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Reason Foundation

Golly Gee, the Free Market Works After All

Steven Titch
March 26, 2008, 2:43pm

Comcast and BitTorrent have reached an agreement about how the cable company will manage traffic from BitTorrent users. The deal represents a successful market-based resolution to a network neutrality issue that some said only government regulation could fix. We at Reason note that the government has been trying to "fix" net neutrality since at least 2005. Comcast and BitTorrent settled their differences just five months after reports of Comcast's throttling down of BitTorrent traffic came to light. Under the terms of the accord, Comcast will pursue more "agnostic" network management technology that does not target the BitTorrent protocol directly, but, at peak times, prevents a user of any application from hogging too much bandwidth. For its part, BitTorrent acknowledged Comcast's right to manage its network in order to assure a quality online experience for as many users as possible. This is significant because BitTorrent is not claiming its rights were violated or that the Comcast violated the FCC's existing net neutrality guidelines, a charge net neutrality activists, along with at least one member of Congress, made. Instead, BitTorrent sees its issue with Comcast as a conflict in business objectives – something that both were able to work out. And, as in any agreement, both sides had something to gain. Comcast, of course, is looking to stave off unnecessary and counterproductive regulation. BitTorrent is looking to be seen as the legitimate business it has become, and get away from its association with online piracy, which many of its erstwhile "advocates" were coming close to defending. Everybody wins in this type of deal. Users get better quality, BitTorrent users are not singled out, Comcast's property rights are respected. Unfortunately deals like this are precisely what network neutrality legislation such as Snowe-Dorgan would prohibit. Deals like this are also potent testimony as to why bills like Snowe-Dorgan are not needed at all.


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