Up Is Down, Black Is White, Not Discriminating Against Internet Traffic Is Discriminating

from the explain-please? dept

While a bunch of consumer groups have come out in favor of keeping the internet neutral, a bunch of civil rights groups are taking the opposing view. However, the reasoning is hard to follow, as it doesn’t make very much sense: “The effective prioritization of P2P traffic would represent an altogether new type of ‘back of the bus’ second-class status for our speech on broadband networks — and ought to be resoundingly rejected.” Actually, it’s the use of traffic management that would create a second-class status for some traffic. Preserving network neutrality does exactly the opposite — making sure all packets are treated equally. What the groups seem to be saying — incorrectly — is that by not using traffic management, P2P traffic is prioritized. That’s not true. It’s treated equally with any other traffic.

It’s completely fair to argue that treating all packets equally doesn’t make sense — as many have. However, to claim that treating all packets equally somehow makes some traffic “second-class” is an outright misrepresentation. No one denies (perhaps other than these civil rights groups) that traffic management is all about officially making certain kinds of traffic second-class. They just argue that this is necessary and reasonable. The filing by these civil rights groups is simply backwards.

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Comments on “Up Is Down, Black Is White, Not Discriminating Against Internet Traffic Is Discriminating”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Wow. What will they think of next?

Organizations involved:
National Black Chamber of Commerce, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, League of Rural Voters, and National Council of Women’s Organizations.

Harry Alford is the only named person, representing the NBCC. (Odd acroynym, eh?) And discussese a real skewed perspective of “Content discrimination”

How much did Comcast pay you?

Rekrul says:

Here’s a radical thought; Maybe ISPs shouldn’t sell access based on bandwidth rates that they can’t support.

If they limited themselves to what they could actually provide, they wouldn’t need all this traffic management. Of course lower speeds wouldn’t bring in the customers, so they could maybe… I don’t know, upgrade their networks?

Gee, I think I’ll follow their example and start an all-you-can-eat-buffet, but instead of buying enough food to feed everyone who shows up, I’ll only buy enough for 25% of them, and then I’ll start kicking people out when they eat too much! I’ll just claim that I’m performing normal food-management procedures.

Iron Chef says:

This is another reason why I’ll never do Cable. DSL costs more, but if you can find a provider with at least 3 Tier-one peering agreements, and also uses Bridging (No PPPOA/PPPOe encapsulation, please!) the service is much, much more consistent. It’s worth the little extra spent.

VOiP is very network-sensitive, and I’ve had trouble with routing and latency before with Comcast- A traceroute revealed routing 1200 miles away before being routed back to my hometown, somehow adding 75ms and packet loss of about 8%. It’s not fun trying to explaining that to Comcast reps!

But in almost every instance, the DSL companies have been much more helpful, and extremely knowledgable. If I had that problem again, the DSL company would know to fix it and update the routing tables.

Tony says:

re: Rekrul

Although I think your argument is the most rational of the ones posted so far, I think you’re a bit off in your understanding of network engineering.

In principle, I am for Net Neutrality. In application, there needs to be some degree of “discrimination” of traffic in order for more sensitive protocols (VoIP) to function properly.

That shouldn’t mean intentionally denying (via TCP reset) P2P, or any other protocol. It means implementing QoS features such as DiffServ that only restrict the flow of traffic when the bandwidth on a specific trunk (yours) exceeds a certain threshold. And even then, it’s only if the higher priority protocol is in use and asking for that bandwidth. That’s reasonable. Why? Because its nearly impossible to build out a network that would allow for total saturation of all it’s ports and trunks. And by allowing applications that can make use of multiple TCP streams simultaneously, you can saturate an entire trunk, thereby disallowing competing traffic. Single streams don’t have this problem. That’s why P2P is a problem. Even in France, where you can get 28Mb/s, IPTV, AND IP Telephony for $45/mo. they employ QoS features. It works well for them and would be a great model for us as well.

What’s NOT reasonable is using methods that discriminate SOLELY on protocol or that give, say, AT&T VoIP priority over Vonage VoIP.

There are many ways to control traffic that are amenable to both consumer and network operator. It’s just a matter of getting the ISPs to see that they don’t have to kill the goose to get the golden egg.

At the end of the day, what really matters is competition. If there were enough options for consumers (and there’s not), then one could simply move to an ISP that doesn’t restrict P2P, for example. If that were an option then we’d have a true free economy situation that would force ISPs to be competitive with pricing and bandwidth.

Until then, we’ll just have to continue the debate.

Iron Chef says:

Re: re: Rekrul

You make some great points, and I agree. When the experience leaves something to be desired, the network teams often point the finger to an protocol or application stack, saying that the network is running just fine. Resolving this dispute is often a laborious job. Does anyone have backbone access to a Sprint/Level3/Verizon hub and have resources to install a Opnet ACE instance? It would be interesting to see where the bottlenecks exist.

Also, new DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem standards would allow more than 340MB/s of bandwidth on a node. Point is, technology is in the tubes (catchy huh) that would help to facilitate demand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOCSIS#Speed_Table

Lastly, maybe DOCSIS supports multiple instances on the same wire. If this is possible, then the cablecos could setup a complete second system for Business-Class service, or those who want to pay a premium for speed, complete with SLAs.

I am no network engineer, but would like to hear some thoughts about this rambling.. 🙂

Joe Smith says:


“In application, there needs to be some degree of “discrimination” of traffic in order for more sensitive protocols (VoIP) to function properly.”

If my neighbor and I are on the same DSL plan, why should his VoIP get priority over my pornography? Who says his needs are more urgent than mine.

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is, how do we encourage competition? Let’s say I wanted to start a new network to compete with the internet. I’d have to run wires under streets, so I’d have to talk to the government. Now, if you let everyone run those wires, you’d just have a big jumble of wires. So, unfortunately, the government has to be involved somehow. I sometimes wonder if the government could do a better job if it ran the wire itself and auctioned off the bandwidth, which would be less scarce than the physical space needed for the wire.

Nicko says:

Re: Anonymous Coward

My question is, how do we encourage competition? Let’s say I wanted to start a new network to compete with the internet. I’d have to run wires under streets, so I’d have to talk to the government.

I assume you mean start a new ISP and/or backbone. Yes you either work out deals with local governments, negotiate use of existing cable, or you use telecom regulation rules to buy use of telco lines.

Barrier to entry for national providers is very high. Thats why most start out as serving one metro area, and expand or get purchased. Not long ago (about 2 decades) comcast was thousands of individual companies itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Seriously, I’d like to know why the Comcast method of traffic management applied to p2p protocol is (apparently) not considered illegal.

If it is not illegal, then possibly there are some felons who should appeal their convictions.

As I understand it, Comcast basically uses the man in the middle attack where they assume the identity of the client (and server?) and sent a reset (to both?).

If this is not illegal, it should be.

Fiber optic breakthrough! (user link) says:

Transmit 16.4 Tbps over 1500 miles!

Alcatel-Lucent researchers disclosed researches that are most likely going to revolutionize the internet transmissions, by increasing speeds dramatically. Those researches were presented at the Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference and Optical Fiber Communication Conference and the company stated that they’ve used some new technologies, “including a highly linear, balanced optoelectronic photoreceiver and an ultra-compact, temperature-insensitive coherent mixer.”The researches broke a record, by managing to transmit optical data over 2,550km at an incredible speed of 16,b Tbps. For this to be possible, 164 wavelength-division multiplexed channels modulated at 100 Gbps were used. Also they have presented three photonic integrated circuits, able to reach speeds of up to 100Gbps with a high spectral efficiency.

George Rittenhouse, a VP researcher from Bell Labs stated that “these breakthroughs highlight the depth and breadth of the work done by Bell Labs researchers in optical networking and physical technologies around the world, and show how they must constantly improve and innovate across various technical areas to pave the way to the future of communications.” Due to their work we might soon have no worry about the size of a movie, audio file, website or document. Hopefully this technology will be implemented and commercialized soon enough.

known coward says:

I agree with # 11

net neutrality is a impossible, in order for VoIP to work the RTP packets have to have priority.

That said if i am paying for unlimited bandwidth Comcast does not have the right to spoof IP’s that I am communicating with and forcing resets. If I did this on their network, quite legitimately, I would be prosecuted for theft of services. Same goes for them. If they spoof resets they are stealing my ability to use the service that I have been paying for. It does not matter who ones the network, The customer is paying for the service.

As to #15, maybe that is why VoIP is not a good idea from a cable provider as they have not architected the network to carry all the traffic that they are selling. The provider should be liable not the neighbor who is only operating under what they have paid for.

Pro says:

Comcast traffic shaping

The only shape I get is a big red X.

I have an RCA cable modem that is rented from Comcast. When I start to use Bittorrent, in not too long my internet connection completely shuts down. The only way to get it back is to power cycle the cable modem. Comcast refuses to acknowlege the behavior, although there is no way to deny it.

user Stephen_ has entered room

stephen(Fri Feb 29 10:49:39 EST 2008)>RCA modem ceases to function upon Bittorrent usage. Power cycle required

analyst Ehsan has entered room

Ehsan(Fri Feb 29 10:49:46 EST 2008)>Hello Stephen_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Ehsan. Please give me one moment to review your information.

analyst Denise has entered room

Ehsan(Fri Feb 29 10:50:33 EST 2008)>Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:50:34 EST 2008)>Hello Stephen_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Denise. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:50:39 EST 2008)>Hi, how are you today?

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:51:24 EST 2008)>Hi, I’m well

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:51:27 EST 2008)>Thanks…

analyst Ehsan has left room

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:50:56 EST 2008)>Good.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:51:23 EST 2008)>One moment while I bring up your account information.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:52:08 EST 2008)>ok

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:54:42 EST 2008)>Stephen, may I have your Comcast account number with the date and amount of the last payment for verification please?

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:55:38 EST 2008)>That’s a tough one, cause I’m at work… Let me see if my wife is online

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:56:48 EST 2008)>She’s not. I don’t have access to either

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:57:08 EST 2008)>Stephen, would you be able to chat back when you are at home, as we will need to go through a powercycle with you.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:57:59 EST 2008)>Let’s assume I’m who I say I am, what can we do about the RCA modem? The issue appears to be reasonably well documented on the internet

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:58:11 EST 2008)>Oh, are you going to upgrade the firmware?

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:58:29 EST 2008)>I am sorry Stephen, I cannot help you or troubleshoot unless you are at home where the equipment is. I am sorry.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 10:59:32 EST 2008)>Ok. I’ll chat back when i’m home today

Denise(Fri Feb 29 10:59:59 EST 2008)>Thank you for contacting Comcast. If you need assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us through Live Chat or E-mail (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Simply visit http://www.comcast.net and select Help.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:00:54 EST 2008)>Is there any know solution for this other than getting a different modem? Is this related to bittorrent traffic shaping?

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:03:02 EST 2008)>One moment please.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:04:04 EST 2008)>ok.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:09:44 EST 2008)>I do apologize for the wait. Her is some information I found for you.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:09:48 EST 2008)>Do you block access to peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent?
No. We do not block access to any Web site or applications, including BitTorrent. Our customers use the Internet for downloading and uploading files, watching movies and videos, streaming music, sharing digital photos, accessing numerous peer-to-peer sites, VOIP applications like Vonage, and thousands of other applications online.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:10:06 EST 2008)>Do you discriminate against particular types of online content?
No. There is no discrimination based on the type of content. Our customers enjoy unfettered access to all the content, services, and applications that the Internet has to offer. We respect our customers’ privacy and we don’t monitor specific customer activities on the Internet or track individual online behavior such as which Web sites they visit. Therefore, we do not know whether any individual user is visiting BitTorrent or any other site.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:11:40 EST 2008)>ok, I should tell you a couple of things. 1) I’m a software engineer. 2) I’m active in several internet threads currently on slashdot and techdirt that are interested in the result of this conversation. That being said, how can you explain that the only kind of traffic that shuts down my modem is bittorrent traffic?

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:13:29 EST 2008)> Please go to http://www.comcast.net,help, and search bittorrent, this is where you can get the information.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:14:25 EST 2008)>none of the information there prevents my modem from shutting down when I use bittorrent

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:17:46 EST 2008)>Please chat back when you are home, so we can troubleshoot with you as I have already mentioned.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:19:25 EST 2008)>very well… however, you should understand that when I get there, diagnostics will be difficult, as when we turn on bittorrent and the connection promptly closes, I’ll lose my internet connection and thus my session with comcast

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:20:04 EST 2008)>but I can discuss that with the analyst that I speak with tonight I suppose

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:22:44 EST 2008)>Comcast does not block access to any applications such as P2P, including BitTorrent. We do not alter Internet speed or traffic.

We respect our customers’ privacy and we don’t monitor specific customer activities on the Internet or track individual online behavior, such as which websites they visit. Therefore, we do not know whether any individual user is visiting BitTorrent or any other site.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:23:10 EST 2008)>No. We do not block access to any P2P applications, including BitTorrent. We also respect our customers’ privacy and don’t monitor specific customer activities on the Internet or track individual online behavior, such as which websites they visit. Therefore, we do not know whether any individual user is visiting BitTorrent or any other site.

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:25:36 EST 2008)>If that’s your stance, that’s what I’ll post.. But when I told you I was a software engineer, what I meant to convey was – I’ve worked on protocols and protocol analyzers, I understand how the internet works. you’d have a hard time explaining my cable modem shut downs.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:24:56 EST 2008)>Comcast is not traffic shaping or packet shaping. We have a responsibility to manage our network to ensure that our customers have the best broadband experience possible. That means we use the latest technologies to manage our network to provide a quality experience for all Comcast subscribers. This is standard practice for network operators around the world.

Denise(Fri Feb 29 11:25:55 EST 2008)>Only thing is to chat back later when you are at home, ok Stephen?

Stephen_(Fri Feb 29 11:26:50 EST 2008)>Very well… i’ll resume tonight when I’m at home. Thanks for your time Denise

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