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Comcast Finally Files Suit Against FCC Over Traffic Shaping 353

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hoping-for-mutual-destruction dept.
Following up on their threat last year to sue the FCC over sanctions imposed, Comcast has finally filed suit, stating that there are no statutes or regulations that support the FCC's authority to stop traffic shaping procedures. "First, let's recap: After months of proceedings, hearings, and investigations, the FCC concluded on August 1, 2008 that Comcast was discriminating against certain P2P applications using deep packet inspection techniques. These methods thwarted the ability of users to share video and other files via BitTorrent. 'Comcast was delaying subscribers' downloads and blocking their uploads,' declared then FCC Chair Kevin Martin. 'It was doing so 24/7, regardless of the amount of congestion on the network or how small the file might be. Even worse, Comcast was hiding that fact by making [affected] users think there was a problem with their Internet connection or the application.'"
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Comcast Finally Files Suit Against FCC Over Traffic Shaping

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  • by linzeal (197905) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:26PM (#29097113) Homepage Journal

    The only reason Comcast gets my money is because they were granted a monopoly for Cable in my area. IMHO, we really need to start talking about taking away cable and in some places fiber monopolies.

    On another note it would be way cool to be able to have whichever company's box has the broadcast channels on it that you associate with your home town, in my case New York and San Francisco. Do particular broadcast company stations have monopolies as well for geographic areas? I'm pretty damn sick of monopolies, we need to go antitrust hopefully with this administration before its too late.

  • Re:Republicans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:30PM (#29097173)

    Comcast forges RST packets and intercept DNS requests using man in the middle attacks. This not only disrupts legitemate use of peer to peer technology but corporate VPN access for people working from home. If you or I were to do the same thing, we could be arrested and charged as felons under the DMCA and other "hacking" laws. Comcast is a criminal organization, its time for them to be held to account for the federal felonies that they are committing. Unfortunately, the limited liability of the America corporate system ensures that these felons will never serve jail time even in the unlikely event that something is done to stop their crimes.

  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:30PM (#29097177)
    In a perfect world the FCC will rip Comcast apart. Seriously. When Comcast is looking to buy a content provider like Vivendi or Disney, rather than investing money into infrastructure improvements, then something is entirely, completely off kilter and needs to be corrected. First, while I know that big companies are in business to make money, Comcast should not be in a financial situation to buy a company the size of Disney nor Vivendi. Second, and more importantly, if they are going to operate as a service provider, they should invest profits into ensuring they are able to be the best service provider they can. But, of course, they don't have to because they don't really compete with anyone so they can be a sub-par service provider who over charge for their service and make stupid amounts of money.

    With luck, the FCC will get pissed and make an example of Comcast. I know it won't happen, but I can hope.
  • by BlueKitties (1541613) <bluekitties616@gmail.com> on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:31PM (#29097185)
    Saying that big trucks must use the left lane is traffic shaping. Saying that these upload packets must go slower than these is also traffic shaping. However, they are "using" traffic shaping to control something else (e.g. "Trucks must go 10mph..." is obviously intended to make trucks avoid that road, but it's via traffic shaping.)
  • by Nickodeimus (1263214) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:33PM (#29097221)
    How do you figure that traffic shaping is good when the ISP has no idea what the traffic is used for? Case in point: I work for an IT shop that supports many physicians offices. one of the primary methods of moving data between offices and hospitals is through EMR applications that USE FTP. Who is the ISP to tell me that my FTP traffic is less important than Disney's HTTP traffic?

    It is not the ISP's place to make these decisions. Period. End of Story.

    Further, if they choose to make these decisions on "their network" then they should lose common carrier status. And while I admit I am not sure if they have this, they certainly cannot use it as a defence at all going forward since they are looking inside the packets and determining what they hold. They have just made themselves complicit in committing innumerable crimes ranging from spreading virii to transmitting child porn to terroism.
  • by ari_j (90255) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:37PM (#29097259)
    I don't think broadcast stations have monopolies, really. Since they have to get their broadcast feeds from the networks, it's hard to imagine the networks granting more than one station franchise (or however it's administered) in a given geographical area. And as long as you have more than one network with a local station, it's not really a monopoly.

    As to cable companies ... sigh. I hate those bastards. Mine spent time and money mailing and broadcasting about how much my bill would go up if they gave in to the Fox affiliate's ridiculous demands for a penny per day more to keep Fox on their cable line-up that, if spent more appropriately, could have reduced my bill by quite a bit. Instead, I just canceled and am saving $75/month by having cable internet but no TV. I don't watch $75 worth of TV in a year, much less a month. And they recently sent out a flier advertising improved cable services with modestly increased prices ... with about a 10% reduction in bandwidth at every level.
  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:41PM (#29097335)

    >It is not the ISP's place to make these decisions. Period. End of Story.

    Actually it is, because it becomes the ISPs problem when my VPN, VOIP, gaming, etc time out because some guy doing bulk transfers is eating into all the bandwidth. Running a network involves priority and shaping. You may not even notice the shaping, because you can handle 150-200ms latencies with FTP, but the services I mentioned above will notice. Frankly, its networking 101.

    >They have just made themselves complicit in committing innumerable crimes ranging from spreading virii to transmitting child porn to terroism.

    I see youre as much as a lawyer as you are a network admin.

  • Bad Plan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overshoot (39700) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:49PM (#29097429)

    Comcast has finally filed suit [CC], stating that there are no statutes or regulations that support the FCC's authority to stop traffic shaping procedures.

    Consider that the only thing keeping hordes of State regulators from insisting on much stricter requirements (and even open access to that "last mile") is Federal preemption. If the FCC doesn't have the authority to do it, the States do.

    Biting the hand that shields you. Smooth move, Comcast!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#29097445)

    >stating that there are no statutes or regulations that support the FCC's authority to stop traffic shaping procedures

    But there are... It's called "common carrier status." The FCC should say "Fine, go ahead. Now you no longer have common carrier status."

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:54PM (#29097509) Homepage Journal

    On another note it would be way cool to be able to have whichever company's box has the broadcast channels on it that you associate with your home town, in my case New York and San Francisco. Do particular broadcast company stations have monopolies as well for geographic areas?

    I live equidistant to Omaha, NE and Sioux City, IA. The FCC has declared that my city is part of Sioux City's viewing area. No matter what we tried, the FCC would not allow us to get Omaha channels from Dish Network, even though Omaha is much larger than Sioux City, has more interesting news, and is actually in the same state I live in.

    So, no. What you're asking for is unthinkable to the FCC, and they will talk to you like a kindergartener with air-spread tapeworms if you have the audacity to ask them to let you do it.

  • by dsginter (104154) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:58PM (#29097541)

    Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution [ushistory.org]

    Although the prose is a bit dated, this is some remarkably "back to basics" thinking that could do some people a lot of good. I quote:

    Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday August 17, 2009 @05:03PM (#29097599) Homepage

    The answer to that problem is not "shaping" (or in this case, literally blocking and interfering with specific packets which is not shaping at all). The answer is building a better network and boosting the capacity. But as I understand it, the cable ISPs have control over the cable modems and can limit the over-all bandwidth being consumed by any one customer. (Yes, I know there are hacks that users can perform to overcome this, but that's beside the point... and the hacks can be detected and the user disconnected for violation of TOS.) With the individual user's max bandwidth limited, there should be no need for this shaping, unless, of course, their network simply can't support what they are selling.

    So the real answer is for Comcast to upgrade their network to accommodate heavy usage and to apply appropriate limits on individual peers to maintain good balance. Picking on individual protocols is not the correct answer.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 17, 2009 @05:10PM (#29097665) Journal

    The problem with any sort of Libertarian position is that, from everything we can tell, no human society has ever functioned like that. We can talk about theoretical governments (like Plato did, he pretty much being the guy that gave us the first concise definitions of major governing models), but I think it's important to look at the reality of the human condition.

    We need governments. More to the point, if we didn't have them, we would create them. We're social animals, are basic instinct is organize into dominance hierarchies. What the Enlightenment thinkers who troubled themselves with politics tried to reason out was a balance between the human nature to form governments and the philosophical notion that people deserve and need a certain amount of liberty to achieve their aspirations as individuals and as groups.

    Saying "governments are evil" is as about as sensible a position as declaring "art is evil". To be sure, both can be used to evil ends (and for those of us just coming out of the 20th century, we have an era when every possible evil any government could commit seems to have been committed by some government). At the same time, governments can produce beneficial things, as the ultimate agent of our species' need to work collectively.

  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday August 17, 2009 @05:44PM (#29098035)
    One can infer roughly how Comcast really views their customers by observing their ads (i.e. the customer IS the turtle: slow, ignorant, stupid and docile).
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday August 17, 2009 @06:03PM (#29098233) Homepage

    Actually it is, because it becomes the ISPs problem when my VPN, VOIP, gaming, etc time out because some guy doing bulk transfers is eating into all the bandwidth. Running a network involves priority and shaping. You may not even notice the shaping, because you can handle 150-200ms latencies with FTP, but the services I mentioned above will notice. Frankly, its networking 101.

    Okay, does Networking 101 involve knowing the difference between latency-sensitive and bandwidth-sensitive connections, and appropriately prioritizing them based on their actual usage, not a-priori decisions based on packet type?

    E.g. VPN -- it may be latency sensitive and thus deserve priority if you're using the VPN for VNC or similar, or it may be as latency-insensitive and bandwidth-heavy as an ftp transfer, if what you're doing is an ftp transfer over VPN. In which case it causes as many problems for your VOIP users as any other file transfer, and giving it high priority will only make those issues worse.

    VOIP on the other hand should always be low bandwidth (I don't know how low, but your land line works perfectly with a single 64kbs T0 virtual circuit), but latency sensitive, so giving it high priority should mean that its packets get through quickly, but don't actually delay anything else for any significant period of time.

    Whereas streaming video is hypothetically latency sensitive, but very high bandwidth, so the solution there is not to prioritize the packets, but to have the client buffer up some data first, hopefully making it latency insensitive as long as the bandwidth stays fairly steady.

    Basically what I'm proposing here is an idea from Operating Systems 101, where they have to solve a very similar problem. Some apps require responsiveness but don't need much cpu, others require lots of CPU time but don't really care how quickly they get scheduled for it as long as on average they get lots of cpu time. Scheduling the low-CPU apps first gives them the responsiveness they need, but by definition doesn't significantly hinder the cpu-intensive ones. But as soon as the app no longer fits that definition and starts eating up too much CPU, it gets bumped down in priority. That's the basic idea of the multi-level feedback queue. The best part is its dynamic and based on real usage -- you can even tell the OS what kind of app you are to get put into your preferred queue right away, but if that turns out to be a lie, you get shifted to the queue you belong in automagically.

    Back when I took Networking 101, they never talked about any 'scheduler' ideas of any sophistication, and the QoS they did discuss was very simple and naive, seemingly from the basis that networking hardware wasn't up to the task. On the other hand they also talked about this kind of deep packet inspection as though it, too, was something that would be possible in the future but not yet.

    So... Now that we can do the packet inspection, can we now associate the packets with a connection, and do prioritization based on actual usage, and actual utilization?

    Which, by the way, is where the bullshit becomes really apparent wrt Comcast and how they actually do their shaping. They kill bittorrent et. al. at all times of day, regardless of actual network utilization at the time. Grandma Lolcat Lover causes more problems watching short videos during 'net prime time than a 20GB bittorrent at 5am. Comcast doesn't distinguish, because for them it's not about actually managing the network.

  • Re:Republicans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrLang21 (900992) on Monday August 17, 2009 @06:15PM (#29098335)
    I've seen this before between a medical device manufacturer and the FDA. The manufacturer sued the FDA over some rules they made up and won in court. The FDA responded by sending their most detail oriented auditor they had and cited them on violation after violation until the company went out of business from the cost of dealing with it. I don't know if the FCC has that level of authority over the industries they regulate, but I would not be surprised to see a similar reaction.
  • Re:Republicans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Monday August 17, 2009 @06:39PM (#29098575) Journal

    and face it, the Republicans deregulated, deregulated, and deregulated some more. Of course there were exceptions, but on the whole they're mostly for deregulation.

    You won't get any argument out of me that the Republicans fucked up and dug us a hole that will take the better part of a generation to dig out of. I'm just tired of left-leaning partisans wielding the GWB administration as a shield to deflect any and all criticism of the current government. Here's the typical conservation with one of them:

    "I'm worried about the national deficit and how much it's going to rise under Obama."
    "When George W. Bush took office he had a SURPLUS. Then he passed his TAX CUT FOR THE RICH and now we have a huge deficit. Republicans can't claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility any longer"

    Umm, yeah, and how does that relate to my current concerns?

    Not all regulation is good, not all deregulation is bad; what you need is effective regulation.

    I don't have a problem with all regulation. It's clearly called for in some instances. I just don't think it's fair to blame the free market for the likes of Comcast when Comcast isn't operating under anything that remotely resembles a free market.

  • by riceboy50 (631755) on Monday August 17, 2009 @06:42PM (#29098619)
    This just goes to show that prices should be in terms of usage, like other utilities. That is what ISPs are now. The sooner they begin to be treated as such, the better.
  • by Vancorps (746090) on Monday August 17, 2009 @07:29PM (#29099013)

    Bandwidth gets cheaper the more you have it. I can tell you that all the business accounts with these same providers have SLA agreements involving bandwidth and uptime which means that can't oversell that much. Then you also have companies like IO Data which don't oversell. They actually buy more bandwidth and more power than required to prevent problems such as these. They make plenty of money too.

    The reality is that they aren't expanding capacity. I put on a traveling show so I can speak from a little person experience on this. 3 years ago I had a show in Florida and I wanted a DSL line for it. They gave me a 6meg pipe. I wasn't happy as that was slower than I can get in rural parts of Vermont let alone the urban area that is Palm Beach. Well, last year I went to order more DSL lines since they don't offer faster DSL service yet and all they could offer me were 3meg circuits to the same damned location!

    Another example here in Scottsdale. I provided a fiber circuit for gigabit Internet to the premises knowing that I only needed 50meg at the time. 2 years later the max they can provide me is 80meg which admittedly you still need a gigabit interface for. Bottom line is that most ISPs are trimming important parts of their business to save money and make a bigger profit. This has put the majority of them in bad positions to provide us with the service we desire. It also keeps our costs up since upgrading after the fact is still mighty pricey since they only do it when they actually have to they lose the economy of scale since they are only buying 2 100k routers instead of 200 or 2000. In short, they suffer from the same short-sightedness as the rest of corporate America and instead of fixing the cause of the problem they only want to take steps to mitigate the problems at the cost of service and higher premiums. DPI is always going to cost more than simple routing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2009 @07:48PM (#29099165)

    With luck, the FCC will get pissed and make an example of Comcast. I know it won't happen, but I can hope.

    How about a fraud investigation with charges brought for their packet forging?

  • Re:Republicans (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday August 17, 2009 @08:29PM (#29099509) Homepage

    To be fair, Comcast does allow you to opt out of the DNS redirection and they processed my request for this quite quickly.

    Same here, I opted out (via modem's MAC address) and had my request processed in just a few days. It still doesn't make it right however.

    What's next? pop-up Ad/Tracking software that runs in the system tray? And if there is little to no software activity running, it kills your connection until it's re-established? I mean, at what point do the ISPs start treating our connection as though it's only to be used for entertainment purposes? Screw what the Internet was *supposed* to be used for. You use it how we say you use it Mr-Mindless-Zombie consumer you!

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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