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Comcast Sued Again over P2P Throttling

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the facing-a-torrent-of-legal-actions dept.

The Courts 73

Dr. Eggman writes "Ars Technica brings us news of a disgruntled Washington D.C. Comcast customer who has filed a lawsuit against Comcast over claims of false advertising. The complaint seeks punitive damages, class-action status, and attorneys' fees. The customer claims Comcast advertised 'unfettered access to all the content, services, and applications that the Internet has to offer.' We discussed a similar lawsuit brought against Comcast by a Californian customer back in November, as well as the FCC investigation into Comcast's practices. While Comcast confirmed reception of the new lawsuit, they declined to comment on it directly. Spokesman Charlie Douglas was quoted saying, 'To be clear, Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services, and no one has demonstrated otherwise.'"

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But... (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22512552)

Spokesman Charlie Douglas was quoted saying, 'To be clear, Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services, and no one has demonstrated otherwise.'
But that's not what they're being accused of.
Their spokesman gets an A for confusing the issue.

Re:But... (4, Interesting)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22512580)

Which is great, at least for Comcast.

Their greatest strategy is to keep confusing the issue and trying to keep from clarifying differences because otherwise they have no case. Remember that there are still people who think that the internet is "a series of tubes" or the like, and it doesn't take much to get a judge to rule in their favor simply because he fails to understand the difference between "blocking" and "throttling", at least in internet terms.

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22512652)

I think it would be better if the judge saw it in terms of 'blocking' and 'throttling' being close to the same. Otherwise he'll say that Comcast didn't block it and therefore you have no case since they never mentioned they wouldn't throttle.

Re:But... (1)

greginnj (891863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22520886)

If 'unfettered access' is a literal quote from their advertising, I think you could make a strong case that even throttling violates their commitment. After all, real fetters [merriam-webster.com] don't immobilize you, they just slow you down...

Re:But... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22512676)

Clearly, their attorneys have opted for the Chewbacca defense [wikipedia.org] .

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22512758)

If I were a judge, I'd be over them. Its technically a man in the middle attack, actively monitoring and sending bogus packets, just like an attacker would.

Comcast has overstepped its bounds with this. If legal protection does not help, someone, somewhere will end up making a totally encrypted P2P protocol that runs over port 80 or 443, so traffic filtering would be absolutely useless for everybody, including Comcast. Of course, they can then start looking for patterns (lots of connections between clients), but they will then start squeezing legit users who will start griping (and switching if they can.)

Comcast is fighting a losing battle, and trying to run an arms race that in the long run will be expensive and PR suicide.

Instead of ticking off their customers (who are not just "pirates", but legitimate people who may be running WoW), they should save the cash they are using and actually upgrade their network before someone stomps them into the ground with an offering such as WiMax or Internet over power lines.

Re:But... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513748)

It's not even throttling, it's spoofing (identity fraud?).

Re:But... (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514286)

it doesn't take much to get a judge to rule in their favor simply because he fails to understand the difference between "blocking" and "throttling"

See people, this is why we need car analogies !

Re:But... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516572)

it doesn't take much to get a judge to rule in their favor simply because he fails to understand the difference between "blocking" and "throttling"

See people, this is why we need car analogies !
Well, yeroner, comcast didn't put the intertruck up on blocks, but it did disconnect the throttle.

Enough with the damn tubes! (2, Interesting)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519666)

It IS a series of tubes. If you're trying to explain how the network of interconnected nodes that we call the internet works - a series of tubes is a great straight-forward analogy that damn near everyone can understand. It's an analogy I used to use to explain concepts to grandfathers before that poor sod said it in front of a camera, and it remains true. Other points aside - the series of tubes mocking should stop. -GiH

Re:Enough with the damn tubes! (1)

Lordpidey (942444) | more than 6 years ago | (#22523236)

I completely agree. The "series of tubes" is probably the best and most accurate part of the speech he gave, the REST of the speech is what concerns me, he talks about waiting several days for an internet to be delivered.

Re:But... (1)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515630)

All this legal stuff is fine and good but the corporations own the courts.
In technology we often overlook the low tech solution.
What ever happened to pitchforks and torches for people like this?

Better idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22512578)

Why not just buy the content rather than stealing it via bittorrent, you thieving cocksmoking teabaggers?

Re:Better idea (4, Informative)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22512682)

There are plenty of legitmate uses for bit torrent. Blizzard uses it to distribute patches, and vuze uses it to distribute liscensed content.

Re:Better idea (3, Interesting)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513414)

And that constitutes how many percent points of total torrent traffic?

Re:Better idea (5, Insightful)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514030)

I can't tell if this is flamebait or not, so I'll be good and reply instead of modding.

As long as it's over 0%, the percentage doesn't matter. The point is, they're supposed to be a common carrier and route the damn packets. Customers and services that customers pay to use rely on ISPs adhering to standards. And please, don't make Comcast out to be some great defender of the Copyright. They're only doing this to save their stockholders money- nothing more.

Besides, piracy existed (and still does) well before the Torrent protocol. HTTP, IRC, SMTP, and FTP are all still used to transfer files in violation of copyright. Should Comcast throttle these indiscriminately as well? Where do you draw the line?

The Line (1)

NeoTerra (986979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516710)

The line is drawn, has been drawn, and always will be drawn at the profit margin (or above, if they "project" growth).

Re:Better idea (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22517214)

First of all, it is not about Comcast at all. And in no way I am going to defend a company that tortured me with average download speeds of 30kbps for the whole year (it was a ISP of choice for my landlord). The whole idea of me defending Comcast is actually offensive judging by amount of suffering I had to endure during that year.

As for other protocols you have mentioned, I have the same question: what is the percentage of traffic in question consittues in HTTP, IRC, SMTP and FTP.

I am going to put myself a subject to some kind of analog of Godwin's law and make a really over stretching analogy here. What is percentage of "legitimate" ("reasonable", etc/) usage of cluster bombs or land mines?

I am using here an offensive example just to illustrate the point that we have to apply this criteria to any technology, because any technology is no moral carrier by itself, but as a society we have a legitimate right to ask this question: what is the percentage of "legitimate" use of any particular bit of technology?

Car is a technology, yet we do not allow people under certain age to drive it despite the fact that some people under this age are quite capable of it and benefit themselves and the society as a whole. We are judging by percentage here.

Same applies to any technology. The problem is not in declaring torrents evil or not, the problem is in defining areas where the use of technology should be limited and if we are technologically capable of doing so with some kind of reasonably minimal damage to legitimate use of it.

The solutions (_if_ we want to limit somehow the use of torrents) could be registered assignment of unique signatures (like PGP) to Blizzard and vuze torrent traffic, for example. (I am just answering original post "There are plenty of legitmate uses").

The absolute freedom of using technology is not an answer if there are significant material damage to a whole class of businesses by usage of that technology. May be it is impossible to fight it, may be not. The answer is not clear yet.

I understand that people like their torrents and their freedoms, but questioning the use of it on statistical social level should be accepted as well.

Hell No! (1)

BalorTFL (766196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519004)

The idea of assigning unique signatures to "approved" bittorrent traffic is a fiasco waiting to happen, and counter to the ideals of an egalitarian internet (rather than a one-way tube from large corporations into the minds of consumers - we already have TV for that!) Since a signature would have to depend on the data being torrented (to prevent 'illegitimate' parties from coping it verbatim for their own torrents), a new one would be required for every new or changed file. This would add an anticompetitive barrier to any smaller organizations that want to use it, as well as delaying release of "approved" torrents, since each release would presumably have to be hand-checked, which would almost certainly cost $$$ that few can afford. (If each new release isn't checked for potentially infringing content, it becomes trivial to sneak arbitrary files into signed torrents, defeating the system.) The fact of the matter is, the main appeal of the bittorrent model is the ability to widely distribute files without having to have a high-powered server infrastructure to handle all the downloads. That's why pirates use it, that's why OSS people use it, hell, that's even why Blizzard uses it. The difference is, Blizzard could afford to distribute updates by HTTP if needed - lots of others can't. And, once this is done for bt, piracy will move to other avenues, requiring authorization and official signatures for more and more protocols - maybe even HTTP!

Making it so only multi-billion-dollar entities are allowed to distribute content to users isn't going to kill piracy --- it'll just kill the internet as we know it.

Re:Hell No! (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519714)

Thanks for the reply to the question of a noob. You seem to be much more educated in torrents than I am. What about an idea of registering torrent seeds? That will probably kill the privacy none less than the piracy, but then people will be less inclined to do something that is considered illegal (not necessarily that which I agree with). It will be like a gun ownership (I know, nobody ever died because of the torrent, I just do not have better analogy besides comparing it to notorious registering of copiers and even typewriters in Soviet Russia).

Re:Hell No! (1)

BalorTFL (766196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22522884)

I can't think of a way in which that would work very well either. At least from a technical standpoint, the way that bittorrent works makes virtually no distinction between seeders and leechers. As soon as a leecher gets the last piece of data, they become a seeder. So, either your system would have to register leechers as well as seeders, or it would have to automagically prevent the people who have 100% of the file from continuing to torrent without a permit. The first approach fails handily: if the procedure is done only once per user and thus used primarily for prosecuting, rather than preventing, piracy, I don't see how it identifies a user that much more than their IP address does already. A good public-key signature setup could make it difficult to spoof, but once a computer has been compromised by malware, all bets are off. Also, it's unclear how users would be prevented from signing data with made-up keys - for an ISP to check that in any semblance of real time would be computationally prohibitive, and expecting other torrent clients to do any key-checking whatsoever is just silly. I suspect a more proactive, per-torrent system would be similarly unworkable, as it would either require human approval beforehand, which is functionally impossible, or again only be used for after-the-fact evidence of guilt with the similar problems as before.

If you attempt to register seeders exclusively, it is trivial to get around the system: many torrent clients already support so-called "Super Seeding" mode, in which a user with the entire file claims to only have certain pieces of it on a per-user basis in such a way as to spread the entire file in an efficient manner using a smaller amount of upstream bandwidth. Even assuming a clever system that can detect such trickery, all a seeder has to do is set up multiple clients, each of which distributes some portion of data so that together they have all the blocks of data.

Finally, the easiest way to show how no content-based attacks on infringing torrents can work is to consider encrypted files. A restricted-access site that hosts links to torrents with misleading names and datafiles encrypted by passwords found only on the site would be immune to these techniques unless we propose to block all encrypted torrents. Even then, stenography and similar techniques force us right back to the original costly and onerous system of individually whitelisting torrents or approved/rich organizations.

Honestly, I think it is easiest to think of the issue like the many important rights afforded to citizens by civilized governments. While there are many "problems" associated with them (free speech => hate speech+obscenity, safety from unreasonable search+seizure => sometimes letting criminals go unpunished, etc), I think most people realize that the benefits of our freedoms far outweigh the resulting negatives.

Re:Hell No! (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519750)

Sorry, by "torrent seeds" I meant "torrent seeders". Anyway, the computers that participate in torrents.

Re:Better idea (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519120)

As for other protocols you have mentioned, I have the same question: what is the percentage of traffic in question consittues in HTTP, IRC, SMTP and FTP.
The MPAA v Sony ("the Betamax case") already established that as irrelevant. The question is not "what percentage of the use is infringing", but merely, "are their substantial non-infringing uses?" For torrent, the answer is clearly yes. Not just Linux ISOs and game updates--there are thousands of bands that allow redistribution of their concert recordings, including some pretty big names. (The Internet Archive [archive.org] has over 2500 bands who have opted into their free hosting/redistribution service. And they're missing many well-known taper-friendly bands, including Phish and Dave Matthews, who do allow torrents.) Hundreds of these bands play over a hundred concerts a year, and many if not most of these concerts get redistributed--legally--by fans via bittorrent.

Jon Hart, the California man mentioned in the summary, is the main West Coast taper for the New Orleans rock band, The Radiators [wikipedia.org] . I know Jon slightly through the band's mailing list, and he signed up with Comcast specifically so that he could distribute his own legal recordings through bittorrent. But of course, Comcast's so-called "unlimited" service isn't unlimited when it comes to torrents. Jon's not doing anything illegal with torrent--has never (to the best of my knowledge) attempted to do anything illegal with torrent--he's simply a man who believed an advertisement, and then discovered, to his surprise, that it was a lie. Don't you think it's at least possible that he has a valid case? I sure do.

Re:Better idea (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519854)

"are their substantial non-infringing uses?" You are making very good argument (or answer) to my question, but I still think that this should be compared to the loss. If you define substantial in terms of business generated or something equivalent to that, then it has to be compared to something. There is no "absolute" substantial.

For bands, we still need the numbers: business generated via torrents versus business loss (which could be actually not that significant, I do not know) of proverbial RIAA and MPAA.

"Don't you think it's at least possible that he has a valid case? I sure do." Absolutely, no question about that. Again, my original comment was not in any way in defense of Comcast.

Re:Better idea (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22522962)

RIAA companies do not have a right to profit from their work. They have a right to try and profit from it, but their profit motive cannot possibly trump someone's rights. I, on the other hand, have a right to transfer arbitrary IP packets with as many friends as I like, provided that our packets don't directly contravene my ISP's TOS. That is why "legitimate use" is the litmus test. The idea is not to decide whether the good of torrents outweighs the bad, but to decide whether anyone's rights are violated by banning them, either in law or in code. If the answer is yes, then all the money in the world can't make such a ban legitimate.

Re:Better idea (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22523540)

Their argument is that you are transmitting information that you do not have a right to possess, or transmit. That what copying is in the word "copyright".

Re:Better idea (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22523968)

That's true, but the distinction is between the public and the private.

People, as private citizens, are violating rights when they pirate. That is government's responsibility to fight in whatever ways it can. But the critical bit is, the government's hands must be tied in the rights it violates in the pursuit of its law enforcement goals. That is why the Betamax suit failed.

Re:Better idea (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22528598)

Replying probably too late for anyone to see, but what the heck... :)

If you define substantial in terms of business generated or something equivalent to that, then it has to be compared to something.
How is an arbitrary percentage of business, or whatever you're proposing, any less arbitrary than an arbitrary definition of "substantial"? ("Predefined" does not equate to "nonarbitrary".) In any case, the MPAA raised that exact argument in the Betamax case, and successfully showed that the overwhelming majority of use of the VCR at that time was for copyright infringment. The court accepted the argument, but ruled it irrelevant, as the potential for legal, non-infringing use was so great! And, indeed, the court turned out to be fairly prophetic, as the the video rental market exploded soon thereafter, which in turn lead to a massive reduction in the price of individual preprinted tapes, which lead to an explosion in the (legal) video sales market. So you have to consider not just what torrent is used for today, but what it might be used for in the future. And it's clearly a technology with great potential for legal uses.

The Grokster folks got nailed not because their technology didn't have the potential for substantial non-infringing uses but because they were actively promoting their software as a tool for copyright infringement. It's sometimes hard for techies to grok, but intent matters under the law. Programmers tend to think that the legal system should be deterministic, with a fixed set of inputs leading to a fixed set of outputs, but, in fact, the law is based on human judgement and semi-mythical concepts like "a reasonable person", and has no problem whatsoever with arbitrary terms such as "substantial", as long as a reasonable person is likely to have a reasonable idea of what that means.

Re:Better idea (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22528796)

"and successfully showed that the overwhelming majority of use of the VCR at that time was for copyright infringment." Right, but the question is about how much damage it done do the industry compared to the business benefit of using VCR (units sold, etc). Since it was physical copying it was probably less than now.

Re:Better idea (1)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519616)

Your examples have one major flaw- all of them involve the risk of loss of life. 10 year old kids driving and landmines have a large change of somebody getting hurt or killed. The law must always try to strike a balance between the loss of rights of the individual and the possible effects of these actions. The law correctly (in my opinion, anyways) assigns more weight to the right of individuals to keep their life than to the right of a 10 year old kid to go joyriding.

You can't really compare a 10 year old driving to a 10 year old downloading the CD of the current popular Boy Band.

So yes, you are correct that we can ask what percentage of a certain technology is used for evil/unlawful uses. However, don't forget to ask the (perhaps more important) question of "what is the risk." We must always weigh both answers, especially when the "fix" requires loss of rights.

Re:Better idea (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519924)

I agree with you. You are absolutely right, and that is the flaw of my comparison.

Yet, the tradition of the laws of US does that all the time, and converts all types of risks, both financial and personal, into monetary value. That is why we have life insurance, accident insurance, that is why relatives of the wrongfully killed are suing for millions. It is unfortunate, in my opinion (thanks again for reminding about that flaw in my arguments), but that is how it operates.

Its not about protocol for once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22518256)

Comcast's technology is pretty protocol indiscriminant, as I understand it. Any bulk data transfer that goes on for a certain amount of time gets hit with these false RSTs. I've heard at least one case of it screwing with a business VPN.

So yes, they target HTTP, IRC, etc as well. They draw no line.

legitimate use for p2p (1)

Grampaw Willie (631616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513562)

==> There are plenty of legitmate uses for bit torrent. Blizzard uses it to distribute patches, and vuze uses it to distribute liscensed content.

Yeah yeah, them are few and far between. p2p is mainly used for pirating and violating copyright law. ISP should kill it completely

Re:legitimate use for p2p (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22514068)

Free speech should be eliminated COMPLETELY!!! because someone yelled FIRE! in a crowded theater.
Guns should be banned because they are sometimes used for violence.
Cars should be banned because alcoholics kill people in them.
CD/DVD-Burners should be banned because people can copy movies/music.
etc
etc

Re:legitimate use for p2p (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515216)

CD/DVD-Burners should be banned because people can copy movies/music.
SSSH! Are you NUTS? Don't talk so loud, you'll give THEM IDEAS.

Re:legitimate use for p2p (2, Funny)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22518524)

Don't forget to add, "Reproduction should be banned because it can create killers"

Re:Better idea (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514290)

Everyone uses this argument as reasoning for why Comcast *SHOULDN'T* throttle bit torrent traffic, but the large majority of bit torrent traffic is illegitimate to begin with. As someone said before, how much of a percentage of bit torrent traffic is legal? (Not that I agree with it), but this is really the crux of the matter. As long as they can fall back on the arguement that they are trying to protect copyright infringement while 95% of bt traffic is movies and music, they will probably always come out on top of these types of debates.

Re:Better idea (1)

Brad Eleven (165911) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515686)

[the amount of bittorrent traffic that is legal] is really the crux of the matter.


I'll buy "crux of the disagreement," but if Comcast is a common carrier, then the content doesn't matter at all.

The rationale for maintaining one's status as a common carrier is to avoid liability for what's being transmitted. Comcast seems to want to discriminate based on protocol while remaining ignorant of content. That way they can reduce bandwidth (and therefore costs), theoretically increase revenue, and avoid legal costs for allowing content like child porn and terrorist plots.

Then again, they may be waiting for the outcome of the telecom immunity question before deciding whether to snoop for content.

Re:Better idea (1)

serodores (526546) | more than 6 years ago | (#22519472)

Unfortunately that's one reason I don't even use Blizzard's peer to peer mode for patches. I don't want to have my bandwidth throttled, reported, subpoena'd, etc., just because I used a feature of a game that's turned on by default. I've also noticed that the patches come faster for me when not in p2p mode anyway. *shhh*

Re:Better idea (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22522204)

Blizzard uses it to distribute patches

One of my biggest complaints too. X million dollars per month and they can't provide dedicated http/ftp patch servers? Cheap bastards.. Takes hours to patch a fresh install thanks to that crap.

No, they don't block them (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22512602)

...they just throttle them into oblivion.

Re:No, they don't block them (4, Insightful)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513188)

Exactly.

This is why any net neutrality proposal that allows traffic shaping is utterly worthless. Because an ISP can then take any protocol they like and throttle it back to one byte every ten centuries, and then say "...but we're allowed to do traffic shaping, your honour"

Re: "Block as a verb" (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515290)

Isn't the answer to define block on a data particle level?

"Did X action related to this policy block one or more bits of data? Yes or No."

Take it out of the adjective "State of zero data throughput".

Re: "Block as a verb" (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 6 years ago | (#22525816)

"Did X action related to this policy block one or more bits of data? Yes or No."

mmm... but I don't think it works like that.

This is where I wish I had a deeper understanding of networking protocols, but as I understand it, what happens is that that the receiving computer gets so many packets and then signals back to say "my buffer is full - don't send any more until I say so". Under normal use the receiver would then process the buffer contents, and then signal the sender saying, "next packet, please"

Thing is, you can throttle a protocol just by increasing the time between clearing the buffer and then telling the sender "Hit me!" If the time you add is greater than protocol's timeout period, you can effectively block it without a single byte being consigned to the bit bucket. Even if the protocol has a very long timeout, you can still slow it down to the point where it's becomes basically unusable.

And if it ever goes to court, there's not a single byte you can point at and say "this datum was blocked, your honour", for the simple reason that it was never sent, so how could they block it?

Alternate reality. (5, Informative)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22512668)

Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services, and no one has demonstrated otherwise.
Of course [msn.com] they don't block [arstechnica.com] anyone's traffic [digitaltrends.com] . Why would anyone dare claim they would stoop to such low measures? Why, they're Comcastic [freepress.net] !

Re:Alternate reality. (2, Informative)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513394)

here is [dslreports.com] the best report of how they do it in details that are more satisfactory to me. tag: Sandvine.

They just don't get it (1)

sc7 (1141597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513210)

... You'd think by now, instead of fighting all of these legal battles, they'd stop the throttling, instead of opening themselves to more costly law suits.

Re:They just don't get it (4, Insightful)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513668)

They probably did a cost analysis and determined that it was cheaper to deal with the lawsuits than to upgrade their infrastructure. There is little risk of losing their customers, because in most markets they have no competition.

You can buy your natural gas from one provider and have it delivered by the one with the local monopoly on the pipes. Why can't we do this with internet connections?

Re:They just don't get it (1)

Darundal (891860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514166)

Yeah, but one does have to wonder, how many lawsuits were they thinking of dealing with? And even though they have a virtual monopoly currently in certain markets, said monopoly is not necessarily permanent, and whatever local groups they have franchise agreements with can decide to terminate their franchise agreement. Also, they might be fined by local authorities. This whole ordeal that they brought upon themselves could have very serious consequences for their future business.

Re:They just don't get it (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516012)

whatever local groups they have franchise agreements with can decide to terminate their franchise agreement. Also, they might be fined by local authorities.

It makes me wonder what we can do to help speed that process along. Maybe suing Comcast and the local government that gave them a monopoly would help?

Re:They just don't get it (1)

Farakin (1101889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515398)

/q You can buy your natural gas from one provider and have it delivered by the one with the local monopoly on the pipes. Why can't we do this with internet connections? /q They actually do this in Chicago, but only in the areas they HAVE to. In the city and some suburbs (where local ordinance prevents no comp) they lease lines to WOW Cable and RCN, in other suburbs, and from my own unscientific research shows that these are the more affluent suburbs (where incomes are high) they refuse to lease their lines. Poor me with no choices. and don't say DSL, it isn't a choice.

Re:They just don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516988)

You can buy your natural gas from one provider and have it delivered by the one with the local monopoly on the pipes. Why can't we do this with internet connections?

You can. Years ago some friends and I used to run an ISP which for a time offered retail and wholesale (pricing models) DSL over a certain telco's lines and lower-layer services. Basically we just dropped a DSLAM in our NOC and customers either purchased the whole kit and kaboodle from us and we paid the telco, or they bought access from the telco and data from us.

Trouble is, this certain unnamed telco had a nasty habit of marketing to our customers in violation of contract, or "accidentally" shutting off their service, or taking too long to fix problems (but, curiously enough, problems with their own customers were always fixed faster), or losing config data, or whatever, in some cases outright breaking state and federal laws and regulations. And the (thousands of pages per month) bills we got were full of overbilling errors, of course. But forget fighting them, we realized it'd cost us more money than we'd ever see in return.

Meanwhile, this same telco and its kin promised the government years ago to rapidly and dramatically improve the broadband infrastructure and in exchange got the right to exclude independent ISPs from fiber-based broadband, tax breaks and other financial incentives, etc. Of course, they never delivered on their promises. Did the government hold them to it or remove their monopoly on broadband over fiber? Of course not, why should they?

So, why can't you do what you asked? Because the foxes are watching the hen-house, that's why.

Re:They just don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22517556)

Actually, in the UK you can change your DSL service to one of the many providers, just like you can with the gas supply.

Re:They just don't get it (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515434)

... You'd think by now, instead of fighting all of these legal battles, they'd stop the throttling, instead of opening themselves to more costly law suits.

Yep, you're right. A Slashdotter's analysis of their legal costs versus bandwidth and peering savings gains is more adept than the corporate lawyers and network engineers. You should fire off a resumee.

Haha, good luck. (5, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513236)

You're arguing with Comcast about the words they used to describe their service? Do you know how that works in the UK?

Unlimited 1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.
2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.
3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

4. (ISP Def. only) Confined within limits; restricted or circumscribed: a limited space; limited resources.)

Re:Haha, good luck. (2, Informative)

sc7 (1141597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22513600)

Nowhere on Comcast's site, does it say "Unlimited". That was taken off years ago.

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514522)

It wasn't the fact that they may have used the word "Unlimited" in their advertising, but that they were arguing over the definition of a word or phrase.

In the UK at least, they seem to be able to stretch "Unlimited" to mean "Unlimited until you've used 1GB of data per day, in which time your upstream will be LIMITED, your downstream will be LIMITED, and you may be charged for excessive usage of this UNLIMITED (now LIMITED) service (Which, by the way, is LIMITED by the current usage of our backbone which has FAR less bandwidth than we're selling, meaning you never, EVER get the speed you subscribe for). You could also be cut off for exceeding these LIMITS at any time, but that's ok because we already have the money for this year's subscription! ,,|,,"

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515356)

It wasn't the fact that they may have used the word "Unlimited" in their advertising, but that they were arguing over the definition of a word or phrase.

In the UK at least, they seem to be able to stretch "Unlimited" to mean "Unlimited until you've used 1GB of data per day, in which time your upstream will be LIMITED, your downstream will be LIMITED, and you may be charged for excessive usage of this UNLIMITED (now LIMITED) service (Which, by the way, is LIMITED by the current usage of our backbone which has FAR less bandwidth than we're selling, meaning you never, EVER get the speed you subscribe for). You could also be cut off for exceeding these LIMITS at any time, but that's ok because we already have the money for this year's subscription! ,,|,,"

So pay for a connection with an SLA and quit whining.

Oh, you don't want to pay several hundred or thousand dollars (pounds) per month for a few dedicated megabits? Then why are you complaining? You're getting consumer level service. You get what you pay for. Live with it or shell out for a real connection.

The Quality is not the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22517410)

If I go with provider A because they say, "unlimited service at $50/month," and then they say, "Well, we meant 200M/month and we mess with some protocols," I believe I have a case.

Where are the libertarians? How can you have a market when one party breaks contracts?

Re:The Quality is not the issue (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#22518238)

If I go with provider A because they say, "unlimited service at $50/month," and then they say, "Well, we meant 200M/month and we mess with some protocols," I believe I have a case.

If I go with a vendor who says "quality replica Rolex for $50" and it breaks in a month, do I have a case?

If I go with a car dealer that says "Quality used cars at wholesale prices" and find out that the cars are salvage/rebuilt/flood damaged cars, do I have a case?

If I go with a bargain basement electronics store and find out the products are remanufactured, salvaged, damaged or dented do I have a case?

If I go to a clothing outlet and find that the 80% off retail articles are seconds do I have a case?

Whenever you pay below fair market value for a commodity you get what you paid for and to cry foul after the fact only indicates that being cheap got you bit in the ass. Sometimes that rebuilt car or remanufactured stereo receiver or quality replica watch will give you years of good service, but more often you'll find yourself wishing you'd just bought the genuine article in the first place, or having trouble with and subsequently replacing the item far more often than necessary costing you nearly the same if not more in the long run anyways.

Re:The Quality is not the issue (1)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 6 years ago | (#22521954)

You seem to completely miss the idea that Bait and Switch [wikipedia.org] is actually illegal and that there are "Truth in Advertising" [ftc.gov] laws that forbid a company from improperly representing their product. Try again.

Re:The Quality is not the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22555532)

If I go with a vendor who says "quality replica Rolex for $50 that will last forever" and it breaks in a month, do I have a case?

If I go with a car dealer that says "Quality used cars at wholesale prices that have never been damaged/rebuilt/etc." and find out that the cars are salvage/rebuilt/flood damaged cars, do I have a case?

If I go with a bargain basement electronics store that claims that its products are new and pristine and find out the products are remanufactured, salvaged, damaged or dented do I have a case?

And so forth.

It wasn't that they were advertising a cheap connection and "you get what you pay for"; it was that they were advertising "unlimited access", and then didn't provide it.
It's about false advertising. Period.

If I advertise a "seven-day Mediterranean cruise" for $1 and put you on a rowboat in Lake Erie, then I'm in trouble, or should be.
False advertising is false advertising, "buyer beware" and "you get what you pay for" notwithstanding.

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22517792)

You missed the point by so much of a margin you could work as a government Spin-Doctor. Did you even read the first line?

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

Blkdeath (530393) | more than 6 years ago | (#22518072)

You missed the point by so much of a margin you could work as a government Spin-Doctor. Did you even read the first line?

The ridiculous semantics of a frivolous lawsuit aren't my concern so much as why the lawsuit was filed in the first place and what the outcome of such suits will be. Do you really think the broadband providers will seriously change their ways and cease all traffic shaping efforts and allow truly unlimited pipes to the Internet at ever increasing speeds? Seriously? Or back in reality, providers will instead collectively change their ways, realize it's not a market they need to worry about grassroots competition, and start explicitly offering limited, restricted, time and rate limited "Web, e-mail and multimedia access" services to their clients?

All this fuss and bother is pissing into the wind. The ISPs will have the courts on their side because 'everybody' knows that Peer To Peer technologies are used almost exclusively by pirates and other nefarious people to violate copyright and break the law and take food from the mouths of starving artists so the suits will be dropped without prejudice and life will continue to get more miserable for the whiners out there.

Rather than suing your ISP, why not attempt to change their service model and offer to PAY FOR additional / higher levels of service rather than complaining why you're being throttled even though you're using 80% of the bandwidth in your area on a burstable link at a bargain basement price?

If you're that distressed, go to a higher tier provider along with people in your neighbourhood and get a(n) [E3|T3] assigned and fraction it off to your neighbours for shared cost. Then if your provider does anything nasty you can bring your SLA to court and have at them. Meanwhile, I'd love for you and those with your mindset to cost out such an endeavour and take an informal poll of your neighbourhood and see just how many people would be willing to shell out the extra quid every month for true freedom. G'head. I'll wait.

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

Stray7Xi (698337) | more than 6 years ago | (#22520188)

No but they do advertise as "Internet". RFC's define the internet, and since they are not handling TCP according to the RFC's, I'd argue they're not providing Internet. They're providing access to the Comcast network.

reset (RST) must be sent whenever a segment arrives
    which apparently is not intended for the current connection. A reset
    must not be sent if it is not clear that this is the case.
rfc 793

In fact this is a problem already solved by ICMP packet type 3 (Destination Unreachable) code 13 (Communication Administratively Prohibited).

But the problem is if Comcast labels it like it is, then applications may start presenting error messages of what it is. If people started getting a popup saying that their connection was closed by Comcast, Comcast's phones would be ringing off hook. Comcast wants their filtering to be confused with standard network hiccups for plausibility deniability. Now when they have everyone throwing fits over minor things that aren't caused by sandvine but just regular network problems they have only themselves to blame.

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514252)

You're arguing with Comcast about the words they used to describe their service?
Actually, when they were trying to sell their service to me, I believe they used the word, "Comcastic".

Re:Haha, good luck. (1)

AxoltAl (1155115) | more than 6 years ago | (#22517564)

In Bizarro Cable Company World, UNlimited is to Limited as INFlammable is to Flammable To the cable company there's no difference in the meanings of each pair. As Inigo Montoya put it, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Comcast blocks a great deal of online applications (1)

log0n (18224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514148)

Servers. Last I checked.. hosting your own email, telnet, httpd servers (I'm sure there are others - seems like it's most of the well known ports (1023)) wasn't doable using standard ports - both against TOS and directly dropped into /dev/null. If a judge won't understand/take into consideration the difference between throttling and blocking, I don't give them leeway regarding the loss of needing standard ports.

Re:Comcast blocks a great deal of online applicati (1)

log0n (18224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514182)

up to 1023.. forgot to do < manually

Re:Comcast blocks a great deal of online applicati (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515218)

This is regional, unfortunately. I mean, it's good that it works in some places, and if you actually ask a tech, they'll say "we don't allow it," but I run an FTP server at home and it works just fine. I also had a web server up for a short while, but the upload speeds are too slow to make it worthwhile; it ends up typically oversaturating the connection.

Technically they state that any "server" is against the TOS for the home connections, and that if you need "server" capabilities you should upgrade to their business class price range. But given how goofy their definition of server is, they certainly aren't totalitarian about enforcing the block on ports/servers.

Class action (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514294)

Is this going to get federal class action status if out of staters join in with the defendent? If not, count me in to make it federal.

Personal Experience (1)

imstanny (722685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22514620)

I have Cablevision, and I have noticed that I was throttled after downloading torrent files. The interesting thing was that they throttled my upload speed only, which I didn't even notice until I tried to upload a file to a friend of mine and it was capped at 17kb/sec. I guess that isn't as egregious, and definately more surreptitious, which is why they probably have been keeping their throttling under the radar...

Yeah right (2, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516286)

Spokesman Charlie Douglas was quoted saying, 'To be clear, Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services, and no one has demonstrated otherwise.'"


So please explain to me why Linux distros were PAINFULLY slow to download until I implemented rules on my firewall to block RST packets?

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