In the past, I have been a frequent critic of the activism that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has engaged in, specifically regarding national security issues involving electronic monitoring of networks. I believe that monitoring networks keep us safe and the EFF does not.
And when it comes to their latest crusade against Comcast over bandwidth shaping of P2P programs, I think they are wrong there too. Comcast has a primary duty to their customer base to deliver a solid service in the best manner they can. If this means that they strangle the bandwidth hogged by P2P users, then so be it. A recent article by Richard Bennett at the Register flogs the EFF over both the technical aspects of their complaint against Comcast and the “religious” basis of their argument.Richard writes at the Reg here:
The internet’s traditional method of ensuring fairness doesn’t work any more – not for Comcast, not for BT, not for any network that hosts peer-to-peer file-sharing applications designed to grab all the bandwidth they can get. Internet routers can randomly drop packets all the way to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and peer-to-peer users will still consume most of the bandwidth on the internet’s first and last hops.
The EFF’s quibble with Comcast is therefore bankrupt. Home network providers have to provide some measure of fair access to each user they serve, and they can only do so with mechanisms that actually produce a result. The internet’s traffic toolkit is nearly barren, so it’s no wonder that Comcast and its peers would use mechanisms such as Reset Spoofing to accomplish an end that all rational people agree is worthwhile.
So why does the EFF complain? They’re aware that file-sharing is troublesome for cable networks, but remain fully committed to the religious view that the internet’s protocols were born fully-formed and inviolate in the mind of a virgin engineer in Bethlehem some 40 years ago, IETF discussions to the contrary notwithstanding.
Like many advocacy groups dealing with technical subjects, the EFF represents the view that technologies are meant to liberate the human spirit from the chains of exploitation, hence it’s bewildered by the sight of people using the internet for such mundane purposes as downloading porn, bullying, and stealing music.
So it manufactures a fake crisis of network management to avoid the truth about the inanities of the internet.
Richard Bennett is a network architect and occasional activist in Silicon Valley. He wrote the first standard for Ethernet over twisted-pair wiring and contributed to the standards for WiFi and the Ultra-Wideband wireless networks.
Kiltak adds: I’ve received many complaints about this post from readers, and I’d just like to add that since this is a multi-users blog, a subject can be covered from many angles. This is one example, and here’s another one. This post does bring up some good point about what an access provider should and should not do. I think that such an article should be used to promote discussion, not flog me to death via email.