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October 7, 2009

Dewayne Hendricks on the Darknet

Dewyane Hendricks, one of the foremost implementers of wireless networks anywhere, and a guy so far over the leading edge that the leading edge asks him for directions, talks about the rise of the “darknet” (dark net?) in a 5-minute interview at Broadband Strategy Week, my set of video interviews about, well, broadband strategy. On the Darknet you can get just about any content you want, especially in the gated communities where sharers trust one another. Dewayne thinks that we’re not paying enough attention to this when we think about policy, especially since the Darknet is getting more accessible all the time.

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December 1, 2008

Is uTorrent disrupting the Net?

Richard Bennett reports that one of the leading BitTorrent clients, uTorrent, has decided to use UDP rather than TCP as the protocol for moving torrents through the Net. Especially since uTorrent is owned by BitTorrent, Inc., and thus is the paradigmatic BitTorrent client, this has stirred up a lively debate about whether this is a good thing for the Net, and whether it is proof that Net neutrality is counterproductive, necessary, or irrelevant.

I am in way over my head here, so please correct me if I get this wrong, but as I understand it, UDP is generally used for data that is time-sensitive and that isn’t rendered useless by some data loss, such as VoIP and online gaming. Unlike TCP, UDP doesn’t have a self-governing mechanism that manages traffic when it gets crowded; UDP lets a server just keep sending bits regardless of the current state of the network. uTorrent (which had previously been using UDP only for lightweight metadata) has started using UDP for the data itself — the files that people are torrenting — to get around the TCP throttling mechanisms some of the ISPs use, raising the fear that all that UDP data will congest the tubes.

Richard Bennett says this shows that Net neutrality will choke the Net. uTorrent talks about it here. I found a forum at BroadbandReports that provided multiple and useful perspectives.

As for me, I don’t know what to think. I am open for instruction.

Later that day: BitTorrent replies that Richard’s article is “utter nonsense.” Explained here. Slashdotted here. BitTorrent says that they’re implementing controls in their client software that will notice congestion and throttle back. Again, I’m in no position to judge.

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February 23, 2008

Me on Net neutrality in the Boston Globe, and the FCC comes to Berkman

The Boston Globe today is running an op-ed by me on Net neutrality. (It grew out of conversations with David Reed and Yochai Benkler, but they are obviously not responsible for what’s wrong about it.)

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This Monday, the Berkman Center is hosting an FCC hearing on Comcast’s blocking of BitTorrent. It’s a series of panels that look to be composed of matter vs. anti-matter. Some fantastic people are on board. I hope the panel format works for this.

Immediately afterwards, there is likely to be a Berkman-led discussion among those in the audience, since there’s no room in the hearing schedule for public comment.

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February 14, 2008

Free Press’ FCC filing & Harold on Markey

Here is an extract from the summary of FreePress.net’s filing with the FCC protesting Comcast’s throttling of bittorrent, a clear violation of Net neutrality (and possibly of laws against impersonation, although that one seems like a stretch to my non-lawyerly mind):

Free Press focuses these comments on two topics: network discrimination and required disclosure.

Regarding network discrimination, Free Press et al. urges the FCC to declare that discriminatory tactics, such as those employed by Comcast, violate federal policies and will not be tolerated. First, we demonstrate that four relevant sources of law prohibit broadband discrimination: 1) The FCC Internet Policy Statement, 2) The Communications Act, 3) Precedent in a recent order and 4) The FCC orders eliminating ISP open access. Second, we refute the arguments advanced that discrimination is merely ‘reasonable network management.’

Arguments based on bandwidth, “delaying,” and anti-competitiveness are as dangerously wrong as they are irrelevant. Moreover, we show that Comcast’s actions are anticompetitive.

Regarding disclosure, Free Press et al. demonstrate that, while network providers must be required to disclose their network management practices, disclosure is not enough. First, network providers should be required to disclose their network management practices so that consumers, the tech community, software providers, and the FCC can respond accordingly.

Second, while we generally prefer a competitive market solution, which disclosure can often promote, disclosure alone will not result in pro-consumer or pro-innovation market outcomes here. The market is too concentrated for disclosure to discipline the market participants or empower consumers.

Third, network providers have repeatedly made a deal with the public and the FCC in merger reviews, sworn declarations, and FCC proceedings—the network providers were relieved of competition and in exchange promised not to discriminate, not merely to disclose their discrimination. Similarly, the FCC pledged it would ensure for consumers an open Internet, not mere disclosure, should the network providers break their vows. The rubber has now hit the road.

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Harold Feld explains Ed Markey’s Internet bill, and why he likes it even though it’s not as strong as it might be.

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One more item just crossed the ol’ digital desktop: J.H. Snider, a Shorenstein Fellow, is having a talk and dinner on Feb. 19 at 6pm on the current FCC auction as “a paradigmatic example of special interest politics and media failure.” It’s in Cambridge, and if you want to go, you have to rsvp to camille stevens by putting an underscore between her names and sending it to her @harvard.edu. In any case, you can read Snider’s “The Art of Spectrum Lobbying: America’s $480 Billion Spectrum Giveaway, How it Happened, and How to Prevent it from Recurring” here.

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