Free Market is an Illusion?

A friend passed me to an interesting topic of discussion yesterday (careful,it’s a long read) that was debating the relative merits and frustratations of traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling used by ISP’s in order to reduce the traffic being consumed by P2P filesharing applications (i.e. Bit Torrent). You can read the full discussion here, but I thought I’d post some of the juicier bits for your enjoyment.

“Last time I checked, ISPs were capitalists out to make profit… A smart ISP would be bittorrent friendly. What’s with the control culture in the US at the moment? Oh?you mean that the free market is an illusion, and it’s all really about corporations controlling consumers… Maybe those Marxists had a point!”

“I propose legislation that would require ISPs to let users know exactly what services will be limited, and offer the exact same connection without said restrictions for the same price.”

“If the broadband providers had some f**ing COMPETITION, this s*** wouldn’t be happening. Capitalism would work if the government would stop munching on big telecom’s jock.

and on the other side of the table…

“I’d like it very much if all these no-life-experience, the-world-owes-me-a-living kiddies with their thoughtless torrent habits would go right out and boycott all those evil capitalist greedy stupid ISPs that try to put some sort of fair limit on the utter scourge that is kiddies abusing torrent. That way, the rest of us would have some bandwidth to do legitimate stuff with. Bittorrent is a bandwidth hog. It kills whole pipes to the point that they’re useless for anything else. Self-centred greedy kiddies with zero understanding of what they’re doing, and zero care for anyone other than themselves ruin it for everyone. Wait for it, any minute now, there’ll be a torrent (yes, torrent!) of kiddies shouting ‘OH NOES, you’re another evil capitalist pig! bittorrent is used to distribute open source software too, so it’s legitimate and legal!!!1!'”.

“The Net really is evolving. With VOIP and other “so called” mission critical traffic, a level of QOS needs to be maintained. I recently sat in on a lecture on “anomaly detection” with regards to traffic shaping saying that it can even be used to help provide QOS to the customer seeding a popular torrent, by ensuring they still maintain bandwidth for other protocols, without effecting their torrent traffic terribly. Once the heavy traffic subsides, it can re-shape accordingly. This is still new stuff and very expensive.

I find it interesting to watch the jousting between the people who understand that there is a problem of compromise and business integrity and the people who really don’t understand that their ISP’s aren’t just trying to be evil. It’s particularly interesting, because as a small business owner, I regularly come across people who seem to believe that anything related to the internet should somehow come at no fee…it’s bizarry and I have trouble understanding it. It’s as though the telecom companies are some how obliged to lay cable and provide transfer at no cost, simply because it’s the internet.

Where the challenge will come, however, is when legitimate companies begin using Bit Torrent as the way to distribute propular legitimate content – for example, imagine Time Warner allowing individuals to download movies via Bit Torrent (as a paid service, of course) – it would be interesting to see how this would effect the traffic shaping policies of ISPs – especially in the context of network neutrality.

Imagine a world where Time Warner had to pay Rogers to open up Bit Torrent ports, while at the same time Open Source projects’ torrents were being throttled because they hadn’t paid any of the extra fees. I imagine it’s going to be a scary battle when the public, RIAA, Telecoms and content providers (i.e. Google) come to a loggerhead.


VP HCM Products at NetSuite and Founder of TribeHR and Lewis Media. Waterloo Region Enthusiast and active volunteer.

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