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FCC Chief Says Comcast Violated Internet Rules 174

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

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  • BT Encryption (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rukkyg (1028078) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:01AM (#24151067)

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

    • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Craig Ringer (302899) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:21AM (#24151275) Homepage Journal

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

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

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

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

      • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:32AM (#24151405) Journal

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

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

        • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

          by computational super (740265) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:38AM (#24151463)

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

          • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

            by tietack (982580) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:51AM (#24151597)
            In this case, the FCC is saying that Comcast should not define the "Internet Rules" A case where they keep Comcast from regulating how their users communicate on the Internet.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by grandbastard (1312837)
              Comcast inherently regulates how their users communicate on the internet. Users pay for a service and that service is provided. As long as there is an understanding of what that service entails and any limits, they can do whatever they want.

              What Comcast did wrong was to change the service and not inform their customers.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                What Comcast did wrong was to change the service and not inform their customers.

                No, Comcast actively engaged in sabotageing their customers communications.

          • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:03AM (#24151743)

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

            Now about the telco's...

          • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Jonah Hex (651948) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .smtodxeh.> on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:38AM (#24152227) Homepage Journal
            I could not agree more, if they end up the defacto arbitrator over the internet, here in the US at least, I don't trust them not to fuck it up as badly as they have everything else in their purview. Well unless you can afford to pay them their lobbying dollars, then you get what your company wants.

            Jonah HEX
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by davegravy (1019182)
            The FCC shouldn't have to define internet rules but does due to lack of competition. If there was as much competition for ISPs as there is for most products/services then companies that pull stuff like Comcast would simply go out of business.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by stewbacca (1033764)

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

              Not true at all. Tell Joe Q. Public that you offer high-speed Internet for $25 a month less than the competitor with the small detail like "we limit your P2P activity", Mr. Public takes the cheaper offer. Comcast can afford to offer the service for cheaper, because they are throttling the bandwidth (or whatever technical cost-cutting method they introduce). If anything, I could see how this could actually lead to MORE customers (just not savvy customers). Most Americans are cheap and there are more Inte

          • Re:BT Encryption (Score:4, Insightful)

            by budgenator (254554) on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:41PM (#24154211) Journal

            All the FCC has said is using arguably illegal techniques to send forged traffic to unsuspecting users and irregardless of existing network traffic fail to meet the standard of reasonable traffic management. This isn't that much different to a slum-lord committing arson by burning down his rat and cockroach infested buildings and claiming it's a reasonable pest control technique!

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

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

          Here in Australia, for example, we have small download quotas - often 5GB or less, but up to 40GB or so for "premium" connections. ISPs also generall

          • by imrehg (1187617) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:35AM (#24152173)

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

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

            • Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Craig Ringer (302899) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:03AM (#24152631) Homepage Journal

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

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

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

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

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

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

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

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

                If they did that, VoIP becomes more expensive to provide than standard telephone lines.

                Traditional telephone companies don't have a phone line reserved for every single customer. They know what their trunk usage patterns look like and provision accordingly. Very rarely, you might get an "all circuits are busy" message, when they have over-provisioned their trunks.

                You save money on VoIP because the over-subscription capability increases, making the service cheaper to provide. Over-subscription is a Good Thin

              • by sjames (1099)

                Actually, they can still oversell within reason (actually beyond reason). For example, they can allocate 130K/customer and make it borrowable. With that, each customer is assured that they can do 2 VoIP calls simultaneously while the connection is oversold by 10:1 - 60:1 depending on the speeds they offer.

                The end user can then tag their packets as they see fit to decide which get dropped or delayed and which route right through.

                They just don't want to because broadband marketing wants to advertise large num

              • by N7DR (536428)
                What might be a more reasonable compromise is for ISPs to reserve a fixed 64kbps or so per user.

                64kbps per customer is pretty close to what most cable companies are currently using as their "average long-term use per customer" in their network engineering.

                So if they were to permanently keep this available for each customer, then there would be little or nothing left over for those customers to use for other purposes (and less than nothing for some cable operators).

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by slimjim8094 (941042)

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

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

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

            • away?

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

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

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

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by joo110 (737599)

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

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

            • by illumin8 (148082)

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

              While that would work, I think a better solution to encourage responsible network use and make things better for bot

          • by nabsltd (1313397) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:11AM (#24152741)

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

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

            • Certainly what comcast is doing isn't QoS. It's network management, sure, but very much sledgehammer style. It's extremely dodgy.

              QoS, however, does *not* imply that all traffic gets delivered eventually. In fact, the primary mechanism for QoS with TCP/IP is to drop packets when traffic flows are too fast. This causes the IP stack on the sender to throttle back the send rate when it notices that ACKs aren't coming back for those packets from the other end, so they're presumably getting lost along the way.

              My

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by deander2 (26173) *

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

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

            • You identify what's important. You do so not by identifying what is particularly high priority, but by identifying what is *lower* priority than anything else. You get incentives, such as lower traffic costs, for doing so.

              If you live somewhere where ISPs still don't limit your traffic then this won't mean much to you. I know they're starting to in the US though, so you'll probably soon be seeing monthly or daily traffic caps if you're not already.

              If setting your bulk traffic to low priority means that you c

              • by deander2 (26173) *

                so what are you "not convinced" about then? no one is suggesting banning user-defined (or contract-defined) QoS. the regulation the original post was referencing was to protect you from arbitrary, silent, secret, sneaky, non-optional ISP-defined QoS. (with the Q usually being *their* quality, not yours)

          • by slashgrim (1247284) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:13AM (#24152803) Journal

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

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

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

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

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

            • I agree that what Comcast is doing is unacceptable. It's deeply dodgy to go spoofing packets so traffic appears to come from someone else. It volates the trust the user has in the routers between them and the endpoint - the assumption that they'll carry the data and not mess with it.

              As for user-flagged low priority traffic: Implementation is trivial. IP headers already contain ToS flags that're intended for exactly this sort of routing priority control. The "throughput" flag is ideally suited to bulk, lower

          • by Rob Riggs (6418)

            This seem like a logical approach.

            Seems the thing to do it to have caps on low-latency and high-throughput QoS and no caps (or high caps) on bulk traffic with the acknowledgement that they will be dropped or de-prioritized.

            The real problem here is that Comcast is doing this against one protocol, and is not basing it on IP TOS (or DS field). And this was being done on the sly, without informing its customers of the change.

            The proper way to handle this is to move customers from a non-tiered plan to a tiered

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

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

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by osu-neko (2604)

          The level of faith Americans have in corporations is utterly astounding. I don't quite get why it's okay to have huge, powerful organizations dictate policy undemocratically merely because they're doing it to make a profit. How does making a profit make the unilateral actions of powerful entities so much more trustworthy? Why is government by corporate fiat so much better than government by elected representatives?

          If the FCC tells you what you can or can't do on the Internet, people are up in arms. When

      • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:35AM (#24152181) Homepage Journal

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

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

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

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by brother.sand (952928)
        How about if you set your iptables firewall to block the Comcast reset packet? From: http://www.zeropaid.com/news/9608/GUIDE%3A+Using+Linux+to+Beat+Comcast's+BitTorrent+Throttling [zeropaid.com] If you are using Ubuntu or another non-Red Hat Linux derivative, then place the following in a file and execute that file as root. #!/bin/sh #Replace 6883 with you BT port BT_PORT=6883 #Flush the filters iptables -F #Apply new filters iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT #Comcast BitTorrent seeding block workaround iptable
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Craig Ringer (302899)

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

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

          Blocking RST packets with iptables is trivial, but an ugly hack at best. It also won't stop more thorough blocking methods like corrupting BT traffic (so your machine eventual

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Khyber (864651)

          That doesn't work totally. It seems some RST packets work directly with the modem (at least with mine) and regardless of using iptables the modem itself will stop and reset.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

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

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

      • by Vancorps (746090)

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

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

      • Re:BT Encryption (Score:5, Insightful)

        by frieko (855745) on Friday July 11, 2008 @12:23PM (#24153899)
        Somewhat off-topic, but regardless of why they're doing it, why is Comcast allowed to send RST packets on your behalf? Isn't that basically impersonating you? Isn't that about as bad as FUCKinjecting random swearASSwords into my ./ posts?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Craig Ringer (302899)

          Yep. I have no idea why they're being permitted to get away with it. It's *way* more than "reasonable network management". Reasonable network management would include dropping packets, using ICMP destination host/port unreachable messages to ask the remote peer to terminate the connection, and many others things that are not forged RST packets.

          I don't even understand why they chose this method. ICMP destination-port-unreachable would do the job just as well, and with way less legal ambiguity.

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CauseWithoutARebel (1312969) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:04AM (#24151093) Journal

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

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

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

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

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

    • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:10AM (#24151161) Homepage

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

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

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

      • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:10AM (#24151843)

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

        • by stinerman (812158)

          That's exactly right.

          Many jurisdictions only have one cable ISP because it simply isn't profitable for more than one to exist, not because the local government has granted them a monopoly.

          The natural monopoly situation is why the government should own the infrastructure and different companies can provide service over that infrastructure. Congratulations, you've just created a free(er) market in Internet access overnight.

    • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Docboy-J23 (1095983) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:41AM (#24151483)
      I've noticed that Comcast's approach to advertising also indicates an assumption that their customers are dim bulbs and don't know what's good for them. There are at least these two types of TV commercials:

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

      They may boil down to a couple more similar bases, but those two stand out in my mind. Moreover, telecommunications advertising is a dirty, competitive game.
      • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:31AM (#24152103) Journal

        Moreover, telecommunications advertising is a dirty, competitive game.

        Just telecommunications?

      • by danaris (525051)

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

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

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

        Dan Aris

      • by Khyber (864651)

        Actually, I like Comcast's advertising.

        "Download movies and music faster than before!"

        Oh, except when the RIAA bitches at you for giving us the capability to do so.

        Someone sue Comcast for False or Misleading Advertising. They don't mention that the way they choose to download those movies or music might be illegal.

      • by bughunter (10093)

        2) Our competitors are hapless morons.

        From my perspective as a consumer, this holds true universally across all internet and cable/satellite TV providers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

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

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

    • by corbettw (214229)

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

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

    • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yungoe (415568) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:20AM (#24151953)

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

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

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

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:22AM (#24151981) Homepage Journal

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

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

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

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

    • by Fred_A (10934)

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

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

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yuna49 (905461)

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

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

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

      • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CauseWithoutARebel (1312969) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:54AM (#24152475) Journal

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

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

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

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

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

    • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by penguin_dance (536599) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:48AM (#24152385)

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

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

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Netflix did not throttle. What they did was send new movies to light users, and sent older movies to heavy users. This isn't throttling in any way. The only way that a heavy user would get fewer movies in a month is if they only had brand new releases in their queue. I have been a Netflix user since April of 2003, and during that time I have consistently gone through 20 - 30 movies a month. I would have definitely been a throttling candidate with if they had a policy of doing so. Just about the only t
        • Except, that's not what the courts found. And the lawsuit wasn't an urban myth. I would have thought the fact that the TOS stated otherwise would have decided the case, but it didn't. I don't know if it ever got overturned on appeal or where the appellate case is at. But the plaintiff won his lawsuit (or should I say, the lawyers did.)

          On another note, I don't know how you could even find 20-30 movies that you'd want to see per month. I'm lucky if I can find 2-3 a YEAR that I want to see. :P

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            He did not win the lawsuit. It was settled. There is a huge difference. The courts did NOT find that Netflix was throttling. The fact that you think the lawsuit ended with a judgment shows that you have fallen for the urban myth. Check your own links.

            To get 20 to 30 movies a month, you start by renting all of the movies that you ever wanted to see. Then you move into the movies that you haven't seen in years, but would be nice to see again. After that, you go through all of the old TV shows that y
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:05AM (#24151113)

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

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

    • by nenya (557317) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:12AM (#24151185) Homepage
      Comcast hasn't violated any federal statute per se, but the FCC enforces its regulations--and its interpretation of those regulations--just as vigorously. Your point would be better directed at the fact that the FCC hasn't done a rulemaking on net neutrality.

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

      This is especially true in this case, because judges are all cable customers, and cable customers almost all hate their providers. Not the best legal reasoning, but it's served the FCC very well for the past decade. Almost every time the cable industry challenges an FCC it actions, it loses.
      • by value_added (719364) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:52AM (#24151605)

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

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

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

      I wouldn't recommend pulling the "no legal authority" act with the FCC. They have enjoyed significant autonomy from the Congress throughout their existence.
    • This in and of itself could be a good foundational precedent towards net neutrality. Martin's recommendation is precedent--combine that with Comcast's statement that issues with P2P throttling have "been firmly placed within the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, an administrative agency whose authority to regulate Internet broadband access companies' services is well-established."

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

  • by whtmarker (1060730) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:05AM (#24151115) Homepage
    It's not bittorrent comcast needs to worry about. It's Tiger Woods [crn.com]
  • by straponego (521991) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:08AM (#24151141)
    Perhaps, Comcast, you have heard from my friend, Mr. McBribe?

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

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

  • by davegravy (1019182) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:12AM (#24151183)
    Don't get too excited yet. "Penalty" could be a slap-on-the-wrist drop-in-the-bucket fine per infraction... something small enough that could reasonably be passed on to the customer.
    • could reasonably be passed on to the customer.

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

      SSDD.

  • FCC v. FTC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:17AM (#24151241)

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

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

  • I never knew that there were "internet rules" I imagine something like this happening... "You weren't being nice to the macbook, go stand in the corner with windows vista!"
  • by Waterppk (1009237) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:42AM (#24151495)
  • Sounds like it's fine for Comcast to start sending some money to the FCC.

    *sigh*

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:57AM (#24151691) Homepage

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

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

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

    • by H+FTW (1264808)

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

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

    • by u-235-sentinel (594077) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:24AM (#24152011) Homepage Journal

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

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

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

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

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

  • This is just another case of the major companies trying to monopolize on the average American. They are simply using the BitTorrent limits as an excuse to be able to regulate all network traffic that goes through their servers. They remind me too much of the Geek Squad. All up in you business and no need to be there :)
  • by ajrs (186276) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:37AM (#24152203) Homepage

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

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:56AM (#24152517)
    Now, what about the hidden speed cap? They "upgraded" everyone to "1 Mbit", but you only get that for a few minutes before the connection is horribly, horribly degraded. When the hidden cap hits, ping times go from 30ms to sometimes 1000ms, 3000ms, or more, and it doesn't go away until you almost completely stop doing ANY uploading.
  • what is going on? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joshtheitguy (1205998) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:56AM (#24152519)
    Legal sanction and proposed disbarring for Jack Thompson, then the FCC actually moves in the direction of net neutrality completely ignoring the ideals of a large corporation.

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

  • by nenya (557317) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:10AM (#24152721) Homepage

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

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

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Todd Knarr (15451)

      Or the FCC could point to Comcast themselves to support the FCC's position. According to this report at DSLReports [dslreports.com], Comcast is arguing before a Federal judge that plaintiffs in California don't have standing to sue Comcast over the throttling because the FCC has sole authority over matters like that. If Comcast does win that argument, then all the FCC has to do is point to Comcast's successful argument and say "They've won the argument that we do have authority over this, they don't get to argue otherwise n

  • Want to bet that any fines Comcast get are passed on to consumers as "FCC compliance operating fees"?
  • by kellyb9 (954229)
    Now thats would I call COMCASTIC!
  • When Comcast bought up large systems to become the largest Cable MSO, it did not buy the Internet. Comcast has no right to change how the Internet works -- not one byte of it.

    How the world-wide Internet works is defined by all of us, through our participation and trust in the Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force. To ensure interoperability and access for all, changes must be carefully deliberated and standardized there. The responsibility of operating the Internet in accordance with th

  • I'm fairly sure they haven't stopped yet...

    *opens Utorrent, starts seeding @10KB/s up, google homepage times out* Yup.

  • Comcast has nothing to fear. They have more than enough friends in Congress that absolutely nothing will happen to them. If some token fine is levied it will be refunded with an apology.

    After writing my state's (Georgia) Senators both their replies read like a Comcast PR marketing campaign. My local Representative website reads like a FOX News fear banner. He doesn't even bother replying to my letters any more. Comcast is safe.

    In all honestly I'm a bit suspicious. At this point in my life I am not t

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