Friday, October 19, 2007

To Switch...

...Or not to Switch. That is the Question. According to the Associated Press, Comcast is controlling network traffic by hampering the sharing of large files online, and they are doing this by telling the computers involved that the other computer has requested that the transfer be stopped.

Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer - it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: "Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye."
The article makes it perfectly clear that Comcast is well within its rights to manage the traffic that flows over its network. But I, like other people interviewed for the article, don't like the way they go about it. I'm not comfortable with the idea that an ISP falsifies network traffic. More importantly, I don't like buying a service that comes with rules that I'm not told about, and aren't openly enforced.

I could call and complain to Comcast, or send them a protest e-mail. But I learned a really valuable lesson as a manager, earlier in my career - If there is a disconnect between what you're telling people to do, and what they understand they're being paid to do - they're going to ignore what you tell them to do. Does complaining to Comcast, while continuing to subscribe to their service create such a disconnect? And of course, if I do switch ISPs, does that also come with a commitment to switch BACK, if they clean up their act?

Switching ISPs is going to cost me more than it's going to cost Comcast - that much I'm sure of. I'm okay with that. Such is the way of things. I'm also certain that whomever I switch to likely has had the same idea, could very well be implementing it, and wouldn't tell me if they were. Again, c'est la vie. I could simply drop an internet connection entirely (good-bye work from home), and deal with the inconvenience, but would it do me any good? This becomes the big dilemma around such actions. They do very little in the way of driving change if undertaken alone, and are hard to organize and sustain in large groups. But I'll think about it anyway, and see if it can be a worthwhile action.

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