Monday, November 19, 2007

Traffic Jam: Another FCC Ruling to Watch

A company called Vuze -- a cool online video site similar to Joost -- has filed a complaint with the FCC, asking the agency to stop broadband Internet providers from blocking or slowing peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic. Depending on how this ends up, this is a bigger deal than you would think for apartments ... more on that in a minute.

Vuze uses the popular BitTorrent P2P service to distribute its videos. Their petition asks the FCC to set rules restricting 'network management' by ISPs. Vuze's filing follows recent reports that cable broadband provider Comcast is slowing some P2P traffic, including BitTorrent.

Vuze rightly claims that ISPs like Comcast sometimes slow access to P2P services like their's. One Vuze executive said, "They say that they're engaging in reasonable network management, but what they're doing is slowing down some traffic."

Here's my question: Have you ever been driving in traffic and not had to slow down at some point during your trip?
The fact is, some traffic management is necessary in multifamily communities to ensure that all residents who are trying to get online will have a reasonably good connection speed.

If the ISP doesn't manage the traffic coming and going from a building, then all of the bandwidth to that property could potentially be consumed by a few heavy users -- effectively choking off others' connections by downloading a lot of music, photos, vidoes and other large files. I wouldn't do business with an ISP that didn't have a strategy for managing P2P traffic in a densely-populated apartment community.

(While we're at it ... This is another good reason to keep security systems, surveillance cameras and other IP-based in-building communications systems off of a shared resident network. Do you really want your monitoring systems choked off by the guy upstairs downloading the complete first season of 'The Office'? Probably not.)

ISPs should not decide by themselves how to treat access to any website, including Internet-based file-sharing services. However, while I agree that large-scale content blocking should probably be prohibited, properly administered network management by the ISP is a necessary and good thing for property owners who want to ensure that everyone has a quality online experience, not just the heavy users. We'll keep you posted as this story develops...

Do you know your ISP's policy regarding peer-to-peer traffic?

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