Sound Bites From The Comcast Hearing

    February 26, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Yesterday’s FCC "hearing" to discuss Comcast’s interference with BitTorrent traffic was more "dogpile on the cable shill." Comcast chose executive VP David Cohen as the bullet-catcher/gauntlet-runner/sacrificial lamb, and Verizon sent its own executive VP, Tom Tauke, presumably for moral support.

Comcast Logo Comcast Logo
(Photo Credit: Comcast)

Which he’s apparently not very good at. The only thing Tauke really had to say about it was that telecoms had no need to implement a filtering system like the one Comcast used. "Cable has an architecture where users in the neighborhood share a network. That is not true in the architecture that we have used to develop our network."

In other words, cable sucks and you should switch to Verizon anyway. You can’t really blame Tauke. This wasn’t Verizon’s Net Neutrality hearing, and it was relatively clear from the outset that Cohen was a fox up a tree. He indicated as much with his opening remarks: "It’s a pleasure to be here as a participant and hopefully not as the main course for your meal."

And who wouldn’t be nervous? Cohen had to stare down an FCC that was at least stink-eyed suspicious if not outright gaping-mouth appalled at what Comcast had done. Turning his head only brought angry stares from first-class Ivy League law professors busy sharpening their rhetoric for their turn to speak.

At the end of Mr. Cohen’s (presumably sweaty) day, the FCC will still have to think about it, but is pretty darn certain the agency is good enough and smart enough to handle it appropriately. Chairman Kevin Martin decided over Cohen’s objections that the FCC had the authority to penalize Comcast and was "ready, willing, and able" to do so. "It seems important that," he concluded, "for any of these practices to be reasonable, they be conducted in an open and transparent way."

Even with that transparency, Martin didn’t think that it gave them carte blanche. "While networks may have reasonable practices, they obviously cannot operate without taking some reasonable steps, but that does not mean they can arbitrarily block access to certain services.”

Other government representatives were present and ready to shove Cohen around. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a Net Neutrality champion in Congress who recently introduced The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, came prepared with up-to-the-minute contemporary remarks, formed fresh the droppings of the Academy Awards the night before.

"We want to look back years from now and look back and be able to celebrate that this is no country for old bandwidths," he said. Markey then added that the FCC should not allow the "transformation of BitTorren into BitTrickle."

Somewhere, racecar driver Dick Trickle raised his head and asked, "Somebody call me?"

Quotes From the Hearing
Starting with who had to talk the most

Comcast’s David Cohen:

"What we are doing is a limited form of network management objectively based upon an excessive bandwidth-consumptive protocol during limited periods of network congestion."

Excessive bandwidth, critics point out, isn’t exactly spelled out when customers sign up for Comcast’s "unlimited" services.

"We are crystal clear to our customers what we are doing."—Citing an FAQ.

"My understanding is that the delaying that was occurring was not blocking and not degrading the P2P service when it is used the way it is designed to be used."

The "that depends on what your definition of ‘ is’ is" argument worked for Bill Clinton, right? You say "blocking and degrading," I say "delaying and managing." 

"Don’t listen to the rhetoric. Every network must be managed or no network would function. Peer-to-peer services, during a time of network congestion, create a degradation of our service to our other customers, which is a violation of our acceptable terms of use."

To which the telecoms repeat, "Sucks to be you. Anybody interested in fiber?"

Chairman Kevin Martin, who serves as the swing-vote on the issue:

"Cable argued that consumers are actually getting a better deal because they’re getting more channels … and doing more of something, it’s good." He called it "a little odd" that Comcast "blocks them because they’re using too much."

The good news for aspiring legal eagles, Martin presumably passed his LSATs.

Timothy Wu, Professor of Law at Columbia University and coiner of the phrase "Net Neutrality":

“[Martin] thinks that it’s a consumer rights issue. Whether that is a principle for the ages or principle for the case we don’t know, but he certainly sent a message.”

"There is a single fact Comcast cannot deny. The AP and EFF sought to use an application a certain way and were blocked. Comcast shouldn’t be telling people how to use applications." –referring to the testing done by both organizations that showed Comcast was interfering with BitTorrent users.

"Whatever we think reasonable network management is, it should not include blocking legal services." With no Net Neutrality protections, " the technology of censorship is being built into the system."

"We don’t want America to become a place that has a reputation for having a closed or filtered internet. We should be a role model for what an open internet looks like. What happens here will be followed everywhere."

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps:

“The time has come for a specific enforceable principle of nondiscrimination. This principle should allow for reasonable network management, but make crystal clear that broadband network operators cannot shackle the promise of the Internet. Our job is to figure out where you draw the line between unreasonable discrimination and reasonable network management.”

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein:

"Consumers don’t want the Internet to be another version of old media, dominated by a handful of media giants."