Battle lines over technology and policy are sharpening as partisans join a "net neutrality" debate before a House subcommittee today. The real action, however, appears to be a deepening of new, cross-industry alliances and technical solutions.
NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarow’s testimony delivered today to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet underscored the cable industry’s support for certain initiatives, such as the Broadband Census of America Act, but weighed in against the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, the focus of today’s hearing.
"We strongly believe that a ‘net neutrality’ mandate or government intervention in the operation of networks is unnecessary and would undermine the goals of broadband deployment and adoption," McSlarrow stated. (For a similar view, see this month’s Reality Check column.) Point, counterpoint The cable industry’s commitment to those deployment and adoption goals and the government’s heretofore successful hands-off policy when it comes to broadband network management were the first and third points of McSlarrow’s testimony.
The centerpiece of his statement was a defense of "reasonable network optimization techniques," which include collaborative efforts with the P4P Working Group that have been the subject of recent reports, such as these Reflections on Comcast-BitTorrent.
An opposing line appeared in a letter sent to the ranking members of this House subcommittee by the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA).
ITFA President and CEO Jean Prewitt praised the Internet Freedom bill’s goals of "ensuring nondiscrimination so that diverse content and innovative services are not blocked or discouraged under the ambiguous rubric of ‘network management.’"
Inveighing against image of "large gatekeepers lock(ing) up the Internet," Prewitt linked the notion of quality content with policies aimed at keeping the Internet "open and competitively accessible to all users." Deepening alliances The IFTA’s dramatic rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, the real action seems to be taking place on the other side of the aisle.
The aforementioned P4P Working Group and Comcast-BitTorrent alliance is one example. McSlarrow also mentioned the Distributed Computing Industry Association (CDIA)’s launch of a P2P Best Practices Initiative and its formation of another working group, which includes Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Suddenlink, Bend Broadband, CableLabs, AT&T and Verizon, as well as P2P service providers and content owners.
McSlarrow said that the group would form by June and complete its work by the end of the year. P4P and beyond Technology companies that cater to the network service providers are likewise engaged in helping them to balance competing regulatory and network management challenges.
In a discussion of a new fair-use management application, Camiant VP Business Development Randy Fuller argued on behalf of a full set of tools. "Peer-4-peer (P4P) could be very useful to the cable companies, but by itself is not going to solve network management," he said.
Fuller described the fair-use tool as an application-agnostic, transparent way doing network management, especially in terms of quotas.
"Traditionally, PCMM (PacketCable Multimedia) has been thought of and been targeted toward premium QoS," Fuller said. What Camiant has done in this application is use that same dynamic control mechanism to give operators flexibility in managing their networks "in a way that is as gentle, if you will, as possible."
– Jonathan Tombes