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[fccboston08] FCC hearing: Panel 1 part d-z

NOTE: I am live-blogging. Not re-reading for errors. There are guaranteed to be errors of substance, stand point and detail. Caveat reader.

Martin: Comcast didn’t just not publicize its policy of blocking BitTorrent. They actually denied it, right?
Ammori: Yup. We want to know what you’re blocking. And we think there are many better ways to manage traffic

Martin: Why would they lie about this?
Woo: They shouldn’t block any lawful application, much less do so secretly or lie about it. And while we know the carriers have made an investment, we also want to encourage app developers to invest. Who’s going to invest in an app if you fear it could be blocked, and not even transparently?

Martin: Consumers are being asked to buy more and more bandwidth but they’re not being told the limitations.
Yoo: Yes, transparency should even be the fifth principle. Also, some apps need a different network. Telemedicine can’t take a backseat to anything else. So, network management ought to allow discrimination.
Benkler: Disclosure is an important first step but it only works when there’s market discipline and consumers can switch. But we only have 1.5-2 services, on average. That’s not a lot of competition. You can extract rents from traffic that’s competing with services you, as a last-mile provider, also provide.
Verizon: We believe in transparency. Consumers don’t want the 30-page document so we’re trying to make it more understandable, while still providing the whole thing for those who want it. But every ay we block spam. You don’t want so much disclosure that it prevents us from providing network security.
Martin: Letting consumers know what they’re purchasing seems primary. Were any of the users exceeding the bandwidth that they’d purchased from Comcast?
Ammori: Know. In fact, VOIP providers side with us.
Wu: It’s odd that providers would complain about people using their produce. Users of Vuze want more bandwidth. The oil companies love it when users buy an SUV. There’s something odd about this debate.
Martin: Cable companies argue that consumers get a better deal by bundling channels rather than allowing them to pick their own channels, as I like. It’s odd that when consumers buy extra speed, you block them for using it. Inconsistent?
Comcast: No. First, we sell an “up to” amount of service, as part of shared network, and you’re not allowed to use it in a way that would degrade it for others. Our new disclosure is the best ever.
Martin: Is that the type of application developers need?
Ammori: No, we need to know what they mean by “high periods” and what “delay” means.
Benkler: We need a standard for disclosure.

Copps: I’m nervous. We have a transition to DTV by 2009. Now I’m hearing that by 2010 use may exceed capacity. This is all testimony to need for a national broadband policy. Mr. Ammori, what is the price we’re paiong for not having this kind of national strategy?
Ammori: Other countries have more capacity. The carriers profit from scarcity. We have Third World networks and we’re debating whether we can even manage current traffic. A lot of these problems would go away with genuine competition. We should manage traffic in ways that don’t block content.
Copps: How do other countries do network management?
Benkler: NN as a policy need only arose after we abandoned unbundling. Other countries have competition. You have to share costs and components when the network is high-cost. [E.g., open it up. Let 1,000 ISPs bloom.] We only have to set standards because we don’t have competition.
Wu: Asian countries tend to look at broadband as an infrastructure issue, like highways. There are obviously negative examples as well: China blocking content.
Yoo: Korea got there through gov’t subsidies. Japan overcharges for voice telecommunication. Wireless is likely to make the markets competitive.
Copps: You’re rolling out fiber, Comcast. How will this change network mgt?
Comcast: My engineers tell me that all networks in the world are maxed. We will never solve this problem purely by building capacity. [Yoo nods] We will always have to net mgt.
Verizon: As we put in fiber, the demand grows. Capacity helps and facilitates a “rich and robust Internet experience for consumers” [= sit down and watch your IP TV kiddies].

Adelstein: Japan has 100Mb to the home and they’re not having the NN discussion. Does Verizon use the RST packet for P2P? [Comcast forges a packet that breaks the BitTorrent connection]
Verizon: No. At this time we don’t have a need for it. We don’t have a shared network.
Benkler: If we accept duopoly, which is a weakly competitive market, then without market discipline we need regulatory discipline.
Adelstein: What are non-discriminatory ways to manage traffic?
Ammori: The providers promised not to discriminate.
Comcast: Comcast does not block any web site, app, or proocol. We manage based on objective assessment: during limited times, in limited geographic areas where the congestion is, only uploads, only when a seeding request comes, we only delay and not block, and when we delay a p2p upload until the congestion alleviates. With BitTorrent, a delay merely causes the system to move to a different, uncongested, node. The delay is imperceptible.
Ammori: You can believe Comcast or Vuze about whether they’re being affected. Comcast has lied about this from the beginning. The RST packets don’t just delay; they deny connection. Further, studies show that introducing minor delays hurts user adoption.
Comcast: My understanding that the delay doesn’t block or degrade. The AP experiment did not use BitTorrent the way it’s supposed to be used.
Wu: Comcast cannot deny that AP tried to use an Internet app in a particular way and were blocked. Comcast says that’s because they weren’t using the app the way it should be used. But Comcast shouldn’t be telling us how we may or may not use an app
Comcast: That’s not what I said. They weren;t using BitTorren the way BitTorrent says it should be used.
Benkler: The effect of delays is to say you may not use your computer to support this collaborative network function. Comcast offloads it to another network. But that’s how TCP works. It handles congestion in a non-discriminatory method. Comcast is telling you that you can’t do what other are doing. Delay is blocking in this case.

Deborah Taylor Tate, a commissioner who arrived late because of a plane delay, says we agree on more than we disagree about. We all want to deploy broadband everywhere. And we do have a role in global principles. We all agree that there can be reasonable network management.
Rep. Bosley (a state rep): The disclosures don’t tell me when I’m going to be cut off or delayed. There’s no competition in many parts of the US. We’ve spent $70B in this industry to speed up capacity. That’s not enough and it hasn’t been spen equitably. For that we need a national plan and transparency. We still have dial up in many parts of my area. Our electric system is non-discriminatory and transparent.
Tate: Are there other complaints, beyond the one that’s bee filed?
Ammori: Yes, but this is the key test case. There may be other interference we don’t know about . We don’t know how long Comcast was doing this.
Comcast: Generally, the customer reaction has been positive, not negative. There’s an appreciation of all that we do to maximize the Internet experience by blocking spam and viruses, etc.
Verizon: We haven’t had complaints about net mgt. The focus of our complaints is people want to know when we’re coming and can we deliver more.
Tate: I’m deepl concerned about child online safety, and piracy.
Ammori: We might discriminate among packets, but not by policy or application. We’re not looking for a detailed policy, just a statement that you will not discriminate based on policy or application. Don’t block access to lawful content. With the policy, we’ll figure it out. E.g., BitTorrent has a way to avoid congestion.
Tate: But disclosure would be enough.
Ammori: No, not without competition. You know you’re being blocked and have no option.
Benkler: Your analogy to common carriage is apt. Take minimal rules like Wu’s — no discrimination against lawful apps. Think of Carterphone — a general rule, and a procedure that allows a carrier to notify, say, BitTorrent that it’s generating too much traffic. That would be a model. A model.
Yoo: The shift in Carterphone came in monopoly. We have a duopoly. Duopoly is more competitive. Regulation is expensive. We can have a non-discrimination system, but it will be expensive. Typically, 500 subscribers share a node in a cable system. You could provision it with enough, but that’d be expensive. The more expensive it becomes, the harder it is for carriers to build out to rural areas. That’s the genius of the public safety provision of the 700MHz auction.
Tate: What’s the status of the industry-led p2p protocols?
Verizon: Early in the process.
Wu: It’s good to think about this in terms of common carriage. There are forms of discrimination that are reasonable. Many good ones go on already. FiOS devotes an entire wavelength to TV content. That’s fine discrimination. able does the same thing with their TV service. But we’re worried about the forms of anti-competitive discrimination. The FCC has already said this in their statement that it’s dangerous to have the carriers pick and choose among lawful applications. We’re not saying that all discrimination is bad. We’re saying anti-competitive discrimination is bad.

McDowell begins by noting that he has to pee. Do you think it’s ok to sell more bandwidth than you deliver?
Comcast: P2P during periods of congestion creates degradation for other customers which violates our terms of us. We don’t sell x amount of bandwidth. We sell it subject to not using our service in ways that degrade it for others. [Not the question.]
McDowell: If my neighborhood loves BitTorrent in the evening and it slows down.
Comcast: You’ve exceed according to the terms of service.
McDowell: Wu’s distinction between anti-competitive and non-anti-comp discrimination is important. Would it be less concerning if Comcast didn’t also sell TV?
Ammori: Less concerning. But even when discrimination is not anti-competitive, it still does serious harm. if they blocked BitTorrent even if they weren’t a TV company, it would still harm users and innovation.
Wu: Even if Comcast didn’t have a TV service, we’d still need NN. So many industries depend on these carriers, the carriers start to attract public duties.
McDowell: What would be the practical effect if you were required to carry all p2p at all hours, without discrimination?
Comcast: In the short run, it could be a significant degraded experience for many more customers, as opposed to the very small effect on a small group of people. And the BitTorrent users may be delayed anyway, but by net congestion not by our net management tool.
McDowell: Would more capacity solve it?
Comcast: No. We will always need network management.
McDowell: If that’s the case, would BitTorrent DNA help to rectify it? [DNA is the BT tool for balancing load, or some such]
Ammori: It might be a short-term project, but the carriers would adjust their networks.
McDowell: Does the protocol designer have an obligation to inform customers that it won’t work as well on particular types of networks?
Ammori: Not an obligation. But they should work together, if there’s a non-discriminatory principle.
Benkler: When you have full transparency, people can solve the problems on the edges.
McDowell: Should apps be required to disclose that it doesn’t work as well on some nets?
Benkler: No. Apps operate in an open market.
McDowell: Is NN an issue in Korea? Yes, it is. Only a network operator can provide things like VOIP. Is that what you want?
Wu: No. It’s cautionary as well as a role model. Great on access. Lots of censoring. The US can do better.
Woo: Japan and Europe do a lot of network mgt. They’re more candid about it.
McDowell: How can enhance the supply or demand side of the roll out?
Yoo: Lower the break-even number of subscribers to enable a last-mile provider to make a go of it. Let them use bandwidth more efficiently, including net mgt but not only that.
Wu: Letting consumers buy more of the last mile.

Martin: Can cable companies move some of their TV capacity to Net capacity?
Wu: Yes.
Martin: Doesn’t that creative a negative incentive to allow Vuze, etc.?
Wu: Yes. There’s obvious motive to suppress the next form of TV.
Martin: Does the FCC have the authority to enforce NN principles? Or do you think with Markey that it needs legislation?
Verizon: Yes you do.
Comcast: Not if you say they’re unenforceable.
Martin: Re-ask…
Comcast: You don’t have the authority to impose a forfeiture fine.
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