Last month Comcast announced
that they'd like to develop a P2P "Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" in cooperation with ISPs and P2P companies like Pando networks, who is developing a "P4P" system that will accelerate the delivery
P2P content. The proposal arrived two days before a planned network neutrality hearing in Stanford and was painfully vague, seemingly aimed at placating regulators who are investigating the carrier for its throttling of all
upstream P2P traffic. Comcast CTO Tony Werner had this to say about the plan at the time:
"By having this framework in place, we will help P2P companies, ISPs and content owners find common ground to support consumers who want to use P2P applications to deliver legal content."
However, NewTeeVee says those plans have already been scrapped
, with Comcast instead participating in a working group developed by the Distributed Computing Industry Association
. The DCIA consists of P2P companies like Joost, but also has the support of heavy hitters such as AT&T and Verizon.
DCIA CEO Marty Lafferty told me that the best practices working group is in the process of signing up members right now. The group is supposed to include ISPs and P2P companies, many of which are also cooperating on the development of the P4P protocol, as well as rights holders and the respective trade bodies of the industry. Lafferty said he eventually wants to extend the invitation to consumer advocacy groups like Public Knowledge and Free Press, but added that he believes the industry should form some sort of consensus first.
Why not involve consumer advocates in the process from the ground up? The companies involved are
eager to develop policy standards that provide more efficient delivery of legal P2P (Vuze, etc.) traffic. The new system they've cooked up can supposedly speed up P2P by 235% across incumbent networks and up to 898% across international broadband networks. This is done by only serving file parts from local peers to reduce hops.
But the other primary goal of the group is to obtain the clear authority to degrade illegal P2P traffic (the largest bandwidth problem, a competitor to legit P2P, and of obvious interest to content outfits). My guess is that once they've polished up a proposal that stratifies P2P treatment by legality, they can bring the plan to consumer advocates, who'll look unethical if they suggest that illegal P2P traffic should be treated equally.
This of course all relies on filtering and throttling systems that can identify pirated material. Since such systems don't reliably exist yet (or can be bested by encryption), this will be a long walk toward the group's desired end goal of throttling back piracy. As a side note, I should have some additional exclusive information on Comcast's new bandwidth management plans later on today.