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FCC To investigate Comcast Bittorrent Meddling

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the just-the-bits-please dept.

The Internet 196

An anonymous reader writes "FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday that the commission will investigate complaints that Comcast actively interferes with Internet traffic as its subscribers try to share files online. A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars asked the agency in November to stop Comcast from discriminating against certain types of data and to fine Comcast $195,000 for every affected subscriber. While known for months in tech circles, the issue wasn't given broad attention until an Associated Press report last year, in which reporters tested and verified the data blocking."

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196 comments

Who is behind on their payments? (4, Interesting)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961820)

Given the recent stories [slashdot.org] related to chairman Kevin Martin, one has to wonder if this is fitting a suddenoutbreakofcommonsense or just that cable companies havent kept up their "lobbying" efforts or stepped on some toes.

I sincerely hope its the former, but i'm cynical enough to expect the latter.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (-1, Flamebait)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961862)

Yea, must be the latter, because everything is a big political plot to stop you from getting your porn. Dumbass.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (1, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961970)

did you read what i said at all? It has nothing to do with the article alone, I was bringing attention to the fact that Kevin Martin is stepping up to the plate on more than one front. Investigating this at ALL requires a fair bit of expense, and the fact that hes authorizing it is interesting in the first place.

But then again, i know its way too much to expect slashdot readers to think at all >70% these days.

Get off the kneejerk bandwagons and think for yourselves people.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (1, Funny)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961936)

If someone read the link i posted, Kevin martin is stepping up to the cable companies on more than one front.

Then again, i did forget this was slashdot. Receiving new data isnt the object of the exercise for some.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (5, Interesting)

DCTooTall (870500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962444)

Honestly I'm kinda wondering about Martin. He'd way too...wishy-washy. I kind of get the feeling that he may be more likely to have a personal issue against the CableCo's, or is trying to cause them more trouble to help the telco's get into the market. Now... the whole bittorrent thing.. Kinda hard to ignore it. It's pretty obvious after the AP story that something is fishy, and if he didn't do something he'd be a lot harder pressed to explain his actions. Besides... it's another reason to go after the Cable companies.. and comcast in general.

Now.. you may ask why do I think Martin has a thing against the CableCo's in particular while all about helping the Bells? Let's see... he's authorized the AT&T Merger with BellSouth, helping to recreate one of the largest utility monopolies and the largest ISP out there.....Yet then starts trying to force a 70%/70% ruling on the Cable Companies in order to try and gain additional control over the Cable Industry. He then tries to cap the amount of the market which the CableCo can own at 30% (Call me crazy... but I'm pretty sure some of the bells already have that percentage, if not more....).

There's also the whole factor of Franchise agreements. For YEARS (Decades even), In order for a cable company to come into a town, they had to negotiate with the local government for the Franchise. This Franchise agreement included payments to the local Gov'ment, Community Access channels, and honestly, a little bit of a way for the local community to excert pressure on the cableco to provide decent service thru the renewal process. (although admittedly few Gov'ments truly exercised this ability like they could've). When the Bells started wanting to offer TV service thru FIOS or AT&T's UniverseTV product, they discovered they would be legally required to negotiate with the local communities Franchising groups in order to be able to offer service. They didn't like this Idea....So they had the FCC remove the local community's ability to control who could offer service in their community by allowing the Bell's to instead get a state-wide Franchise. (Time Warner has appearently taken advantage of this ruling in Wisconsin by applying for and getting a state-wide Franchise in that state..).

Besides removing a large hurdle for the Bell's to now offer Television services at well, it removed the local community's ability to force the providers to offer local access television. (Gov'ment billboards for announcements, classic Public Access TV, etc).

What I'm also wondering about is how He authorizes a large merger so we basically now have only 3? Large national telcos (Verizon, AT&T, Quest.....with other rural players and 2nd teir players like Embarq). He removes a large barrier for them to enter the TV market.... and after at least one CableCo takes advantage of that removal, He then starts trying to limit the amount of the market which the Cable-Co's can be in.



Needless to say.... I don't believe Martin is necessarily doing anything out of the goodness of his heart, or because "it's the right thing to do"..... But even if his motives aren't exactly the best, if his agreeing to look into this helps set a legal precedent for Network Neutrality... I'm all for it. (It might be interesting to see however if he either chickens out on being severe in the punishment.... or even kinda let the issue slip to a back-burner to be forgotten about, rather than do something that can bite the Telco's in the butt later.)

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963294)

dig, the bitter side of me can entirely see it being an issue of being outbid by telcoland (whether monitarily or some other form of gain).

The details are certainly not proof positive, but they are certainly indicative. Correlation != causation and all, but i hear ya.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (2, Insightful)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962696)


Given the recent stories related to chairman Kevin Martin, one has to wonder if this is fitting a suddenoutbreakofcommonsense or just that cable companies havent kept up their "lobbying" efforts or stepped on some toes.

I sincerely hope its the former, but i'm cynical enough to expect the latter.


Myself, given how much the current administration is in the pocket of large businesses, I have to wonder if this is a hearing to consider making said content screwovers mandatory for all ISPs.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963324)

Dunno about that, the MO itself is nothing new for the FCC. Check out this fellows response [slashdot.org] .

It would seem the screwovers are mainly for the cableco's this round.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (1)

renegadesx (977007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963564)

Despite I totally agree, the FCC is still worried about it's apperance to a point. If they kept on overlooking this people will be more vocal accusing the FCC of being "bought" and make people hate them even more (censorship is bad enough)

Announcing an investigation seems to be more of a way to save face, chances are they wont look to hard and "wont find anything unusual" but that is just my skepticism.

Re:Who is behind on their payments? (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963830)

Name a single administration that *hasn't* been in the pocket of big business. There hasn't been one, at least not in the past 100 years or so.

Comcast == evil; (5, Funny)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961828)

I am a Comcast subscriber, and I really resent that they charge me 50+ BUX per month for "unlimited" internet, but when I want to download a linux installation DVD via BitTorrent, I can't.

I really do not see the Republican controlled FCC doing anything about this, however it is a good start to at least say they are investigating.

Has nothing to do with Republicans (4, Insightful)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961902)

I can't believe people around here still believe that they can blame government corruption and stupidity on Republicans. Since the democrats have taken back congress if anything congress has gotten worse on these issues. Where before we would have bills sponsored by a bunch of republicans with maybe a few democrats, and a bunch of democrats opposing it just because they hate republicans, now we have bunches of democrats sponsoring some of the most blatantly stupid and corrupt bills I have ever seen, and bunches of republicans backing them.

Re:Has nothing to do with Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21961982)

Agreed, the Democrats have taken advantage of the fact that Bush is the President to act like greedy asshats and then pointing the finger towards the Whitehouse whenever any mention as to the current state of things comes up.

Re:Has nothing to do with Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962042)

Just blame it all on the Repubemocrats then.

Re:Has nothing to do with Republicans (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963050)

Just blame it all on the Repubemocrats then

Hold on there skippy!

You're fooling no one with your obvious attempt to shift blame away from the Demoblicans.

Re:Has nothing to do with Republicans (2, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963414)

Bush picks the people who work at the top of many government organizations, and they pick the people below. It has little to do with congress, and that's why it still gets (appropriately) blamed on Republicans.

If we have a democratic president, we'll start blaming (and whip out our brooms) him and the democrats if these shenanigans continue.

Republican? (4, Interesting)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961962)

We could get a Democrat FCC that would demand ISPs block all p2p traffic at the behest of the entertainment industry. While they hedge their bets with some Republican donations, they tend to give about two to three times as much money to Democrats.

Yes, the biggest government whores for the entertainment industry are generally Democrats, led by Berman and Hollings (the latter thankfully recently retired).

Re:Republican? (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963824)

While they hedge their bets with some Republican donations, they tend to give about two to three times as much money to Democrats.

Hah. That has very little to do with principles and more with return-on-investment. Hollywood is in California, a traditionally blue state. There's more to be gained this way.

Not that it's right.

Re:Comcast == evil; (4, Interesting)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962040)

I really do not see the Republican controlled FCC doing anything about this, however it is a good start to at least say they are investigating.
I do have to take exception to that statement, while i agree with this most likely ending with nothing new. Look into FCC policies during american democratic administrations, or hell even hillary clintons current views on the subject.

Sucks all around.

Re:Comcast == evil; (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962166)

Their network, their rules.

I think it stinks, but it's their network. They can do what they want. You are free to take your business elsewhere.

Re:Comcast == evil; (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962232)

That would be just fine if the government would help sustain these monopolies in cable/internet by thier actions to "help innovation" by giving them power to (at least 3-4 years ago) have a monopoly in a small-medium sized town. No competition whatsoever. It has gotten better but still, most ISP/cable providers fall into 3 companies minus the odd local ISP (which chances are is owned by a mega-ISP)

Re:Comcast == evil; (4, Insightful)

nelsonen (126144) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962256)

It stopped being just "their network" when they signed agreements with local governments for access to public rights-of-way.

Wrong (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962752)

Where else can I take my business. Things like cable which are natural monopolies need regulation.

Re:Comcast == evil; (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962258)

I really do not see the Republican controlled FCC doing anything about this...
You say that as if you think a Democrat controlled FCC would be any better.

Re:Comcast == evil; (1)

ELProphet (909179) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962368)

My friend, as an consumer you must vote with your wallet and go to a (hopefully) lesser evil.

(Disclaimer: I don't know what other options you have ;)

Re:Comcast == evil; (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962678)

Hmm, in my neck of the woods Comcast is slightly less evil than AT&T (formerly SBC, formerly PacBell). Comcast is cheaper per mb/s as well than anyone else as well. There is a local Wifi ISP, but they're nearly double the cost and even more restrictive, so much so they don't even bother to post pricing [fire2wire.com] . Non-ILEC xDSL ISPs are always more expensive, and not likely to last. There really isn't a lot of choice where I live.

Re:Comcast == evil; (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963894)

Comcast sucks here. They rabidly insist I cannot get cable or DSL at my address. That's despite the fact that there's a Comcast junction box on my wall and at least two cable outlets in the house that I've not switched over have a different lineup to that of the city cable provider, and that when I moved in there was a Comcast DSL modem still plugged into a phoneline.

Mind you, Verizon stubbornly insist my house doesn't exist (and this is downtown Tacoma, not some new subdivision). So I'll stick with the city cable provider - though not the cheapest (well, on my plan anyway, the low-end residential cable is fine at 6mb/512 for $39), $129 for 8mbps/1mbps, 2 static IPs, zero throttling or shaping, zero port restrictions.

Re:Comcast == evil; (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963446)

I would have thought that they would be promoting bittorrent servers within their own networks as a way to decrease their own network costs. I mean it's not as if people are going to stop down loading things just because they interfere or want to do what the RIAA/MPAA say.

i.e, people using bittorrent == cash for them (in reduced external network costs) at least thats how I understand it. If the torrents are between two comcast customers then they would be able to charge both customers for the bandwidth with no (or one time only) external network bandwidth costs.

They are in the business of connectivity - or am I missing something aside from the wrath of the ??aa's ?

THANK GOD ... maybe (3, Interesting)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961864)

/fingers crossed

I really hope something comes of this... I think it could go either way really, the FCC could certainly side Comcast on the issue. But even if we could get some more truth in advertising in the business I would be happy. Let people know what services you intend to affect.

Or my personal favorite, not knowing how much bandwidth you're payments actually cover. About half way through the afternoon I drop to 1/6th to 1/8th my 'normal' bandwidth. Till midnight and BAM full speed again... And believe me it don't take much, one DVD .iso of Ubuntu is enough to choke me all day long.

Are they doing this everywhere? (2, Interesting)

anotherone (132088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961906)

I see all these comments everywhere saying "I'm trying to download a bittorrent from Comcast but I can't"...

I'm on Comcast, I have a normal residential account afaik, but I can download torrents fine. Pretty speedy too.

I don't doubt some people are having problems but how is it I'm not?

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (5, Informative)

jordan314 (1052648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961986)

Can you seed? Sandvine doesn't limit your downloading, it prevents seeding (though that in turn can slow your downloads down). If you notice all your peers dropping to zero after your download is finished on an otherwise popular torrent, you're being affected.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

Misch (158807) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962300)

Over the past week or so, I've noticed that a couple torrents I was seeding have started to send data. And it's not the reset-wait to timeout-send-sandvine spoof-loop that had been going on. It's uploading all the time.

I'm on Comcast in South NJ.

Of course, this is just anecdotal evidence.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (3, Informative)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963062)

Are you encrypting your BT traffic? If so then Comcast thinks it is just normal traffic like HTTP/FTP and will let it go.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (4, Interesting)

DCTooTall (870500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963160)

Actually, according the original reports I read, Encrypting the traffic didn't really help. It was something about how the Sandvine system was actually going off the nature and pattern of the traffic, not just the ports or contents of the packets.

It was because it was going off traffic patterns that people were reporting problems with programs such as lotus notes as well.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

trawg (308495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963076)

Surely its not that hard to get real evidence though - just look in your peer list when downloading and see if there's any comcast users seeding to you! That'd be an interesting experiment on some of the bigger torrents. Of course without a frame of reference in terms of numbers it might not be useful data, but at least you'd be able to see if some/any comcast users were uploading.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21964002)

Not that simple. Connections to other Comcast customers always work. So larger swarms may not be noticeably affected, as long as there are enough Comcast users in the swarm.

Also, Sandvine doesn't block seeding while you are downloading. It only starts severing connections when it detects tracker communications indicating that you have entered a seed only mode. It may have intermittent effects if you are simultaneously downloading one torrent while seeding another, I'm not sure of the heuristics. The reliance on tracker communication to detect when to throttle often means that clients supporting Peer Exchange can work better if DHT is disabled and the tracker list is cleared before the torrent finishes downloading.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962032)

FYI, downloads were never the issue, uploads were. See nobody has a problem leeching data, cable is made for that even (since it supports far higher download speeds). The big issue was it wouldn't allow seeding at all, and if you were to download at your upload speed (to keep a 100% seed), things would take forever. Also if you can't seed, the torrent basically dies completely. If nobody is sharing the file and 100 people want to download it, 0 copies are going to be distributed.

On its own you can call this prevention of piracy, but the reality is that legitimate things are blocked in the same fashion (linux distros, maybe stuff you make and upload yourself to a torrent site, maybe your own music you make) - now what in those scenarios? This is the main issue that surrounds all the DRM and treating customers like criminals debate. Because there is no way to treat all customers the same and prevent criminal intent without it stopping legitimate use as well. The debate itself usually has ended in a "for the children" debate for that reason, or something else stupid.

Now I hate comcast for having done this, but I still suspect that the MPAA/RIAA has more behind this than comcast itself. I'm sure there was some cash exchanging hands in some form to provoke this, as sandvine has a variety of very significant and useful uses, and this is not in that group.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (2, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963110)

Even though the RIAA/MPAA probably has something to do with this (if they can buy congress they can buy just about any other thing) but I think that it is that Comcast wants to advertise really high download speeds without having the network to back it up. If they block P2P traffic they take out much of the traffic and can keep the *whatever MB/s* they advertise without having to spend extra money to get the network. I don't doubt that this could be an easy front to appeal to the RIAA and the like but I think it is more of "lets try to get the highest MB/s we can on as cheap of a network we can get" more than anything else.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963238)

Upload traffic is just as demanding as download traffic to a server. So why would they allow much higher amounts of bandwith downstream than upstream? The only difference is who pays for what connection and the cost on that part. I mean lets take 6mb (500KB) downstream vs 40KB upstream. Which has a ton more bandwith? Duh....thats why I question whether this was just to have "more bandwith offered".

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963826)

If they block P2P traffic they take out much of the traffic and can keep the *whatever MB/s* they advertise without having to spend extra money to get the network


And, in fact, it looks like that's exactly what they're doing. [slashdot.org] How does it feel to have made such an accurate prediction?

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

piojo (995934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962096)

I think (no hard evidence) that comcast filters differently in different geographic locations. I have observed this--when I stayed with a friend over the summer, comcast sometimes killed the internet entirely for about an hour, when people in the house were using too much bittorrent. I have not experienced this in my parents' house, where we use comcast. (I hope they pay dearly for this, somehow. They have engendered more ill-will in me than any other company.)

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

anotherone (132088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962726)

See that really sounds more like your friend's router crashed for about an hour. I haven't heard ANYONE say that they kill the connection entirely.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

piojo (995934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963450)

See that really sounds more like your friend's router crashed for about an hour.
You know, this is embarrassing, but I think you're right, now that I think about it. (I spent most of the summer convinced that Comcast was evil, then I discovered a bad network cable toward the end of the summer. I then conveniently forgot about the network cable and continued to think Comcast was evil.) Man, I need to stop spreading FUD... But I still don't know why this (very physical) problem only seemed to occur when the line was under heavy use.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963042)

Yes, they break their network in different ways in different regions. As an example, in places with a lot of Vonage subscribers there are mysterious problems which effect only their lines and only appears once Comcast started pushing its own VoIP service. I don't know if anyone has figured out how they do it yet, but it's out there and has been going on for about a year now.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (2, Interesting)

achilles777033 (1090811) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962176)

It's starting to look to me like QoS from Comcast is luck of the draw.

They don't really give a shit at all. They barely (or don't) maintian their infrastructure, and they don't pay attention to (or don't care) about over-population of certain areas. If you're lucky, you're living somewhere where comcast put in a big enough pipe, and recently enough that it hasn't degraded yet. If you're not, your QoS sucks.

That's just they way it's been looking to me, I could be wrong.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

Enry (630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963552)

I've had Comcast for just shy of 10 years (back when they were MediaOne). I'm about 10 miles outside Boston, and based on the geography of my area, most of my neighbors have internet service from Comcast, so the area is pretty highly subscribed.

Way back when it was MediaOne and then AT&T Broadband, the service was terrible. It was bad enough that the routers had to be frequently rebooted, but the routing was frequently screwed up. Screwed up enough that I had to e-mail them a traceroute of two routers bouncing between each other. Their Tier 1 people had no clue what I was talking about and suggested I reboot.

The entire Comcast package is higher priced (though the Internet service is still about the same), but the quality of the Internet service has been exceedingly reliable. Torrents like Fedora 8 came down lightning quick.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962592)

I'm pretty sure they overcommitted their backbone bandwidth in some areas and can't handle more than some percentage of the total bandwidth they sold. Since BT causes the most traffic that's what they're throttling if necessary.

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (1)

DCTooTall (870500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962962)

Honestly... My guess would be a combination of RIAA/MPAA pressure, Bandwith Management....and whether or not the cablemodem network in the area has been "prepped" for Sandvine, or if they are still trying to work on "fixing" or consolidating it from a previous company into the "comcast fold". LOL... gotta make sure something works before you break it. lol

Re:Are they doing this everywhere? (3, Interesting)

DCTooTall (870500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962626)

Because of the Traditional Franchise Nature of the cable industry, as well as all the aquisitions and mergers over the years, Most cable companies... and ESPECCIALLY the actual network, are not necessarily one big common shared network. Basically you could have your National Corporate level, Your Division, and then a local region and even the individual systems within that region. All could have their own policies and guidelines....or way of doing things. While some people in Comcast Territory could be in an area they've deployed sandvine, Other Comcast covered areas may not have deployed it, or just implemented it yet. Keep in mind that putting something like Sandvine on the network isn't necessarily as easy as plugging it in, and making it work.... especcially if you are in an area which was covered by another area as recently as a year or 2 ago.

For instance.... I know Adelphia was split between Time Warner and Comcast a few years ago. Adelphia may have had 1 way which they designed their cable network and backend systems. The aquiring company may have another. Making ANY changes is a slow and drawn out process because you have to be VERY careful to avoid any negative customer impact. (IOW's... you can't just unplug a system from one network and instantly plug it into another. You could risk customer outages.. breaking networks because a router is on the wrong VLAN or ip collisioning with another item on the new network.). i'd honestly thing that throwing something like Sandvine would be more of a clean-up/tweaking of the network kind of job, after you've got everything working and talking on a common network. Not something you'd just throw in there off the bat, and then try to get everything up to the standards everything else is on.

Oh, here it is ... (1)

jabberwock (10206) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961922)

...

"I tell the staff that they should act on all of those complaints and investigate all of them," Martin said.

Well, I guess they're right on top of things, huh. Yep.

Ah, justice (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961926)

/applaud


$195,000 per affected subscriber? Wow! Comcast won't be able to afford that 160mbps network upgrade if that occurs.

This should be an interesting story to watch unfold. Let's see how Comcast denies and hides it. Too bad this isn't a class action suit that would return some of that money to the victims... I mean customers. Maybe a class action suit will follow if or when the FCC finds Comcast guilty.

Re:Ah, justice (0)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962002)

$195,000 per affected subscriber? Wow! Comcast won't be able to afford that 160mbps network upgrade if that occurs.

...which begs the question: where, exactly, did the FCC pull that number from?

Re:Ah, justice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962244)

>where, exactly, did the FCC pull that number from?

From their collective corpulent derrieres.

Re:Ah, justice (1)

wizbit (122290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962290)

It doesn't "beg the question" and it wasn't the FCC. Read the damn summary:

A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars asked the agency

Re:Ah, justice (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963178)

A little touchy there, I must say.

Ok, so I made the mistake of saying it was the FCC, but saying that "A coalition of consumer groups and legal scholars asked the agency" still doesn't answer where the figure came from (as in, why $192,000 and not $193,000). If you know the answer to the real question, I would be happy if you told me. Otherwise, I'm really not interested.

Re:Ah, justice (1)

ericpi (780324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962900)

While I'm no fan of Comcast, $195,000 per subscriber is a ludicrous amount. At $50/month, a subscriber would have paid $6k total for the entire decade the service was available. Claiming damages in excess of 30x the total value of the service seems excessive.

I'm sure they're 'trying to send a message', but it bothers me when lawsuits are so far out of the realm of reality. It's no different than the trumped up "losses" RIAA claims for sharing a few songs, or when a judge sues for $67M for a pair of pants [nytimes.com] .

And they would've gotten away with it, too... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21961934)

...if it weren't for those meddling niggers!

bout freakin time (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21961972)

having been part of the original research with DSLreports.com, I'm glad this is finally coming around to something. They have been abusing this for far too long, and if FCC takes action it will be an interesting power check to comcast. Of course, we could be wrong, and they could suddenly and magically lobby the hell out of things to prevent this, unfortunately.

I am greatful at least this will be investigated before Docsis3, not after.

Open Wireless Everywhere! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962004)

China. Burma. Comcast.
Seriously, if private near-monopolies can decide what we can and cannot access on the internet, we may as well be in a de facto dictatorship. So:

Is it not becoming possible to have open networks of at-home wireless routers completely replacing the last mile anyway? Are we not near the point where big corporate gatekeepers are no longer even needed? The wireless spectrum is there, isn't it? Is it possible Google is planning some such disruptive advent?

Discuss, 'cause, I have way more questions than answers. But I dare to think they might be the right questions.

Re:Open Wireless Everywhere! (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962824)

Not only is running open wireless dangerous, connecting to open wireless is dangerous. The connections must be encrypted and with a trusted party. Black Hats have already shown how they can find out usernames and passwords of people connecting to their unsecured networks.

Well well. (0)

Jello B. (950817) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962022)

Looks like one commission got sick of their midget porn taking too long to download.

Who cares if they block BitTorrent? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962024)

Honestly, who cares? It helps legitimate customers manage to squeek out a few emails and web pages amongst the massive hogging of the leaches who steal content from those of us who actually pay for what we use.

Two things:

1. If you want a business class connection, PAY FOR IT! You don't run servers on a residential class connection, and BitTorrent requires a server.

2. There's no reason you need BitTorrent. Linux distributions managed to get by without BitTorrent for years. Companies most certainly can afford to pay their bandwidth costs instead of forcing their customers to open up a potential security risk by opening a port.

So seriously, who care? This doesn't affect the average customer. The only customers it does affect are those who are using more bandwidth than they could reasonably expect to on a residential connection. If you want to use the bandwidth, get a business class connection. Otherwise, stop complaining when your limited connection turns out to be limited.

I see a Comcast troll! (1)

BUL2294 (1081735) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962398)

Which division in Comcast do you work for? Must be Comcast customer service... After all, anybody who uses a decent amount of bandwidth IS a criminal and should be treated as such.

Re:Who cares if they block BitTorrent? (1)

mozkill (58658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962434)

#1 : this idea you have of a "business class connection" is from the stone age. its from back in the 90's when people would order ISDN . these days EVERY home computer should have full server connectivity. this is the modern age and if Comcast tries to create it into a separate product then they will lose to the competition...

Re:Who cares if they block BitTorrent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963580)

Competition?

Re:Who cares if they block BitTorrent? (3, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962586)

I agree that if you are hosting anything you really need to be using a 'business class connection', if you are using a connection for work or for anything critical you need a 'business class connection', not for the transfer rates (it seems the lowest tiers at the business level are no different from ADSL/DSL connections) but for the SLA that (should) accompany such a connection*.

In return however the ISP should provide the service being paid for. If you are paying £X for X 'Speed' with 'unlimited downloads', then that should be what you get, whether by simply browsing the web, watching on-line video, listening to on-line radio or seeding the latest Debian ISO's as a torrent (I'm seeding the whole lot at the moment because I feel I should use the bandwidth I have...).

Peer-to-peer traffic is not client-server traffic, and it is normally non commercial, and as to whether it is legitimate content being passed is not a concern of the ISP anyway (do they block spam, viral or malicious code, libellous comments? No. If there are terms and conditions attached to a service those should be clear (that way a customer can make an informed choice), there is nothing wrong with an ISP preventing end users from running a given type of server or use the connection in a certain way, but it must be clear when the user signs up.

Lastly, it is up to the Linux distributions how they distribute their ISO's, Bittorrent is perfect for this even if other methods are available and have been (and are) used, so your comment relating to how Linux should b distributed is slightly valid, but unfair and short sighted, especially given that those organisations providing Linux distributions are not all corporations so splitting the load is sensible. Bittorrent *is* used by people who wish to transfer material in breach of copyright because it is fast, practical and can be fairly anonymous but that is not its sole purpose and it is just as easy to use other methods to distribute that material as it would be to use alternate methods to distribute Linux.

People who distribute material in breach of copyright law should be punished to the full extent of the law (even if the law in question is at this point fairly insane), they are aware of the penalty's and still take the risk of doing it, but there is no good reason to ban a whole slew of technologies because they can be used to facilitate distribution. By that logic any uncontrolled storage medium that allows itself to be written to, and any uncontrolled method of data transmission should be banned, we would end up with computers that have similar multimedia capabilities as TV's (without PVR's/DVD players etc..) and radios (without a tape/MD deck), with the added benefit of having to pay for everything on a PAYG basis.

*Any Slasdhotters that have ever worked in technical support for an ISP will be familiar with calls from customers on the cheapest residential deals demanding their connection be fixed because their business relies on it, whilst simultaneously threatening lawsuits...

PS, not sure if the parent was intended as flamebait so I assumed not, and sorry for losing the plot halfway through.

It's not about blocking BitTorrent... (1)

theonlyaether (1146549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962972)

The ISP I currently use believes that the "Average" customer doesn't need more than 3GB a week to surf the internet and read email. Not much to be said about that, other than the fact that I would caution you in your dissertation of the "average customer". Remember that averages, while useful statistics, never boil down to real human behavior. And yes, I use a satellite connection in a rural area and it's the best there is right now out here. When I was in the city Adelphia was AMAZING - for $40 I had unlimited everything, and even though I was quoted 3MB down, it often ran at 5-7 and still provided a healthy (but not mind blowing) 512k-1M up.

Now let's get on to why the "average" user should care: Latency - DPI (deep packet inspection) is known to cause packet loss and latency problems. On a family member's ATT DSL I can personally attest that some websites loaded insanely slow or not at all (newegg.com, for one), while others loaded nice and fast. Routing through a proxy oddly alleviated this issue. I have the same problem with packet loss on my home ISP, where on several friends (and my old net link that my old roommates still have) these sites work fine and without lag at all.

On false positives and negatives:
"False Positives and False Negatives Although a signature is developed with the intention to uniquely and completely identify its related application or protocol, there are cases in which the signature is not robust (a.k.a. weak signature) and classification problems arise. False positives is the basic terminology referring to misclassification - or in simple terms - the likelihood that an application will be identified as something it is not. If DPI is being used for guiding a subscriber management tool, this may lead to wrongful actions. A typical example of such a wrongful action could be the mistaken lowering of priorities to time-sensitive streaming traffic and resultant introduction of unwanted latency or even packet loss. Consequently, when developing signatures, every effort must be made to achieve zero percent of false positives. A common way to strengthen a weak signature is to use a combination of more than one pattern. False negatives refers to those cases where it is not possible to consistently identify an application - sometimes the identification is classified, while other times it is missed by the classification tool. There are various reasons for this phenomenon, the most common of which is the fact that some applications can accomplish similar outcomes in several ways in different deployment scenarios. For example, some applications will behave differently if the client software operates through a proxy or firewall compared to the simpler case in which the client interacts with the web directly. Therefore, in these irregular cases, if the signature was developed under the assumption of direct communications, it is likely that the application will not be correctly classified in the case of a proxy or firewall."
(from https://www.dpacket.org/articles/digging-deeper-deep-packet-inspection-dpi [dpacket.org] )
They also take care to (briefly) mention that applications signatures can change when upgrades come out, so the ISP better have an army testing every "acceptable" bit of software out there to keep that near zero percent on the false positives.

Now I ask you.... how many "average" users operate behind a firewall? Yeah...I thought so...they gotta test that too...

Not only that but if you read the article, they think that they can convince people that they need to buy "packages" so certain traffic is prioritized, gaming, VoIP, etc. Nothing like paying your ISP not to slow your traffic down...And yes, that article is trying to sell DPI as a good thing.

Ok so finally from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hart_v._Comcast [wikipedia.org]

Now there is also evidence of Comcast using RST packets on groupware applications that have nothing to do with file sharing. Kevin Kanarski, who works as a Lotus Notes messaging engineer, noticed some strange behavior with Lotus Notes dropping emails when hooked up to a Comcast connection and has managed to verify that Comcast's reset packets are the culprit. A lawsuit, Hart v. Comcast, has been filed accusing Comcast of false advertising and other unfair trade practices.

Comcast customers have also reported a sporadic inability to use Google because forged RST packets are also interfering with HTTP access to google.com, which has further angered users.
(I have these problems with my ISP if I don't use their proxy!)

Anyway it messes with everyone's connection, they're spoofing your clients, and also taking responsibility for your traffic, which in the long run could end up with them having to police everyone. This is all bad, bad, bad, it's just a mess, an over complication of the issue, and it's all based on assumptions about what the "Average" customer does on the internet.

ISPs have always oversold their service, based on the tedious assumption that "not everyone will make a request all at once". It has been, and remains my opinion that this is flawed logic and it will come back to slap them in the face, which it looks like it is. Everyone gets home from work/school, and gets online - all at once. We need to be focusing on fortifying upstream, both to the ISP in the "last mile" area, or the frame cloud, or whatever happens to be going on - not blaming those at the end of the link for download issues. Just wait until movies on demand and HD TV video streams become common, there's already concern that the existing routers and upstream won't be able to handle it. It's a huge issue, and improving the tech, not crippling it, is the answer

IT'S NOT JUST BIT TORRENT! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962028)

It's just about ANY peer to peer type data.

including random drops of google gtalk voice communications.

random drops of game connections.

and maybe more. those are just two i've noticed a problem with on comcast. and those two happen ALOT more often if any bit torrent downloader is running. even the damm wow updater.

its just wrong when its bit torrent. but it wont hurt anything. bit torrent keeps plugging away. but when it happens to the other apps... it's fucking annoying AND wrong.

Indeed brother, I have a new nickname! PLEASE TAG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962126)

Communistcast

Oh, please... not "Communistcast" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962832)

Tag it "Commiecast".

you're right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963102)

i stand corrected

Re:IT'S NOT JUST BIT TORRENT! (1)

nero4wolfe (671100) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962156)

I've seen reports elsewhere that implies this behavior is really the "best available" workaround cable companies have for a serious problem with the DOCSIS cable modem standards.

The way I understood those reports, currently all cable modems on a segment compete for a limited number of uplink slots (similar to a tdma architecture). If there's enough uplink traffic from some modems on the segment, other modems on the segment can effectively get locked out from sending any uplink traffic. There is nothing the cable company can do to control this, other than to try to force some connections to try to "go away" for a while. There is no point where they could add priorities, queueing, etc.

Does anyone know more details?

Re:IT'S NOT JUST BIT TORRENT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962284)

That sounds like bullshit to me. The proper way to handle bandwidth problems is not to cut some connections, but to limit their bandwidth. That of course requires slightly more resources in the routers than just sending two fake RST packets, but it is a way more elegant solution, because (if properly implemented) it can prevent the "choke point" of the limited upload slots (if it exists) to ever be reached. Additionally, the connection cuts should happen more frequently in the evening hours when everyone is surfing, and practically never at 4 a.m. I've never heard any time dependence of this being mentioned.

Re:IT'S NOT JUST BIT TORRENT! (4, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962238)

I've seen occaisional SSH connections drop since I started on Comcast. That never happened on dial-up. What it appears to me that they are doing is just taking a small sampling of packets ... such as maybe 1 in 10000. Then it adds the connetion tuple (host:port of each end) to a big hash table without concern of replacements. If the connection was already in the table and is seen again, it forges the RST packet. It won't happen on web connections hardly ever. On connections that last a long time AND have a lot of traffic, it gradually kills them off. It could work with quite few resources that way. For example, a PC could never handle the load of the flow through a backbone router. But if it merely got a small fraction sampling, it would gradually drop most long lived busy connections. Use IPsec to avoid it or make connections automatically restart (like BT already does).

Re:IT'S NOT JUST BIT TORRENT! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962580)

That's not going on in my neck of the Comcast woods. I use ssh connections exclusively. No traffic leaves my laptop unencrypted, even web surfing and emailing. All of it goes off to my remote proxy box. Sure from there it is unencrypted, but it's also in the middle of an ISP with plenty of other traffic.

Anyway, the point is my ssh sessions never drop. Perhaps check your firewall and/or ssh server's settings. Perhaps something changed with keepalives or something. I have issues with that while at client networks, and for that I just have a shell loop that keeps dumping system stats and such (just fire up top and set it to update every minute), just enough to make a little traffic. I don't need to do this at home while on Comcast though.

Funny thing with that, my wireless was acting up the other day when I got a new AP and I didn't even know it until I went to print and found I was on my neighbor's wifi and not my own, so I couldn't find my cups server. Glad I have everything encrypted. Not that I think the owner of "linksys" would even notice or know to capture the traffic ;-p Oh, what was even more funny is that they're on Comcast too, which is part of why I didn't even notice when I checked on my ssh server to see where I was coming from. I promptly switched back to my own network, since it was a little sluggish at times.

Re:IT'S NOT JUST BIT TORRENT! (1)

The Evil Couch (621105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963668)

and maybe more. those are just two i've noticed a problem with on comcast. and those two happen ALOT more often if any bit torrent downloader is running. even the damm wow updater.
The WoW updater (Blizzard Downloader [wikipedia.org] ) IS Bit Torrent.

Am I biased or just plain mistaken? (1)

2think (703041) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962056)

I'm not sure why the posts in here complaining about the FCC and Comcast are receiving such low ratings from the moderator. I know some of them contain sarcasm but that's been a hallmark of Slashdot since the 1940's!

As for the FCC fining Comcast anything significant, I don't see that happening. The recent ruling to allow multiple media channel ownership in major cities and preventing states from mandating 'naked DSL' service show a government body much more concerned with corporate objectives rather than citizen interests in my perspective.

To net neutrality naysayers: told you so. (4, Interesting)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962082)

While not network neutrality per se, protocol neutrality is just as important. Traffic shaping is fine so long as it's applied to all traffic and documented in the service agreement. Comcast is proof that corporations can get away with treating Internet customers however they want when they've been granted a monopoly, which makes it the government's business to regulate them if they're going to hand out the monopolies in the first place.

You don't understand the problem (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21962494)

Bandwidth is not unlimited. Stupid networks are not efficient. Your solution creates more problems than it solves. If you want better service, pay for a business internet account. Quit taking away freedom by using the govt. to force others to do things the way you want them done, especially since you don't understand what you are saying, or its implications. What you want increases the price of bandwidth, and I don't want to be forced to pay for your bandwidth. Hopefully, if you do get your way, they'll start charging per bit so you pay your fair share.

No, bandwidth is not unlimited... (5, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962762)

But the cable companies market it as if it were.

They chose to use the term unlimited usage, and if they don't want to offer unlimited access, they should change their TOS.

There's nothing criminal or unethical about expecting a company to provide what it has promised. Some of us would be quite willing to pay, say, only $10 per month for a 1.3 Mbs connection, even if it came with a 5 GB/month transfer cap. But the cable companies won't do that. Instead, you have to buy their unlimited plan, and pay for bandwidth that you don't even use.

And the cable company will happily resell your unused bandwidth to others. It's called capacity planning, and they use statistical analysis to figure out the bandwidth that most people will actually use. Problem is, they have a financial interest in fully utilizing their equipment, i.e., buying only as much as needed. Which, when their estimates are wrong, results in lousy service for customers. Your problem is not that you are paying for someone else's bandwidth, but rather, that the cable company is making you pay for bandwidth they don't expect you to use.

Your torrent-hosting neighbor is simply using all of the bandwidth for which he paid. He's not using yours. (That is, unless he's owned your box, but that's a different thread entirely...)

Yeah, and your cheque's in the mail (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962104)

This is pure eyewash. Kevin Martin's track record indicates that he never met a corporation he didn't like or a consumer who, in his judgement, didn't deserve to be shafted.

Time Warp (1)

OECD (639690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962106)

While known for months in tech circles, the issue wasn't given broad attention until an Associated Press report last year,

Can't slip anything by those techies...

Re:Time Warp (4, Funny)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962160)

I don't know about you, but for me, nine days ago was last year.

Re:Time Warp (1)

mozkill (58658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962404)

i dont know about you but 10 days ago was last year for me. i dont remember Dec 31st at all...

Re:Time Warp (1)

OECD (639690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962546)

I don't know about you, but for me, nine days ago was last year.

So was 'over a year ago.' :-P

Re:Time Warp (1)

sobachatina (635055) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962216)

You do remember that last year was 8 days ago right?

What will happend? (1)

ls354 (1144513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962320)

Are we going to get super fast dial-up, will Comcast say that the tubes are full, will G.W Bush finally figure out how to configure that D-link router, can Obama finally add Hillary to his Myspace, and will I get to see a laptop on fire while on some ones lap.

We need this in Canada (4, Informative)

Froster (985053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21962516)

Rogers Cable has been doing this here for sometime. After people found that encrypted proxies could get around their blocking, they began to block all VPNs. Since that time, their policy has essentially been that only HTTP traffic is guaranteed to be highspeed. Ever since they decided to be a phone company with IP phones over cable, the quality of their internet service has suffered badly.

If Canada had the power to fine Rogers in amounts like Comcast is being threatened with, that would be a mighty big stick in the hands of the gov't and consumers. Unfortunately, we don't have anything like this as AFAIK so bandwidth throttling is practiced by most of the big ISPs

Re:We need this in Canada (5, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963250)

No you don't. The FCC has really done nothing other to get us into this mess. First they protected monopolies to "help innovation", these government protected monopolies such as Comcast began to charge outrageous amounts for cable/internet. Whenever a local ISP/Cable company started up they were either absorbed into a huge corporation, charge nearly the same rates for sub-par service or quickly went bankrupt. It is only in the last 3-4 years that independent ISPs/cable companies have begun to pop up and even then they are usually nothing more then an arm of a super-corporation. When the government is involved, individuals always, always, always lose. Perhaps it is different in Canada but here in the US, the only thing government does when it comes to technology is maybe reversing their previous mistakes.

Cool. I'm waiting for my 195 grand... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963234)

I hope they do. It is about time the courts started fining corporations properly, at rates that are actually preventative.

Re:Cool. I'm waiting for my 195 grand... (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963382)

You seem optimistic. I doubt that anyone affected will even see a penny of it. Much less an apology from Comcast. No, the fines will go to who knows what in the government, probably something that will limit our freedoms even more than this (like a new DRM scheme that even though it is trivial to break thanks to the DMCA we can't)

Time Warner Roadrunner (2, Informative)

christurkel (520220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963276)

I believe Time Warner does this as well. Before they purchased Adelphia, I could use BitTorrent just fine. A month after their take over, it started. HTTP and FTP downloads were fine, bittorrent downloads would start fast and within several seconds slow down to less than dial up speed.

Re:Time Warner Roadrunner (1)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963460)

TW in Ohio has actually been relatively good to me. My linux-distro-of-the-month bittorrenting has been going strong. I just finished downloading eeeXubuntu 7.10R3, no problems what so ever.

NTC and Shentel (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963330)

I hope they fine them out the ass. I use a small ISP called NTC (a part of Shentel), and they do the same thing, using an intelligent sniffing system to determine if P2P traffic is taking place and to slow it to a crawl. NTC has a monopoly on the student housing in the area, and thus get away with charging $25 per mo. per person in each apartment, disallowing routers and requiring occasional logins on an https site, and delivering ~5KB/s download for any torrent. (Usual speeds are between 100 and 150 KB/s for normal TCP connections.)

The difference is Comcast is huge, and no one cares if little NTC intentionally cripples its over-priced service and is the only available connection in all dorms, and comes pre-wired in all off-campus housing up to a few miles away.

Moving soon (1)

digital bath (650895) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963362)

I will be moving within the next month, and one of my considerations when looking at new homes is whether or not I'll be able to ditch Comcast. Has anybody here had good/bad experiences with Verizon's FIOS service?

I'm looking forward to the opportunity of voting with my dollar. Fuck you, Comcast.

Why is the FCC investigating this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963430)

I thought the FCC has no say in what happens over cable networks. You can't complain to the FCC if there's inappropriate content on a cable channel, so why can you complain to them about the way Comcast runs their network?

Breaking down barriers to liability (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21963488)

Technology companies that simply pass traffic or host content for others enjoy broad immunity for _blindly_ managing content that belongs to someone else.

Those companies that start filtering this content, however, should lose this immunity and be subject to lawsuits from those who would like them to filter more or less than they already do. The potential liability would be enormous, and would put an end to filtering immediately.

it's working fine for me (2, Interesting)

justdrew (706141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963732)

I'm not seeing any torrent problems. there was a blip when this all flared up for a few days seemed like I couldn't seed, but I'm able to seed and receive now. In fact, reception speed seems higher than ever. Would like to see if this is still happening or was an isolated regional issue, or what the heck? am I being given the rope to hang myself? What's going on?

Strange change... (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#21963952)

I'm a Comca$t subscriber and I believe it was a few weeks after the AP story that I noticed my u/d ratio, of which the highest was probably 1.7, suddenly jumped a couple notches. My downloads were affected, but it was mainly the uploads which were throttled to being basically useless. I just hope the telecoms don't use a red herring of "but most of that traffic is illegal" to deter the FCC away from the core issue: Net Neutrality.
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