The Comcast Corporation, faced with criticism of it's port-blocking practice, appears to have "packed" a public hearing conducted by the Federal Communications Commission at Boston. According to an advocacy group, Comcast paid "seat warmers" to take up all available spaces and exclude complainants from the hearing.
Details are atThis is very serious business, and I urge those readers who reside in the United States to make their voices heard. Comcast is a media-distribution company: their business model is that they are paid to gateway electronic media on its way from providers to their customers, and Comcast appears to feel that they are entitled to block traffic they're not being paid extra to allow on their network, no matter what its origin or ownership may be.
I don't often get involved in political debates, and I usually discourage them in the Digest, but this is about the very heart of the Internet - the concept of Net Neutrality. The Internet's "pipe and ping" providers, Comcast among them, should be held to a "bits are bits" standard, and prohibited from discriminating against either any *type* of traffic or any *author* of traffic. Make no mistake: the conglomerates that provide the pipes are trying to put in electronic toll gates that they can close or open or squeeze slowly shut at their whim, with the aim of turning the Internet (a system whose design was paid for by U.S. taxpayers, BTW) into a tightly controlled distribution network where all content is approved by - and a tithe paid to - Comcast and its friends.
The news media have already proven that Comcast has been choking traffic created by BitTorrent, which can be used to download movies but can also be used to download the latest version of Linux. In addition, Comcast has been selectively enforcing a "no servers" clause in its user agreement, blocking traffic bound for web sites (like the one I run for my son's Boy Scout troop) and email servers (like to one I run to provide me with "throwaway" email addresses that dilute the value of Comcast's email lists), according to an algorithm that Comcast denies exists. Those who complain (I'm one) see the problem disappear for a few days, and then it returns without notice, without warning, and without explanation.
Lest we forget - Comcast is a CLEC! VoIP traffic on Comcast's cable Internet access system is a _DIRECT_ competitor to Comcast's own "out of band" VoIP offering (which "service", by the way, is execrable: I recommend you avoid it like the plague) and also a _DIRECT_ competitor to the Baby Bell's traditional circuit-switched telephone services. Comcast's Internet connections are often provided via pipes that Comcast leases from Ma Bell - need I say more?
Even if the VoIP question goes unanswered, Comcast still has a vested interest in preventing competition to its primary source of income, which is the movement of content provided by the entertainment industry. After all, they must pay royalties to the movie studios, and thus to the media conglomerates who have been making a very easy living sitting atop the choke point in the old-world entertainment business, which is the manufacture and distribution of records, CDs, and DVDs.
Do not be misled by claims of "piracy": Comcast and its cronies want the public to believe that these blocks are necessary to prevent theft of copyrighted content. It's a red herring: copying has _always_ been a marginal cost to the entertainment industry, and it has noting to do with the Net Neutrality debate. What the cokeheads in California are*REALLY* afraid of is that the artists, performers, and authors now coming up in the old system will have a collective attack of common sense, and will realize that they can distribute _their_ work directly to _their_ audience, without paying Sony or Buena Vista or Comcast for the privilege.
The younger generation of singers and songwriters - and even movie directors - are realizing that getting one person in ten to pay you for a download from _your_ website is a lot more profitable than getting one dollar out of a hundred from Hollywood. (1) Comcast and its peers (pun intended) are seeking to have "copyright protection" serve as a stalking horse for their real agenda , which is putting their choke hold around the net. This is a debate where nobody should be neutral.
Bill Horne, as an individual
- Even the most successful and well known of entertainment franchises gets only 50% of the money received from sales of its product under the existing system: Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones once bragged that their record deal was finally at the point where "If you make a dollar, _I_ make a dollar", stated (correctly) that "That's the way it should be, because they have no risk".
Copyright (C) 2008, E. William Horne. All Rights Reserved.
(Remove QRM from my address for direct replies.)