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Comcast's New Terms of Service Disclose Traffic Management 302

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-for-the-retroactive-heads-up dept.
cremou brings us word that Comcast has changed its Terms of Service to include policies on traffic management. This comes after the FCC's recent decision to investigate Comcast's P2P throttling. The language in the updated Terms of Service, according to Ars Technica, mirrors the FCC's 2005 Internet Policy Statement[PDF]. "According to Section III of the revised ToS, Comcast 'uses reasonable network management practices that are consistent with industry standards.' The company points out that it is not alone in the practice, saying that 'all major' ISPs engage in some form of traffic shaping. Comcast does it to keep its subscribers from suffering the heartaches of 'spam, viruses, security attacks, network congestion, and other risks and degradations of service' and to 'deliver the best possible Internet experience to all of its customers.'"
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Comcast's New Terms of Service Disclose Traffic Management

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  • by boskone (234014) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:21PM (#22343946)
    Hi, So I wonder, if they start throttling file sharing, will it improve the experience (reduce network latency) on sensitive apps like gaming and VoIP?

    It seems like it hurts more to have your game experience be crushingly laggy versus having your ISO download take 5 extra minutes.

    Of course I'm biased, but what's the rush to swap files?
  • Yeah whatever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:22PM (#22343960)
    Comcast does it to keep its subscribers from suffering the heartaches of 'spam, viruses, security attacks, network congestion, and other risks and degradations of service' and to 'deliver the best possible Internet experience to all of its customers.'"

    I would call throttling the hell out of my connection to be a degradation of my service so obviously they aren't supplying the best possible experience to ALL of their customer, possibly most but certainly not all.
  • by sweet_petunias_full_ (1091547) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:25PM (#22343980)
    Does this include dropping packets, dropping connections, or what? Wasn't traffic shaping originally supposed to only *delay* some packets in favor of others?

    Looks like they can call something "traffic shaping" and then do whatever they want with the traffic, including not meet any of their other commitments.
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:30PM (#22344040)

    Hi, So I wonder, if they start throttling file sharing, will it improve the experience (reduce network latency) on sensitive apps like gaming and VoIP?

    All I know is that I'm a Comcast subscriber, and I can't play any games because I get huge lag spikes (and/or dropped packets) every few minutes, depending on the time of day. Specifically, it'll be consistently fine (e.g. 50 ms or so) and then drop every packet it sends in a several-second-long interval.

    Now, I don't think this has anything to do with the RST packets. However, it's really pissing me off because I've had two techs out so far (plus one who failed to show up) and it's not fixed yet, so I'm going to use it as fuel for the "let's bitch about Comcast" fire anyway.

  • by RT Alec (608475) <alec@@@slashdot...chuckle...com> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:34PM (#22344080) Homepage Journal

    Remember office environments a few years ago... with a T1 (ideally) or xDSL (better than ISDN)?

    And you would track down the one or two users that consumed the entire pipe 24/7? And no matter where, there was always one or two of 'em?

    ...and maybe you were one of 'em ;)

    Comcast oversold their capacity. They did not count on the number of subscribers who would exceed their ill-prepared estimates. Now they want to deny service to those subscribers... induce them to find another provider. They can do what they want, you can always choose to not do business with them.

    Take their bait. Comcast is at best a reasonable solution to light users (or maybe people who swallow the entire Comcast pill-- VIOP + web hosting + email hosting, etc?). Get Fios if you can, or even a fast DSL. It is "better" access.

  • by JensenDied (1009293) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:46PM (#22344174)
    Snip..
    I. Prohibited Uses and Activities What uses and activities does Comcast prohibit? [...]

    Conduct and information restrictions

    • undertake or accomplish any unlawful purpose. This includes, but is not limited to, posting, storing, transmitting or disseminating information, data or material which is libelous, obscene, unlawful, threatening or defamatory, or which infringes the intellectual property rights of any person or entity, or which in any way constitutes or encourages conduct that would constitute a criminal offense, or otherwise violate any local, state, federal, or non-U.S. law, order, or regulation;
    • post, store, send, transmit, or disseminate any information or material which a reasonable person could deem to be indecent, pornographic, harassing, threatening, hateful, or intimidating;

    .. Snip
  • Let's turn the parent post into a poll :). I'll vote first:

    I'm not even a Comcast customer, and I'm EXTREMELY pissed off at them for actively breaking protocols. They sell Internet access, not "some of the Internet" access. I've had to deal with many, many friends and family member who were pissed off at their service. I get the feeling that they're trying to turn "OMG the pirating downloaders!!!" into some sort of blanket excuse for their technical issues.

    New marketing slogan: "Comcast Internet Service: It's Craptastic!"
  • Re:So... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip...paradis@@@palegray...net> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:59PM (#22344274) Homepage Journal
    Right, and when enough people get pissed some new guy comes along with more reasonable service terms, and lots of people switch over to the new company. It's these little things called "competition", "economics", and "technological progress." These same games were played in the 90s over dialup access, albeit in a different form. Didn't work then, won't work now, at least not long term.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 (260657) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:00PM (#22344282) Homepage Journal

    As long as you're only sending email - you'll have a great comcast experience.

    No, you won't. They block port 25, forcing you to use them for mail relays. This affects those who don't want Comcast to see their mails, and where the recipient can't receive encrypted email but is behind a mail server that supports TLS, so the emails will be sent encrypted over the internet. That won't work -- Comcast forces you to relay through them, and they get to copy and read your outgoing mail (and hand it over to who knows).
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cloricus (691063) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:03PM (#22344312)
    Now that your ISPs have started going down this route there isn't much you'll be able to do. When this happened in Australia around 2000-01 a single user of one of the ISPs that lead the charge towards download limits and limited speeds started a small site, as the industry fell into worse condition (from the consumers point of view) that site basically turned into the independent industry watchdog. www.whirlpool.net.au became a very important staging ground for consumers to fight back, even if that meant mass organised exodus from misbehaving companies. Hopefully for your internet use sake some thing similar pops up in the US and gets wide attention.

    Of course there is at least one up side to this all and that is once you have defined download limits you the consumer are directly paying for x amount of bandwidth. Opponents to net neutrality find their arguments fail completely because people en mass start to understand that it means they'd be paying for the same bandwidth twice. So far in Australia any attempts to start the debate on net neutrality have fallen on deaf ears and even out rage.
  • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:30PM (#22344558) Homepage Journal

    Comcast are deliberately cutting connections when a user attempts to seed bittorrent.


    That's not exactly what they're doing, either. They might be able to justify dropping certain connections in favor of the collective good. What they're actually doing is impersonating the system your software is in communication with, and sending a reset.

    In any normal sense of the word this is fraud. In any normal sense of the phrase this is not traffic shaping.

    I'm not an expert on these matters, but I don't see any reason for an ISP to send fraudulent resets instead of using normal traffic shaping techniques other than an attempt to conceal what they are doing. Detecting this behavior requires simultaneous monitoring of both ends of the communication.

    -Peter

    PS: I'm posting this on Comcast. I can't understand why they don't offer a service package they feel is fair instead of subverting our agreement.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip...paradis@@@palegray...net> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:35PM (#22344588) Homepage Journal
    With a 99% degree of certainty, I'd take Qwest. Here's why:

    1. They're not trying to screw around with established protocols like Comcast.
    2. Related to point 1, they haven't already earned my mistrust.
    3. Since I like to host stuff out of the house, Comcast wouldn't cut it.
    4. What good is higher bandwidth if I can't trust it to work for the things I want?
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spirit of reason (989882) on Friday February 08, 2008 @12:31AM (#22344936)
    No, I didn't, but you'd figure that you could at least get DSL in Berkeley too (except it would be AT&T...). As a student, I don't have a lot of affordable housing options, so having a lot of broadband options is really secondary to a lot of other, more important factors.

    I'm not complaining, though. As far as I can tell, none of my bittorrent traffic is being throttled (though I impose a restriction on the upload rate myself--a modest 35 KiB/s--, else the link gets saturated and games start seeing over half a second of latency). Perhaps it helps that we're paying for their highest consumer tier, but that wouldn't really make sense.

  • by Jimithing DMB (29796) <dfe@noSpAM.tgwbd.org> on Friday February 08, 2008 @02:49AM (#22345646) Homepage

    If you want to do anything but surf the internet and email, Comcast will suck for you. and it's gonna get worse. They want to oversell the connectivity even further. they already are at a 13 to 1 ratio and want to push it to a 15 to 1. Stable is 10 to 1.

    You know they have every right to do this but it is surely already biting them in the ass. In most markets they do have DSL as competition so if they oversell too much they ought to expect to lose customers.

    What I don't really understand is what advantage they see to this practice. I have no idea how oversold Cox is but I have very little trouble with my cable modem. Then again, I do mostly do web surfing and e-mail but anytime I've used iChat AV or Skype it has worked flawlessly as well. When my brother has visited he has had no trouble gaming. So based on my own purely anecdotal observations I imagine that Cox is not overselling beyond a reasonable limit. They're private so I don't know what their financials look like but I imagine they wouldn't be doing continual network upgrades if they were losing money.

    So what I really don't get is this whole fuck the customer attitude. As with any business, your customers are your revenue stream. Do not piss them off. Seriously. It may not bite you immediately but it will bite you eventually. Comcast's rates are already higher than average from what I've seen (e.g. $60 instead of $45) and they seem to be the most aggressive at overselling. To what end? How much money are you really going to save overselling 15 to 1 vs. 13 to 1 or 10 to 1? How much do you value your reputation as an internet provider that works without constant trouble? It's difficult of course to put a number on that but it's not impossible. Perhaps they actually have to see customers moving away in droves to really understand the revenue hit? But by then it will be too late, their reputation as a decent ISP will be well tarnished and they'll have trouble getting new customers.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich @ a o l.com> on Friday February 08, 2008 @05:44AM (#22346410) Journal
    Comcast is shooting themselves in the foot by putting content filtering in the ToS. This voids their common-carrier status and now it can be argued in court that they are a content provider, not a common carrier.

    For example, if someone sends my kid some pr0n, I can argue in a civil case that Comcast was negligent in enforcing their terms of service, thereby directly causing my child to be violated. If they have the technology to shape specific types of traffic based on CONTENT, and if they can tell whether something is pr0n or not, and they regulate said CONTENT in their ToS, then they take upon themselves the responsibility for any CONTENT that might be in violation of the law.

    Other ISPs have been smart in their "hands off" attitude to regulating specific content for this very reason. They do not want to be on the hook for people using their network for illegal activity. By promising this kind of regulation, they are taking de facto responsibility for ANYTHING that happens as a result of content that traverses their network, even if that traffic neither originates nor terminates on their network.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Friday February 08, 2008 @09:07AM (#22347394) Homepage Journal

    Heh, interesting conspiracy theory. Though it doesn't quite jive with the local sendmail instance I use for outgoing mail which connects directly to appropriate relay servers (on 25); or the fact that I sometimes send through gmail, and have in the past used my own Qmail installation on a remote server...

    Give it time - they'll get to you.

    I used to do the same thing (using exim instead of sendmail), until I got this letter from Comcast claiming that I was sending spam. They claimed to have proof:

    We have confirmed that your computer has been involved in transmitting unsolicited email, an activity that is in violation of the Comcast Terms of Service Agreement. The reporting parties have provided email header information, which identifies the IP address of the computer that was transmitting the email. The IP address listed was one that was assigned to your computer at the date and time in question.
    I knew this to be bogus, as there is only one way out of my home network and every email is logged. Despite this, they stuck to their guns and refused to unblock port 25, and refused to even discuss the possibility of sending me the proof they claimed to have, or even reveal anything about the email, the IP in question, etc.

    The worst part of this was not the block on outgoing. I just had to use a different port and authenticate each time, which was a pretty simple configuration change in Exim. A lot of ISPs refused email directly from me anyway, indicating that they don't accept email from a network unless it's from an "official" email relay on that network. The list of host names that I had to send through Comcast was getting rather long.

    The worst part was that they also blocked port 25 for all incoming traffic. What is that supposed to do for anybody? How is it even justified? But of course their TOS already prohibits "servers", so they felt justified to block mail from reaching me. I had to set up a RollerNet account to get around it. Very annoying.

    Yea, yea, I know "switch providers if they treat you like that" you say. Well my only other option is Verizon FIOS (can't even get DSL), and they block 25 by default as well as any incoming port 80 traffic. So that's just a non-starter.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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