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FCC Complaint Filed Over Comcast P2P Blocking 178

Enter Sandvine writes "A handful of consumer groups have filed a complaint with the FCC over Comcast's "delaying" some BitTorrent traffic. The complaint seeks fines of $195,000 for each Comcast subscriber affected by the traffic blocking as well as a permanent injunction barring the ISP from blocking P2P traffic. '"Comcast's defense is bogus," said Free Press policy director Ben Scott. "The FCC needs to take immediate action to put an end to this harmful practice. Comcast's blatant and deceptive BitTorrent blocking is exactly the type of problem advocates warned would occur without Net Neutrality laws.""
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FCC Complaint Filed Over Comcast P2P Blocking

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  • by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:35PM (#21202125) Journal
    Think of all the DVDs and CDs those BitTorrent users will buy with $195,000 !!!
    • by KnightED ( 805081 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:43PM (#21202257)
      There are many more things then illegal files that this is in use for in particular World of Warcraft Patching among some others. I Can only imagine more Businesses starting to use this to deliver their content as fast as possible.
      • The bittorrent website actually has you choose whether you are a business or a personal interest when accessing their site. I know personally i get all my linux stuff through bit torrent. The look at this technology as something only used for piracy would definitely be doing the technology a disservice.
      • It doesn't have to be illegal for Comcast to hate it -- remember that they have to pay some pennies for that pesky, pesky upstream traffic. Poor dears.
        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          Actually, I think the way the Internet is tiered is that the end that makes the request pays. So that pesky upstream traffic is saving Comcast money. It's the downstream traffic that they're paying through the nose for. What should Comcast do, then? Prioritize traffic so that you get better data rates downloading from other hosts within the Comcast network and pushing content out.

          Unfortunately, DSL and cable modem service is set up exactly the opposite way. Under the assumption that people will do mo

          • Actually I think that Comcast's connection to the "Internet" is based on the bandwidth without regard to the direction, Comcast's big problem is cable TV network is heavily weighted for the download with slight mounts allocated for upload and more and more applications are moving towards more symmetry. I'm on comcast Hi-speed and I'm not noticing problems except with Bit-torrent, but my wife has been having a lot of problems with her games from pogo.com. These aren't FPS games either but mostly interactive
          • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

            Actually, I think the way the Internet is tiered is that the end that makes the request pays. So that pesky upstream traffic is saving Comcast money. It's the downstream traffic that they're paying through the nose for.

            Uhhhh, I always thought it was exactly the opposite? That upstream cost more money then downstream and this had to do with the way that the Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers peer with each other? They don't like having massive amounts of traffic dumped on them through a peering arrangement because they then have to route that traffic to it's destination. Much better (from their perspective) if they can dump that traffic on someone else to deal with.

            Is that not the case?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )
          and yet strangely, they don't have to pay as much for downstream traffic.. Seems it would be more efficient to re-route the trackers to look to local clients on their network.. IE, if I want to download ubuntu, I would consider it a benefit if they pointed me to someone else on their network that was seeding, or further along downloading, as I could finish it faster.. And they wouldn't have duplicated traffic coming through their gateway pipes.

          They could have manipulated things in a way that would be a win
      • I think that Bittorrent.com & Blizzard could persue a lanham act complaint against Comcast for this one. Comcast is deliberately interfering with Bittorrents legitimate business - distributing rental movies over bittorrent, and WOW updates. The point being that lanham reparations can be percentages of the offending companies gross profits ... doesn't take a big percentage of Comcast to make a big payoff for Bittorrent or Blizzard.

        If Comcast were doing what they say they are doing, then they would actua

        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )
          It's not related to trademark infringement, and though Comcast clearly practices false advertising of their own product, it in no way mentions either of those companies. So unfortunately I don't think it's really relevant...
    • by Andrew Nagy ( 985144 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:56PM (#21202457) Homepage Journal
      Huh? I'm still trying to figure out how Comcast was blatant and deceptive.

      Wait, wait, I got it. They are so dumb, they failed at being deceptive and ended up being blatant! What kind of a world do we live in when a multi-million dollar evil corporation can't even be counted on to lie properly?!?
      • by Stormie ( 708 )

        I'm still trying to figure out how Comcast was blatant and deceptive.

        It's deceptive to software - the forged packets cause BitTorrent et al to drop connections.

        It's blatant to human observers.

    • HA HA HA, OH WOW.
    • I was using comcast to distribute Ron Paul material (made by volunteers) during this time. I dropped Comcast as soon as it became apparent they were delaying torrents.
    • Think of all the DVDs and CDs those BitTorrent users will buy with $195,000 !!!

      Before you buy any CD's and line the pockets of the litigious bastards, please visit here;

      http://www.riaaradar.com/ [riaaradar.com]
      http://defectivebydesign.org/ [defectivebydesign.org]

      Shop informed.
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:36PM (#21202129) Homepage Journal
    If the FCC takes effective action on this complaint, then they are effectively mandating net neutrality as part of their remit, so no law would be needed.
  • Comcast getting fined is the kind of thing that needs to happen. Normally I'm against FCC fines, Howard Stern gets fined for saying the same thing Oprah does. Here, like Oprah I doubt the FCC will pursue this.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:37PM (#21202165) Journal
    Now, I'm not a lawyer but I believe they are escalating this too far too fast.

    "Comcast's blatant and deceptive BitTorrent blocking is exactly the type of problem advocates warned would occur without Net Neutrality laws."
    Now why would you go and bring that into this? If this is because your end goal is to have Net Neutrality laws, then you're starting from the wrong point. I think what just happened there is this turned from "Discriminating Against Customers Based on Their Needs & Rights" to a political hot topic that has been raging for the past four or so years. And another reason you may want to distance yourself from that (if you want to win this case) is that currently, there are no Federal Laws. So now you have all the politicians (who so far have decided amongst themselves that these laws are unnecessary) watching you, I wonder how the Federal Communications Commission is going to rule on this?

    Now, with that said, there is one option that could be taken now that Net Neutrality has been brought into this.

    I see from the PDF that the people filing this complaint are from Washington, DC. It probably should have been filed in New York with the demands specifying only NY victims for the time being. Why might you ask NY? Well, it's the only state to have established net neutrality as a telecommunications standard (See 16 NYCRR Part 605) [wikipedia.org]. And this case is exactly the definition of what those standards are put in place to protect!

    So while it may have had to be filed with the FCC, the real place where you could pretty much guaranty a (maybe even court case) win against Comcast is in the state of New York. I know they provide service there [usdirect.com] and I think it would be more prudent to first prove your point there, then file a complaint to the FCC from New York after the local government has awarded the victims there.

    In my opinion, a guaranteed sure win in a small battle is bigger than a huge uncertainty in the overall war.
  • I'm not sure if this is relevant or not. I use Giganews (a company that comcast sub-contracts out for usenet access) for poking around on usenet. They have a 10 concurrent connection limit on downloads etc. The problem is, that if I use all ten of them at the speeds I should be allowed, my modem kills itself. I occasionally use bittorrent and have never achieved the speeds that would make bt stand out as a network resource hog.

    I'm curious, are RST's the reason I have to get up and reset my cable modem la
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      No, RSTs are a normal part of network operation, they're not going to crash your modem. It just sounds like you have a crappy modem.
    • by Knara ( 9377 )

      Your down is probably one of two things: freaking out a fritzy modem, OR (more likely in my experience) it's choking your Linksys cable/dsl NAT router. I used to have huge problems with my Linksys WRT56G's after long downloads at high speeds (even, sadly, with the DD-WRT 3rd-party firmware). I went over to a D-link gaming router and I haven't had to touch it for months unless I change DHCP reservations or something of the sort.

  • by fenodyree ( 802102 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:45PM (#21202283)
    While I applaud this effort to hold Comcast accountable and hopes it works, it is going to be an uphill battle to defend bittorrent, given the current status of P2P in the courts, and media's eyes.
    It seems the more prudent approach would be to use the blocking of Google traffic, as Google is loved by the media and has been helpful to the courts on a few occasions, to file the complaint, and then rely upon the Google decision to defend torrent traffic. Much like the "tame" playboy defends the more hardcore free "speech"

    Go defenders of Neutrality!
    Screw Comcast and get Gmail notifier to work again!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Bit Torrent is not on shaky legal ground. Bit Torrent is not like napster, morpheus, kazaa, or limewire. It's not a program/network package. Bit Torrent is more like a protocol. The Bit Torrent method has no more affiliation with (or responsibility to) p2p sites offering links to illegal torrents than HTTP or IP does.

      This is like saying public highways are on shaky legal ground because people smuggle drugs across them.
    • by burnin1965 ( 535071 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @05:42PM (#21203223) Homepage
      shaky legal ground? "tame" playboy?

      I think you either have that wrong or you need to clarify.

      Bittorrent is not on shaky legal ground, it is a valid peer to peer file transfer protocol which is used for legal purposes. I've transfered many gigs of bits in downloading and sharing Fedora and Ubuntu linux distros, I've also used it to download commercial game demos such as Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. By your logic the entire internet is on shaky legal ground because all sorts of illegal activities traverse the backbone, does that mean we should shut down the entire internet?

      And I'd hardly call Larry Flynt a "tame" playboy. (happy birthday Larry) And I'd also go further and say that the work Larry has done to protect his own free speech for works that many find distasteful has protected the free speech of others who have something much less morally questionable to communicate than the magazines Larry publishes. I believe that was the basis of Larry's arguements, if his free speech is restricted then where does it stop, do we restrict people from pointing out fraud and questionable deeds of governments and corporations. His objective was not to ensure there was free speech for something hardcore even though it would be protected as well, his objective was to protect free speech, period.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      There are a lot of legitimate sites and companies that use it.
      Blizzard springs to mind as one of the bigger ones.
      • Playing devil's advocate for a second...

        Why is Blizzard doing this? It sounds to me like Blizzard figured out a way to not have to pay Akamai, or have a huge amount of bandwidth themselves. They're instead pushing their bandwidth costs to Comcast (and other ISPs).

        IIRC, one of AT&T's statements was something like "Google is getting a free ride", which is obviously false. Google is paying for all of the bandwidth they are using on their end. In this situation, though, Blizzard *is* getting a free ride.

        • by Kelbear ( 870538 )
          There shouldn't be a problem if unlimited internet ceases to be a viable model for ISPs.

          Consumers don't get truly unlimited rates anywhere, just hidden limits on a flat rate. If they want more, they upgrade to a higher flat rate with another hidden limit. Verizon finally got sued for advertising "unlimited" rates recently as reported on Slashdot.

          If commercial use of bittorrent causes ISPs to revamp their pricing structure into transparent pay-for-what-you-use structures then that should be a good thing. The
        • Blizzard may be getting a 'free ride' but it is a free ride on the backs of the people who actively use Blizzard's software.

          I couldn't imagine trying to deal with hosting files the size that Blizzard uses and provide instant access to 9 million people trying like mad to download the patch to be on for the night's raid.

          In this alone, you can see how Comcast's limiting of the BT protocol is harming a legitimate business interest. One that is likely generating a huge amount of revenue for the state in the for
    • by syukton ( 256348 )
      Bittorrent is a valid distribution method for a variety of high-volume distributables. A significant number of Linux distributions for example, are distributed via bittorrent. World of Warcraft also uses Bittorrent to ease the load on their patch servers. Individual/independent films are frequently released and distributed with Bittorrent, saving indie producers from having to partner with a distributor or high-bandwidth hosting facility in order to get their movie seen. There are enough "legitimate" uses o
      • but is "TCP/IP standards compliance" part of their user contract?

        That is a bit like providing telephone service for people with bulk packages (49.00 per month unlimited) and then forcing their conversation to hangup in the middle if they talk too much (hmm..)

        Yep, that would be fraudulent. The Internet is based on the TCP/IP protocols. If a company does not hold to those protocols in good faith, they might as well be using ipx/spx. Offering a service based on a set of conditions happening a certain w

      • by Kelbear ( 870538 )
        Thing is, web-surfing and e-mail are pretty basic offerings for internet service, they're so minimal that they're fundamental to making any sort of internet service offering at all(obligatory car analogy: A car doesn't advertise on having steering, driving, and braking, but how that car goes beyond the bare minimum on these and other features). The high-bandwidth services are their main basis of competition with other ISPs.

        If they throttle everything down just so that you can only use the basic offerings, t
  • by E. Edward Grey ( 815075 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @04:45PM (#21202291)
    It's actually a pretty common thing within some networks to create some classes of TCP traffic and cause them to drop a packet. It causes the TCP session window to shrink by half, so now each side has to tighten up their acknowledgment window. It's called Random Early Detection. TCP is very resilient traffic, so this has very little impact on most networks (although I'd be very careful about using it within an ISP network).

    However, this seems to be clearly stepping above that, and performing what is essentially source address spoofing, regardless of the whether or not there is congestion on the network. I don't know if you can really classify this as a QoS technique.
  • Goodbye Comcast (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) *
    Based on how poorly Comcast treats its customers in sending them threatening emails and staggering their internet traffic, they are most likely scaring away many current and possible future customers.
    There are plenty of competitors to choose from that don't treat their customers like criminals.

    So goodbye Comcast, and good luck!
    • by Darby ( 84953 )
      Based on how poorly Comcast treats its customers in sending them threatening emails

      I've been a Comcast customer for like 5 years and I don't think they even know an email address for me unless it's a Comcast address they made up for me in which case I'd have no idea how to receive it, so the joke's on them ;-)

    • I don't have a choice. It's Craptastic! or nothing where I live in suburbia. No DSL, no fiber, no wireless, no kidding. Verizon has no interest in adding another DSLAM any closer to me either. Where's this competition you speak of?
  • Bring Comcast down quick enough, hard enough, and everyone else will be much less likely to try this crap again.

    And lying about it is the worst part!

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @05:07PM (#21202633)
    They should have made their complaint more clear cut from the common industry practice of QOS.

    spoofing packets to intentionally interrupt a connection is very different of course, but the way they present it, using the term "degrading", is not specific enough.

    "interrupting" is more accurate, and more egregious.

    Comcast will likely use the long time case of QOS to weasel out of it, harming the credibility of an honestly legitimate gripe.

    If they can't weasel out of it, this could put QOS in danger, resulting in terrible performance of voip, streaming video, vpn, online gaming, and other latency sensitive applications.

    In their justifiable zealotry they did not put their complaint through the proper egghead QA channels, and not only may the entire net neutrality cause may suffer for it, but even a "win" may ultimately be a harm.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This will just encourage comcast to say, "You're right, here is what it costs us" and establish a new class of service and adjust ToS. Its no longer net neutrality if its not part of the package. Jumping from $60 - $600/month to have isn't worth it to me. Premium dedicated bandwidth is like $200 per Mbps for sustained traffic. How much is BT worth to you?

    I expect this will go nowhere or just like everything else, comes back to bite the consumer.
    • Forging packets has nothing to do with whether or not your peak bandwidth is shared with other users.
  • Not just Comcast? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by link-error ( 143838 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @05:26PM (#21202923)

          I was downloading the latest Ubuntu distribution a couple of days ago using TimeWarner cable. The download went very fast, but I notice I wasn't seeding very may users, and the few that were had 5Kb speeds.

          After I finished downloading, I decided to let it run OVERNIGHT to reseed back to the world. When I checked in the morning, I had only updated 10MB and I noticed peers would pop-up in the window, show a few kb of transfer and then disappear again. I'm assuming that TimeWarner is sending dummy packets to the OTHER computers to stop my seeding.

          However, MY download didn't seem affected AT ALL. Also, there were several clients that seems to stay connected but with very low transfer rates.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phantomlord ( 38815 )
      I just grabbed the AMD64 Live DVD of gentoo last night off bittorrent with RoadRunner (Rochester, NY). It took about 90 minutes to snag and I sent about 75 megs of data in that time... usually seeding 3 people at a time, one around 5KBps and the other two grabbing somewhere between 15-30KBps each. The two faster ones held on for most of that session.

      From what I've seen of Time Warner, a lot of decisions seem to be made at the local level (speed, whether they block port 25, how bitchy they are about you r
    • The download went very fast, but I notice I wasn't seeding very may users, and the few that were had 5Kb speeds. ...

      Yep - that sounds like *exactly* the symptoms I started getting on bittorrents when Comcast started doing this. Used to be a download would take an hour or 2, then I could let it run for 4-8 hours and I have uploaded as much as I downloaded. The downloads now really aren't any slower, but I can leave it running for *days* and transfer maybe 100 to 150 MBs. There are never more than 2 pee

  • I am a Comcast subscriber and I use Bittorrent to download Linux DVD ISOs and other legal content. My experience is that the performance of Bittorrent is abysmal, presumably due to their "delaying" method. Comcast should not be spoofing any packets.

    I would have no problem with Comcast using CoS instead and just classify Bittorrent traffic as low-priority bulk transfers. This way it would get whatever bandwidth is left over yet prioritize more important traffic like games and VOIP. (In fact, this is how I h
  • ... install and enable IPsec, even if they are not a Comcast vict^h^h^h^hcustomer.

    • ... install and enable IPsec, even if they are not a Comcast vict^h^h^h^hcustomer.

      I have tried that, but it doesn't stop Comcast's mucking with it. They are blocking it whether encrypted or not.

  • by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @07:24PM (#21204675)
    There are many ISPs that block BitTorrent:

    http://www.azureuswiki.com/index.php/Bad_ISPs [azureuswiki.com]

    It seems odd to pick on only one of them.
  • I rather enjoyed having low ping times for my online games. Once the P2P floodgates are open, 1% of the users are going to slow the remaining 99% of everyone else down!

    Don't block P2P, but put it on the bottom priority list.
  • no, I'm not talking about Comcast... the FCC is going to fine them $195,000 for each subscriber affected... of course the subscriber wont see any of that money, it will just go into the govt's pockets...
  • Jeez, just how hardcore are you guys? I tend to d/l about 8 half-hour tv shows per week. Let's see, that's roughly 1.4gb. Just last week I d/l three game betas/demos, 1.4gb, 1.3gb, and 800mb. I'm up to about 5gb now in one week. And all throughout, I watched maybe a couple dozen tv shows courtesy of nbc.com, abc.com, and cbs.com but I don't know how much bandwidth that used. Oh, and the latest Ubuntu, though I haven't installed it yet. Plus all my teamspeak, ventrillo, and game traffic, plus my vonage, whic
    • Re:Jeez. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:04PM (#21206715) Homepage Journal

      Jeez, just how hardcore are you guys? I tend to d/l about 8 half-hour tv shows per week. Let's see, that's roughly 1.4gb. Just last week I d/l three game betas/demos, 1.4gb, 1.3gb, and 800mb. I'm up to about 5gb now in one week. And all throughout, I watched maybe a couple dozen tv shows courtesy of nbc.com, abc.com, and cbs.com but I don't know how much bandwidth that used. Oh, and the latest Ubuntu, though I haven't installed it yet. Plus all my teamspeak, ventrillo, and game traffic, plus my vonage, which the wife is on for several hours every other night. I'm guessing I topped out at about 6gb downloaded (maybe 1gb uploaded) just last week. Granted it was a banner week, but I bet I average about 1-3gb downloaded per week, with about half of that coming via BT.

      Sounds like you are just doing a bunch of downloading, using your connection mainly for push-at-you content and VOIP. They will get around to trampling the VOIP that's not their own pretty soon, but it sounds like it's working ok for you right now. Your usage sounds kind of high, but before long Comcast will be approaching those television networks and other content providers with their hands out, looking for a little more money from them. Because basically you're what Comcast wants - a good consumer.

      And yet! My service rocks?! I'm still waiting for the first shoe to drop but the couple of times I've had to call Comcast, my problem has been resolved to my satisfaction. My BT download speeds haven't really changed from what they were a year ago and I haven't noticed my ping go up or down in my favorite game servers.

      Yes, it seems Comcast is fine with the downloads using BT. Apparently you didn't check to see if you are helping with contributing bandwidth (you do know that Ubuntu is supported solely through contributions from the community, don't you?) when you were running those BT downloads. You probably just waited for the download to finish, then closed BT right away. If you had left it up for a while, you would have noticed that the peers trying to connect with you to share those files were sent barely a trickle of data, and then got bumped off. That's what Comcast is doing to BT now.

      What are you guys doing different from me that are experiencing problems so I can maybe avoid the same? You know, like lessons learned?

      We are participating, sharing, and contributing. But Comcast is interfering with us. They don't want us to have a voice. They just want us to sit back and take what they're sending.

      • by xx01dk ( 191137 )
        Good points, all, and thanks for the honest reply. I have to tell you though that while most of the time I do actually shut down the torrents after I get them (Usual Daily show/Colbert Report torrents have plenty of seeds), I let one for Top Gear upload until I had seeded more than I had downloaded. I tend to do that if the file is important to me and if there aren't that many seeders (like, less than 100) so in that respect I must say that my upload rate was pretty constant. And while I did not seed 1:1 fo
        • Of course, YMMV and also it does depend on what one chooses to d/l...

          I have the funny feeling it may depend more on how competitive your area is, broadband-wise. Where I happen to live, I can get DSL from a number of providers, Comcast of course, and some other wireless solutions. Consequently, Comcast sees fit to leave me alone, because if I got too much grief I'd just get my connectivity elsewhere. If I were living in a one-horse town it might very well be a different story.
  • What about IPSec? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Friday November 02, 2007 @02:59AM (#21208299) Homepage
    I'm debugging a connection right now, and it appears that Comcast is blocking inbound IPSec packets (and NAT-T over UDP)...
  • And shows how stupid the US legal system is. I don't care if your last years internet usage was totally blocked of bit-torrent sue, to claim that you deserve that amount of compensation is just juvenile and silly, and the whole case should be thrown out as a result. It's no good complaining that the RIAA pushes for huge payments when a single song is downloaded, if the same people turn around and act just as stupidly over a few faked TCP packets.
  • Simple Suggestion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Awful Truth ( 766991 )
    I don't know if this has been suggested before, but since it seems so obvious I'll apologize to whoever had this idea first:

    Why don't we let ISPs decide whether they are common carriers? If they are common carriers, then net neutrality should apply as a matter of course: the key feature of a common carrier is that it doesn't distinguish between "good" and "bad" content flowing across its network, as long as the content doesn't harm the network itself. That's why you can't sue the phone company if someo

    • It isn't that simple, alas. You own no Senators or Representatives and therefore your ability to present this an option is non-existent. The ISPs own plenty. They get what they want and the majority still votes for the whores who let them get away with it.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"