By the Bytes
Peer-to-peer fear: Regarding David Downs' feature, "The Internet Jammer" [Jan. 23]: I think this bandwidth problem created by peer-to-peer file transfers is easily fixed. There is currently no price charged by ISPs for using extra bandwidth on the margins. Everyone pays a fixed monthly fee and is guaranteed a certain minimum speed. The charge at any speed level is the same for someone who just checks e-mail a few times a week as it is for someone who transfers umpteen gigabytes of data. Until ISPs charge based on bytes transferred (as is already standard for Web site hosting), there will be people who will use as much of this free product as they can get.
Torrent in a teacup: David Downs' gripping tale of the EFF's heroic battle with Comcast was so dramatic that some of the issues may be unclear, to wit:
1. Comcast doesn't restrict Bit-Torrent downloads or BitTorrent peering, only seeding, the file-serving mode that BitTorrent enters after a download has completed. You can still download to your heart's content over the Comcast network, at rates much faster than those of competing services in the Bay Area.
3. Verizon hasn't blocked anyone's text messages. There was a delay of a few hours in issuing a "short code" to NARAL, but no messages were blocked. ("Short codes" are simply short phone numbers, 5 digits instead of the standard 10.)
4. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it would be perfectly happy if Comcast managed traffic congestion by dropping BitTorrent packets instead of breaking BitTorrent (and other server applications) connections with TCP resets. There's no difference in effect, if the EFF is to be believed, so it's puzzling that it makes such a big deal over such an obscure detail. It's not as though Comcast is stealing credit card numbers.
5. I've covered this issue — and the EFF's use of it — extensively for esteemed UK tech site The Register. Curious readers can read my alternative view online at www.theregister.co.uk.
Dare to Dream
The talented Mr. James: I simply loved Evan James' article "The Year of Living the Fantasy" [Resolution Guide, Jan. 16]. I would like to keep a copy by my desk as a suicide preventative, because as a 47-year-old graduate student of sociology (ha), it is highly likely that my dream job will remain just that — a dream, although the goat-herding gig sounds promising.
But the writer of this article is another story. I hope Mr. James continues to share his creative and humorous narrative with us, and that someday he is discovered at the Macy's perfume counter or wherever he happens to be spending his positive energy. He has a lot of talent.