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Comcast Pays Out $16M In P2P Throttling Suit 176

Posted by kdawson
from the bad-money-after-good dept.
eldavojohn writes "Comcast has settled out of court to the tune of $16 million in one of several ongoing P2P throttling class action lawsuits. You may be eligible for up to $16 restitution if 'you live in the United States or its Territories, have a current or former Comcast High-Speed Internet account, and either used or attempted to use Comcast service to use the Ares, BitTorrent, eDonkey, FastTrack or Gnutella P2P protocols at any time from April 1, 2006 to December 31, 2008; and/or Lotus Notes to send emails any time from March 26, 2007 to October 3, 2007.' $16 million seems low. And it's too bad this was an out-of-court settlement instead of a solid precedent-setting decision for your right to use P2P applications. The settlement will probably not affect the slews of other Comcast P2P throttling suits, and it's unclear whether it will placate the FCC."
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Comcast Pays Out $16M In P2P Throttling Suit

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  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @09:59AM (#30534666) Homepage Journal

    Hey p2p users you can get $16 come register at our office to pick up the money.

    If I had to go to an office to get my check, I'd bring a burned copy of OpenDisc [wikipedia.org] (free software for Windows) and give it to whoever would give me the check.

  • Re:Typical! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:06AM (#30534704)

    LMAO, British prudes.

    Americans are only the biggest load of Christian fundamentalists in the world.

  • by bilturner (907791) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:18AM (#30534818)
    I'm a Comcast user, and as soon as I fire up bit-torrent my cable-modem starts resetting every 2 minutes or so. That has to be Comcast. Takes my cable-modem a minute to cycle through the reset sequence, during which time I'm offline. This tactic seems more egregious, though. Before, they were just interfering with packets. Now they're interrupting my service. Turn off bit-torrent, cable modem and service runs like a charm. Mysterious, isn't it....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:42AM (#30535046)

    For me, it's not Comcast but the router. If I torrent without throttling, the router crashes, and I have to power-cycle it to get it going again. I don't think the stock firmware versions on home NAT-router appliances are intended to handle dozens of simultaneous inbound connections.

    It's definatly the connection from comcast to the modem causing my issue, as resetting the modem, not the router, is what fixes the issue, and I've been using this same router for 4 or 5 years, bittorrent for a good portion of that, and this problem just started in the past 6 months or so. Additionally, when I limit the bandwidth on the connect, I don't limit the total connections at all. Instead of a dozen active transfers at 200kbps each, I've got a dozen at 12kbps each. Addtionally, I'm pretty sure that I've removed the router from the loop to run a direct line from the modem to my torrent machine at some point near the begining of this, to see the same problem.

    That's because you have only one connection open at once.

    Not at all. An ubuntu update manager session when I havn't run it in awhile may be pulling from a half dozen different repositories. Granted it's no 200peer torrent download, but my point was that it is not a bandwidth throttling issue. It is a bandwidth-while-torrenting-for-long-periods-of-time issue. I use encrypted packets on a non standard port, just like any torrenter with a brain does, but I'm sure that even a simple packet trend scanner at comcast's local office can figure out what I'm probably doing and limit me accordingly.

    Businesses, multi-family residences, and people watching HDTV streams.

    Can't run a business on one of their residential lines (which extreme 50 is), they'll shut you down if they catch you. I can watch HDTV streams on my regular connection just fine, and while a multi-family residence may require more bandwidth than usual, I submit that almost nobody is using 50mbps on anything like a regular basis except torrenters. Sure anybody can burst up to maximum now and then, but the difference between 15-20 seconds at 50mbps and 45 seconds to a minute at at 10-20mbps (the standard connection) isn't going to be noticable to most people most of the time. The people who really care are the ones who look at the connection and say "i'm looking at the difference between downloading this torrent in 8 hours and 3 hours". I can't imagine what most people would max out a 50mbps connection for, for 8 hours, other than downloading extremely large files (I.e. pirated games, movies, etc). I'm sure that somebody else out there uses it for some legitimate reason, I'm just saying that those users are few and far between, and that the majority of the people who'd actually make good use of that connection, are the exact people comcast doesn't want using it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @10:48AM (#30535102)

    So, is there any commercial program out there which uses P2P?

    Yeah, World of Warcraft, made by Blizzard, who runs a software updater (using BitTorrent, see your parent) whenever it connects to Battle.net. For WoW, that means "whenever you play".

    (Now, the software updater probably goes "if (my_version >= newest_version) return; else download_with_bit_torrent(newest_version)", so it won't be running bittorrent every time you play.)

    (Anonymous because I moderated)

  • Re:Typical! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Uncle Rummy (943608) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:46AM (#30535672)

    As long as you don't take part in the settlement, you can still sue them individually.

    Actually, as with most class action settlements, everybody is opted in by default, and you must explicitly opt out in order to retain your rights to sue on your own. Didn't hear about the settlement in time to file a claim or opt out? Gee, that's a shame.

    From the table at the bottom of the official settlement page [p2pcongest...lement.com]:

    Exclude Yourself: Get out of the Class You may ask to get out of the Class and keep your right to sue on your own about the claims in the lawsuit.

    Do Nothing: You remain in the Settlement. You get no money or compensation and give up your right to sue about the claims in the lawsuit.

  • Re:Typical! (Score:5, Informative)

    by drew30319 (828970) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @12:35PM (#30536132) Homepage Journal
    Although it wasn't a fine, McDonald's changed its business practices when sued for the dangerous temperature of their coffee. While the case has been the butt of many, many jokes the jokes (and vitriol) are primarily based on misinformation.

    Between 1982 and 1992, over 700 people had been seriously burned by McDonald's coffee that was brewed at a temperature that was not fit for drinking; at the time they were serving coffee at a temperature of 180-190F, a temperature that can result in third-degree burns in as little as two seconds. They had already paid claims as high as $500,000 for burns resulting from these high temperatures but had apparently done nothing to change their procedures to prevent future injuries.

    Enter 79-year-old Ms. Liebeck and the infamous "coffee lawsuit." In 1992 she purchased a cup of coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru; placed the cup between her knees; and removed the lid to add cream and sugar. The cup slipped, spilling the coffee onto her cotton sweatpants which absorbed the hot liquid, resulting in serious burns.(1) This brief exposure to the coffee resulted in burns over 16% of her body, 8% of which were third-degree burns requiring skin grafts on her groin, buttocks, and thighs. She was in the hospital for eight days as the result of these injuries.

    She requested $20,000 from McDonald's to cover her medical bills (which were $11,000) but McDonald's only offered $800. After filing suit a third-party mediator advised settlement of $225,000 but McDonald's refused. At trial the jury found Ms. Liebeck partly responsible for her injuries (20%) with McDonald's liable for the remaining 80%. She was awarded $160,000 ($200,000 less 20%) for compensatory damages (actual damages plus injury and harm) as well as $2.7M in punitive damages (intended to punish the harming party). The jury came up with the punitive damages amount based on two day's sales of McDonald's coffee throughout the franchise.(2) The jury's intention was to send McDonald's a message in an attempt to get them to change their business practices.

    It worked. Days after the verdict the coffee served by the same McDonald's location was twenty degrees cooler. Additionally the restaurant now adds cream and sugar to the coffee for you at the drive-thru, mitigating the risk of a repeat incident.

    Unfortunately this "example" of how to change corporate behavior has served as a rallying cry for corporate interests. When it's the businesses that control media spin it can become difficult for individuals to properly position stories that are "pro-consumer."

    I agree that $16M is unlikely to affect change at Comcast (at least to the extent that their customers would like) but feel that it's a step in the right direction. I'm one of the "affected" customers here and will take my $16 and move on; nothing would preclude me from filing suit if they were to recommence (or continue?) their behavior in the future.

    --------

    (1) Despite common belief to the contrary, Ms. Liebeck was not the driver of the car. She was a passenger. Additionally, the driver, her grandson, actually pulled the car over and came to a stop to allow Ms. Liebeck to carefully remove the lid. She had taken what many would consider to be the steps of a "reasonable" person.

    (2) On appeal the punitive award was reduced to $480,000 and the parties eventually settled out of court for an amount presumed to be in the neighborhood of $600,000.
  • Re:Typical! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @02:03PM (#30537096)

    No they weren't. No one else ever serves coffee at 190 degrees. 165 is the norm.

    At least do some research before opening your pie-hole.

  • Re:Typical! (Score:5, Informative)

    by drew30319 (828970) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @02:10PM (#30537160) Homepage Journal
    While I don't feel that your derisive "blah blah blah" was necessary I appreciate the opportunity to "debunk" another myth.

    "Standard serving temperature" implies that this would be a reference temperature against which temperatures at other restaurants would be compared; but McDonald's served their coffee at a higher temperature than their peers.

    In preparation for the trial, the plaintiff measured temperatures at 18 restaurants and 20 McDonald’s, and “McDonald’s was responsible for nine of the twelve highest temperature readings.”

    The McDonald's QA Manager testified that the corporation realized that burns would occur, but maintained the "holding temperature" of 180-190(1) of its coffee because their research indicated customers buy coffee on their way to work or home and so wanted the coffee to be at an appropriate temperature up to thirty minutes later.

    Hardly a "standard" nor an appreciation for consumers well-being.

    --------

    (1) by comparison the average holding temperature coffee at home is 135-140
  • Re:Typical! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shagg (99693) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @02:37PM (#30537438)

    From the wiki article:

    Though defenders of the Liebeck verdict argue that her coffee was unusually hotter than other coffee sold, other major vendors of coffee, including Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Wendy's, and Burger King, produce coffee at a similar or higher temperature, and have been subjected to similar lawsuits over third-degree burns.[18]

    Home and commercial coffee makers often reach comparable temperatures.[19] The National Coffee Association of U.S.A. instructs that coffee should be brewed "between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit [91-96 C] for optimal extraction" and consumed "immediately". If not consumed immediately, the coffee is to be "maintained at 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit".[20]

    Liebeck's attorney, Reed Morgan, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America defend the lawsuit by claiming that McDonald's reduced the temperature of their coffee after the suit. Morgan has since brought other lawsuits against McDonald's over hot-coffee burns.[21] McDonald's policy today is to serve coffee between 80-90 C (176-194 F),[22] relying on more sternly-worded warnings to avoid future liability, though it continues to face lawsuits over hot coffee.[22][23] The Specialty Coffee Association supports improved packaging methods rather than lowering the temperature at which coffee is served.[21] The association has successfully aided the defense of subsequent coffee burn cases.[24]

    Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote a unanimous 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion affirming dismissal of a similar lawsuit against coffeemaker manufacturer Bunn-O-Matic. The opinion noted that hot coffee (179 F (82 C) in this case) is not "unreasonably dangerous."

    Wiki has numerous references for their data. Do you have any?

  • by GasparGMSwordsman (753396) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @03:12PM (#30537770)

    I had this same issue. It is Comcast, but it is because they gave you a faulty modem (either crappy, broken or misconfigured). File a complaint, then demand a new modem.

    Also make sure to get a new modem directly from Comcast. Many of the at-home technicians are outsourced to other companies. At least in my area, most of these companies just take defective modems from one location and then use it at the next house call (this was verified by two Comcast employees). If you get it directly from a Comcast location you are more likely to get a non-defective modem.

  • Re:Typical! (Score:4, Informative)

    by drew30319 (828970) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @03:49PM (#30538136) Homepage Journal
    Yes; much comes from the case itself but unfortunately it was not reported and may be difficult for you to locate without using a paid service (West or Lexis). Here's the information in the event that you are able to look it up: Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants, P.T.S., Inc., No. CV 93 02419, 1995 WL 360309 (Bernalillo County, N.M. Dist. Ct. Aug. 18, 1994).

    I just found an article that details much of the info; I'd not used this article as a source: http://www.jtexconsumerlaw.com/V11N1/Coffee.pdf [jtexconsumerlaw.com]

    Much of the other info I found from a variety of sources (to include Wiki). Here are some:
    http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0305417907002550 [elsevier.com] (abstract only but "optimal drinking temperature" is 136)
    http://www.eweek.org/site/news/Features/coffee.shtml [eweek.org] ("safe temperature" of drinking coffee @ 143)

    Also, note that the 7th Circuit Appeals decision mentioned in the Wiki entry above is ANGELINA AND JACK MCMAHON v BUNN-O-MATIC CORP., ET AL and has some differences from the Liebeck case.

    First, the holding temperature at issue was 179, not up to 190 as in the case at hand. Second, and more important, the plaintiffs in the cited case were suing a manufacturer, not a provider; this distinction is important and was the foundation for much of Judge Easterbrook's opinion which includes:

    "Start with the contention that Bunn's coffee maker was negligently designed because [...] 'at the temperatures at which this coffee was brewed and maintained the structural integrity of the styrofoam cup into which the coffee was poured would be compromised making it more flexible and likely to give way or collapse when its rigid lid is removed.' It is far from clear to us that this effect, if a substantial one, should be laid at the door of Bunn rather than of the cup's producer[...]."

    Judge Easterbrook is pointing out that the manufacturer did not make the decision to design their coffee maker with full knowledge of the containers into which they would be poured; obviously McDonald's is in a different position and there is no clear conclusion that the judge would've held differently than was in the McDonald's case based on these facts alone.

    Also, I was mistaken regarding the study of temperatures of coffee at other restaurants; the study was done for a different case in 1986 in Texas but the results still hold true and were reported in the WSF (as cited here: http://www.vanosteen.com/mcdonalds-coffee-lawsuit.htm [vanosteen.com])

    I realize we've gone far astray from my initial point (the success of modifying corporate decisions via the torts system) but for years I believed the myths about this case and saw it as a symptom of what was wrong with the legal system in the U.S. The more I learned about the actual case the more I realized that I was mistaken; I take the opportunity to enlighten others about the facts if possible. I recognize that frivolous lawsuits exist but do not feel that this is one of them. Ms. Liebeck died in 2004 after contending with not just the "incident" but also many jokes unjustly made at her expense and I think that's a shame.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#30538522)

    No you can't.

    You can trust that the hashes matched. Thats it.

    Have you not been around for the many many times over the past few years where people have shown viable ways to get around the various common (i.e. the ones we use for anything that matters to this discussion) hashing algorithms?

    Hashes are a level of authentication, but they are defeat able, just gotta find the right spot and the right payload.

    With P2P you are willingly accepting data from many people you know nothing about. When HTTP, even without SSL I have a pretty good chance of knowing I'm connecting to the site I trust.

    With P2P I am most certainly connecting to hundreds of people that I don't trust one bit and it only takes one of them to find a payload that can match the hash and cause damage.

  • Re:Typical! (Score:3, Informative)

    by fredklein (532096) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @07:20PM (#30540002)

    Back atcha.

    Wiki:
    "Though defenders of the Liebeck verdict argue that her coffee was unusually hotter than other coffee sold, other major vendors of coffee, including Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Wendy's, and Burger King, produce coffee at a similar or higher temperature, and have been subjected to similar lawsuits over third-degree burns"

    In fact, "McDonald's policy today is to serve coffee between 80–90 C (176–194 F), relying on more sternly-worded warnings to avoid future liability..."

  • Re:Typical! (Score:3, Informative)

    by fredklein (532096) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @07:43PM (#30540186)

    Take a swig of 140F coffee -- the temperature your home coffee maker produces.

    Um, no. Here's a link to the User manual of a HOME coffee maker; http://bunn.com/pdfs/retail/usecare/38864.0000_BTX_U_C_English.pdf [bunn.com]

    It says: "The water is approximately
    50F hotter than what’s available from your hot water faucet". Hot faucet water is 130-140, so the coffee maker water is 180-190.

    It also says "The patented ready-to-brew reservoir keeps water at the ideal brewing
    temperature of approximately 200F."

    That's 200 degrees, even HOTTER than McDonalds. In a a HOME coffee maker.

    Besides, as has been pointed out, this was coffee at a DRIVE THRU. it was expected that customers purchase the coffee, then drive to work, then drink. To be hot at the destination, it needs to be hotter when made/served.

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