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Free market collaboration between BitTorrent & Comcast largely obviates need for FCC intervention

Free markets work. The FCC's net neutrality policy statement has worked. Congressional policy to "preserve the free market Internet...unfettered by Federal or State regulation" has worked.

In a hugely important free market development, Comcast and BitTorrent have voluntarily announced that they "will undertake a collaborative effort," together and with the rest of the industry, to "more effectively address the issues associated with rich media content and network capacity management."  

Why is this development such a big deal?

  • First, this collobaration committment to private negotiated solutions and standard-setting, reinforces the longstanding, bi-partisan policy consensus to preserve the free market Internet and avoid Internet regulation.
  • Second, experience shows that the most workable, innovative, and standardized solution will emerge from a sustained process of free market collaboration, iteration, and negotiation -- not from a coercive process of governmental intervention or regulation. 
    • The FCC would be the first to admit that they do not have cutting-edge market, technological, and engineering expertise to direct and decide the optimal engineering, application-optimization, or quality-of-service outcomes here. 
    • The market has tried and true standards-processes that are able to work through all the issues and achieve the optimal practical solution that can be implemented most quickly and completely. 
      • Moreover, the Internet's phenomenal success has been driven by voluntary and consensus processes, like this Comcast/BitTorrent collaboration, not by Government intervention or regulation. 
    • If the FCC or government tried to impose solutions without the assent or cooperation of all the parties, the conflict could devolve to the courts, which would only polarize the interests that are now collaborating and create months or years of unnecessary and unproductive delay. 
      • I believe the FCC has learned from the unmitigated market disaster of its micromanagment of the implementation of the 1996 Telecom Act, where the FCC set itself up as the omnipotent arbiter of all forms of commercial disputes between incumbents and emerging competitors. 
        • This monumental FCC mistake delayed deployment of broadband to all Americans for several years.
      • That's why its so critical for the FCC to embrace this collaborative development between Comcast, BitTorrent and the industry because it will yield a vastly superior, quicker and more functional end result than if the FCC unnecessarily attempts to guess or pre-determine the optimal outcome. 
  • Third, Bittorrent, in this agreement, is acknowledging "the need for ISPs to manage their networks, especially during periods of peak congestion."
    • This shows how the FCC's Net neutrality principles and reasonable network management are indeed compatible.
  • Finally, Comcast is also announcing how it is investing very substantially to upgrade its network quickly to handle vastly more traffic and capacity, which would help BitTorrent and other legal p2p players.

Bottom line:

This collaboration agreement recognizes that any workable and lasting outcome here must follow a process because the problems and solutions are highly dynamic not static or finite. 

  • The real issue is which process is best?
    • Private collaboration and negotiation? or
    • Government intervention and market management?
  • Experience shows that a free market, voluntary, and consensus process has a vastly better chance of lasting success, than if the FCC attempted to devise a case-by-case adjudicative enforcement process where all major issues had to be officially or tacitly reviewed, debated and approved of by regulators. 
  • This free market collaborative process also avoids the vast array of unintended consequences that can arise from regulatory-directed processes of resolving market disputes and developing consensus technological standards.