Tit-for-Tat on BitTorrent over Comcast

Hiawatha Bray writes a nice, balanced column on legislative efforts to revive net neutrality over the Comcast thing. Highlight:

Comcast senior vice president Mitch Bowling said that BitTorrent users absorb a disproportionate amount of network capacity. That makes it necessary to throttle back BitTorrent transfers so that e-mails and other Internet traffic can get through. Bowling also said that BitTorrent slowdowns are based only on the quantity of traffic, not its content, which is not monitored by Comcast.

Snowe said that there may be a legitimate need for Comcast to limit some traffic in order to manage its network, and that the Verizon and AT&T incidents may have been isolated blunders. But she wants hearings to determine whether legislation may be needed to establish guidelines for network operators. “I think we need to glean what the issues are and get more transparency,” Snowe said.

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, agreed that network operators have made some poor decisions recently. But Harper said Internet performance could suffer if network managers were barred from setting limits on their traffic. “How do you write a law about this?” Harper said. “This is technically challenging and unsettled.”

This is the most moderate net neutrality statement Sen. Snowe has yet made in print, so maybe she’s learning something from the debate.

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