Net Neutrality

Podcast on FCC’s network management decision

This week in the Tech Policy Weekly podcast, Adam Thierer of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation, Jerry Brito of the Mercatus Center, Jim Harper and Tim Lee of the Cato Institute and I discuss FCC’s ruling against Comcast for managing its network to relieve congestion by delaying uploads using the BitTorrent protocol .

Hijacking the Internet

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin received a reprimand from the Republican Leader of the House of Representatives, John A. Boehner, based upon reports that Martin plans to side with the commission’s two Democrats on Friday to interfere with the network management decisions of broadband providers in the matter of Comcast delaying the uploading of P2P file sharing when necessary to relieve network congestion: When a small minority of subscribers — often using these applications to share pirated music and movies — began clogging the networks to the harm of the large majority of users, broadband providers began taking steps to alleviate the congestion. This, in turn, has prompted peer-to-peer developers to collaborate with broadband providers to find better ways to manage Read More ›

Tarring and feathering Comcast

The Federal Communications Commission, according to the Wall Street Journal, is prepared to stop Comcast from blocking peer-to-peer file sharing later this week — although the commission won’t fine the company because it wasn’t “previously clear what the agency’s rules were.” Now, according to Multichannel News, comes word that there is a wireless broadband provider who explicitly prohibits all uses that may cause extreme network capacity issues, and “explicitly identif[ies] P2P file sharing applications as such a use.” I am not familiar with the wireless broadband provider’s practices in this area (nor even of its relevant terms of service, even though I am a customer). However, Comcast delayed file sharing only when necessary to relieve network congestion. Absent congestion, Comcast Read More ›

The bandwidth conundrum

John Dvorak, In today’s world, bandwidth demand is similar to what processing demand was 20 years ago. You just can’t get enough speed, no matter how hard you try. Even when you have enough speed on your own end, some other bottleneck is killing you. This comes to mind as, over the past few months, I’ve noticed how many YouTube videos essentially come to a grinding halt halfway through playback and display that little spinning timer. Why don’t they just put the word “buffering” on the screen? All too often, it’s not the speed of my connection that’s at issue–it’s the speed of the connection at the other end. It may not even be the connection speed itself; it Read More ›

What did he say?

Normally when you quote someone extensively but selectively and you’re making a different (arguably opposite) point, you acknowledge that. Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, who got a chance to lecture a captive Federal Communications Commission during a special public hearing on broadband network management this week, began the lesson quoting from remarks Gerald R. Faulhaber, Professor Emeritus of Business and Public Policy at Wharton, made at Stanford on Dec. 1, 2000 when he was chief economist at the FCC. I think Prof. Lessig is a gifted and well-intentioned scholar and educator. And Prof. Faulhaber framed the issues well, so it’s understandable why Lessig quoted him. But Faulhaber wasn’t on Lessig’s page. A transcript of Faulhaber’s full remarks, available on the Read More ›

Google’s bids

Communications Daily ($) cited my recent post comparing Google’s limited objectives for the 700 MHz auction with the expansive objectives it outlined to the Federal Communications Commission last summer, and it included the following reaction to my comments from Richard Whitt of Google: Whitt said in response that Haney had misread his company’s comments from last summer. “We consistently have argued that the open access license conditions adopted by the FCC would inject much-needed competition into the wireless apps and handset sectors, but would not by themselves lead to new wireless networks,” he said Monday. “Only if the commission had adopted the interconnection and resale license conditions we also had suggested — which the agency ultimately did not do — Read More ›

Back to spectrum giveaways

In 1993 Congress substituted auctions for the deplorable practice of giving away valuable spectrum to well-connected commercial entities. Lawmakers who think spectrum is a valuable public resource for which the taxpayers should be compensated need to wake up for a minute. FCC rulemaking could render the remaining assets worthless, distort wireless competition and contribute to the unfortunate perception of the FCC as a candy store. Google has made it clear that it plans to weigh in at the FCC as it determines how to re-auction the D-block from the recent 700 MHz auction, and that it wants to open the white spaces between channels 2 and 51 on the TV dial for unlicensed broadband services. Anna-Maria Kovacs, a regulatory analyst, Read More ›


I have said that the threat of regulation is a credible deterrent to prevent unreasonable discrimination by broadband service providers and we don’t need a new regulatory framework with the unintended consequences which regulation always entails. And James Gattuso, noting that Comcast and BitTorrent were already working with one another on a solution to their network problems “long before this story broke,” correctly chided me for overlooking how public opinion is also a credible deterrent. James is right, particularly when there is a competitive market. And like it or not, the broadband market is competitive. A “duopoly,” you say? Allow me to quote Cornell Professor Alfred E. Kahn (formerly chairman of the New York Public Service Commission, chairman of the Read More ›

Problem solved

Comcast and BitTorrent are working together to improve the delivery of video files on Comcast’s broadband network. Rather than slow traffic by certain types of applications — such as file-sharing software or companies like BitTorrent — Comcast will slow traffic for those users who consume the most bandwidth, said Comcast’s [Chief Technology Officer, Tony] Warner. Comcast hopes to be able to switch to a new policy based on this model as soon as the end of the year, he added. The company’s push to add additional data capacity to its network also will play a role, he said. Comcast will start with lab tests to determine if the model is feasible. Over at Public Knowledge, Jef Pearlman argues that the Read More ›

Conyers opposing regulation

John Conyers, Jr. If broadband providers turn the Internet into a “world where those who pay can play, but those who don’t are simply out of luck,” current antitrust law can solve the problem says House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). I believe that antitrust law is the most appropriate way to deal with this problem — and antitrust law is not regulation. It exists to correct distortions of the free market, where monopolies or cartels have cornered the market, and competition is not being allowed to work. The antitrust laws can help maintain a free and open Internet. The comment came at a Congressional hearing yesterday. Of course the broadband market isn’t characterized by monopoly or cartel, so Read More ›