is commonly incorrectly stated that
this is done to benefit the 3rd party (such as ubuntu.com) but the trade is
really mostly among the users. The seed gets no means to reward tit for tat.
This is likewise incorrect, particularly in the case of Vuze, Inc.
-- the most strident of the commercial P2P companies in the current
debate. Vuze's petition to the FCC is, by its own admission,
motivated by its selfish economic interests. Unlike YouTube, it
doesn't want to pay for the upstream bandwidth that's needed to
deliver its content to customers. BitTorrent's testimony at the
hearing was likewise self-serving.
What is often missed is the question really comes out of this concept of
the user having spare upstream bandwidth. Most ISPs sell a flat rate,
upstream package and as such the bandwidth is sold to the customer and
is theirs to use to further their usage of the internet. In the case
of DSL, the upstream is truly otherwise unused and is lost forever if not
Not true. While the bandwidth of an individual user's telephone
line may be idle, the provider's upstream bandwidth is being used
by many such upstream connections and is, if the ISP is optimizing
its network properly, close to full utilization given normal usage
that conforms to its terms of service.
With DOCSIS and wireless ISPs this is not as true.
Actually, wireless ISPs are in a much better position than cable
providers in this regard for two reasons. Our (mostly IEEE
standard) wireless is flexible in that it can shift bandwidth from
downstream to upstream as needed and only puts 50 customers on an
access point, not 500. New access points are also less expensive
for us than new distribution points are for the cable guys.
However, the cable guys have one insurmountable advantage over us:
they can bundle
and cross-subsidize. We only do Internet, so if mandatory passage
of P2P traffic is imposed by regulation, it would raise the cost of
providing adequate service above our retail prices. We'd be out of
business in a hurry unless we increased our rates somewhere between
50% and 100% (depending upon what the rules said).
Some ISPs want to claim you don't really have any spare bandwidth to trade,
that they didn't really sell it to you, that it is theirs, not yours,
in spite of what they advertise.
We never advertise any such thing. In fact, we are very explicit.
Again, the analogy of an all-you-can-eat buffet is a good one.
Customers do not "own" all of the food on the buffet; they only own
what they, individually, can put in their own stomachs during the
meal. Everyone who eats must pay to do so. You can only eat what's
on the buffet; you can't raid the pantry. And there are no doggie
bags and no smuggling food out to third parties. Not even if those
third parties are not-for-profit.
If so, there have been calls for them to be clear in their
advertising about these limits.
The cable companies' ads do point out many of these limitations,
though they often do it at the bottom in the fine print. Our ISP is
more explicit; we tell every user, and state very clearly in our
terms of service, what we restrict.
And, hence, my suggestions with regard to what (if anything) the
FCC should do with regard to ISPs and P2P.
First, there have been claims of inadequate disclosure of network
management policies and terms of service by ISPs. While none have
ever been made against our company, I'd love to see all such claims
put to rest once and for all, and would be quite willing to post a
form (much like the ones that come with credit card solicitations)
summarizing our policies prominently on our Web site. These could
include such things as permitted and forbidden activities (e.g.
outbound SMTP), and whether these are allowed under different
service plans (e.g. P2P might be allowed with measured rates but
not flat rates). However, ISPs should not be required to include
technical details (such as lists of blocked ports) that might allow
hackers to bypass security measures or would have to be updated
minute-by-minute as attacks were blocked.
Second, all Internet users absolutely should have access to the
legal content of their choice -- but NOT at infinite speed and not
via protocols or programs that disrupt or hog the network or
violate our terms of service. Here, we think that the onus shifts
to content providers. Content providers should provide alternate,
non-P2P means to reach their content (as does, for example,
Blizzard Entertainment). ISPs should be held blameless if the
content provider chooses not to do so. They should also be held
blameless if they block traffic to and from known spyware or
malware sites (e.g. gator.com).
Third, with disclosure, ISPs should be allowed to do such things as
post messages in the user's browser window, frame pages, or employ
similar mechanisms so as to provide informational messages to them.
(There was a furor a month or two ago when Rogers Cable did this --
a shame, because the mechanism is extremely useful and unobtrusive.)
Fourth, ISPs should be prohibited from engaging in practices that
are directly anticompetitive. For an example, a cable company that
offers VoIP should not be allowed to block or degrade Vonage.
However, an ISP absolutely should be allowed to block a service
such as Skype, which attempts to take their bandwidth by turning
users' machines into free servers (generally without the users' knowledge).
Fifth, content and service providers desiring to use P2P should be
required to PROMINENTLY disclose whether their software is capable
of turning the user's machine into a server or consumes any
resources beyond what it takes to transfer the content or provide
the service to that one user. Content and service providers should
also be required to turn off, by default, any features that turn
the user's machine into a server, and only allow them to be turned
on if the user chooses to enable them and the ISP indicates (via a
mechanism such as the "robots.txt" files commonly used to control
indexing) that such use is permissible. Note that, again, this
might vary by service plan or by venue (e.g., a Wi-Fi hotspot might
be more heavily restricted than a private connection).
Sixth, there should be no obfuscation of P2P. It is ironic that
Comcast was accused of hiding its minor mitigation of P2P, but no
one at the hearings mentioned that the implementors of BitTorrent
are actively pursuing obfuscation techniques themselves. If ISPs
are expected to be open, so should P2P users.
Finally, any rules that are promulgated should make it absolutely
clear that ISPs retain the right to stop abuse of their networks
and to enforce their acceptable use policies and terms of service.
Otherwise, they could not defend against spamming, worms, "bots,"
and other scourges of the Internet.