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More on the FCC, Comcast and BitTorrent

August 5, 2008 |  5:01 am

Net_neutrality_graphicFriday's post about the FCC ordering Comcast to stop surreptitiously interfering with BitTorrent uploads drew a number of thought-provoking comments. I'll concede the point made by some readers that it's too early to tell exactly what the FCC did, given that the detailed order has yet to be released. But in light of the concerns raised about ISPs' ability to manage their networks, I wanted to ask a pointed hypothetical.

Suppose a Web-based business comes up with a compelling way to stream movies in high def. Studios love it, so they agree to provide licenses to the content. The site's popularity skyrockets. But it consumes a crazy amount of bandwidth because it uses a delivery method that saturates customers' download and upload capacities. How should ISPs respond? Should they throttle access to the site or its delivery protocol, which might make it impossible for the streams to be delivered in high-def? Should they institute bandwidth caps that effectively force customers who regularly use the site to pay more than folks who do so rarely, if at all? Or is there some other approach that would be more desirable? And does the answer change if the ISP also happens to offer a pay-TV service that competes with this online VOD venture? Resist the urge to quibble with the premise, and post your answers below.

Lovely fiber-optic array courtesy of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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