The Washington Post reports on action being taken by some ISPs in the United States to curb high traffic. Comcast is reportedly terminating users’ accounts based on high bandwidth usage, although it seems like there is no specification of how much is too much. I’m surprised by the move, as it has the potential to get heavy-users to leave Comcast and choose other networks. Then again, this may be precisely what is intended.

The natural techie reaction to stories like this is to cry foul. In fact, every fibre in my body seems to be wanting to write “keep your hands off our Web!” However, the more I think about actions like these and about the whole net neutrality argument, the more I think that something needs to be done. Let’s assume that bandwidth is a limited resource (which is in itself a contentious technical statement after all). If small numbers of users take up most of the bandwidth, then that would affect how others are able to browse at peak times. Why not place restrictions on how much can a single person download?

Appealing as this argument may be, I’m still troubled. How much is too much? Who gets to determine the thresholds? Is there a technical definition that we can all agree on?

Heady regulatory questions so early in the morning. I’m off to clog the web further by viewing The Internet is for Porn for the 100th time.

1 Comment


Stefan H. · September 11, 2007 at 4:35 am

One level where net neutrality could be an issue, is of course the distinction between mass media usage of internet capacities vs. individual communication. E.g. VoIP vs. IP-TV. Does that fit anywhere into that, apart from the question of content neutrality (i.e. Porn vs. birthday greeting cards)?

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