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FCC Chief Says Comcast Violated Internet Rules

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the score-one-for-net-neut dept.

The Internet 174

Several readers sent in word that the FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, is calling for sanctions and enforcement actions against Comcast for resetting BitTorrent traffic. "Mr. Martin will circulate an order recommending enforcement action against the company on Friday among his fellow commissioners, who will vote on the measure at an open meeting on Aug. 1... Martin, a Republican, will likely get support from the two Democrats on the commission, who are both proponents of the network neutrality concept. Those three votes would be enough for a majority on the five-member commission."

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BT Encryption (5, Interesting)

rukkyg (1028078) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151067)

Since so many people enabled BT encryption, this whole idea of theirs has really backfired. Now, even if they were to shape some traffic to try to keep BT traffic in the network, so many people will now keep this encryption on that it won't work as well as it would have if they would have, in the first place, worked with the technology instead of against.

Re:BT Encryption (5, Interesting)

Craig Ringer (302899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151275)

Such technology works even with encrypted BitTorrent. It doesn't need to know what's *in* the data streams, only that a given IP endpoint is communicating in patterns that match BitTorrent traffic. If such traffic is detected, spoofed RST packets can be sent to cause the host to treat the connection as half-open and respond with its own RST,ACK to close it completely.

Perhaps the particular implementation ComCast uses is easily tricked by encrypted payloads. Don't worry - even if that's so, it won't last.

Now, IP-level security like IPSec would do the trick, because you could identify fake RST packets by their lack of, or invalid, signatures. There is, however, no standard way to negotiate IPSec with a remote peer, despite the best efforts of the FreeS/WAN project.

Thus, in a world where the routers along the way are fundamentally trusted to do their job and route packets, you're not going to have much luck protecting yourself against this sort of attack by your provider.

Re:BT Encryption (5, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151405)

Thus, in a world where the routers along the way are fundamentally trusted to do their job and route packets, you're not going to have much luck protecting yourself against this sort of attack by your provider.

That's why this is one of the few... VERY FEW cases where government is needed to step in and say, "you can't do that."

Re:BT Encryption (4, Insightful)

computational super (740265) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151463)

I don't know... as much as I agree with the actual decision, it sends a chill down my spine to hear the FCC start defining the "internet rules".

Re:BT Encryption (5, Insightful)

tietack (982580) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151597)

In this case, the FCC is saying that Comcast should not define the "Internet Rules" A case where they keep Comcast from regulating how their users communicate on the Internet.

Re:BT Encryption (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151743)

I gotta agree that the FCC is actually doing something it should do here. In this case Comcast was filtering there users and lying right to them about doing so. The users caught on and made a stink to the officials and they are doing as they have been asked.

Now about the telco's...

Re:BT Encryption (4, Insightful)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152227)

I could not agree more, if they end up the defacto arbitrator over the internet, here in the US at least, I don't trust them not to fuck it up as badly as they have everything else in their purview. Well unless you can afford to pay them their lobbying dollars, then you get what your company wants.

Jonah HEX

Re:BT Encryption (3, Insightful)

davegravy (1019182) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152993)

The FCC shouldn't have to define internet rules but does due to lack of competition. If there was as much competition for ISPs as there is for most products/services then companies that pull stuff like Comcast would simply go out of business.

Re:BT Encryption (2, Insightful)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153347)

companies that pull stuff like Comcast would simply go out of business.

Not true at all. Tell Joe Q. Public that you offer high-speed Internet for $25 a month less than the competitor with the small detail like "we limit your P2P activity", Mr. Public takes the cheaper offer. Comcast can afford to offer the service for cheaper, because they are throttling the bandwidth (or whatever technical cost-cutting method they introduce). If anything, I could see how this could actually lead to MORE customers (just not savvy customers). Most Americans are cheap and there are more Internet users that have never even heard of P2P than users who actually use P2P.

... except when you want it (2, Insightful)

Craig Ringer (302899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151653)

Hmm. I'm not convinced. What about VoIP? I *like* my low-latency reliable VoIP, and I like the fact that my ISP is able to prioritize it over bulk traffic like BT. Ditto small HTTP traffic bursts, DNS requests, etc.

Rather than force all traffic to be treated equally, the more sensible approach would seem to be to provide incentives to flag bulk traffic as such.

Here in Australia, for example, we have small download quotas - often 5GB or less, but up to 40GB or so for "premium" connections. ISPs also generally offer extra download allowances during off-peak times to encourage file-sharers etc to mostly hammer the network when nobody else cares. Why not treat all IP traffic with the IP TOS throughput flag set as low-priority traffic to be sent only if nothing else of a higher priority is waiting, and charge it to the off-peak allowance at all times?

The only issue I really see with that is that ISPs might not feel the need to expand capacity when they're "only" dropping low priority traffic. However, that's when commercial incentives come into play - if they don't have the bandwidth, find a better one that does.

Legislation will be counterproductive in the long run and will impair services like VoIP - and even basics like ensuring that DNS responses are fast. If legislation tries to include exceptions then they'll always be 5 years out of date and will be inconsistent around the world, so they won't really be much good.

Making it in the end users' best interests to flag their bulk traffic as such just seems to make so much more sense. That's the direction where Internet QoS is headed already.

Re:... except when you want it (5, Insightful)

imrehg (1187617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152173)

Hmm. I'm not convinced. What about VoIP? I *like* my low-latency reliable VoIP, and I like the fact that my ISP is able to prioritize it over bulk traffic like BT. Ditto small HTTP traffic bursts, DNS requests, etc.

One solution would be per-user bandwidth allocation - as it has been on the proposed list for ages now... Then all you have to do, is you yourself decide not to run BT when you are making a VoIP call... How hard is that? Yours is the responsibility and yours is the power to decide what is important for you, and not the ISP, which has no business whatsoever, deciding your preferences for you...

Won't work (4, Insightful)

Craig Ringer (302899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152631)

That sounds nice, but it relies on ISPs not overselling capacity.

You can get service with ISPs that don't oversell, and actually have enough upstream bandwidth to service all their customers downloading and uploading at max speed all the time. It costs 20-30 times as much, but it's available. After all, most ISPs operate at a contention ratio of between 10:1 and 30:1, where they have enough bandwidth for 1 fully utilized connection for every 10-30 signed customers.

What might be a more reasonable compromise is for ISPs to reserve a fixed 64kbps or so per user. Even that, though, will quickly get expensive. They really need to be allowed to use QoS to provide acceptable performance for latency-sensitive applications while continuing to service bulk traffic - and doing it all cheaply.

Re:Won't work (1)

GalacticCmdr (944723) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153481)

That sounds nice, but it relies on ISPs not overselling capacity.

You can get service with ISPs that don't oversell, and actually have enough upstream bandwidth to service all their customers downloading and uploading at max speed all the time. It costs 20-30 times as much, but it's available. After all, most ISPs operate at a contention ratio of between 10:1 and 30:1, where they have enough bandwidth for 1 fully utilized connection for every 10-30 signed customers.

What might be a more reasonable compromise is for ISPs to reserve a fixed 64kbps or so per user. Even that, though, will quickly get expensive. They really need to be allowed to use QoS to provide acceptable performance for latency-sensitive applications while continuing to service bulk traffic - and doing it all cheaply.

Actually it will still work with oversell. The ISP is simply taking a chance that the number of people currently pushing the envelope does not exceed their capacity. It is a simple SLA. They tell each customer they get x bandwidth at any given time where x is based upon how much they pay. The ISP can then make the determination by studying their load to see what percentage of x*sales they must actually have. So they can go around selling service to many people that will never use their bandwidth allotment, then balance that against those that will use their full allotment. Obviously an ISP will want many more of the former customers and as few as possible of the latter.

Re:Won't work (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153693)

What might be a more reasonable compromise is for ISPs to reserve a fixed 64kbps or so per user. Even that, though, will quickly get expensive. They really need to be allowed to use QoS to provide acceptable performance for latency-sensitive applications while continuing to service bulk traffic - and doing it all cheaply.

Is that really true? I think that what is needed is something more like a cooperative egress shaping system on the cable modems, coordinated by the head end. Something where the network agrees to act more like token ring :)

Re:... except when you want it (2, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152745)

Or allow the user to define their QoS. Or let the user's equipment define the QoS. Or allow the option of turning it off.

If their network damages one set of users when another set is using BitTorrent, it's not set up right.

That and the fact that even if they did want to throttle BitTorrent to benefit VoIP, sending RSTs is not the way to do it. You just speed and queue-limit it like every other QoS implementation does

I am curious, how long before unlimited plans go (2, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152965)

away?

I saw references to it going away on some blogs and even one or two news sites.

think about it, the more restrictions that are placed on their being able to QOS types of traffic or such the more likely they will introduce hard caps by simple removing the unlimited as an option.

I look at it this way, if I can get cheaper access with caps I will take it. I don't care to subsidize anyone. This isn't the government holding a gun to my head and as such if someone comes along as says "rate X for price Y" and its cheaper I'm there.

It will be curious what happens in the market

Re:... except when you want it (2, Funny)

joo110 (737599) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153851)

Then all you have to do, is you yourself decide not to run BT when you are making a VoIP call... How hard is that?

Impossible, because answering a VoIP call would then require going to the computer and clicking the pause button on the bittorent client.

Re:... except when you want it (4, Informative)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152741)

Hmm. I'm not convinced. What about VoIP? I *like* my low-latency reliable VoIP, and I like the fact that my ISP is able to prioritize it over bulk traffic like BT. Ditto small HTTP traffic bursts, DNS requests, etc.

Prioritizing (i.e., QoS) is OK, but what Comcast did wasn't any sort of QoS...it was forging packets to say "please permanently disconnect". I know that some people may define cutting off connections as QoS, but it isn't. QoS implies that every connection gets to send all of its data, eventually.

Re:... except when you want it (2, Insightful)

deander2 (26173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152785)

so who gets to choose which bits are "good" bits and which bits are limited to the slow lanes? if i invent super-mega-new-tech-protocol that needs low-latency, reliable communications, do i need to register that with the telco-what-we-think-are-worth-while-apps-dept? what happens if they don't like it?

because, you know, that's how cell phones work...

Re:... except when you want it (4, Informative)

slashgrim (1247284) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152803)

Hmm. I'm not convinced. What about VoIP? I *like* my low-latency reliable VoIP, and I like the fact that my ISP is able to prioritize it over bulk traffic like BT. Ditto small HTTP traffic bursts, DNS requests, etc.

This is not an issue of prioritization; this is a forced destruction of undesired (by ISP standards) streams.

Besides your ISP more than likely uses hot-potato routing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot-potato_routing [wikipedia.org] which does its best to take the shortest path _out_ of their network regardless of increase in latency caused by taking a longer path once out of their network. Unless you have a SLA, you're getting the worst service available. Oddly, with hot-potato routing, you even have a chance of some streams taking a shorter path when the network gets more congested (depending on topology, of course).

Also, congestion is hardly an issue with modern ISPs (in the US, tax dollars funded development of new optical backbones): http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2004/09/65121 [wired.com]

IMHO, if I purchase a "bulk" link, I expect all traffic to be treated equally and the ISP to not cancel streams. I do like you're idea of users flagging traffic as bulk but wonder about the implementation, incentive and enforcement details.

Re:... except when you want it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24153637)

QoS is about network traffic on a network you own, rent, manage, whatever. OoS should not be about prioritizing traffic across teh Intarwebz.

Re:BT Encryption (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153265)

That's why this is one of the few... VERY FEW cases where government is needed to step in and say, "you can't do that."

I was thinking the same thing. My gut instinct was let a company impose whatever rules they want and leave it up to the consumer to choose. Then I remembered a time in our history where "companies" where allowed to not sell something to somebody because they were black, or jewish (for example only).

Re:BT Encryption (5, Interesting)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152181)

As someone who still runs opportunistic encryption, I wish it would have worked out. It would be nice to have secure P2P connections for all sorts of traffic, whether its E-mail, chat, video conference or file transfers.

Personally, I always thought an online registry system like dyndns would be an excellent way to distribute keys. Update your keying data to match your current IP address using a pre-negotiated certificate with a known entity or registrar. Its very similar to their registration of names to IP addresses.

It wouldn't exactly be military grade security, but it would be a lot better than what we have now.

Re:BT Encryption (2, Informative)

brother.sand (952928) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152691)

How about if you set your iptables firewall to block the Comcast reset packet? From: http://www.zeropaid.com/news/9608/GUIDE%3A+Using+Linux+to+Beat+Comcast's+BitTorrent+Throttling [zeropaid.com] If you are using Ubuntu or another non-Red Hat Linux derivative, then place the following in a file and execute that file as root. #!/bin/sh #Replace 6883 with you BT port BT_PORT=6883 #Flush the filters iptables -F #Apply new filters iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT #Comcast BitTorrent seeding block workaround iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport $BT_PORT --tcp-flags RST RST -j DROP iptables -A INPUT -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT #BitTorrent iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport $BT_PORT -j ACCEPT iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m udp -p udp --dport $BT_PORT -j ACCEPT iptables -A INPUT -j REJECT --reject-with icmp-host-prohibited Not so hard really. There's an iptables file on that page for the RedHat distros too.

Re:BT Encryption (2, Informative)

Craig Ringer (302899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153867)

Er, that blocks *all* TCP packets with the RST flag set that're destined to your BitTorrent port. That'll cause some interesting problems, though probably nothing worse than your tretcherous ISP is doing to you already.

In particular, you might have to increase kernel limits on open TCP/IP connections, decrease connection timeouts, etc.

Blocking RST packets with iptables is trivial, but an ugly hack at best. It also won't stop more thorough blocking methods like corrupting BT traffic (so your machine eventually blacklists the sender), injecting fake data packets, or simply dropping traffic.

Re:BT Encryption (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153627)

There is, however, no standard way to negotiate IPSec with a remote peer, despite the best efforts of the FreeS/WAN project.

I think you mean that there is no standard way to negotiate IPSec with a random remote peer. I'm pretty sure ISAKMP is fairly well-defined for other uses.

Re:BT Encryption (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153745)

You land on a good point about traffic patterns, all efforts thus far result in breaking BT but also break apps like my VPN client, Lotus Notes has been another commonly hit application.

I have a standard way to negotiate IPSec across links, I have a slow private link and then a fast Internet link. OSPF can handle the rest.

Interesting... (5, Insightful)

CauseWithoutARebel (1312969) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151093)

Martin said Comcast has "arbitrarily" blocked Internet access, regardless of the level of traffic, and failed to disclose to consumers that it was doing so.

So, what sort of precedent might this set for other attempts to block access? Numerous states have attempted to block access, by law, to what they deem to be illegal content. Would a ruling like this tie the hands of companies like Comcast so that they're in a "damned if you do damned if you don't" position, or would one ruling likely supercede the other?

Martin's order would require Comcast to stop its practice of blocking; provide details to the commission on the extent and manner in which the practice has been used; and to disclose to consumers details on future plans for managing its network going forward.

I also find this amusing. Comcast is whining about it, but they're effectively been told off and punished for not disclosing to their customers what they were doing to paid services. It really says a lot about the company that they're complaining that they have to inform their customers before they make significant service changes.

Hell if customers should be informed and able to make competent purchasing decisions... informed and self-interested customers would utterly destroy Comcast's entire business model.

Re:Interesting... (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151161)

Would a ruling like this tie the hands of companies like Comcast so that they're in a "damned if you do damned if you don't" position, or would one ruling likely supercede the other?

After all the government has given to the telecommunication companies, like Comcast, such as permitting monopolies (which Comcast is in many of its markets), I couldn't give a flying rats fucking ass what position they're in. As far as I'm concerned, they should be fined and then regulated to reduce cost to their subscribers (note: I'm not a Comcast subscriber but I have been one in the past and they are not in my market, we have Charter which is just as bad -- if not worse) for at least 15 years.

If they don't like it, they can sell off their shares and get out of the business. Make it a lose-lose-lose situation for the bastards. I'm glad that the FCC commission wasn't swayed by the money I'm sure Comcast was trying to bribe them with.

Re:Interesting... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151643)

i always wondered how comcast can get away with raising their rates *every* year.

how the fuck is that legal?

Re:Interesting... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151843)

Which government? The cable companies are lightly managed by the federal goverment - if you don't like having only a single cable company in your community you need to go after your state and local governments. Oh, and if you are not in a tier 1 city good look trying to attract a new overbuilder. I know its not popular on this site but economics will win out - (1) companies need to make profits and (2)you ultimately decide - you can choose to not purchase from the monopolist - while I would hate life without a broadband connection I can still get food, water, air and shelter without it...

Re:Interesting... (4, Informative)

Docboy-J23 (1095983) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151483)

I've noticed that Comcast's approach to advertising also indicates an assumption that their customers are dim bulbs and don't know what's good for them. There are at least these two types of TV commercials:

1) You, the customer, are a dim bulb and have no idea what our "Internet service" is. Just buy it. Whatever it is, we assure you that it's fast and you have no other choice.
2) Our competitors are hapless morons.

They may boil down to a couple more similar bases, but those two stand out in my mind. Moreover, telecommunications advertising is a dirty, competitive game.

Re:Interesting... (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152103)

Moreover, telecommunications advertising is a dirty, competitive game.

Just telecommunications?

Re:Interesting... (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152197)

1) You, the customer, are a dim bulb and have no idea what our "Internet service" is. Just buy it. Whatever it is, we assure you that it's fast and you have no other choice. 2) Our competitors are hapless morons.

So far as I can tell, Time-Warner and Verizon (the duopoly around here) have pretty much exactly the same philosophy when it comes to their internet service ads...

The ads for satellite TV I've seen also follow the same pattern—particularly the latter.

Dan Aris

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24152695)

Actually I think there is pretty compelling evidence for #2. In the form of We are complete idiots, you haven't gone to the competition, therefore the competition must also be complete idiots.

Re:Interesting... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151713)

informed and self-interested customers would utterly destroy Comcast's entire business model.

They've got a government-enforced monopoly in most areas they serve. This monopoly is in a necessity of modern life. What could customers possibly do about that in the short term? In the long term, it's pretty clear that their business model is as doomed as AOL's was.

Re:Interesting... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151867)

Would a ruling like this tie the hands of companies like Comcast so that they're in a "damned if you do damned if you don't" position, or would one ruling likely supercede the other?

No, because Federal law trumps State law. If the FCC rules that companies can't do this, then states can't force them to for other purposes. Of course, that's assuming the FCC neglects to include a provision that allows for state regulated blocking of services, which I doubt very much they'll leave out.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

Yungoe (415568) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151953)

Hell if customers should be informed and able to make competent purchasing decisions... informed and self-interested customers would utterly destroy Comcast's entire business model.

One of the traditional problems that has stopped self-interested customers from destroying Comcast's Business model has been the fact that they are the only high-speed service available. That is changing. The moment that Verizon offered Fios to my house, we switched. So far, I have yet to hear anyone say, "We are staying with Comcast." Further, I think that the blocking issue we are discussing here is only a symptom of the broader problem, that being deplorable customer service.

Customers need not be up to speed on this particular issue. All they have to do is call the customer service department.

Protocols not Illegal, Anti-competitiveness is (5, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151981)

So, what sort of precedent might this set for other attempts to block access? Numerous states have attempted to block access, by law, to what they deem to be illegal content.

Comcast wasn't blocking illegal traffic - they were blocking traffic they felt was expensive to handle and a plausible threat to their video content business.

On the first point, I use BitTorrent every few weeks and it's always to download FLOSS. I set my upload ratio to 3 to be reasonable but helpful. There's nothing illegal about this - compare with doing a Google search for My_Favorite_Song.mp3 and downloading it over HTTP.

On the second point, the FCC has previously barred a DSL ISP (ILEC) from interfering with VOIP traffic as an anti-competitive measure.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151995)

Hmmmm,

Would this make "Firewalls and Proxy Servers" illegal?

Well I guess they really aren't of any use anyway.....

Re:Interesting... (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152015)

Comcast is whining about it, but they're effectively been told off and punished for not disclosing to their customers what they were doing to paid services. It really says a lot about the company that they're complaining that they have to inform their customers before they make significant service changes.
Hell if customers should be informed and able to make competent purchasing decisions... informed and self-interested customers would utterly destroy Comcast's entire business model.

Isn't standard practice of "informing" customers to just add something in the sales contract to the effect of :

"This contract might be changed at any time by publishing addendums and corrections to http://www.exampleisp.invalid/salestermsN [www.exampleisp.invalid] where N is a 128 bit integer that is randomised every half second"

Re:Interesting... (2, Interesting)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152017)

Numerous states have attempted to block access, by law, to what they deem to be illegal content.

Are you talking about American states? Can you point me to a story that describes this practice? In general state governments have no jurisdiction over telecommunications traffic that crosses state lines; then it falls into the FCC's jurisdiction.

A state could pass a law that prohibits you from having child pornography on your computer, but I don't think it could pass a law prohibiting that traffic from entering the state.

I'm not saying you're wrong; I'd just like to see some examples.

Re:Interesting... (4, Interesting)

CauseWithoutARebel (1312969) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152475)

A state could pass a law that prohibits you from having child pornography on your computer, but I don't think it could pass a law prohibiting that traffic from entering the state.

Pennsylvania [techdirt.com] is the most recent state I recall hearing about, but I know there have been others as well. So far, the attempts to initiate these blocks have been shut down in court battles, but if one should eventually stick, it could present some interesting challenges.

As a hypothetical, the mere existence of 4chan is not illegal, nor is it inherently illegal to access it, but it has been blocked before by ISPs - notably in Europe, but it's a potential here as well - on the grounds that the content on 4chan is not acceptable to the communities those ISPs serve.

A community or state may pass a law to block 4chan, deeming it inappropriate by the standards of the community, and this FCC ruling may wind up in contention with that blocking as the ISPs would need to notify their customers and ensure that complying with the community law wouldn't clash with the FCC's regulatory ruling.

I can see the ruling going different ways. Existing demands to block content have already been ruled on, and the ruling has been that ISPs cannot be held responsible for not delivering illicit content into a community when a member of that community is actively requesting it, but legislators are a tricky bunch and continue to try and press laws that circumvent the court's findings. This FCC ruling would seem to throw yet another wrench in the gears.

Re:Interesting... (3, Interesting)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152385)

Yes, I think the real *crime* here is that Comcast is charging customers the same, but is not treating them the same.

Which leads to the next question: Is there a class action suit pending? Because this reminds me of the NetFlix lawsuit [wikipedia.org] . It was found that Netflix (which charged a flat monthly rate for movie rentals) was purposely slowing the deliver of movies to customers who had a fast turnaround. Chavez, who filed the lawsuit [boingboing.net] claimed you really couldn't rent unlimited movies as NetFlix advertisment claims and that they purposely throttled customers back to 12 movies a month so light users got preference. NetFlix's TOS even stated this, but they lost the lawsuit anyway and the Chavez who filed got $2,000, his lawyers got $2.5 million. Customers got a 1 month free upgrade. (woo hoo)

wow, a sudden outbreak of commonsense? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151095)

What made these people suddenly behave 'consumer friendly'?
I'm completely stunned.

Re:wow, a sudden outbreak of commonsense? (0, Offtopic)

paroneayea (642895) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151187)

I dunno, but let's throw a party! A Linux party [ytmnd.com] !!!

(Yes, I'm as stunned and excited as you are.)

Re:wow, a sudden outbreak of commonsense? (3, Interesting)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151273)

Nothing. This is another example of the Bush administration supporting their loyal Ma Bells by acting in a hostile manner towards the telco's competitors, the cable companies. This is not sudden, and it is definitely not driven by common sense.

Re:wow, a sudden outbreak of commonsense? (4, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151309)

What made these people suddenly behave 'consumer friendly'?

Look at this, the FCC taking action --- don't look at the man behind the curtain listening to your phone calls, scanning your emails, etc. without a warrant.

Re:wow, a sudden outbreak of commonsense? (2, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151425)

Yes, because after all, this is clearly just an elaborate rouse to deflect the criticism of slashdot hoards and FCC /totally/ equals FBI+NSA.

Re:wow, a sudden outbreak of commonsense? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24152605)

Nice to hear that the FCC is doing the consumers's bidding now rather than pandering these bog telcos. With the approval rating of the FCC so abysmally low and many critics calling for its abolishment, this will be seen as a very positive step in the right direction and will go along way to answer the critics who doubting the usefulness of the FCC: Abolish the FCC!(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=466&doc_id=140252&F_src=flftwo)

Man behind the curtain (1)

Mariner28 (814350) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152867)

Don't you think the "man behind the curtaion" had a problem with this?

We can't have Comcast resetting P2P sessions between terrorists! How can we catch them if you guys keep mucking with our covert surveillance efforts?

Kevin Martin you rule. (0, Offtopic)

whtmarker (1060730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151099)

Way to go k mart [wikipedia.org] !

Re:Kevin Martin you rule. (1, Offtopic)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151229)

You are wrong. Kevin Martin does not rule.

Kevin Martin is owned and operated by the big telcos. The only reason that he is railing against the cable companies is because they threaten the business models of his puppet masters. He proves this to be the case every time he opens his mouth.

Is Martin acting within his bounds? (4, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151113)

With Net Neutrality being a hotly debated issue at the moment, it seems a bit forward of Martin to act on either side of the issue. Comcast has not violated the law, and while it might be against Martin's view of the FCC's "principles", it cannot be held liable for actions that are not illegal.

If he goes ahead with this action and Net Neutrality is struck down, Comcast would have a good lawsuit to bring against the FCC and Martin personally.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (4, Interesting)

nenya (557317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151185)

Comcast hasn't violated any federal statute per se, but the FCC enforces its regulations--and its interpretation of those regulations--just as vigorously. Your point would be better directed at the fact that the FCC hasn't done a rulemaking on net neutrality.

This, however, doesn't mean the FCC can't do this. Federal agencies frequently make rules through enforcement actions like this. The SEC does it all the time, and the FCC certainly has the ability to do so. Telling federal agencies they can't do something is largely a loser in court.

This is especially true in this case, because judges are all cable customers, and cable customers almost all hate their providers. Not the best legal reasoning, but it's served the FCC very well for the past decade. Almost every time the cable industry challenges an FCC it actions, it loses.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151221)

But could they enforce a policy retroactively? If the FCC has suddenly decided that "open access and unregulated packet flow" is their new rule, how can they apply it in this case, and how can they apply it in any case without fair notice?

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (5, Funny)

daveatneowindotnet (1309197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151423)

Yeah that'd be like a company changing their service agreement without notifying their customers.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (1)

nenya (557317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152053)

Yeah, they can do that. I hate to put it this way, but the best answer is "They just can." Agencies do this all the time. Adjudications of this sort are entirely retroactive, and there doesn't seem to be any legal problem with this. Federal agencies like the FCC and SEC have broad authority to promulgate regulations in the public interest, and the fact that industry comes up with new and clever ways of acting against the public interest does not mean that agencies have to have a rule on the books to whack evildoers. They just have to show that their actions are not arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to statute, and that they are in the public interest. As you might imagine, this isn't particularly difficult.

Article I, section 9 of the Constitution says that Congress shall pass no ex post facto laws, but this has been pretty narrowly construed to prohibit the imposition of criminal liability for acts committed in the past. Civil liability, such as the FCC would impose here, is largely permissible.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (4, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151605)

Nicely done, but to elaborate further, the following excerpt from a better article on Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] should help.

But the precedent this could set has ramifications far beyond the narrow matter of Comcast's particular throttling scheme. Should the order go through, it would send a strong signal that the "four freedoms" outlined in the policy statement have teeth behind them, that these are more than "suggestions," and that the principles of openness and consumer choice will guide the FCC's approach to broadband. In case you're one of the few who don't have the principles committed verbatim to memory, here's a recap (emphasis added):

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151217)

it cannot be held liable for actions that are not illegal.

I wouldn't recommend pulling the "no legal authority" act with the FCC. They have enjoyed significant autonomy from the Congress throughout their existence.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151299)

... it cannot be held liable for actions that are not illegal.

Actions which are not illegal? Haven't you heard of 'breach of contract'? They can most certainly be held liable for that.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151327)

I'd be surprised if there were provisions in the contract that insinuated that Comcast wouldn't shape traffic.

Can you provide an excerpt that says as much?

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151445)

That argument can go two ways, have you heard of terms of service?

I have no issues with bit torrent in general but we know what it's mainly used for.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24153143)

Linux distros?

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (3, Interesting)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151477)

This in and of itself could be a good foundational precedent towards net neutrality. Martin's recommendation is precedent--combine that with Comcast's statement that issues with P2P throttling have "been firmly placed within the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, an administrative agency whose authority to regulate Internet broadband access companies' services is well-established."

IANAL, but it looks like Comcast has hoisted itself on its own legal petard.

Re:Is Martin acting within his bounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151645)

Seriously? Sue the FCC? I doubt that. I'm no government fan, but I doubt Comcast or any other company that wishes to continue to do business unhindered will take up that fight. Microsoft tried... and lost.

Watch out for tiger woods (5, Funny)

whtmarker (1060730) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151115)

It's not bittorrent comcast needs to worry about. It's Tiger Woods [crn.com]

Yeah, right. Unless... (3, Funny)

straponego (521991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151141)

Perhaps, Comcast, you have heard from my friend, Mr. McBribe?

These days, any time the US govt. feints in the direction of possibly enforcing a law against a large corporation (energy, oil, telecom, software, any polluter)... it can safely be considered an RFB. Request for Bribe.

If Comcast's unethical behaviour is altered for the better as a result of this, or they are at least seriously penalized, I will eat these words, and a friggin' Comcast van to boot.

Re:Yeah, right. Unless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151193)

If Comcast's unethical behaviour is altered for the better as a result of this, or they are at least seriously penalized, I will eat these words, and a friggin' Comcast van to boot.

Oooh, oooh! Make sure you get a video of that, and distribute it by BitTorrent, please.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151213)

If Comcast's unethical behaviour is altered for the better as a result of this, or they are at least seriously penalized, I will eat these words, and a friggin' Comcast van to boot.

"Taken with a grain of salt."

Remember Sony and the rootkit scandal? (5, Insightful)

davegravy (1019182) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151183)

Don't get too excited yet. "Penalty" could be a slap-on-the-wrist drop-in-the-bucket fine per infraction... something small enough that could reasonably be passed on to the customer.

Re:Remember Sony and the rootkit scandal? (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151347)

could reasonably be passed on to the customer.

Most people never read their bills, so it will slip by unnoticed. It'll be posted on Consumerist [consumerist.com] , eventually, but it'll be too late to do anything about it.

SSDD.

Re:Remember Sony and the rootkit scandal? (1)

riskeetee (1039912) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152663)

It's all Internet money. They'll fine them ten million "theoretical" dollars.

FCC v. FTC (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151241)

Actually, this isn't entirely surprising. What we may be looking at here is less a fully-developed FCC position on net neutrality and more of a turf war between federal agencies.

Both the FCC and the FTC have expressed concern about Comcast's activities. The FCC is concerned as the federal telecommunications infrastructure regulator. The FTC is concerned as the chief consumer protection agency. The FCC really doesn't want the FTC getting in the way of regulating the Internet, which the FCC has been struggling with since the 1996 Act was first passed (you try applying what is essentially a voice communications act to any IP network, let alone all of them!). By acting now, even arguably prematurely, the FCC has essentially staked a claim to the issue, signaling to the FTC to keep away.

In your face Comcast! (1)

Cur8or (1220818) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151367)

I still believe the internet rules.

internet rules? (2, Funny)

crankshot999 (975406) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151449)

I never knew that there were "internet rules" I imagine something like this happening... "You weren't being nice to the macbook, go stand in the corner with windows vista!"

Re:internet rules? (3, Funny)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151487)

There are plenty of internet rules. Don't post goatse/tubgirl pictures, don't say "first post" on a thread, don't badmouth Ron Paul, etc etc etc

Re:internet rules? (2, Funny)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153651)

The first rule of the Internet is don't talk about the rules of the Internet.

Re:internet rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151501)

I never knew that there were "internet rules"

There's at least 34 of them, though rules 1-33 aren't well known.

Hmmm (1)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151559)

Sounds like it's fine for Comcast to start sending some money to the FCC.

*sigh*

There are internet rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151639)

Is there some other internet? That really doesn't sound like the one I'm using...

The problem is not addressed (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151691)

Increasingly, ISPs are getting weasely with their terms of service. "Unlimited access" that's not unlimited, shafting entire protocols, etc. How about changing fair advertising laws and such to make it so that you cannot hide behind the fine print, but that you must give your customer either a print out or a web page the describes, bluntly, in itemized terms, what all of that legal gobbledeegook really means?

Of course, if you had to publish a list that most high school graduates could grok in 10 minutes or less of reading, you'd undermine the position of the lawyer-as-secular-priest, and that's just unacceptable.

You want proof that societies don't evolve? Just look at the fact that the role priests used to play has been taken over by lawyers. Where people used to take every question to the priest for divination, now it's taken to lawyers.

Priests v2.0 (3, Funny)

H+FTW (1264808) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151983)

You want proof that societies don't evolve? Just look at the fact that the role priests used to play has been taken over by lawyers. Where people used to take every question to the priest for divination, now it's taken to lawyers.

Ah but you've forgotten our evolution is accelerating. All questions are directed to google.

Re:The problem is not addressed (3, Informative)

u-235-sentinel (594077) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152011)

Increasingly, ISPs are getting weasely with their terms of service. "Unlimited access" that's not unlimited, shafting entire protocols, etc. How about changing fair advertising laws and such to make it so that you cannot hide behind the fine print, but that you must give your customer either a print out or a web page the describes, bluntly, in itemized terms, what all of that legal gobbledeegook really means?

At times the company will also terminate your internet because you used too much bandwidth without telling you how much is acceptable and how much is not.

They say only .001% of their customers are cut off.... so what are the odds of two people on the same block being terminated? how about three?

Within 4 months of my family's account being terminated there were other's on our street also terminated. I'd like to take those odds to Vegas personally :-)

Oh and all of us had signed up at the same time 5 years ago when it was advertised "Unlimited use for a flat monthly fee" not "Unlimited Access" which isn't the same thing.

Bandwidth Caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24151747)

Era of Bandwidth Caps to come, no one knows how to really solve the problem. Before people flame listen to the problem> http://www.technologyreview.com/player/audio/listennow.aspx?id=20919&url=http://www.audiodizer.com/technologyreview/specialreports/futurebiz/20919.mp3&dwnurl=http://www.audiodizer.com/technologyreview/specialreports/futurebiz/download.aspx?id=20919

oh that fucking tag (0, Troll)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151755)

Note to Slashdot taggers:

"Common sense" is not defined as "what nerds want things to be."

Thank you for understanding.

Monopaliztion At It's Best (2, Interesting)

HEdwards2007 (1323993) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151817)

This is just another case of the major companies trying to monopolize on the average American. They are simply using the BitTorrent limits as an excuse to be able to regulate all network traffic that goes through their servers. They remind me too much of the Geek Squad. All up in you business and no need to be there :)

Rules of the Internet (1)

xonar (1069832) | more than 6 years ago | (#24151991)

What are these "internet rules" you speak of. These [encycloped...matica.com] are the only rules I know personally

How is this not a denial of service attack? (4, Insightful)

ajrs (186276) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152203)

I still can't figure out how sending a forged packet is not a denial of service attack. If I started putting forged packets on Comcast's network, wouldn't they treat it as a criminal matter? Why doesn't somebody report them to the FBI?

Now how about the hidden speed cap? (2)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152517)

Now, what about the hidden speed cap? They "upgraded" everyone to "1 Mbit", but you only get that for a few minutes before the connection is horribly, horribly degraded. When the hidden cap hits, ping times go from 30ms to sometimes 1000ms, 3000ms, or more, and it doesn't go away until you almost completely stop doing ANY uploading.

what is going on? (5, Insightful)

joshtheitguy (1205998) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152519)

Legal sanction and proposed disbarring for Jack Thompson, then the FCC actually moves in the direction of net neutrality completely ignoring the ideals of a large corporation.

What is going on? Did I wake up in a parallel universe this week? Are we going to die?

Likely to be disappointing (3, Insightful)

nenya (557317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152721)

If the FCC does move forward with this, Comcast is going to sue. Obviously.

What's likely to make this disappointing is that if the case does get to court, it is almost certainly not going to be decided on substantive grounds. The real question is one of administrative law: does the FCC's "statement of principles" constitute a legally enforcable document? The FCC can't point to a specific statutory provision that gives it what it wants. And as it classified cable modem service as an "information service"--a classification which was upheld in 2005 in the Brand-X [wikipedia.org] case--Comcast is exempt from all of the Title II provisions in the Telecommunications Act, including the common carrier requirements. The FCC is going to have to rely upon its "ancillary authority" under Title I, and the question to be resolved is not whether net neutrality is a good idea but whether the FCC has the authority to do this under the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946.

Needless to say, unless you're an administrative law geek like me, this isn't going to be a very interesting case. But the FCC has largely trounced the cable industry in almost every conflict in the past ten years, so I'm optimistic.

Sanctions and Enforcement Actions = higher bills (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152799)

Want to bet that any fines Comcast get are passed on to consumers as "FCC compliance operating fees"?

Whats Next (1)

little_hate_machine (1324025) | more than 6 years ago | (#24152857)

Whats next, Comcast will shape traffic going to the NAACP. Maybe they will priortize traffice going to 'creationism' websites. Could be somthing simple like gateway.com will get priority over dell.com. I understand that it is their network im using, but I should be informed (at least able to look it up myself) if my communications are being altered in any way.

question for the group (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153039)

Has anyone noticed an apparent network throttling issue with roadrunner when running a bittorrent client? I noticed it started a few months ago, whenever azureus is running, web pages take retardedly long times to load, if at all, usually they just time out. As soon as I shut down azureus, everything comes up fine. I've noticed TW seems to be keeping pretty quiet about the issue, I'm wondering if this decision will make my page loads return to normal.

YES! (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153155)

Now thats would I call COMCASTIC!

Comcast abused their power and the trust of Intern (2, Insightful)

funchords (937529) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153185)

When Comcast bought up large systems to become the largest Cable MSO, it did not buy the Internet. Comcast has no right to change how the Internet works -- not one byte of it.

How the world-wide Internet works is defined by all of us, through our participation and trust in the Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force. To ensure interoperability and access for all, changes must be carefully deliberated and standardized there. The responsibility of operating the Internet in accordance with those standards is entrusted to companies providing access to it. It's not Comcast's job to change how the Internet works nor can it decide who or what gets preference upon it.

I haven't seen anything other than the press reports about something to be circulated around the FCC. I am hopeful that when the details are released that it serves to preserve and protect the Internet from those who would abuse their power and change it.

The Rules (1)

not_hylas( ) (703994) | more than 6 years ago | (#24153289)

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