I hate to say I told you so, but…

by on April 1, 2008 · 8 comments

Although I’m not sure their deal with BitTorrent Inc. means much (since BT Inc. is a company, not the protocol), I’m glad to see Comcast finally embracing a network management scheme that is reasonable, transparent, and easy to understand:

“In the event of congestion, the half percent of people who are overutilizing an excessive amount of capacity will be slowed down subtly until capacity is restored,” the chief technology officer for Comcast, Tony G. Werner, said. “For the other 99.5 percent, their performance will be maintained exactly as they expect it.

How can anyone argue with that? It sounds vaguely familiar, almost as if I’d made the suggestion five months ago. What took them so long?

That all said, the FCC continues its investigation of the Comcast kerfuffle, having opened an official probe in January. What I’ve been asking myself is, what law or rule exactly does the FCC think they would enforce against Comcast? I certainly can’t think of any.

Well, if a recent letter from Comcast to the FCC (PDF) is any indication, it seems like the Commission might be considering enforcing the Internet Policy Statement. That statement outlines a set of nondiscrimination principles, and was adopt along with (and apart from) the order that classified DSL broadband as an information service in 2005. The Comcast letter makes is clear that the policy statement does not have the force of law and can’t be enforced against the company. Money quote:

[I]t is settled law that policy statements do not create binding legal obligations. It was universally understood, as the contemporaneous statements of [Chairman Martin], Commissioner Copps, and then-Wirelince Bureau Chief Navin all explicitly recognized, that the Internet Policy Statement did not create enforceable rules. Indeed, the Internet Policy Statement expressly disclaimed any such intent.

Boy, so familiar again. Almost as if I’d written the exact same thing in a comment to the FCC’s broadband industry practices proceeding 10 months ago (PDF). Check it out for a detailed explanation of why the Statement is not binding, but it boils down to this: It was not adopted after a notice-and-comment rulemaking; the FCC can’t just issue rules out of thin air.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    A number of people suggested to Comcast that they’d be best served by a user-based traffic accounting and management system, and you were certainly one of them. It seems that it took them as long as it did simply because they had to find some gear that would interface with the existing infrastructure in the right way to pull it off. At the heart of it, the cable CMTS needs to make decisions in microseconds in response to bnadwidth requests from customer modems, and it takes very specialized gear to do that.

    And it’s not done yet, as the new scheme is simply being lab-tested at this point, and it will have to be field-tested before large-scale rollout. When you’ve got tens of millions of customers in your network, you can’t exactly turn on a dime.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    A number of people suggested to Comcast that they’d be best served by a user-based traffic accounting and management system, and you were certainly one of them. It seems that it took them as long as it did simply because they had to find some gear that would interface with the existing infrastructure in the right way to pull it off. At the heart of it, the cable CMTS needs to make decisions in microseconds in response to bnadwidth requests from customer modems, and it takes very specialized gear to do that.

    And it’s not done yet, as the new scheme is simply being lab-tested at this point, and it will have to be field-tested before large-scale rollout. When you’ve got tens of millions of customers in your network, you can’t exactly turn on a dime.

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