Last week, the FCC demanded that Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA, news, filings) explain why their own VoIP service was immune from their congestion management system, whereas other VoIP traffic was not. Their answer? Comcast Digital Voice (CDV) is entirely separate from its High-Speed Internet (HSI), so of course it would not be affected by congestion there. In fact, you can buy CDV without even buying HSI. Discrepancy? What discrepancy?
Yes, it all flows over the same cable, but Comcast’s VoIP traffic gets its own partition. Sort of like the bus lane into the center of a major city, it goes along next to you most of the way but you aren’t able to use it. But wait, isn’t that a violation of network neutrality? It all depends on how you view that last mile pipe. Comcast views only a portion of the capacity in its cable as ‘internet’, whereas the rest is for its video and voice products which are functionally separate and do not touch the internet at all. Others see the pipe as a pipe, and that they have to play fair with all of it. I wish I could agree, but Comcast has a point. It’s not as if their video traffic going through those pipes is affected by congestion either it has its own bus lanes too. Can we logically say they can’t take services completely off the internet and onto their own platform?
It all blurs together after a while. What’s the real difference between a) physically separating traffic into lanes of differing priority and b) mixing traffic physically but separating and prioritizing logically via deep packet inspection? Network neutrality is easy at the level of summaries and buzzwords, but practically impossible in the layers beneath it.
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