Network Management – deadlines and rhetoric

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Another filing deadline, another blast of press releases about the Comcast “network management” debacle.

To quote the great philosopher Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?”

No, really. This topic gets people in an uproar, whether it’s the good and well-meaning people at Free Press and Public Knowledge, who brought the complaint, or the folks at Comcast and their NCTA brethren, who have made a valiant effort at reaching out to the Internet community and explaining themselves. They have a great blog. Seriously.

At first, I think there was some justified anger out there. I know there was some major ranting on this blog about what was, in hindsight was a poor P.R. response on the part of Comcast.

See, Network Neutrality was originally this fear that the owners of the big pipes were going to charge Google and others premiums to have their content carried, despite the fact that GOOG and their ilk already pay. This came out of some rather inartful comments by the CEO of what was then AT&T, who ranted about Internet companies making money using “his” infrastructure.

This whole “network management” issue is totally different, but the Network Neutrality debate shifted from the long-haul to the last mile. And Comcast, bless them, didn’t react well. First they said there was nothing going on, then admitted it. Then back in March they announced an agreement to try and work out the technical issues that make Cable so difficult a platform to deliver consistant bandwidth on when P2P applications come into play.

Skip ahead to today. Free Press blasted out a release saying it’s time for Comcast to “come clean” on their practices, when we know what they are doing, and have known for months.

“Last month, the FCC found Comcast guilty of violating users’ online rights,” Free Press said. But let’s be honest here. Guilty? Last time I looked, not only was the FCC not a criminal court, but there is even dispute over whether or not the FCC can regulate broadband.

But a Free Press spokesperson said that guilty, which has a specific meaning in criminal law, was appropriate as a term of art, “given the amount of deception involved.”

Ben Scott, FP’s Policy Director even suggested that Comcast might go “AWOL,” and not file. But a spokesperson for Comcast was quite adamant in assuring me that the “highly technical” filings would be in the commission’s hands “by close of business.” Comcast will also make them available at http://www.comcast.net/networkmanagement after filing them with the commission.

Let’s cool off until we see what everyone’s cards are, shall we?