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Comcast May Face Lawsuits Over BitTorrent Filtering

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the you-have-made-the-intertubes-cranky dept.

Censorship 378

An anonymous reader writes "It's been widely reported that Comcast is engaged in a sneaky form of Internet filtering. The company is terminating its customers' BitTorrent sessions by sending misleading data onto the network. The end result is that instead of targeting key heavy users, Comcast is instead engaged in an all out war against P2P protocols. In an interview with CNET, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Fred von Lohmann states that Comcast is 'throwing a spanner in the works of the Internet, hoping that this will somehow reduce bandwidth usage overall.' Other lawyers seem to have smelled blood, and are circling in the water. Lohmann reveals that '[The EFF has] already been contacted by attorneys who are considering legal action against Comcast.' Could Comcast be facing a class-action?"

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ZOMG!! Squeal!! (5, Funny)

anthonyclark (17109) | about 7 years ago | (#21087843)

YAY, I have a tiny chance of receiving $7.32 off my comcast bill in 6 years time!

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088029)

This is not about you and your money, it's about making sure another company doesn't try do the same thing.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (2, Informative)

Protonk (599901) | about 7 years ago | (#21088115)

you're missing his point. He's making fun of most class action outcomes being toothless in the extreme. Class action victory against company A? 5-7 years down the line, you get a voucher for 30-40 dollars if you can provide proof of purchase in triplicate, a blood sample, and a unicorn hair.

Reverse this notion and look at it from the likely payout end. It is like having to honor a rebate you didn't have to tell customers they were eligible for 7 years down the road. think how many rebates are honored with prior notice three MONTHS down the road...

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (2)

Walpurgiss (723989) | about 7 years ago | (#21088377)

But due to the nature of the suit's claim of bandwidth throttling bittorrent, what would you have to sign for to recieve member status in the class action suit?

Sign something saying that during such and such a timeframe, you were engaged in stealing music/movies/games/porn using bittorrent, and Comcast's throttling of bittorrent or cancellation of your account for excessive bandwidth consumption negatively impacted your illicit activities?

Who is the class going to be? The 5 legitimate torrent users who also happened to use Comcast?

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (3, Insightful)

Skye16 (685048) | about 7 years ago | (#21088487)

World of Warcraft users who are trying to get the latest patch, for example?

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (2, Informative)

GryMor (88799) | about 7 years ago | (#21088515)

Anyone who plays WOW. Blizzard uses torrents for distribution of World of Warcraft patches. I'm sure they aren't the only ones, and this doesn't even mention the Linux ISOs that are transferred via torrents.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | about 7 years ago | (#21088557)

excellent point.
Probably people will look hard to discover what possible legal torrent there aare that would account for a 50+ Gb habit for the last three years.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088141)

Exactly. There's a lot of money is this, for Comcast to lose and for the layers to make.

I certainly hope the bastards get sued for fucking with the intarpipes!

YOU - DON'T - DO - THAT!

Unfortunately... (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | about 7 years ago | (#21088089)

"YAY, I have a tiny chance of receiving $7.32 off my comcast bill in 6 years time!"

Unfortunately, to get in on the lawsuit, you have to submit an online form - and the cost of sending those few hundred KB of information over a Comcast line will doubtless cancel out that award.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (1)

samu0086 (977811) | about 7 years ago | (#21088127)

Happy Mole Day!

Not the point (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 7 years ago | (#21088149)

The point of such a lawsuit is not so much for you to personally profit by $7.32, it is that they will have to pay millions of people $7.32, plus millions of dollars more to very expensive lawyers.

The point is that after paying so much money for doing something so stupid, they'll be less inclined to do stupid things in the future.

I hope that this actually happens, so that somewhere, at some time, some executive might realize, "Gosh, it would have been a lot cheaper and more PR-friendly if we had just upgraded our network instead." Also, I hpe that this actually happens so that other Internet service providers sit up and take note.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088243)

And the lawyers chosen for a class-action lawsuit against Comcast have a certain chance to get a huge pay. Which is why I tagged this article ambulancechasers.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088383)

I think I would get more satification if I went in and smashed their office with a hammer.

Re:ZOMG!! Squeal!! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21088475)

You could always short their stock. Looking at their performance this year (on a slide down $5 since May), I doubt it's going to get better... Then you could make more than $7.32 :)

Comcast (5, Insightful)

jcicora (949398) | about 7 years ago | (#21087853)

Personally I hope they do get sued. While I do think our society is overly litigous, and Comcast does have the right to modify traffic on the network they own, I don't think they have the right to lie or mislead about it. And isn't this the same Comcast who had the unlimited plan with bandwidth caps?

Re:Comcast (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#21087919)

I'm a former Comcast customer. Heck, where do I sign up for the class action lawsuit?

One should hope so (4, Interesting)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 7 years ago | (#21088073)

Could Comcast be facing a class-action?

One should hope so. See, here's the deal.

If I were on Comcast's Internet service, I would be paying for the ability to communicate with other people to accomplish various legal tasks. And if there is anything to learn in the past few days immediately following the release of Gutsy Gibbon, with Ubuntu.com completely hosed as far as I can tell, there are legitimate, much-needed, legal ways to use peer-to-peer services. If this isn't the fundamental reason for signing up with an Internet Service Provider, to be able to communicate with other computers, what is?

If they had told me up front that they would be resetting peer-to-peer connections, I might be mad, but at least I'd know it up front and could choose to sign up with a service that doesn't do so. If these were technical problems that forced their actions as a resolution, then I might agree that taking necessary action to restore service is a Good Thing. If there really were no legitimate uses for peer-to-peer networks, as the RIAA and MPAA would have everyone believe, then I would still disagree, but at least I would understand.

As it is, though, none of those things are true. Comcast is still denying that they are deliberately causing connections to fail, in spite of the incontrovertible proof that has been offered, and that only after Comcast said nothing at all to their customers for... well... we don't know how long. As it is, it's not in response to connections being down, it was planned out and implemented while nothing was broken in response to some hypothetical situation that might arise. In fact, in having problems with Lotus Notes, Comcast has actually broken something else that was working before in order to fix a problem that didn't exist to begin with!

In short, if I were on Comcast's Internet service, I would be paying them to deliver network packets, that's all. At best, Comcast has engaged in an egregious breach of contract by deliberately interfering with my ability to get packets from A to B. At worst, they are guilty of deliberately and secretly impersonating someone they're not, and if I'm not mistaken, that's a crime. They might be lucky if they can get out of this with just a class action lawsuit.

I'm not on Comcast's Internet service, thank goodness, although I am on AT&T's, and believe me, it's not much better. All of this stupidity just makes me long even more for more competition in this space for something else to come along. I never that I'd see the day when, "We won't interfere with your Internet connection!" would actually become a selling point, yet here we are.

If I can indulge in a bit of tinfoil-hattishness, it really makes me wonder. The RIAA and MPAA are a huge media creation conglomerate. As mentioned, they hate, HATE, HATE peer-to-peer software, even with all of its legitimate uses. As some of you may know, Comcast is more than just an Internet service provider, they also happen to be the largest media provider company, and they're facing increased competition from telcos and satellite providers. Who wants to bet that Comcast has been either paid off or offered sweet deals on media content in trade for pushing the RIAA's and MPAA's agenda of controlling what applications can and can't be used on the Internet?

Something to think about...

Re:One should hope so (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 7 years ago | (#21088401)

...They might be lucky if they can get out of this with just a class action lawsuit.

While I wish I could share your optimism that a Big Bad will get hit hard, given the track record of class actions against similar Tech Big Bads seem to have no negative effect on the company. (Sony, Microsoft.)

What would be great is if the threat of charter removal loomed over their head, but IF Comcast got dissolved, how would that affect their monopoly situation? There's no *real* fear. Comcast will still be around.

It's akin to rooting for the Cubs to get in the Series. You know it won't happen, but you just can't stop trying.

Re:Comcast (4, Insightful)

UncleTogie (1004853) | about 7 years ago | (#21088081)

Comcast does have the right to modify traffic on the network they own

Really? Where does it end? Modifying emails because they disapprove of the content? What if your cell phone company monitored your phone conversations, and bleeped out words they didn't like?

This is obnoxious on so many levels it's not even funny...

Re:Comcast (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21088217)

If you rent a TV from me you can not go put stickers all over the TV because I still own it. However, if I mail you a sticker and tell you to place the sticker on the TV you rented from me I can. If you do not like the sticker you tell me to f-off and hand me the TV back and tell me you will rent from someone else. You do not OWN the network you are just renting it. If you owned the network the government would have to hand you a warrant to request YOUR permission to monitor your phone calls. (Leave the illegal wiretapping out of this that is a different story I am just saying you do not own the network). As to where it ends I do not know. I think it ends when customers get tired of this crap. Or it ends when you get it specifically in your contract that your ISP will not monitor your network traffic. If the company does not put that in their contract guess what...don't use them. Simple as that. If they are the only ISP in your area well stay off the grid or play by someone else's rules.

Re:Comcast (1)

Mr Z (6791) | about 7 years ago | (#21088443)

Your analogy is broken. Suppose you rented me a TV and told me it picked up all the off-air stations just fine. Then, I discovered that it wouldn't pick up Channel 62, and I complained to you about this. Later, I discover that not only this TV, but all the TVs you rent refuse to pick up Channel 62. All of them pick up the local Channel 8 network affiliate though, which you just happen to be on very good terms with. After all, it turns out you're getting a share of ad revenue from Channel 8, because you're helping to increase overall viewership.

I'd say I got slighted. There was a duty of disclosure and a conflict of interest at play. It was your duty to disclose to me that the TV did not pick up Channel 62. Furthermore, your relationship to Channel 8 makes it likely that the inability to pick up Channel 62 is no mere oversight.

Had I known your televisions wouldn't pick up Channel 62, I would have gotten a TV elsewhere, or demanded a much lower price. Now that I'm locked into a 2 year service contract, though, I'm stuck holding the crap end of the stick.

Now replace "Channel 62" with "P2P software," "Channel 8" with MPAA and big cable networks, and TV with cable internet service, and "you" with "Comcast," and that's a bit closer to the situation.

--Joe

(And yes, Channel 62 / Channel 8 is a reference to UHF... [imdb.com]

Re:Comcast (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21088551)

Well you could take me to the BBB or you could blame yourself or assuming that you could get Channel 62. I do not purchase an ipod and expect it to play .wma's do i? No I don't, I do some research. If I did buy an ipod I return it and demand my money back. I do not sue Apple because I assumed something that was not stated. Just like with comcast you cancel your service and you tell them why. You sue them to get your money back not because they blocked the content that you assumed would work.

Re:Comcast (1)

aaronl (43811) | about 7 years ago | (#21088505)

This is a 100% incorrect analogy. You don't rent anything having to do with data from your ISP... you are purchasing connectivity for a period of time. Your ISP is arranging for you to have a physical line that they can use to deliver that service to you. The ISP owes you the service that you agreed to pay for, and, in this case, Comcast is not providing that service as agreed.

As a Comcast customer, you are not currently receiving unlimited Internet access, in any way of defining the term. They aren't letting you connect to whatever you want, so they aren't providing unlimited access to Internet sites. You can't transfer arbitrarily large amounts of data, since they have their secret transfer limit. You aren't getting unlimited speed, since they limit you to certain maximum transfer rates.

Also, you can't put the no-monitor rider into a contract, either. Federal law stipulates certain things, and wiretaps are one of them. That contract term would be void due to a contradictory law.

Re:Comcast (2, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | about 7 years ago | (#21088525)

You do not OWN the network you are just renting it.
But you're subscribing to an ISP proper, not an ISP* (* some limitations of connectivity and authenticity of traffic apply). Internet traffic comes in all shapes and ports and by blocking certain things and intentionally dicking around with that traffic they are misrepresenting what they're selling. It's even MORE nefarious if you consider that, for high speed, you may not even have a competitor able to pick you up on it.

Imagine if the mail worked that way. The love letter you send gets altered to read that you hate them and never want to hear from them again. The sorrow filled response asking what they did wrong gets replaced with a directive to go to hell. All is fine because, after all, it's THEIR mail trucks.

Lets hope these sorts of filtering issues don't ever take a political slant where dissidents' web pages and text get altered in-flight and turn into glowing approvals. (Pro Tip: eventually, if this stuff isn't protected against NOW, it will.)

Re:Comcast (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21088611)

That is why the US mail, and Telephone calls are protected by federal laws. The mail man can not open your mail. (again all illegal wiretapping crap aside). The internet however is not protected by these laws. While it would be nice if the laws would carry over to the internet sadly they do not.

Re:Comcast (2, Informative)

DJCacophony (832334) | about 7 years ago | (#21088289)

Telephone lines have common carrier status, so they can't do that
Internet lines were denied the same designation, so they can, hence network-non-neutrality
The idea, however, is that if they do that, they will lose all their customers, and be sued for it, too.

Re:Comcast (1)

Husgaard (858362) | about 7 years ago | (#21088389)

Comcast has absolutely no right to modify the traffic of their customers, just like the phone company has no right to change what I say on the phone. And just like the postal office has no right to modify the letters I send while they are in transit.

And this isn't even about modifying traffic. It is about Comcast deliberately injecting false data into the network with information falsely claiming that it was sent by parties other than Comcast.

Re:Comcast (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21088437)

Telephone lines have common carrier status, so they can't do that. Internet lines were denied the same designation

Check the law before you post. You know all that spam blocking that gets done with e-mail. Yeah is that not modifying the packet. It is blocking it and if you think about it from a high level view the packet is modified. It was being sent one second and the next it is destroyed to nothing.

Re:Comcast (1)

Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) | about 7 years ago | (#21088617)

What if your cell phone company monitored your phone conversations, and bleeped out words they didn't like?
Naw, that could never happen... [nytimes.com]

In all seriousness, even though the link I posted to is not the same as the scenario you pointed out, it does show that something similar was flirted with. The only difference being that the law that forbids phone companies from interfering with voice transmissions does not apply to text messages, so Verizon was well within their legal rights, according to legal experts. To their credit, Verizon did reverse their decision later on, but only after a big stink of it was made.

My point is, every time you think of a "what next?" situation, there will most likely be prior art.

Re:Comcast (2, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | about 7 years ago | (#21088177)

Comcast does have the right to modify traffic on the network they own.

As long as they have a government granted monopoly on local cable service, they have the right to provide fully functional cable internet service to any resident who requests it and is willing to pay the fee specified in the contract between Comcast and the municipality.

Companies getting to chose who they do business with is great - I kicked people out occasionally when I owned a retail store - but it simply doesn't apply to utility companies with government granted monopolies or government subsidized infrastructure.

This is Punitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088483)

Companies need to be penalized for breaking the law. This is what Punitive Damages are for, and I entirely support it. If Comcast gets a multi-billion dollar judgement against them, perhaps the next time a company starts needlessly screwing with their customer's traffic... they will think about the Comcast judgement, and the thought of having their corporation sued into oblivion will deter them.

It's amazing how your average conservative loves capital punishment, but hates penalizing corporations for wrongdoing. Conservatives are simply typical fascists: no rights for the citizens, no restrictions for the corporations.

If more corporations were made an example of, like Arthur Anderson and Enron, you would have far less malfeasance in the marketplace. But crime and corruption are the lifeblood of fiscal conservatives, so obviously they are going to stop that at all costs.

Just like sharks (1)

moseman (190361) | about 7 years ago | (#21087865)

once the lawyers sense blood, watch out for the feeding frenzy. And who said lawyers were bottom feeders?

I'd just like to say... (-1, Troll)

isaac (2852) | about 7 years ago | (#21087867)

I called it. [slashdot.org]

-Isaac

Re:I'd just like to say... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088055)

Dear Isaac,
Shut up.
Love,
AC

Re:I'd just like to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088395)

I sure am glad you signed your name, because after reading the massive amounts of asinine, unintelligible drivel in your irrelevant post, I lost so many IQ points that I forgot who made it. Moron.

It's Working! (4, Funny)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 7 years ago | (#21087903)

Comcast is 'throwing a spanner in the works of the Internet, hoping that this will somehow reduce bandwidth usage overall.'

Honestly, I have to give Comcast this point. I was thinking about signing up with Comcast, but now will be going with Copowi [copowi.com] instead. That'll save Comcast some bandwidth.

Re:It's Working! (2, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#21087981)

I once had '#1 abuser' title at an ISP and I call tell you this: They don't care.

They -want- all the heavy users to leave and leave them with only light users that pay full price. It's their dream situation.

Re:It's Working! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#21088285)

Hmmm...you might want to read up on COPOWI. They claim to be 'COmmunity POWered Internet', and they claim to be trying to 'Save the Internet', offering completely fair service.

OTOH, it's DSL service, so you're at the mercy of your local telco monopoly, whether you like it or not. They don't offer 'dry' service in my state, and since I refuse to pay Verizon a red cent for anything, I guess I won't be getting service from them anytime soon.

I don't know (1)

moogied (1175879) | about 7 years ago | (#21087905)

I don't know, I am honestly worried about where that court ruling could take us. Technically speaking they are not "breaking" anything. They are simply crafting and sending out packets. Do we really want a world where our packets can become illegal weapons?

Think about it, if you are off somewhere, doing "whatever" and you do say ARP posioning to help in your "whatever" you could of just commited a crime! Right now you can say "Screw of cop, its my network you can go to hell." but if we start telling Comcast don't send out these packets, it could be a very slipperly slope.

The other thing to keep in mind is that we pay Comcast to basically lease time/energy on there networks. I understand that they interchange with other networks, but it is still there networks.

If anything this is a contract dispute, not the worlds end.

That being said, I hate the bastards too. Frigen making me go to there office because the last person who had my apartment had late payments.. so I have to take an ID down and a copy of my lease. Assholes. I'll just keep stealing internet from folks near by, and downloading movies. TAKE THAT COMCAST. EAT IT.

Re:I don't know (-1, Offtopic)

moogied (1175879) | about 7 years ago | (#21088043)

To the retard that modded me down: Wanna get off your lazy ass and perhaps comment what exactly was over rated about that? No? Wow.. Slashdots awesome mod system to the rescue again.. Lazy ass.

Re:I don't know (1)

cez (539085) | about 7 years ago | (#21088423)

ummm... FYI: you can not mod and comment on the same discussion...


Do we really want a world where our packets can become illegal weapons?


also, this has been the case for years: DOS attacks [wikipedia.org] . This definition does not take into account what service is being denied. In essence, Comcast is DOS'ing bittorrent protocols, preventing them from funcitoning as intended by sending malignant false packets. Sure they are targeting a protocol with these packets, instead of say a windows box to blue-screen it, or a website to ping it into oblivion. Should they be able to do so? What if it was VOIP protocols under attack?

Re:I don't know (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about 7 years ago | (#21088123)

don't know, I am honestly worried about where that court ruling could take us. Technically speaking they are not "breaking" anything. They are simply crafting and sending out packets. Do we really want a world where our packets can become illegal weapons?

I believe the issue here is that they are interfering with communications, rather than facilitating it. For me this is analogous to phoning a friend and purposely having the phone hang up by a third-party, even if the third-party runs part of the infrastructure which I am communicating through. The fear is that if they are allowed to do this, what's next. With illegal wire-tapping, by AT&T, and now Comcast interfering with communication, you have to ask yourself what could happen next, if they aren't given a warning shot.

At the same time I do believe that Comcast, like many ISPs, are in their right to prevent abuse of their networks. The problem here is that they are indiscriminately doing this, whether it is to legitimate P2P users or heavy file sharers. I am not sure what options they have, but the most common is throttling for heavy usage.

One thing that I would like to see all ISPs encouraged, or even forced, to do is provide a FAQ that puts into layman terms, what the legalise in the contracts is trying to say. These contacts should also be available, for verification, prior to sign-up. Also any 'updated' contracts should hilite what has changed since the previous version - this I believe should be the case for both service agreements and software EULAs.

oh, yeah, they are actively breaking something (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 7 years ago | (#21088131)

you are sending a request out to site X for pR0n/tunes/elusive high-level research data.

they are intercepting your request and changing it into asking for used bubble gum.

not passing the data straight through, for a Data Carrier, is a class-1 Super Sin. now giving a copy to the NSA to sort through and find out if any of your relatives back to Alexander the Shepherd had an axe to grind with the US government is another matter, and under review in many places.

but horking up your data stream? federal case.

Re:I don't know (4, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | about 7 years ago | (#21088235)

Comcast has 1.) advertised full-function internet service 2.) contracted with municipalities to provide that service to residents. Sending out spoofed packets to disrupt users internet usage simply isn't reasonable behavior for a company claiming to provide internet service.

Re:I don't know (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21088403)

Technically speaking they are not "breaking" anything. They are simply crafting and sending out packets.

      So you have no problems with the telephone company changing the words you say on your phone call so that the other party thinks you're saying something else, or the post office opening your letters and changing them for other letters before delivering them, right? Get real, if you say that this isn't "breaking" something, then you are insane. The fundamental job of an ISP is to faithfully transmit the packets to and from your computer. If they ALTER the packets (and even worse, without knowing or caring what's IN the packet - a porn MPEG or a colonoscopy film?), not only are they not doing their job but they should be liable for all damages.

Re:I don't know (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#21088467)

I don't know, I am honestly worried about where that court ruling could take us. Technically speaking they are not "breaking" anything. They are simply crafting and sending out packets. Do we really want a world where our packets can become illegal weapons?

Do you really want a world where I can send packets to interupt a service you are paying for? Where DDOSes are legal?

Think about it, if you are off somewhere, doing "whatever" and you do say ARP posioning to help in your "whatever" you could of just commited a crime! Right now you can say "Screw of cop, its my network you can go to hell." but if we start telling Comcast don't send out these packets, it could be a very slipperly slope.

Your right to do "whatever" ends when it interferes with someone else's right to do ligitimate "whatever."

The other thing to keep in mind is that we pay Comcast to basically lease time/energy on there networks. I understand that they interchange with other networks, but it is still there networks.

That's what this lawsuit would have to be about; they are violating the contract entered into when you signed up for the service. You can say they have a right to change their network, but they can't without giving you warning and telling you upfront they intend to do so. They also have to let you backout of the contract without penalty. Even a clause saying they can block whatever they want would not be held up; its too vauge, and gives them too much power in the contract.

If anything this is a contract dispute, not the worlds end.

If you let big corps screw you, it does become a serious threat to our way of life. Basically you're saying any large entity can do whatever they want, without consequence, and we have to suck it up. Even though the whole idea behind corporations is that they ARE supposed to serve some public good.

That being said, I hate the bastards too. Frigen making me go to there office because the last person who had my apartment had late payments.. so I have to take an ID down and a copy of my lease. Assholes. I'll just keep stealing internet from folks near by, and downloading movies. TAKE THAT COMCAST. EAT IT.

However you want to rationalize stealing from your neighbors. Screwing comcast by screwing your neighbors isn't exactly the heroic thing to do...

Re:I don't know (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | about 7 years ago | (#21088575)

I don't know, I am honestly worried about where that court ruling could take us. Technically speaking they are not "breaking" anything. They are simply crafting and sending out packets. Do we really want a world where our packets can become illegal weapons?
Think about it, if you are off somewhere, doing "whatever" and you do say ARP posioning to help in your "whatever" you could of just commited a crime! Right now you can say "Screw of cop, its my network you can go to hell." but if we start telling Comcast don't send out these packets, it could be a very slipperly slope.

That is a completely different issue. This court ruling is (as you mentioned later) over the violation of a contract with users to provide internet access in exchange for a monthly fee. That's considered a big deal. An individual who does this can be prosecuted for fraud and end up in prison. Companies can lose millions in lawsuits and punitive fines.

It's possible that Comcast has some small print in the contract that allows them to do this; I'm not a Comcast customer, so I don't know for sure. If that's the case, the suit may fail. If there isn't any such clause and the court determines that they have the right to actively filter content in this way, it will become a HUGE deal because other ISPs will most likely start doing it too.

Also, about that first part... If you deliberately send traffic that interferes with someone's connection to another party, you're already breaking a law in most countries. That has been the case for well over a decade, and it's how DDoSers are prosecuted. An ISP might be able to argue that it's between them and their users (which brings it back into the realm of contract law), but a user who does it across the Internet can't claim that "he isn't breaking anything".

I hope so. (1)

Naelok (1162515) | about 7 years ago | (#21087923)

In Canada, Rogers Cable has been throttling BT traffic for a while. Hopefully a successful lawsuit in the US would encourage similar action against Rogers up here in the north. What ISP's should be doing is putting down the money to lay down the fibre optic cables needed to keep up with demand. Though I guess doing something like that when you can just covertly attack the customer would make FAR too much sense.

Re:I hope so. (1)

Imagix (695350) | about 7 years ago | (#21088103)

As has been mentioned in other threads, what Comcast is doing is beyond throttling. Merely QoSing the traffic down is one thing. Comcast is aborting connections by spoofing packets. The only reason this "works" is because BT will go try a different connection. What happens when they decide that FTP transfers are taking up too much bandwith and start aborting those TCP connections (and what happens if the FTP server doesn't support resuming transfers?). Or HTTP. Or SSH. Or whatever.

Blah (0)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21087939)

Sue them. Then leave them as a customer and go someplace else. I wonder how they will prove this case? I know sometimes with my P2P it can mess up but it was later related to a firewall issue. Or will they request Comcasts' internal documents? If that is the case I bet they are going to just started shredding everything non stop.

Re:Blah (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | about 7 years ago | (#21088311)

Then leave them as a customer and go someplace else.

In most cases the local town or city has contracted with a single cable provider and a single DSL provider. That makes the list of choices very small, and means that it's reasonable to think of Comcast as a contracted public utility rather than a private firm in a competitive market.

In any case, the correct response to poor behavior by a cable or DSL provider is simply to complain to the city or town. Tell them that the providers are abusing their monopoly, and get them to mandate network neutrality in the next contract. If the provider won't play along, replace them. If no replacement is willing to play, create a public internet utility.

Re:Blah (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | about 7 years ago | (#21088387)

means that it's reasonable to think of Comcast as a contracted public utility rather


But they are not a public utility. You still have the option of dial up. High speed internet is not a right. It is something people with extra money laying around can purchase. If it was a right then every house would be wired just like the electricity or city water. You can always choose to not have internet.

In any case, the correct response to poor behavior by a cable or DSL provider is simply to complain to the city or town.


Yes that is about all you can do.

What would be the point? (WAS: Sue them) (3, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 7 years ago | (#21088585)

Lawyers walk away with millions. Subscribers gets five dollars off their next bill. Comcast pass the cost to their subscribers. The douche bag decision makers in comcast are still employed, moving onto their next (evil) scheme. There is ZERO accountability here. Now if we start talking about PRISON term or heavy financial fines for the said douche...

Comcast Rebate (2, Funny)

CryptoJones (565561) | about 7 years ago | (#21087943)

Well, it's not like you could get the three years of crappy service back, right?

Filtering vs. tampering (5, Informative)

Kevin DeGraaf (220791) | about 7 years ago | (#21087945)

This isn't mere filtering (which would be bad enough). This is intentional, specific, active tampering. These TCP RST packets are spoofed forgeries. That's much more evil.

Passively dropping packets in an attempt to shape traffic or implement some QoS policy is one thing. Actively "jamming" connections is quite another.

Re:Filtering vs. tampering (1)

The_Angry_Canadian (1156097) | about 7 years ago | (#21088039)

Hell, how am I going to be able to patch my World of Warcraft game tonight /cry

Re:Filtering vs. tampering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088041)

COMCAST? More like.. CONCAST!

Why does P2P filtering get all the attention? (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | about 7 years ago | (#21088233)

Comcast has also been killing VPN connections and competing VOIP services for years. I have personally run into a number of clients that are working fine and then all of the sudden they can't VPN in anymore. The common denominator is Comcast.

I haven't had direct issues with Comcast and 3rd party VOIP but I do have a number of IT buddies that have. The have had to resort to changing ports to non standard ranges in order to get their Vonage working.

Re:Filtering vs. tampering (1)

LOTHAR, of the Hill (14645) | about 7 years ago | (#21088491)

I'd take it a step farther and call it fraud.

oh snap!!!1!!!~&!! (1)

Asshat_Nazi (946431) | about 7 years ago | (#21087985)

boobs are a myth!

The interesting thing on this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088011)

is that Comcast will shortly be coming out with their own branded p2p. My understanding is that it is MS's. If we are not going to regulate the monopolies, then they should be de-monopolized, and allow true competition to take hold. Right now, the only difference between china and us is that china is out about how they do things. We wrap ours up in the flag and pretend that there is real competition.

Well hip me up and count me in, jiggly-doo !! (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 7 years ago | (#21088015)

I love the smell of gunpowder in the morning !!! Nothing straightens the greedy out like a good legal battle !!

Re:Well hip me up and count me in, jiggly-doo !! (1)

Doc Lazarus (1081525) | about 7 years ago | (#21088057)

Bring on the dogs of war. I'd love to see how Comcast justifies kicking off 'heavy users.' That alone screams volumes, especially with the real lack of bandwidth caps that Comcast notes about and doesn't freely share. I'm not normally a fan of lawyers, but I say bankrupt the company.

It would be nice.... (3, Insightful)

8127972 (73495) | about 7 years ago | (#21088047)

..... If an actual lawyer could comment on the possibility of any sort of lawsuit. While the article does reference this [ypdcrime.com] , it isn't clear if this could be done on a federal scale. That leaves the whole issue of a potential class action lawsuit up in the air IMHO.

Having said that, I hope it scares the crap out of Comcast (and any other ISP dumb enough to try this).

I'm not a lawyer, but... (5, Funny)

toadlife (301863) | about 7 years ago | (#21088165)

...considering the country that Comcast operates in, I'd say the possibility of a lawsuit is pretty close to 1.

Re:It would be nice.... (1)

Mad Dog Manley (93208) | about 7 years ago | (#21088545)

Having said that, I hope it scares the crap out of Comcast (and any other ISP dumb enough to try this).

I hope it scares the crap out of every ISP that promotes high speed internet connections for large file transfers, while manipulating traffic behind the scenes.

For example, Rogers in Canada which states "Enjoy the next generation of Internet service great for sharing large files and much more" [shoprogers.com] , while throttling the P2P services (or any encrypted connection) that are required for the very same as reported here [michaelgeist.ca] .

Big and Little answers to this (3, Interesting)

Protonk (599901) | about 7 years ago | (#21088053)

Big question: Can ISP's be considered common carriers? If so, how does that limit their ability to shape traffic? does it at all?

Little question: Does the packet shaping and interdiction violate the agreement that comcast made with users? does it violate upstream agreements with other providers?

the big question isn't likely to be solved by this lawsuit. It is the question we want answered, and quickly, but any lawsuit is likely to stem from some violation of contract erms or some misrepresentation in advertising, not the existential question of Comcast's nature as a common or a private carrier.

The little question might be enlightening, but I doubt it. This policy might have been implemented after consulting the legal depatment and determining that the TOS for Comcast users was draconian and one sided enough to permit this sort of meddling. Alternately, it may have been the result of a business action distinct from legal consulation. Comcast may have been dumb enough to think that their users would be able to notice or test this phenomenon. My money is on a combination of the two notions. comcast probably cleared "packet shaping" in the abstract with legal, but failed to note this wrinkle in the method with them.

they will probably argue in court that they have the right to provide their definition of QOS to buyers, and this requires that they stop "illegal" traffic. They will presumably go through great pains to paint Bittorrent as illegitimate, and justify their actions on that front. They will also bring up the likely fact that residential broadband users have no uptime/QOS clause in their contracts, a fact that will become much more important than the supposed illegality of traffic.

That is where the meat will be. What sort of QOS/uptime/bandwidth promises are made internal and external to the contract. Not very fun stuff, but them's the breaks.

Re:Big and Little answers to this (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 7 years ago | (#21088111)

Big question: Can ISP's be considered common carriers? If so, how does that limit their ability to shape traffic? does it at all?
Quick answer: no Cable Internet providers are not common carriers.

Re:Big and Little answers to this (1)

Protonk (599901) | about 7 years ago | (#21088181)

True, as we construe it today. But our reasoning for calling phone providers common carriers is about as situational as they come. Assuming we continue the regulatory trend, we could see regional monopolies by cable providers (along w/ the rise of Voip and the decline of landline use) that might bring rise to a similar argument made as was made re: AT&T.

Re:Big and Little answers to this (1)

eklitzke (873155) | about 7 years ago | (#21088441)

Comcast isn't engaging in traffic shaping or some other QoS type thing, they're sending out RSTs to both ends of the connection with forged addresses on the IP packets to terminate the connection completely. While Comcast could surely make an argument that they have the right to provide packet shaping to maximize the capabilities of their network, this is something far more nefarious.

The pendulum being forced the other way? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#21088063)

For quite some time, the swing in favor of "big media" has been moving in some extreme directions where every technology vendor and provider seems to be ruining their own products, services and indeed their businesses in order to pander to "big media." (Technology vendors such as ISPs, Microsoft, various hardware makers come to mind) But now with threats of litigation against one of these technology providers, perhaps the pandering to big media may decrease... and perhaps after that, even the government will stop writing laws for them as well... or even erase some laws while they are at it.

Heh... (2, Funny)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#21088083)

If you're one of the aggrieved filesharers and you're willing to submit your hard drive and IP records for discovery, you're either:

1) The one guy out there actually downloading Creative Commons-licensed Ogg Theora files

...or...

2) A complete idiot

Re:Heh... (2, Insightful)

icydog (923695) | about 7 years ago | (#21088155)

Right, because nobody downloads Linux distros?

Re:Heh... (1)

Space cowboy (13680) | about 7 years ago | (#21088237)

They're doing it for more than just file-sharing. iChat, for example, is suffering. I can no longer video-conference my parents across the Atlantic. At first I just blamed it on bandwidth issues, but it only seems to be a problem when I initiate the connection from a comcast network (home). Others [apple.com] are seeing the same.

Lotus notes is similarly affected. It seems that if you transmit small bursts of packets, Comcast give you the bandwidth you've paid for. If you start streaming data, or the volume of data goes over some (low, ichat only takes ~30 secs) limit, they attack the connection, injecting fake RST packets to the data-stream at both ends. I've decided to bin [gornall.net] comcast. Lower (but reliable) bandwidth is far preferable to me.

Simon

This was The Straw... (4, Interesting)

fohat (168135) | about 7 years ago | (#21088091)

that broke the internet's back for me. I've already ordered DSL service to replace my current Comcast connection. As soon as it is up and running I'm taking both my cable box and my modem back personally, and explaining that the reason I am cancelling is due to Comcast's complete disregard for customer service in that they constantly lie to their customers about having "unlimited" service as well as messing around with packets they ought not be messing around with.

Not everyone is so lucky, I read so many posts in other threads saying that Comcast is their only option for broadband. Hopefully that will change for them. I have a friend in a rural area who was able to sign up for sprint wireless broadband, because comcast wont run their cable 20 feet across the road to his house. The only issue with the sprint connection is it is not incredibly reliable, but for the most part his link stays up while he is using it.

UnFair thee well, Comcast...

Re:This was The Straw... (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#21088297)

that broke the internet's back for me. I've already ordered DSL service to replace my current Comcast connection. As soon as it is up and running I'm taking both my cable box and my modem back personally, and explaining that the reason I am cancelling is due to Comcast's complete disregard for customer service in that they constantly lie to their customers about having "unlimited" service as well as messing around with packets they ought not be messing around with.
Be sure to bring a claw hammer with you.

Re:This was The Straw... (1)

aaronl (43811) | about 7 years ago | (#21088405)

Most of the Sprint EVDO cards have an external antenna connector. It might help out a whole lot for him to try a well placed external... I'm using one of the Pantech PX-500 PCMCIA cards, which aren't even that great. The only reason that I've seen a disconnect is because of signal strength, so far.

Network Neutrality whether you like it or not (1)

kabloom (755503) | about 7 years ago | (#21088093)

It would seem to me that the result from a class action on these grounds would amount to a precedent-setting case in network neutrality, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how the court handles it.

Re:Network Neutrality whether you like it or not (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | about 7 years ago | (#21088281)

Network neutrality laws, as currently drafted, would forbid discriminating based upon the source or destination of traffic, not based upon the type of traffic. This is often misunderstood, partly because of FUD spread by big network operators. They do not restrict traffic shaping or even completely blocking a given type of traffic.

Re:Network Neutrality whether you like it or not (1)

kabloom (755503) | about 7 years ago | (#21088589)

Thanks for the explanation.

Nevertheless, it is a related issue, and when a case like this goes to court, the result may be a judicial decision as to what is fair behavior on the internet (which legislation aims to achieve), but which may not have direct basis in legislation, but may allow for considerably more judicial wiggle room than if there were a basis in legislation.

Pirillo (3, Interesting)

LordKaT (619540) | about 7 years ago | (#21088133)

Chris Pirillo went on a rant last night on his live stream, and with good reason: Comcast was apparently blocking his legitimate traffic to our Exchange server, as well as traffic to Google and Microsoft Live. We could confirm this much last night on Skype: it was either limited to him or his immediate area. Both Google and the Exchange server were working for us, as well as other Seattle-area Comcast subscribers. The beautiful thing about this? He upgraded to Comcast Business to avoid just this bullshit.

Hopefully (1)

Bazards (1081167) | about 7 years ago | (#21088157)

Could Comcast be facing a class-action?"
Hopefully.

stop overselling (1)

jammindice (786569) | about 7 years ago | (#21088161)

if they can't handle selling the bandwidth they advertise then they should stop. I personally have comcast too, and when our cable company used to be adelphia (mid maryland) i had no problems, the only downtime in about 7 years was when we had people knocking down the telephone poles or if it was really windy out... now we have comcast my service just drops out randomly for 15-20 minutes at a time, it's rediculous, and for the price, almost $50 a month it's almost not worth it anymore. i have been thinking of converting to dsl for the last 6 months (since the comcast changeover) but it's unfortunately not available.. that's how comcast can get away with this stuff, because not enough people have once choice let alone two choices for broadband services in even semi-rural areas. I would protest with my money if i could but alas i am stuck with comcast so i am for this lawsuit, although it will probably cause other problems, because i don't want them just cutting my traffic off when i pay an arm and a leg every month for it and because i want to use what i pay for.

um (1)

BugAttack (624234) | about 7 years ago | (#21088197)

i guess i'm to lazy to rtfa or rtf other comments, but i'm downloading the simpsons movie via ktorrent at 500kps, faster than i download anything else. i dunno if this is because of the lawsuit, or whatever, but it seems that comcast is no longer governing bittorrent downloads. or it may be just me.

Re:um (2, Informative)

fohat (168135) | about 7 years ago | (#21088291)

The issue is not affecting downloads, only seeding.

Re:um (1)

BugAttack (624234) | about 7 years ago | (#21088553)

ok yeah, i see, i'm downloading at 500kps, but i'm uploading at around 5kps. and considering that hundreds of people are leeching this file, it's apparent that comcast is limiting my upload speed. at first i was thinking "give comcast a break", but now i'm thinking "this really needs to stop.... by going faster".

Re:um (1)

BugAttack (624234) | about 7 years ago | (#21088299)

oh yeah, and i use comcast.

WoW is good for something (1, Funny)

faloi (738831) | about 7 years ago | (#21088213)

I bet lawyers are salivating. With 9 million subscribers, all of whom are directly or indirectly affected by Comcast's actions, you've got a pretty sizable number of people who might sign on. Granted, all the people in the class action suit will get next to nothing. But the lawyers won't have to worry about paying for their children to eat for a while.

Comcast will bite the big one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088231)

This is an outrage I was going to move to Colorado Springs, Now I seriously am wondering if I should, I need my P2P and torrent apps to work. I wonder If this includes all Business hosting solutions becuase that would make more sense than to do it on the residential side. I prefer all business bandwidth to be business related and already most companys are doing something to prevent people from accessing some websites, content, ports and material. America is becomming more communist as we speak. Next it will be filtered at the lec controled by Mr. Bush... We are all just rats in a cage forced to buying songs for .99 cents + a new Tax called the media transaction tax soon to be introduced.

The Phish

Perhaps, if Google were to (1)

zappepcs (820751) | about 7 years ago | (#21088259)

begin distributing youtube videos via bittorrent, this problem would find a quick resolution?

Comcast may be able to do this (1)

analog_line (465182) | about 7 years ago | (#21088287)

According to this document [fcc.gov] at the FCC's website, cable modem service is not subject to common carrier regulation. While I'm no lawyer, and my knowledge of what exactly the regulations surrounding a "interstate information service" are, if any exist, but a lot of the posts here seem to be assuming that they are a common carrier like most other Internet service is, and that's just not the case.

Re:Comcast may be able to do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088451)

Common carrier or not, isn't it still fraud to :

1) Advertise unrestricted Internet service and not deliver it?
2) Forge and otherwise misrepresent end user's data?

Hell, is it even still Internet service if they violate RFCs?

Re:Comcast may be able to do this (1)

analog_line (465182) | about 7 years ago | (#21088623)

1) Advertise unrestricted Internet service and not deliver it?

I seriously doubt that a judge would consider any Comcast advertising I've seen as an example of Comcast advertising "unrestricted" Internet service. "unlimited" could easily be argued to mean an unlimited amount of traffic, and there would've got a point. Unrestricted is a different thing, and I've never seen any Comcast advertising where they claimed that there are no restrictions on your use of their service.

2) Forge and otherwise misrepresent end user's data?

It depends on what the exact legal status of an "interstate information service" is. If it's determined to be the same as if someone allowed you to connect your laptop to a corporate network where there is Internet access, then Comcast would have an awful lot of power to do damn near whatever they want on their network. From wht I've seen, Comcast seems to be taking this position, and the FCC in specifically absolving them of being regulated as a common carrier seems to be taking this position as well.

Lawsuits will have unintended consequences. (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#21088321)

1) Lawyers file class action lawsuit that says P2P traffic is being blocked.
2) Comcast rebuttal says that all the traffic is illegal.
3) RIAA, the Business Software Alliance, say, "oh ho, you can figure out that this traffic is illegal.. why are you allowing it at all?"
4) Comcast agrees to halt all "illegal" traffic, winning the 1st lawsuit, after being joined by RIAA and co, and they agree to drop their lawsuits against Comcast.
5) P2P is dead, killed by ISPs that follow comcast's lead.

Re:Lawsuits will have unintended consequences. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 7 years ago | (#21088497)

Don't be silly.

If all the traffic was illegal then RIAA would already be able to outlaw it.

They have repeatedly FAILED to do that against bit-torrent, because NO, all P2P is NOT illegal.

So you left out the following step:

2.5: Judge throws out Comcast entire argument because he declares that as per the precedent, P2P traffic has already been declared legal per se, while individual examples might contain illegal things, it is up to Comccast to prove that they are ONLYU blocking the illegal stuff, which they have totally failed to do.

step 3. (revised) Comcast gets a small fine and told "don't do that again".

Step 4. RIAA, BSA, etc. whine about how unfair the world is that they can't be even richer.

Detecting the RST? (1)

superid (46543) | about 7 years ago | (#21088327)

Can a tcpdump wizard provide an example of how one might detect the reset?

Kiss neutral traffic access goodbye... (2, Insightful)

patmandu (247443) | about 7 years ago | (#21088471)

I think this was a pretty underhanded move by Comcast, and the conspiracy theorists among us can probably find the RIAA behind the move. I don't think it's right.

Having said that...

Remember when the Green Card Lottery spam first went out? Everyone was up in arms about it, threats and lawsuits were coming from all sides...sound familiar? And that stopped the spam problem dead in it's tracks, right?

Same thing here. This is just the first volley. They're testing the waters. In 5 years it'll be commonplace for the ISP to disrupt/block/delay traffic as they see fit.

I hope I'm wrong. Smells like censorship to me.

More than just p2p (1)

finkployd (12902) | about 7 years ago | (#21088503)

I'm not sure if this is related or not, but my Comcast workplace business connection has been having severe problems with Lotus Notes (cannot send emails with attachments) and my VPN sessions drop or severely degrade if I try to transfer a large (several meg) amount of data over it. Vonage has gone downhill as well, but that is always bad with Comcast.

I do know this is related, I'm terminating my account next month and moving to FIOS business. Roughly the same price, over twice the speed (up and down). The only thing that sucks is a pack of 5 static ip addresses costs $20/month vs $10/month. Well, that and that it is Verizon.

Finkployd

Sue the b4stards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21088527)

Sue the b4stards. Make an example of them.
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