Comcast to Create P2P Bill of Rights


Comcast said today it plans to create a “P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” in cooperation with P2P companies and other ISPs. The bill proposal is being co-spearheaded by Pando Networks, a company that recently made waves with its efforts to help ISPs with the impact P2P is having on their networks without throttling traffic. Comcast is also committing to test Pando’s technology and share those test results with the ISP community.

The bill itself is supposed to be a catalog of best-practice recommendations for P2P companies and ISPs alike, but the announcement was more than vague about what those recommendations might look like. It did mention that users should be able to “control their computers’ resources when using P2P applications,” but it didn’t specify which responsibilities and especially which rights Comcast wants to include for ISPs.

Comcast’s new P2P buddy, Pando, had previously cooperated with Verizon, AT&T, Telefonica and other ISPs to test an open-source technology called P4P as well as its own, proprietary P2P routing extensions. Both approaches are supposed to help ISPs prioritize P2P traffic within their own networks and thus minimize bandwidth costs while speeding up downloads. Pando said last week that it’s been able to increase the amount of data routed internally across U.S. cable networks to 43 percent from a mere 2 percent, which should give companies like Comcast a huge break.

Customers could benefit from such cooperations with increased download speeds — but only if Comcast stops throttling Bittorrent traffic first. The company has committed to do so later this year — once it switches to a protocol agnostic approach of network management — but regulators, consumers and Net Neutrality activists seem to get increasingly irritated about the fact that Comcast keeps throttling while at the same time advocating for consumer rights. As Free Press General Counsel Marvin Ammori put it: “Comcast is desperately trying to change the subject with a few over-hyped side conversations.”

Comcast’s own press release was pretty blunt about the real goal of these efforts, noting that the cooperation with Pando on the bill and network tests was “yet another example of how these technical issues can be worked out through private business discussions and without the need for government intervention.” Translation: There’s no need for the FCC or Congress to intervene; we can write our own bills.

Free Press’ Ammori however, disagrees. Leaving the protection of consumers up to cable companies is the same as putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, he said, adding: “The FCC should do its job to uphold the existing bill of rights for consumers and should do so quickly.”


Robb Topolski

Today, Comcast Corporation and Pando Networks announced that they will lead the industry to create a “P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” for users and ISPs. With an FCC hearing on Comcast’s anti-peer-to-peer practices scheduled for later this week, this is hardly a surprise. Once again, Comcast makes another sweetheart-sounding deal, but at the wrong time, and with the wrong sweetheart.

It takes a special kind of arrogance for a company that sells Internet Access to team up with another company that sells Content Delivery and together decide what rights and responsibilities that the world’s Internet users should have.

As in its earlier “deal” with BitTorrent, Inc., Comcast’s announcement today doesn’t change any of the facts it faces: in 2006, it assured Congress that network neutrality laws were not necessary, saying it would not “deny, delay, or degrade” its customers in order to deal with traffic congestion. Within a year it was caught secretly doing exactly that! Even after a long string of deceptive and deflective statements and tactics, Comcast continues to degrade their traffic today.

As was the case in the BitTorrent “deal,” neither Comcast Corporation nor Pando Networks represents the millions of customers and other members of the Internet community who were impacted when Comcast secretly launched its anti-P2P attack.

Today’s announcement comes less than 48 hours from the US Federal Communication Committee’s public hearing at Stanford University. There, the FCC is scheduled to hear from two panels of experts followed by two hours of public testimony on the Comcast incident specifically as well as similar industry practices in general.

No doubt we will soon see Comcast and Pando Networking executives start to explain why today’s “deal” signals that Network Neutrality regulation is not needed in the Broadband Marketplace.

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