back to article Feds tell (other) feds to kill net neutrality

The US Department of Justice is badmouthing net neutrality. In a recent filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Justice Department said that certain net neutrality efforts could "prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet, with significant negative effects for the …

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Crook at work

this artice should have been title:

AT&T new business plan: STEAL MONEY FROM CONSUMERS.

who can blame them, in the good old US of A Openly criminal corporations are booming and making (IE: stealing) lots of money. just look at: MPAA, RIAA, Sony, Macrovision and now AT&T

Why offer a good quality product at a reasonable price when you can just steal money from your own consumers ( or send your consumer to jail if they don't pay.). Look like the old 1930's all over again.

Interesting to see that to get overpriced illegaly DRM'ed infested content you need to paid way to much and now emerging crook like AT&T want to double charge you to access it? no wonder P2P is so popular.

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Anonymous Coward

I can see it already..

"Now, see, what you intend to download is not just 1s and 0s - it is a whole bunch of very special 1s and 0s! And we think, as we are so nice to provide you with said very special and exclusive accumulation of 1s and 0s, you might well show us some token of... appreciation in return. To show some... respect if you will."

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Neutrality

I have a problem deciding on the Net Neutrality thing. On the one hand, I appreciate the idea that data is data, and ISP's shouldn't be poking their noses into what it is that you're doing, and I can see the bad possibilities that a two-tier internet gives for freedom of expression and privacy, but on the other hand I find it increasingly irritating that the internet is becoming slower and slower because billions of kids are too cheap to actually pay for the music they listen to. Before I moved, the high speed cable internet I paid for was rendered practically useless for large parts of the day because the kids next door where amassing a music and video collection that was ten times larger than they'd ever have time to watch/listen to in their lifetime.

Now, get off my lawn!

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Anonymous Coward

They're all out to get me!

Oh no! Company 'A' is providing a service to consumer 'B', piggybacking on something that company 'C' is paying for.

How dare company 'C' expect to get some money for doing company 'A's job for them?

SHOCK HORROR! NEVER! BAN IT! IT'S AGAINST FREE SPEECH!

*ahem*

Get a grip.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Crook at work

Big business seem to think that they can flout basic laws of economics for some strange reason. If you have the right product at the right price then it will sell. It is no more complicated than that. However what people like AT&T et al try and do is tie consumers down and operate some sort of lock-in policy under the statement of "we are trying ti protect our investment".

Well, that works for a time (and that time gets shorter by the day) until consumers find ways round these protection barriers. The music industry (the well-known bastion of artificially inflated prices) for example, is fighting a losing battle because like King Canute, they are trying to control the tide of market forces.

The solution is yet so simple: Innovate, get your prices right or die, and die with dignity. Nothing is more undignified than watching a big corporate thrash around clutching at the straws of dogma and institutionalism. Sco springs to mind.

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What Net Neutrality really is

A lot of people seem to be taking this phrase and using it on the wrong arguements about Internet access.

A 'Neutral' network is simply one that treats all data packets equally. A 'biased' network prioritises the packets based on the content or service being delivered.

This isn't as Orwellian as it seems. VoIP, Streaming media, and the like are flagged as 'time sensitive' in a biased network, meaning that they take precedence over things like web pages, p2p and ftp.

p2p in particular is one that causes problems because it can choke a network, drastically slowing every other connection (try web browsing when your housemate is p2p'ing half a dozen large video files). With a tiered system, High priority is on time sensitive packets, normal on http and ftp, and low on p2p.

The tiered system is not a bad idea, and is currently the only solution being discussed on how to deliver this content. The issue is on who pays for it. The telcos don't want to, and the content providers don't want to, and the customers (general public) don't want to.

Customers and Providers argue that they are just using the bandwidth they have paid for. Telcos say it was never meant to be used in this way. And both sides are right.

But the telco can't go and start charging premiums on the existing contracts for certain data types now. Hate to break it to them, but the telcos got the shaft on this one, and will just have to grin and bear it until renewal time comes around. And once it does, you can bet that there will be clauses relating to the data types that are being sent.

So what if the telcos laid down extra pipes for the high priority content, and then charged for the traffic on it? Kind of like an Internet Toll Road. Only certain traffic would be allowed on, it would cost more than using the existing Internet, but the traffic would be delivered on time.

What they can't do is mark a proportion of their existing networks as Toll Road Only, because that would reduce the bandwidth for the existing contracts, which they have to maintain.

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C

Re: They're all out to get me!

No, actually Company C wants Consumer B to pay them a second time for an already-paid-for service. I don't know what your understanding is of what you pay your ISP to do, but I pay mine to provide me with a connection to the internet. In fact, here in the US, 90% of the advertising by broadband providers is geared toward telling you how much crap you can download with your connection. It is at the very least deceptive trade practices to say to consumers that, having paid for this connection, they must now pay again to actually use the connection for the purpose advertised.

Oh, and to Pete - there is a big problem with your analysis. Bias requires traffic analysis. The 'Orwellian' part you are so dismissive of is the intrusion into the type of traffic and the potential for snooping into the content of traffic. This is far from an unheard of problem in the US at this point, and I think concerns about privacy of data are pretty equally far from unfounded. AT&T is already the subject of an EFF suit over handing over to the government direct access to phone traffic so they can monitor it for type or content. It is reasonable to expect that this new 'service' would be put to the same sort of use. It's interesting that the report in the article is from the DOJ, even if it is the antitrust section.

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Net Neutrality

I'm fed up of hearing how terrible the loss of net neutrality will be. The automatic assumption is that any charges the phone companies make from this will just be added to their profit margin (maybe this is true).

The American (as well as many other countries) network are not good enough. People want to send more information and for it to be sent quicker, someone is going to pay for this. You have a choice with Net Neutrality it's YOU, without net neutrality it's premium content providers.

The main issue in the US is that too many people are served by only one provider and locked into their service, in the UK for example this isn't an issue, if an ISP here started throttling popular sites it's subscribers would change providers. Ergo the problem isn't net neutrality it's lack of competition in the US.

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Silver badge

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"The tiered system is not a bad idea, and is currently the only solution being discussed on how to deliver this content. The issue is on who pays for it. The telcos don't want to, and the content providers don't want to, and the customers (general public) don't want to."

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This post has been deleted by its author

Gold badge

What net neutrality really is

Thanks, Pete. I'm glad someone actually bothered to define terms. I've lost track of what the various camps mean by the phrase and I suspect that some of them have as well.

It seems reasonable to me that a "carrier" should be able to charge differently for different forms (priorities, reliabilities, latencies) of "carriage".

It seems less reasonable that they should be able to charge according to what is carried *and still* enjoy the legal immunity of being "just a carrier".

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Ash

Problem solved.

PAYG internet access at a reasonable rate.

If they don't like it, offer them dial-up.

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Re: What Net Neutrality really is

"Customers and Providers argue that they are just using the bandwidth they have paid for. Telcos say it was never meant to be used in this way. And both sides are right."

The biggest historical problem has been the way that Telcos have sold the bandwidth to consumers. Hosting providers have typically included transparent methods for saying how much data transfer is allowed as part of the bargain with options to temporarily increase it during unexpected busy periods.

With consumers, the Telcos have only themselves to blame when they use weaselly phrases like " Unlimited Internet * " and " up to 8Mb ** ". It's quite amusing that unlike the maze of mobile phone contracts it is the Telcos getting it up the rear this time.

* Internet may be be limited in ways that are in very small print.

** on a calm day, going downhill you might get 7.9. If no one else is using the internet anywhere in the world.

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Bronze badge

I don't see how a non-Neutral network can even work.

Here's what I mean.

Say "Provider A" leases a connection to NBC for a video on demand service. "Provider B" leases a connection to my Cable company (which in turn leases it to me). NBC pays "Provider A" money to give its video streams priority over other traffic on "Provider A"s network. So when I request a video from NBC, those packets get sent with a higher priority... until they hit networking gear owned by "Provider B". NBC hasn't paid them anything, so the packets get routed like any other. ("Provider B" sure as hell isn't going to boost NBC's packets just to be nice!) So NBC either has to pay both providers or just accept that only "Provider A"s customers will benefit.

And beyond that problem, what prevents FOX (or ABC or whomever) from paying "Provider B" to *de-prioritize* NBC's packets? Is the Internet now going to the highest bidder? Huge corporations get to decide what content I get to see by bribing my ISP? Have sexual intercourse with *that* notion.

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Anonymous Coward

If I buy a computer, I expect to be able to use 100% of the CPU all the time...

If I buy a computer, I expect to be able to use 100% of the CPU all the times doing say folding at home. If I buy a car, and it redlines at 8,000 RPM I expect to be able to run it at 7,900 RPM as much as I want. If I pay for unlimited internet at 8Mbps down and 1Mbps up, I expect to be able to use 100% of my capacity at all times.

Any time I am not using 100% of my bandwidth I am wasting money. If the ISPs don't see it that way, they need to be charging me per MB like a cell phone charges me per minute.

Even from an environmental point of view, if I am not using 100% of my bandwidth the power and energy used to install the infrastructure, and to power the routers, cable modems, etc. are creating a carbon footprint and not getting anything in return. So to get the most back on the relatively fixed size carbon footprint, I need to utilize the network 100% at all times.

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Tom
Silver badge

Re: What Net Neutrality really is

Ken said "It seems reasonable to me that a "carrier" should be able to charge differently for different forms (priorities, reliabilities, latencies) of "carriage"."

I agree but add that it should be non-discriminatory.

No exclusive deals, and the Telcos Voice over IP (or other service) should not get better service then what is available to a competitor.

If they are carriers it should be just like a physical package. If I want to pay extra for express fine. But I don't want them looking in the box to see how much they can charge me or if they are going to route it through Afghanistan because they don't like what's in there.

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Not their jurisdiction...

Who the hell cares what the DOJ thinks? Wouldn't something like this fall under the jurisdiction of the FTC? What department is going to weigh in next? FEMA? The IRS? The USDA? USPS?

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It really depends

The problem with abolishment of net neutrality is that it opens the possibility of loads of horrible practices from ISPs. They won't necessarily do anything tragic, at least not immediately.

To get rid of net neutrality is to give even more power to the telecoms, and they really don't need any more control.

The real problem, though, is that the senators that will be writing the laws don't even begin to comprehend the situation, so the laws will be just wrong. I saw a draft that would have illegalized the QoS that I do on my home gateway.

Also, judging by these comments, I think that I may be the only person in the world that gets my full advertized (12/1mbit) speeds all day / every day. I actually frequently exceed my rated limits frequently, and even when I pull down 200GB in a weekend, my ISP doesn't complain.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Ignorance breeds Fear

@ Nexox Enigma:

The net has never been "neutral". So how can you give up something you never had?

@ C

"Bias requires traffic analysis... intrusion into the type of traffic "

Which we already have. If we didn't have it, your VoIP call wouldn't go through because Bittorrent is saturating the pipe. As Ian K Rolph illustrates above: today's net is easily rendered unusable without traffic analysis and discrimination.

Discrimination == intelligence. Discrimination is not necessariy == abuse. Only in your paranoid imagination, perhaps.

@ Anonymous 100 per cent Man:

So 100 per cent of your health club's members can utilize 100 per cent of the health club's equipment 100 per cent of the time?

Three great examples of ignorance - not understanding how the net works - generating fear.

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C

For Andrew Orlowski

So the Bush Administration tapping phones and monitoring communication without judicial oversight is just my "paranoid imagination"? Do you ever pick up a newspaper? Leave your cave? Does news of our far-flung colony not make it over there?

Here discrimination will most certainly lead to abuse. It's unreasonable and incredibly naive to think it will not. And the old "we are already doing it, how can it be bad?" bit doesn't wash, logically or otherwise, I'm afraid. The fact that something is currently done doesn't magically negate its potential repercussions.

ISPs advertise high speed and make no mention of usage limitation. Cable is the worst offender here - seeing as they fail to mention that its not that your pipe runs at 10mbps, but that it could if nobody else on your block is using it. If providers were forced to sell to individuals only the bandwidth they are actually able to provide that individual, things would generally run a lot more smoothly for the average consumer. To the extent that it does not, it would certainly draw some attention to the status of our infrastructure here. The answer here is not quietly accepting a loss of privacy in order to line the coffers of ISPs and improve service marginally. It's the FCC, or even the FTC, forcing the ISPs to deal honestly with the public. It why the US has such agencies in the first place.

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@Orlowski, et al.

Speaking of not understanding how the 'net works ... BitTorrent cannot "saturate the pipe" except for in one segment: Your local CABLE loop. If you've got a pile of kids downloading torrents in your neighborhood, that has absolutely no impact on anyone in another loop.

And this ONLY applies to a CABLE connection, which is and has always been a shared resource. You would do better to blame your cable company for overselling your local loop than to disparage the robust nature of the network, itself. That shared resource gets slower with every additional subscriber on your loop, and even slower when those subscribers get the TV/phone/Internet packages that are all the rage, these days. And those subscribers who are grabbing the HDTV feed? They are requesting more data than any torrent user.

Try a non-shared resource like DSL or T1 or something if you're tired of the pirates on your block slowing your own data grabbing.

Net neutrality is an important battle for every web publisher. Unless you've got the deep pockets of a major corporation, your voice will be crushed under the weight of onerous regulation, and your content will be analysed with each request. Say 'bye-bye' to independent thought!

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Upstream QoS Works Wonders

... so why in the name of bloody buggering hell aren't more people using it? You know - send your ACKs first, prioritise HTTP/SMTP/whatever-other-noninteractive above P2P/bittorrent/other outgoing and beneath VoIP/etc? Ever heard of the DSCP, various congestion control algorithms, RSVP? I've never understood why so much standardisation work to solve precisely these problems that can be implemented on most networks simply never gets a look in, or, indeed, why Skype doesn't set the DSCP on outgoing packets for the benefit of those who'll listen so I can actually test them (even if it's technically only half the solution in that it only controls your upstream packet queue it is likely going to have a great effect on which packets come back at you and in roughly which order). You can really make your connection feel great even when it's clearly under absolute saturation. You don't need ISP cooperation and you certainly don't need to pay money for it. You can achieve wonderful results just with some tweaks on your jerry-rigged router-come-server. Go on, put a Linux/BSD box in front of your main link. Pffft. Oh, and just because I feel like a flame or two, M$ worshippers can note that QoS in Windows is, as always, outside of end-user control and that, as such, you're stuffed.

As for me: I see better potential in upgrading infrastructure than in any amount of service-side net non-neutrality. And despite what's been said here, I *do* think it's almost bound to go bad if ISPs are let even further off the hook. I guess that makes me a net neutrality fan in most peoples' eyes, but that doesn't mean I'm not in disagreement with the fact that the net needs a makeover so that it isn't bound for a slow death because of near-permanent congestion without any shaping. But we shouldn't use packet prioritisation at the upstream, we should really start by beating the spineless Ofcom into letting BT conquer the land with superfast IP infrastructure everywhere which everyone else can then happily borrow to increase the actual available bandwidth (you know, the bandwidth my ISP happily charges me £x.xx a month for theoretically perpetual use of) instead of relying on the shit that is wet string copper running backwards technology like DSL. Urgh. If you do have LLU then by all means go for it, but we have to have a change. I know I don't want some snot-nosed teenagers determining the fate of my net connection to be selectively throttled downstream just because they're the ones sharing crap and I'm not or, more likely, I'm seeding a Linux distro ISO or three. So I don't care for non-neutrality; I'd much rather the net just fell over and push for improving the infrastructure if the public really needs a wakeup call while the router manufacturers resolutely fail to add basic QoS functionality (I know a few are now, in particular Linksys - now Cisco). Perhaps the iPlayer will do it? I haven't tried checking, but I'm quite sure that my average monthly consumption probably makes my bill look positively scandellous. In such a case, maybe PAYG in the meantime?

Cheers,

Sabahattin

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@ IanKRolfe

Your Internet access slows down because your ISP is too cheap to provision enough bandwidth to provide what they've promised at peak hours.

In other words, they are selling good they haven't got, and don't intend to get. If Internet access were treated as "real goods," you could sue your ISP for false advertising and fraud.

If the big bandwidth sellers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) get their way, you'll *still* have bandwidth choking because your ISP will continue selling goods they don't have and don't intend to get - only you'll have to pay more for what you aren't getting.

I'm not surprised that Bush Administrations "Justice" Department supports AT&T. After all, this is "Government Of The People, By The Corporation, and For The Corporation" in action. It's exactly what we've seen happening since Bush took office, and slipped a word to the judge in the last Microsoft Anti-Trust case.

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I dont understand

What exactly is net neutrality? data is data, you get your bandwidth and send packets through it, how can an ISP charge more money for different type of packets?

or is it a case that somone that pays £30 for 10Mbps will get slower and more unreliable access than someone who pays £40 for 10Mbps?

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@Sabahattin

DCSP and RSVP and other standards are a good thing, but if anyone can mark any and all packets as "priority" without paying a cost, then people are bound to abuse this to mark non-critical bulk data as "priority". What's to stop all of the spammers' SPAM email being marked as "high priority", or file sharing data, etc? Please don't say "filter by port number" because people will just cheat on the port numbers used.

So, despite the possibility of abuse, some ability to charge or otherwise limit "priority" traffic may be unavoidable.

The other reason - despite the real possibility of ISP abuse - why it may be a bad idea to prevent any discrimination is that sometimes, as with Akamai and friends, it may be a good thing for websites that are going to flood the network with large amounts of data to work with the ISPs to distribute data closer to the end users in ways that reduce the overall network load. If you forbid the content providers ever being asked to pay for this (as they already do with Akamai et al.) then their incentive may go away, probably producing a worse result overall.

Of course part of the problem here is that if Vonage or Skype tried to force end-to-end QoS on their VOIP phone packets then the telco ISPs might try to charge 10c per minute for these phone calls, matching the legacy telco rates. This is the real reason for some of the complaints, IMHO...

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Nuts and Bolts

@Sabahattin Gucukoglu

DSCP needs more implementation to become truly beneficial across all subnets, and it is probably the primary mechanism through which ISPs will "rate" and then charge their clients for, in a non-neutral world. It's a great idea, though ... even if Windows 2000 does tag all outgoing packets as Class 1 (IP Precedence 5) content regardless of its true nature.

@Morely Dotes

You're right ... fatter pipes would do the trick.

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Anybody hear of the $200 Bn Scam ?

As per the Telecommunications Act of 1996, All the phone companies have been charging surcharges to the US consumers on all their telephone and internet service bills with the promise to provide 100 Mbps broadband service.

The companies have so far collected and usurped upwards of $200 bn so far without delivering the services that they promised.

For that amount, an independent organization would have provide last mile fiber optic connection to practically all US households.

Don't believe me ? check out the following.

http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070810_002683.html

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This of course only makes sense.

If someone in the DOJ has some steak in it as there is really

no mandate and no call for them to speak at all personally I think

whoever has the most money will win this fight as always and I don't

care but the very fact of the department of justice saying a word about it is incredibly suspicious I assume someone there is taking huge fatty bribes of cash to do this and someone high up at that.They need to be tracked down and hanged.

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Nothing new to US consumers

The binary content is more expensive to transport, period. Hence the start (and failure) of companies like Cidera that tried routing big files over other than terrestrial links.

Years and years ago, a computer company made mainframe type systems for big corporate users. The dang thing had a 'turbo' switch like so many computers of the day. Thing is the vendor would charge you extra depending on how much 'turbo'time you did. What's more the damn turbo button just bypassed a bunch of electrical paths designed to slow the system down. Hmm. Intentionally forcing users to pay extra for premium services. This isn't new and I don't understand why we're still up in arms about it. Do you get HBO for free? Heck no! You pay extra for premium content. Does the internet service provider you use give you a special 'key' for all the porno websites? Heck no! You pay extra for premium content. Does Apple let just anyone have mp3z from iturnes? Heck No! We pay more for premium services. Always. It's American ideals 101 here folks.

Plus, coming up with new revenue streams isn't easy for Ma, Pa, or Uncle twice removed Bell.

If the phone companies ask me to pay a bit more for an (excuse the term... but) unadulterated internet, I will because I want it all when I want it. Now Dammit! NOW!

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Tim

I don't get it...

I pay for the internet, if I pay for 4mb I use more bandwidth than I would with 2mb, but I pay more. Doesn't the difference make up for the increased usage? And if not, how is that my fault?

It seems to me a case of bad planning and madcap schemes to try and get out of admitting that the price they initially offered was too low.

P.S: There are plenty of limited services available for low bandwidth uses not downloading, but isp's don't like saying buy our service that's highly restricted but cheap, hence scrambling around for silly ideas that look ok on paper but never work in real life.

(P.P.S: I'm Britsh, so this doesn't affect me right, the US DOJ, I mean Al Gore did invent the internet will help from superman, but they don't own it do they?)

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this all depends on which definition of innovate you have

One of the great confusions perpetrated by corporate IT is use of the two almost completely opposite definitions of the word "innovate".

The one used by almost everyone is to invent something unusually new. In the language of economics, however, it is used to mean making money off a new idea whether you invented it or not. (This is Microsoft's favorite game)

If the Fed's statement is viewed in that light it means "net neutrality will stop some companies from making indecent amount of money" Also the term effect on the consumer" can be taken both ways.

It's all in how you spin it.

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Silver badge

LOL

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Now find a neighborhood where someone isn't using Bittorrent :)

"You're right ... fatter pipes would do the trick."

Ignorance piled on ignorance, here. You've already explained why this doesn't help, but you haven't joined up the dots yet:

"If you've got a pile of kids downloading torrents in your neighborhood, that has absolutely no impact on anyone in another loop."

So everyone in that neighborhood is screwed. Now find a neighborhood where someone _isn't_ using Bittorrent - and happy hunting.

Now put imagine yourself as the ISP.

There's absolutely no incentive for you to spend even an extra $1 on a "fatter pipe", only to see those pesky neighborhood kids eat it all up. You can spend a bilion, to get to exactly where you are today. You absolutely need that packet prioritization.

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