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Comcast Abandons P2P Bill of Rights

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Comcast SVP Rich Woundy told the audience of the DCIA’s P2P Media Summit in Los Angeles on Monday that his company is not spearheading the creation of a P2P Bill of Rights anymore. Instead, Comcast will take part in a newly formed working group of the Distributed Computing Industry Association that aims to define best practices for the P2P industry.

Comcast had proposed a set of guidelines called “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for P2P Users and Service Providers” in cooperation with the P2P startup Pando less than three weeks ago. The proposal came just two days before an FCC hearing at Stanford University about Comcast’s ongoing practice of throttling BitTorrent traffic. The suspicious timing and the vague wording of the proposed guidelines were some of the reasons why consumer rights groups decried them as “ludicrous.” The DCIA now hopes to start a more substantial dialogue among ISPs, P2P companies and rights holders, but statements from movie industry execs made at the association’s Media Summit show that this won’t be a walk in the park either.

DCIA CEO Marty Lafferty told me that the best practices working group is in the process of signing up members right now, with the first meeting being scheduled for May 20 in New York, in conjunction with the Streaming Media East conference. The group is supposed to include ISPs and P2P companies, many of which are also cooperating on the development of the P4P protocol, as well as rights holders and the respective trade bodies of the industry.

Lafferty said he eventually wants to extend the invitation to consumer advocacy groups like Public Knowledge and Free Press, but added that he believes the industry should form some sort of consensus first. He seemed optimistic about getting to such a point before the end of the year and expressed confidence that a neutral body like the DCIA should be able to bring the different interest groups together. Said Lafferty: “We are like Switzerland.”

MPAA COO and President Bob Pisano however struck a different tone with his keynote speech at the DCIA’s Summit. “You can’t be Switzerland,” he told the P2P companies in the audience, demanding that efforts to optimize the impact of P2P traffic on ISP’s networks should not ignore piracy. Taking a clear swipe at the Net Neutrality advocates, he continued: “You cannot be neutral in this fight.”

The MPAA has long advocated against Net Neutrality, arguing that ISPs need the ability to regulate traffic on a protocol and even a file-by-file basis to combat piracy. Pisano told his audience that the MPAA has been talking to ISPs to get them to filter content, and companies like AT&T have previously expressed a willingness to cooperate with the entertainment industry.

The debate about Comcast’s BitTorrent filtering, however, has led to a backlash against ISP interference, with most providers now promising a hands-off approach, much to the dismay of Hollywood. This rift could doom the DCIA’s best practices efforts. Pisano told his audience on Monday that the MPAA is interested in the DCIA’s best practices working group, but that piracy is “the white elephant in the room” the group has to address to succeed.

15 Responses to “Comcast Abandons P2P Bill of Rights”

  1. C’mon, guys. Are we really fighting over the word “abandons?” I say let the press release speak for itself. The readers know that Comcast — who has had considerable friction with the facts in this case — is behind it. While that doesn’t make it automatically false, Charlie and Marty, it certainly invites skepticism.

    The “PR Statements” to “Positive Action” ratio is very low in this matter. Or in other words, it’s probably time to shut up, stop the interference, and deliver honestly the product your customers have paid you for!

  2. Matt_

    Even if Comcast still throttles my Bittorent downloads with RST packets I have to give them some slack here after being called out for blocking p2p traffic they are going to try and rectify the situation in partner ship with the P2P Industry.Call it a Bill of Rights ,Best practices or Not wanting to get involved with FCC Regulation it will have to be a better proposition for p2p users.

  3. Janko — We appreciate your candid assessment of the challenges to be overcome with the newly announced P2P Best Practices Working Group (PBPG), which we acknowledge, but would like to underscore that Comcast has in no way abandoned the idea for a “P2P Bill of Rights & Responsibilities (BRR).” Comcast is very much involved in the PBPG, which supersedes and expands the scope of its and Pando Networks’ initial call for a P2P BRR. Comcast and Pando took the first important step of conceiving this basic idea and urging other parties to join with them, and then approached us as an appropriate trade organization to more formally involve the industry in this initiative. We are in the process of recruiting additional qualified parties among ISPs, P2P companies, and content providers now. A more accurate headline would be “Comcast P2P Bill of Rights Proposal Evolves into P2P Best Practices Initiative.”

  4. Janko Roettgers

    Charlie, I read the press release before writing the article, and I understand that you view the best practices working group as something that picks up on some of your initial ideas.

    However, if you quite publicly propose something as grand and almost constitutional as a Bill of Rights, only to decide less than three weeks later that a much humbler framed list of best practices will do as well, then maybe it’s not really your place to talk semantics with me. I’m just sayin’ …

  5. I agree that “abandoning” was the wrong descriptive word. The “BBR” was somewhat handed-off to the DCIA and very confusing (or confused) press articles ensued.

    As late as 3 days ago, my RSS reader kept headlining “Comcast, Pando to Work With Industry on P2P Bill of Rights.”

    I’m not an expert in corporate communication, but I think the “release” verb in “press release” is an action that takes about ten days to reverberate, given the way that blogs copy other blogs. Any closer to that, and things quickly get out of hand. The Comcast+Pando P4PWG press, the Comcast+Pando BBR release, the Pando+Telefonica P4PWG release, and the DCIA PBPG (BBR) release all seemed to play “bumper cars” with one another.

    Here’s a quote from a critic (me), and you’re welcome to use it: Comcast recently joined the IETF and the DCIA and has participated in their recent meetings. While we haven’t seen Comcast change its on-network behavior, Comcast has taken visible steps toward working within the scope of a broader Internet community. As a Comcast subscriber and an Internet enthusiast, I see this is a positive development.

    Robb Topolski
    [email protected]

  6. Charlie Douglas, Comcast

    Janko – Comcast has not abandoned the idea of a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.” We fully support the DCIA’s effort to build a coalition of ISPs, P2P companies, experts and others to develop a set of P2P Best Practices and encourage you and others to read the press release they put out last week at The fact is, Comcast and Pando took the first step in calling for a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” and the DCIA is an ideal forum for the entire industry to collaborate and develop some best practices. We look forward to working with the DCIA and others on this important initiative.