A Rather Shoddy Analysis

Former head of AT&T’s dial-up Internet access service Tom Evslin has jumped into the Comcast pile-on, in a particularly disappointing manner. While I’m not surprised when non-technical people like professor of media law Susan Crawford, media regulator Craig Aaron of Free Press/Save the Internet, or lawyer Harold Feld make a hash of the fundamentals of the Internet, I expect better from a fellow who once was in the business of packaging and selling access to it. Evslin simply repeats the same tired claims that Crawford makes about impersonation that isn’t personal, blocking that doesn’t block, and conflicts of interest that don’t exist in the Netflix era, without any bothersome analysis of how BitTorrent behaves relative to other Internet applications or why an ISP might legitimately want to protect interactive response time from background noise.

He goes off on one riff that’s especially odd about a fragmented Internet:

Each of us “sees” the same Internet. Communication becomes much more constrained if each of us sees a different and perhaps incompatible Internet. You can see Google but I can only see Yahoo. I can upload photos to Flickr but you can only upload to dotPhoto. My email can’t get to you; you and I can’t share files (although we can both share with Ellen—today). Gee, almost sounds like mobile phone networks—or cable networks.

This observation, which has no material relevance to the actual case (Comcast lets you download anything from anywhere, and upload as you do it,) is an imitation of one of Tim Berners-Lee‘s complaints about tiered service from last year, and it’s apparently meant to lend gravity to the situation. I don’t know why he bothered to write this piece.

The underlying theme of all these criticisms seems to boil down to one thing: whatever the broadband Internet access providers do is wrong by definition, and whatever the freedom fighters who wrote BitTorrent do is right by the same a priori assumption. So there’s no use for Comcast to try and defend itself, it’s guilty of crimes against democracy simply because it bills consumers for service instead of being a good guy like Google and billing companies with something to sell.

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