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Comcast Customers Urged To Opt-Out of Settlement 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the come-on-big-money-no-whammy-no-whammy-stop dept.
funchords writes "As a settlement to the class-action lawsuits over Comcast's blocking of users' Internet traffic, Comcast stands to pay 'up to' $16.00 to every subscriber who makes a claim at their settlement website and declares, under penalty of perjury, that their online activity was for a lawful purpose consistent with applicable copyright and other laws. Robb Topolski, the veteran networking engineer who kicked off the case when he discovered the blocking back in 2007, says that the proposed settlement doesn't make sense, especially after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled this month that the US Federal Communications Commission didn't have the authority to enforce its Net neutrality principles on Comcast. 'You paid about $50 a month for the service, and the amount that Comcast stands to return is up to about 50c per month for each month that it blocked traffic,' he wrote. 'If that tiny amount of money is compensation, then there is no penalty to Comcast for interfering with its customers, for failing to disclose it, for repeatedly lying about it, and for taking so long to stop it.' The Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in late 2007, each independently confirmed Topolski's reports that Comcast was blocking BitTorrent and some other traffic without telling its customers. Comcast first denied interfering with traffic, then finally said it throttled some applications only during times of peak congestion. However, studies from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Germany eventually proved that Comcast slowed BitTorrent traffic around the clock."
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Comcast Customers Urged To Opt-Out of Settlement

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  • I haven't read any of the relevant articles, but the summary doesn't say anyone is urging anyone to opt-out of the settlement. Better headlines, please?

    • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @10:45AM (#31881638) Journal
      Or better summaries. From the blog link:

      Dear Fellow ‘Netizens, I’m writing to urge Comcast subscribers to opt-out of the proposed P2P Congestion Settlement between Comcast Corporation and its customers (http://p2pcongestionsettlement.com/). There are huge problems with the deal, but it only takes you a minute to reject it.

      • How can I reject it and it only take a minute? Is their a link? I would gladly forsake $16 to make a statement. Sure, a few thousand people will only save Comcast some cash and likely do nothing, but seeing as how I am seriously considering getting rid of Comcast, and doing without (Fuck AT&T - Your world, delivered... to the NSA - I will miss you Slashdot) I will do the thing I think is right and let my voice be heard.

        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Is their a link?

          No, it's the third person plural possessive pronoun. Thanks for asking!

        • I guess no one ever found the link. And it was supposed to take only a moment. Well so much for many of us doing it..

    • by l3prador (700532) <wkankla@gmaTOKYOil.com minus city> on Saturday April 17, 2010 @10:45AM (#31881642) Homepage

      Robb Topolski is urging people to opt-out in the InfoWorld summary.

      "If people reject the settlement, they are freed from the restrictions of this settlement and can sue independently or join any other action," Topolski said in an email. "If enough people reject the settlement, it sends a strong message that the class of people that this settlement was intended to represent are dissatisfied."

      • Could have included that in the /. summary. *nodnod* Would have made the headline more on-target.

        Either way, I'm not affected.

      • Which is complete nonsense. It only sends a message if those people then decide to sue comcast independently. A bunch of people opting out only serves to save comcast money because we all know that most people cannot afford to hire an attorney and sue comcast themselves.
    • by milkmage (795746)

      it's pretty much implied. if you settle for 16 bucks, you can't sue them again. you settled.

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Hopefully Comcast isn't given a blank cheque to keep screwing with torrent connections.

        I would presume that normally, any further tampering post settlement would represent a new claim of action that you could sue for.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by milkmage (795746)

          but $16/per isn't exactly a hefty penalty.. so if that's "all they had to pay" vs building out their infrastructure.. they will continue to take the lawsuits. $16 settlement is comcast taking their subscribers out to lunch. once. ...look at it this way. how many people have to die/get injured before an auto manufacturer issues a recall? it's cheaper for them to pay settlement(s) than recall X number of cars. they won't fix the problem until the cost of the lawsuits exceeds the cost of a recall.

          they should h

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Aldenissin (976329)

            they should have been forced to refund all the subscription fees they collected while they were throttling.

            That will never happen. But it damn well should.

      • by Surt (22457)

        You can't sue them again for specific misdeeds. Since this is still on-going, you can sue them again as soon as the fcc's regulatory power over net neutrality is affirmed by congress.

  • Here's my question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RingDev (879105) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @10:54AM (#31881692) Homepage Journal

    I get that the courts ruled that the FCC can't mandate how ISP route their traffic. They can't enforce net neutrality.

    But, in this case we had the ISP injecting packets to cause end user software to abort a communication. Last I checked, man in the middle attacks that interfere with network communications was worthy of felony hacking charges. So what is Comcast geting off so easy?

    -Rick

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @10:59AM (#31881720)

      So what is Comcast geting off so easy?

      Laws are webs that catch little bugs and let the big ones slip through.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      They are a corporation.

    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @11:03AM (#31881750)
      That is the point. If you accept the settlement, and the $16, you let them off the hook. If you do not, you can go after them for more. The hope is that a lot of people will reject it, allowing another class action to go through.
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @11:30AM (#31881874) Journal
        Is it just me, or is the whole class-action system designed to give corporations a chance to buy legal immunity? It seems pretty trivial to do something illegal, have a sock puppet sue you, have it designated a class action, settle for a pittance, and then remove the legal right to sue from anyone who doesn't remember to opt out in time.
        • by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @11:37AM (#31881912) Journal

          I am patenting this business practice right away. Anyone who uses it without my permission will get sued.

        • This is why it's actually pretty hard to put together a class action. For a class like this there is a lot of judicial management. It has to be found that the class representative has a claim that is, just that, representative of the class as a whole so they will be a reasonable proxy for the vigor with which individuals would prosecute the suit. (As well as a number of other requirements, such as experienced counsel, etc.).

          The real point of the class action system is to create an incentive for small claims

        • by nomadic (141991)
          It seems pretty trivial to do something illegal, have a sock puppet sue you, have it designated a class action, settle for a pittance, and then remove the legal right to sue from anyone who doesn't remember to opt out in time.

          Using a "sock puppet" is against the law, and the court has to approve any settlement in a class action.
        • by seebs (15766)

          It's useful in cases where it's impractical or not worth it for individuals to sue. For instance, say a company sends one junk fax each to a hundred thousand people. Most of those people will not be able to justify the time and effort it would take to sue for $500 -- it's not remotely worth the hassle. But a class case could allow them to, for filling out a form, claim some money.

          So when I sued Allied Telesyn, it was run as a class case, and people who were part of the class could get $250 for filling ou

        • A class action suite does not preclude other actions being taken, and it does not prevent criminal action at all.

          But what you describe is precisely how Google got its book settlement - have someone bring a class action against it, create an agreement with that 'class' and they now have the ability to do what they wish. A horrific corruption of the legal system.
      • by careysub (976506) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @12:33PM (#31882298)

        That is the point. If you accept the settlement, and the $16, you let them off the hook...

        That is the way it is in America today. Corporate malfeasance against the individual: penalty is paying A SINGLE PENNY on the dollar. Corporations claiming malfeasance by the individual (Capitol/RIAA vs Thomas) penalty is ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS on the penny!

      • The only problem with this logic and this going after more will require demonstrating real damages.

        And I certainly not trying to troll here, but as someone who has dealt with the courts before theoretical losses don't have much bearing. To sue for damages you normally need to provide receipts or a paper trail.

        The problem with this and torrents would be:
        1). showing the torrents that you had issues downloading (I'm guessing many won't be appearing in court with lists of pirated files
        2). claiming that waitin
    • by Jenming (37265)

      Because the number of people who can stand up and say 'I only used bittorrent for legal purposes' is almost 0. Without that the user is in violation of their terms of service and Comcast is just trying to limit the damage. While the few people (1 guy?) who did use bittorrent without ever violating his terms of service gets screwed the rest of the people (pirates, arrr) make this case pretty murky.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What? Huh?

        Nice generalization, but you forgot that a majority of World of Warcraft's content is distributed via BitTorrent. That's hardly an illegitimate use of P2P.

        This case isn't murky at all. Opting out of a pathetic settlement is a collective statement that Comcast's legitimate, paying customers won't let them get away with fucking them over without some kind of due process. It also sends a message to other ISPs that they can't get away with this behavior without someone noticing.

      • by Idiomatick (976696) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @12:56PM (#31882394)
        I'm a pot dealer that just got stabbed by a client. It goes to court. The courts decide that the client owes me for the cost of stitches. So long as I swear under punishment of pergery that I have never used illegal drugs.

        Clearly there are two fucked up issues here. How come he only has to pay me for stitches when the fucker just stabbed me? And secondly, what the fuck does it matter whether or not I've smoked drugs? The fucker stabbed me!

        You don't get off because you committed a crime against a criminal.
        • by Xtifr (1323)

          Ironically, people who smoke pot seem to be the most likely to use Torrent legally! (Torrent is used to distribute concert recordings by the Grateful Dead and Phish.) :)

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        Because the number of people who can stand up and say 'I only used bittorrent for legal purposes' is almost 0

        Possibly so, but I bet the people who had their Lotus Notes [arstechnica.com] messages blocked certainly have legs to stand on.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Angeliqe (1390757)
      Yes, they are a corporation, but there's more to it than that. If you accept this settlement, Comcast is NOT admitting guilt. They are still innocent in the eyes of the law. They are offering you a bribe to drop the suit. You can legally do this in any civil case when you are suing for damages. If the parties settle their differences out of court, the court really cannot say that Comcast did not pay enough if no one objects. The real winners in all this is the lawyers. $3 million to them. IANAL
    • by jonwil (467024)

      What Comcast was doing would be similar to the phone company deciding they didnt like the phone call you were making and cutting off both parties in such a way as to make each party think the other party had hung up the call.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Except phone companies are common carriers, and ISPs like comcast are not (unfortunetly).

    • by Degro (989442)
      Wrong. That wasn't the ruling. That was the sensationalist headline put out by all the news outlets to get ad viewers. Read the commission statement regarding that case: http://www.fcc.gov/ogc/ [fcc.gov] The court merely invalidated one of the enforcement methods the FCC was using.
    • From the settlement website,

      These lawsuits claim that Comcast promised and advertised specific speeds and unlimited Internet access but impaired use of some P2P file-sharing traffic on its High-Speed Internet network. Comcast denies these claims, but has revised its management of P2P and is settling to avoid the burden and cost of further litigation.

      Comcast is getting off easy because the attorney's bringing the suit were bribed with $3 million dollars and decided they would take the money and let Comca

  • Serious question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @01:01PM (#31882422) Homepage

    So the settlement doesn't make Comcast pay out enough money, so everybody should opt out, so Comcast gets to pay nothing?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Renraku (518261)

      The reasoning is that if you take this payout, you're basically telling the legal system that this payout has righted the wrongs that Comcast made, and that you have no further claim to the wrongs. Same reason insurance companies will offer some seemingly high but lowball amount settlement really quick hoping you'll accept so that youcan't go after them when it turns out you can no longer lift anything over ten pounds. They turn a $100k settlement into a $5k settlement and gain protection from the court.

      S

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes - that way, all the opt-out people can bring a new lawsuit against Comcrap.

  • ...who believes that bandwidth leeches (yes, you know who you are) should be capped? There are always those that push the envelope in any situation. Bandwidth leeches belong to that group. I would bet (totally anecdotal here) that the number of bandwidth leeches that are in the top 5% of bandwidth usage comprise only a few percentage points of Comcast subscribers. Why is it a loss to those of us who play nice with others when the few greedy subscribers are throttled?

    • by NCatron (103418)

      This article has nothing to do with leeches, it's about willful tampering with a particular protocol for their entire user population, leech or otherwise.

      And yes, you are the only one. I guess it's OK if you get to decide who is a "leech" and screw the other guy.

    • I'm a bandwidth leech.

      I get games from steam. I watch netflix movies. I use xbox live. I watch hulu. I surf the web and use other various high bandwidth applications.

      Those are all high bandwidth services which saturate my Internet connection.

      I usually am online at least 12 hours a day.

      I pay for Internet access, I pay for those services. I don't see the problem.

      The problem comcast sees is that I download several GB per day and my content doesn't come from them. I use the access I pay for.

      I prefer my content come from elsewhere. Comcast's conflict of interest isn't being taken seriously.

      Why should I be throttled for legally consuming content?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kijori (897770)

        >

        Why should I be throttled for legally consuming content?

        Because there's a limited amount of bandwidth and you aren't the only one that wants to use it. Ignoring the particular facts of this case - Comcast's underhanded methods and deception - would it really be unfair to say, for example, that those people that use the most bandwidth have their speed capped when other people want to use that bandwidth? Let's briefly look at the alternatives:

        - The bandwidth is divided equally between all subscribers at all times, meaning that if Lucy Lightuser and Henry Heavyuser

        • they have much more bandwidth at much lower prices

          oh no, but they're SOCIALIST countries!

          you know, that evil scary word that blocks out all common sense because we worship the free market fairy

          the free market fairy solves all problems and is always superior to public solutions, always. look how far ahead our bandwidths are than evil socialist countries, dealing as we do with loving corporations like comcast that always have our needs at heart </sarcasm>

          • the free market fairy solves all problems and is always superior to public solutions

            Are you seriously claiming that the US broadband market is an example of the free market at work?

        • by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @04:30PM (#31883484)

          No matter how you argue it, the problem still lies with the ISP. They sell an internet connection with "unlimited data" and start complaining when you actually use it - even worse, they start secretly throttling the connection.

          • by Kijori (897770)

            Absolutely true - although a little out of date. At least over here I would be surprised if there are any ISPs that haven't been writing throttling and transfer caps into the contracts and adverts for at least a year now.

            The problem of some people using all the resources available isn't new; it's as old as the world. If ISPs want to offer (and people want to buy) cheap, over-sold connections then they will have to protect those connections from being used to capacity by a few heavy users. If people absolute

          • by lmnfrs (829146)
            You forgot "and lying about it" and ", repeatedly." The problem definitely still lies with the ISP.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          All your points are totally valid and seem to be well thought out. The issue for "leeches" like DragonTHC (and myself-- I do my fair share of Netflix, XBox live, and web dev work at all hours of the day and -- suprise -- I don't even HAVE a torrent client installed on my gear) is that what Comcast is selling takes none of that into account.

          Anyone here could have predicted that the asymmetrical use of internet by many customers with different needs would result in less than optimal service for everyone-- a
          • by Kijori (897770)

            All your points are totally valid and seem to be well thought out. The issue for "leeches" like DragonTHC (and myself-- I do my fair share of Netflix, XBox live, and web dev work at all hours of the day and -- suprise -- I don't even HAVE a torrent client installed on my gear) is that what Comcast is selling takes none of that into account.

            Anyone here could have predicted that the asymmetrical use of internet by many customers with different needs would result in less than optimal service for everyone-- and the solution to mysteriously throttle usage and inject "man-in-the-middle" attacks to disconnect the "bad" customers is a bad call on Comcast's part.

            Tiered pricing? I would pay for that. Being treated like a criminal for eating all I can eat at the ALL YOU CAN EAT BUFFET is a breach of contract.

            Thanks for the compliment, and I can't say I disagree on the fact that Comcast in this case has behaved disgracefully.

            A tiered pricing structure where you could pay to be given higher priority would seem like it would make things fairer, since it would mean that heavy users were paying for the privilege. But traffic shaping is, to some extent, still going to be necessary, since the use of some heavy-users would still be more than enough to interfere with other peoples' internet connections. My worry is that

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Billly Gates (198444)

          "Because there's a limited amount of bandwidth and you aren't the only one that wants to use it"

          No there is not! That is a lie. Korea and Europe do not have the same problems. The issue is these greedy monopolistic ISPs are keeping 10 year old routers and refusing to upgrade in order to boast their shareholder price for Goldman Sachs and others on wall street.

          I read on slashdot that 90% of all fiber is dark on purpose in order to limit availability and raise prices.

          If I pay $60 a month for x amount of bits

          • by Kijori (897770)

            "Because there's a limited amount of bandwidth and you aren't the only one that wants to use it"

            No there is not! That is a lie. Korea and Europe do not have the same problems. The issue is these greedy monopolistic ISPs are keeping 10 year old routers and refusing to upgrade in order to boast their shareholder price for Goldman Sachs and others on wall street.

            I read on slashdot that 90% of all fiber is dark on purpose in order to limit availability and raise prices.

            If I pay $60 a month for x amount of bits to download a second then why can't I get the service I pay for. It doesn't matter if their business model is on averages. I refuse to sign any contract with capped downloads. Its a shame because I hate cable with a passion and prefer DSL but in rural Alaska I had to agree to caps. My wife plays wow and uses vent so she would exceed the cap in a matter of days.

            World of warcraft has constant disconnects from players with Comcast. Gee I wonder why? We are thinking of being a DSL only guild and this is rediculous. 3 players from comcast get disconnected and cause wiped in every and I mean every battle with a raid boss.

            I'm going to assume that you don't mean that there is literally an infinite amount of bandwidth available, since that is patently false, and take what you said to mean that there is a very large amount of bandwidth available that is not being offered. But here's the thing: it doesn't make any difference.

            Imagine that all the ISPs, overnight, were able to upgrade their networks. The available bandwidth is now ten times what it was - problems solved? Not even close. If there's one thing that has been a constan

        • Let's throw out your entire bullshit argument and replace it with one that makes sense:
          How about companies don't over sell their lines? False advertising is illegal. The end. There isn't a "debate" here. If you pay for XkB/s then god damnit you should get X kB/s. PERIOD.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kijori (897770)

            Let's throw out your entire bullshit argument and replace it with one that makes sense:
            How about companies don't over sell their lines? False advertising is illegal. The end. There isn't a "debate" here. If you pay for XkB/s then god damnit you should get X kB/s. PERIOD.

            Well, I suppose blindly ignoring what I wrote and then being abusive is one way of debating. Let's try a different one.

            In my original post I wrote:

            The other alternative would be for the ISP to provide enough total bandwidth for every subscriber to use their maximum allowance all at once. This is fair - Lucy is no longer paying for Henry's use; she can even get a special light-user package if she wants - and it's actually already available. The downside is the price; because a guarantee of constant top speed means no (or little) over-selling is possible, a guaranteed 2MB connection starts at about $350/month.

            Let me expand on this a little. There's almost nothing in the world that can cope with everyone using it maximally at the same time; everything is oversold. We all pay taxes to build the roads, but we can't all drive on them at once - they'd get full. Everyone with an airline ticket paid, but if they all turn up they can't all get on. Municipal transport, parks,

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by he-sk (103163)

          Meanwhile in Sweden and Finland, people enjoy their 10Mbit or 100Mbit connections straight to their homes. And their monthly bill is cheaper than what you're paying, too.

          • by gmhowell (26755)

            Meanwhile in Sweden and Finland, people enjoy their 10Mbit or 100Mbit connections straight to their homes. And their monthly bill is cheaper than what you're paying, too.

            Sweden: 53.3 people/sq mi
            Wyoming: 5.4 people/sq mi

            Yeah, I can see the relevance of your statement.

      • What is it that you do for a living where you're doing all of those things for 12 hours a day? Even before I finished school, I never averaged those hours of internet usage. After finishing school and working full-time, those numbers become even more impossible.

        • by antdude (79039)

          How about those who don't have jobs like these days?

        • by Jedi Alec (258881)

          Ehmm, I don't know about you, but my personal computer seems quite capable of running without anyone actually sitting at the keyboard...just because it's on 12 or even 24 hours a day doesn't mean there's someone hammering the keyboard every last second of it ;-)

      • by Tiro (19535)
        Under net neutrality it shouldn't really matter whether your content consumption is "legal" or not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You are not the only one, I am a bandwidth leech and I agree that there should be limitations on my usage. What I disagree with though is that I am limited without being informed that it will happen. I also disagree with being lied to about it, and I also disagree with communications protocols being abused to limit me.

      If they want to limit me, they need to make me aware that I will be limited for certain usages. They need to be precise and stick to their word about how and when, so that I as a consumer can

  • From the settlement website: How do I exclude myself from the Settlement Class? If you do not wish to be a Settlement Class Member, you may exclude yourself by writing to the Claims Administrator. You must provide your full name and address, state that you want to opt out of the Settlement, and deliver your request by mail, hand, or overnight delivery service to the P2P Congestion Settlement Claims Administrator, c/o Rust Consulting, P.O. Box 9454, Minneapolis, MN 55440-9454. Your request must be postmarke
  • I could tell you they blocked Legit p2p traffic 24/7 because I was trying to download vmware player iso's just to see what they were talking about. I wanted to see if they were a good solution what I did. I guess preventing someone from working isn't that important.
  • By allowing ISP's to offer "Unlimited Internet Access" and then failing to hold them to that; verbatim from the very beginning, is what set the pace for them to dictate exactly how they want to define that phrase.

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

    Obviously, they've been allowed the use of an alternate-reality dictionary that has not been made a
  • How to opt-out (Score:4, Informative)

    by TimFenn (924261) on Saturday April 17, 2010 @07:53PM (#31884382) Homepage
    It took me a minute to dig this up on Robb Toploski's Journal [livejournal.com], I think its worth posting here:

    ACTION REQUIRED - IMPORTANT: To opt-out from the settlement, simply write "I want to opt-out of the settlement" along with your name and address and mail it by May 13th to: P2P Congestion Settlement Claims Administrator; c/o Rust Consulting; P.O. Box 9454; Minneapolis, MN 55440-9454. Ask your friends to please do the same. If we want a meaningful settlement in this case and open Internet in our future, it's important to spread the word and send a strong message to Comcast and the industry.

  • They want my account number to file or opt out of the claim, but at the bottom it says "DO NOT CONTACT COMCAST OR THE COURT FOR INFORMATION." It's been years since I used their shitty internet, how am I supposed to remember my account number?

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