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FCC Votes To Punish Comcast 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-for-your-whoopin' dept.
MaineCoasts brings news that three out of the five FCC commissioners have voted in favor of punishing Comcast for their P2P throttling practices. The investigation of Comcast has been underway since January, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin made clear their conclusion a couple weeks ago. Ars Technica has coverage as well, noting: "The initial report on the vote said nothing about which way Republican commissioners McDowell and Tate might lean. FCC watchers wouldn't be at all surprised to see both vote against the order; the really interesting moment could come if they support it. Having four or even five commissioners support the order would send a strong bipartisan signal to ISPs that they need to take great care with any sort of discriminatory throttling based on anything more specific than a user's total bandwidth."
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FCC Votes To Punish Comcast

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  • by base3 (539820) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @10:19AM (#24357675)
    Ow, my wrist!
  • Comcast (Score:5, Funny)

    by mark72005 (1233572) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @10:22AM (#24357701)
    Comcast will be along shortly to check any negative posts against their outgoing traffic logs.
  • "Throttling" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AsnFkr (545033) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @10:23AM (#24357725) Homepage Journal
    Yea, when I am running torrents what Comcast does to me is make it so I drop like 30-80% of all (not just torrent) of my packets every 5-10 minutes, then it comes back up (tested via pings). My torrents are still blazing fast when I actually have a connection. All I do is spoof my router's MAC to a random number, release and renew my IP (to chick they give me a new one) and my internet works PERFECT for 2 days until they start the process over again. Annoying, but it's amazing they are so stupid they won't associate my IP with my MODEMS MAC instead of the router/PC. BTW, If I shut off my torrents after getting a new IP, I *never* need to reset the MAC as they never force me to drop packets.
    • Re:"Throttling" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FudRucker (866063) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @10:32AM (#24357795)
      clever! one thing you should have done was kept that bit of info to yourself, now comcast will find this comment you made and fix it for you...
      • by dattaway (3088)

        I can confirm this. I once posted how cozy my job position was to find how management reads slashdot themselves. Think like a spy if you want to be sneaky, because they are the ones making the rules.

    • Re:"Throttling" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blhack (921171) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @11:11AM (#24358051)

      I call bullshit on this.

      The cable companies allow access to their networks based on MAC. What you are doing is possible, but you would need to call comcast and tell them that you got a new modem every time, which would look extremely suspicious. MAC addresses are also not random. So you cannot spoof it to a "random" MAC.
      Your post also lacks continuity. You say that they start dropping "30-80%" of your packets every "5-10 minutes". But you also say that you only need to reset your MAC every 2 days?

      please go Home [digg.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jim.hansson (1181963)
        read his post one more time and you may see that he does not need to call comcast every time he changes the MAC address because he do not change MAC address on the MODEM only ROUTER
        • by mortonda (5175)
          Actually, that makes sense to me; the MAC address of the cable modem may not be on the right network layer to take action via IP restrictions - in other words, the router doing the throttling may not see that network layer.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by crow (16139)

        It used to be that if I changed the computer connected to my cable modem, I had to call in to register the MAC address of the new system. Apparently they got fed up with the hassle of all the calls, so they changed the system to allow any MAC, eliminating the need to call. At least that's true of Comcast in some areas. It's not true of all cable providers, though.

        • by blhack (921171)

          That was more than likely an attempt to enforce the "only one computer can be connected to this modem" policy (it used to be in the Eula).

          The cable companies DO track the MAC address on your modem. That is why if you go and buy a new one you have to register it, and why the discourage buying used ones.
          If they weren't tracking by the MAC on the modem, messing with things would be as easy as the parent post suggests, which it isn't.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AsnFkr (545033)
          True. If I change my router mac (or put a different PC on the "gateway" position, I do not need to call. If I change my modem, they do require a call.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AsnFkr (545033)
        Yea, you are bad at the internet. I change the MAC addy on the ROUTER, not the MODEM. Also, it takes them 2 days or so to start the dropping of the packets each time I make an adjustment to the MAC. And yes, the MAC addy CAN be random within a hex limit. But nice try.
      • I was a Comcrap customer for years before I switched to FIOS. You can change your router's MAC as often as you like, and you do indeed get a new IP address. You seem to be confused between the cable modem and the router. Please turn in your geek card at the desk on your way out.

    • The sandvine devices are far enough upstream that I don't think they see your modems MAC, in fact i'd be surprised if they can even associate an IP address with a given user. This is reinforced by the fact that after doing some BT traffic and my connection starts sucking wind, just rebooting the modem and getting a new IP address and things run like normal again, appologies to the poor smuck that got my old IP address and my old sucky connection.

    • All I do is spoof my router's MAC to a random number, release and renew my IP (to chick they give me a new one) and my internet works PERFECT for 2 days until they start the process over again. Annoying, but it's amazing they are so stupid they won't associate my IP with my MODEMS MAC instead of the router/PC.

      Thanks for reporting the problem and solution. We will implement it as soon as possible.

      - Comcast

  • by Skapare (16644) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @10:24AM (#24357729) Homepage

    Punishment enough would be for the FCC to require Comcast to double the capacity of their network every 18 months.

  • Im glad that our elected officials are taking meaningful, important and proper steps to curb wrongful practices by large businesses. Hopefully they will go after the phone companies ne--oh that's right, nevermind.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @10:34AM (#24357805)

    The FCC are yes men/women.

    They're only doing this so Comcast doesnt have to look like the bad guy, when they lower their bandwidth per month usage. This is so they can say "Well the FCC wont let us throttle P2P users, so we're going to raise prices for high bandwidth users, and cut bandwidth for everyone at the current rate"

    The government would never do anything to hurt a corporation.

    • Fine then. Would you rather have a 'pay more for high-bandwidth no-throttled connection' or 'ultra fast connection cheap! (note: we won't let you use it in ways we don't like)'

      I know what I want.

    • by cpu_fusion (705735) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @11:20AM (#24358119)

      Tiered or capped bandwidth is not the problem here. Net Neutrality is the problem.

      The most fundamental way to distinguish between the two is that violations of Net Neutrality will lead to tying between different relevant markets, a critical Antitrust concern.

      Tiered or capped bandwidth ALREADY EXISTS at Comcast, and has been around since the days of Compuserve and timeshared systems.

      AT&T in the 1980s could charge you for every minute you were on the phone, but they sure as hell couldn't tell you that you could only call their preferred pizza delivery services. I hope you can see why that matters.

    • by Corbets (169101) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @11:39AM (#24358309) Homepage

      "The government would never do anything to hurt a corporation."

      Um, AT&T, Standard Oil, and a few other examples come to mind... plus, if you run a small business and have ever dealt with OSHA, you'll have plenty of other more modern examples ready.

      While it's certainly true that the government supports corporate interests from time to time, it would behoove you to understand why it happens instead of making blanket assumptions.

      • by vertinox (846076) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @12:53PM (#24359027)

        Um, AT&T, Standard Oil, and a few other examples come to mind... plus, if you run a small business and have ever dealt with OSHA, you'll have plenty of other more modern examples ready.

        Bear in mind those were pretty progressive governments at time compared to society. Unless you think having a single company determine the price of oil and force you to rent your phone for an arbitrary price is a good thing.

        In truth some of our government regulation for small businesses is asinine, but letting single or a select few corporations run the economy is just as bad as having a government planned economy (aka Soviet Union).

        If Comcast doesn't want to deal with government regulation now, I'd say it would be fair if they gave back the tax money they got for infrastructure development on public lands back from the telecommunications acts during the 90s.

        • by zerocool^ (112121)

          Hate to burst your bubble, but after standard oil broke up, it split into a bunch of "Standard Oil of the state of ______".

          S.O. New Jersey became Exxon, New York became Mobil, and they became ExxonMobil, the world's most profitable corporation.
          The rest of the Standard Oils:
          Standard Oil of California bought Kenucky and Ohio and became Chevron, then they bought Gulf Oil and Texaco, became ChevronTexaco, then dropped the Texaco to be "Chevron".
          Standard Oil of Indiana eventually became Amoco, merged with the An

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @11:02AM (#24357995) Journal

    If you sell something you don't own (bandwidth), then it's your fault, not the buyers.

    What's really needed is QoS. You get X MB per month of high quality, Y MB per month at medium quality and Z MB (maybe z=inf) at low quality, and a final unlimited lowest quality, throttled down to something quite small.

    Your app sets the QoS level it wants (eg voip sets high quality). When you run out of the quality level set, traffic automatically gets demoted to the next one you have. Or, you can buy more a la carte.

    • by karnal (22275)

      I agree with your posting for the most part - however, the QOS rules shouldn't by default throttle the lowest queue to neverneverland by itself.

      I've done some work with QOS and in a large implementation, we do around 10 percent limitation for VoIP as well as another 1-5 percent for managment/inter switch communication. We give normal traffic a max of 90 percent on the wire. This way you're not starving applications if there's bandwidth to spare within the network; however it does guarantee that there is a

  • by not_anne (203907) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @11:48AM (#24358413)

    "The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that commissioners Copps, Adelstein, and Martin have decided against the cable giant, paving the way for an official vote when the order is publicly voted on next Friday."

    • by ShinmaWa (449201)

      Since when has Slashdot let mere facts stand in the way of a good headline?

    • FCC Chairmen don't like to lose. So, they gather votes before they put items on the agenda. If the Chairman has put the item on the agenda, it's because he has the votes to pass it.
  • Mmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @12:01PM (#24358559) Journal
    I know it won't be anything like this; but I have this wonderful image of Comcast's CEO's face smashing into the hood of his limo as they slap the cuffs on and take him away...
  • by Skapare (16644) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @12:42PM (#24358939) Homepage

    All Comcast needs to do to get this overturned is find a judge that isn't a Comcast customer.

  • by NeuroManson (214835) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @01:07PM (#24359157) Homepage

    Instead of fining a single boob, the FCC moved up to fining plural boobs. Business as usual.

  • This is a serious question. As a user of the Internet, naturally I don't want my ISP throttling my connection based on my surfing habits, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the government getting involved here.

    Now, given that cable companies typically operate with a government granted monopoly to run cables to people's houses, it is perfectly reasonable that perhaps they have some obligations to go with that monopoly, but I'm not aware of any such obligations in legislation at this time. On what legal

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brett Glass (98525)

      Comcast in fact has claimed that the FCC in fact does not have authority to regulate the Internet. See its filing with the FCC [fcc.gov] regarding this, and its followup here [fcc.gov].

      The recent decision in CBS v. FCC (the "wardrobe malfunction" case) may also bear on this decision [bennett.com]. The court struck down the FCC's ruling against CBS, saying that the FCC couldn't just make up the rules as it went along! Normally, the FCC promulgates rules by posting a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking," takes comments, and only then creates rul

      • Some kind of exception is in order. Or perhaps it's already there and it just needs a clarification so everyone can see it better.

        Remember that the internet is a series of tubes. The ISPs are the pipework, the customers' systems are sinks and reservoirs, and the act of running an "application" is turning on a spigot either to send liquid from your own reservoir to someone else's sink, or to draw liquid from someone else's reservoir to your own sink. The regulations only enforce unrestricted flow through the

        • That's not a good analogy. There's only one way in which the Internet is like plumbing: the awful, smelly pile of unwashed stuff piling up in the sink. (Gotta clean out my hard drive.)
  • The whole reason Comcast is able to even consider throttling a possibility is because of the monopoly handed to them by government restriction preventing the construction of additional internet access lines by competitors. Competition would make it ridiculous and dangerous for a company to think of restricting their own customers, as the customers could simply go elsewhere.
  • by Brett Glass (98525) on Sunday July 27, 2008 @03:38PM (#24360463) Homepage

    What this result shows is that the FCC, which has driven away all of its best technical people during the past eight years, is now purely a political organization. And because the law requires a 3-2 partisan split among the Commissioners, it means that most of its decisions will be influenced by partisan politics rather than what's best for the people.

    If the Chairman and the two other Commissioners of the same party agree on something, it sails right through. (This is what happened with travesties such as the Sirius-XM merger.) However, if the Chairman is motivated to support an agenda to which the other party subscribes, he can expect the two Commissioners of that party to fall into lockstep due to partisanship. That's what happened here. McDowell and Tate, the Republicans, want (as McDowell put it) to "let engineers solve engineering problems." But the Democrats, beseiged by the left-leaning Democratic lobbyists of Free Press, voted to regulate the Internet both because of the Democrats' inherent desire to regulate and because they swallowed the falsehoods of their fellow partisans at Free Press uncritically. So, if the Chairman was willing to support the same result, it would happen.

    The question, of course, is why Martin -- a Republican -- would be pro-regulation. I do not know Kevin Martin, but several theories have been floated on various blogs. The first is that the Chairman was feeling pressure from Congress. (He was on the hot seat less than a month ago before a Congressional subcommittee which strongly suggested that if he did not regulate, they'd take matters out of his hands.) The second is that he is "anti-cable," and -- regardless of what harm he might do to the Internet -- wanted to take a swipe at Comcast. (Some bloggers have speculated that Martin is bucking for a job as a telephone company executive or board member when he retires from the Commission, and so is giving those companies the quid pro quo for obtaining such a post. I certainly hope that this is not the case, but then, I do not know him.)

    Many people have also noted that the slates of panelists at the two hearings on network management were stacked against Comcast. In Boston, the ratio was about 2:1; at Stanford, it was 6:1. Since the Chairman picks the panelists (the other Commissioners can offer advice, but he need not take it), the fact that even the first hearing was heavily stacked against Comcast suggests that the Chairman or his staff may have had a predisposition to rule against Comcast from the start.

    In any event, the fact that only one witness at either hearing was actually engaged in business as an ISP strongly suggests that politics, not engineering facts, would rule the day. And they did. The lobbyists and lawyers of Free Press, an inside-the-Beltway lobbying group which spent more than $700,000 on various Internet agendas in 2007 alone, repeated statements which were simply technically false again and again until the Commissioners believed them. And little guys like my own independent ISP? We got 8 -- count them -- 8 -- minutes to talk. This is not promising for the future of the Internet. If it's dominated by politics, and especially by an agency which has lost its technical compass and rules on the basis of politics and partisanship -- the Internet is in trouble.

    • by Skapare (16644)

      Which statements do you believe were technically false?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Brett Glass (98525)
        The lobbyists have made so many false statements -- to the media, on their Web site, to members of Congress, and directly to the FCC -- that it's hard even to know where to begin! I could spend an hour or two writing a message that goes through just the ones I've seen. But to save time, I'll refer you to a document filed by Comcast which describes and refutes some of the most egregious false statements that they made on the record to the FCC. See http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/retrieve.cgi?native_or_pdf [fcc.gov]
  • Unless it involves substantially massive fines it's not punishment.
  • DATA TRAFFIC.

    Jesus fusking chribt on a pony; Bandwidth is speed. Data traffic is amount of data transfered.

  • ...but how about forcing them to open up the ports they block to my mail server while they are at it? I'm paying for access to the internet. I'll take care of my own firewalling, thanks.

  • oh, okay, just the chains and whips, then. we know the last part ain't going to happen.

    but if you are going to require open access, as the web wants, and free passage of data without some busybody in the back room dinking with it, as the customer wants, the best way to encourage the others is to whack the guy you first catch. hard.

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