another day, another bad WaPo op-ed


It’s hardly worth noting, but this is a lousy editorial.  A couple of points, one of which I buried in the last post about net neutrality:

  • Comcast’s reversal of its decision to fiddle with Bittorrent seems to be getting bandied about as an example of the market taking care of things. People should be less sanguine: it was not market pressure from clients but rather PR pressure from activists that forced Comcast to back down.  And if the net neutrality issue hadn’t been looming at the time, the outcome could easily have been different.  Mustering that level of coordinated outrage is not a sustainable model for policing ISP behavior.  Other ISPs offer evidence of gloomier scenarios: in Canada, Rogers has been throttling Bittorrent — and, in fact, all encrypted traffic, since it can’t distinguish encrypted BT from encrypted anything-else — since at least 2005.  Similar difficulties face customers of some Australian ISPs.  And there are other policies that have been in place so long that people have stopped complaining: unless something has changed, I’m still prohibited from running a server for personal use off my home connection (in principle a server of any type; in practice, port 80 is the only one that will be caught). And it was years — years! — before Comcast disclosed or even acknowledged the existence of its secret bandwidth caps.  Neutrality opponents are mistaking a single victorious battle for the absence of a war.
  • The Post piece refers to the broadband market as “a vibrant and well-functioning marketplace”. In truth, it’s stagnated: in North America, prices remain steady — at a rate above what much of the developed world pays — while ongoing improvements in speed show little hope for of catching up with the networks of countries significantly poorer than the US.  If the Post wants to argue that net neutrality will make the situation even worse, fine. But they don’t even seem to realize that by global standards our domestic broadband marketplace is an underperformer.

About the author

Tom Lee

Add comment

By Tom Lee