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Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality Debate Gets Hot When Comcast Skips Out


By: Spacelab Research Staff

The Federal Communications Comission held a hearing at Stanford University last week to talk about Net Neutrality, this time in regards to network management. It sounds geeky and boring, but it actually has a huge impact on how we get to view and download content from the Internet.


The hearing went down at the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society, so that Silicon Valley players and minds could attend the hearing. If you've got some time, you can watch the whole hearing online at the VonTv web site.


Comcast, Pando Networks, AT&T, TimeWarner, and CableLabs were all invited to participate in the hearing. They all declined to attend, meaning that they all declined to go on the public record in accounting for their practices. Even Comcast and Pando Networks were reinvited to describe their customer bill of rights which was launched last week (perhaps in response to the hearing?), but declined again.


At the heart of the issue is the decision by ISP's like Comcast to monitor traffic on their networks, and whether that serves the public interest. Supporters of Net Neutrality often say that the business owners are conflicted in their interest to monitor their own networks, often throttling or stopping traffic that includes P2P services and torrents. These methods of downloading can carry copyrighted content and can contain high amounts of traffic dedicated to unauthorized sharing of that copyrighted content.


Comcast announced in April that it would work with BitTorrent to find a solution.


There's legitmate uses for P2P and torrents too, so shutting down the network's capacity to carry their traffic punishes legitmate use also. Given the history of Comcast and how they've presented their side of the case, sometimes being caught telling lies, it's hard to see how they will be straight-forward in talking about it in the future, let alone run their network in a way that benefits paying customers as much as it benefits Comcast.


Plus, Comcast can run their network however they want, because it's their network. That brings about a real challenge, because if Comcast is the only broadband service provider in your area, how can you make a choice to go with someone else?

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