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RCN P2P Settlement Is Not Even a Slap On the Wrist 100

Posted by kdawson
from the briar-patch dept.
Ars covers the settlement of the RCN P2P throttling class-action lawsuit, which lets the company walk away without admitting guilt, without paying affected users, and without any meaningful restraint on their network management practices. "[The] settlement is due to be finalized on June 4. ... The case has largely flown under the radar. Yesterday, a notice ... was issued that alerted RCN customers to the settlement, and one Ars reader was aghast at the terms. Those terms provide nothing for users affected by RCN's practices. Instead, they require the cable company to change its network management practices. These changes are in two parts. ... These cessation periods would be retroactive. ... A moment's math will tell you that, when the settlement is finally approved, one cessation period will already have ended and the other will be ending soon. Once both cessation periods are over, RCN is allowed to implement whatever throttling regime it wants. Given that a federal court has just removed the FCC's authority to regulate network management, RCN appears to have carte blanche to single out BitTorrent and other P2P traffic for special throttling attention after November 1, 2010."
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RCN P2P Settlement Is Not Even a Slap On the Wrist

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  • Even if a bunch of people don't like it, the two parties in the case obviously came to this conclusion. I also have to admit that if it is their service they can do whatever they well please with it, obviously they need to state that when you buy the service, which I'm sure they will now. I hate the fact ISP's don't have enough competition as the next person, my only hope is that if a company does begin throttling demand for another service will increase, as demand increases... supply increases in the for
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      "if they can lay fiber to my house for internet and tv service"
      sounds like FIOS.
      Make sure your copper phones lines get to stay in case you want to leave from them later.

    • by ZekoMal (1404259) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:46PM (#31916080)

      but I have faith a free market system will work it out.

      Ha ha! Ha! That's funny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)

      The two parties are, more or less, "RCN" and "a bunch of class-action lawsuit lawyers". Compare the latter parties to the parties who could be construed as injured by this action, "the customers of RCN", whose recompense is nonexistent, and whose input seems to have been minimal.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @06:39PM (#31916630) Journal

      but I have faith a free market system will work it out.

      It might, if it were allowed to operate. That is not the case, however: in most jurisdictions internet is limited by law to certain companies. It is in no way a free market.

      • Even beyond that how could it not be limited by law. It would be absurd, if not a general hazard, if anyone who wanted to run cable from point A to point B could just do it. And if you are talking about some shared leasing of the same infrastructure, well, that would require regulation of some kind to work, too.
        Until we master wireless communications on such a wide usable spectrum with channel bandwidth efficiency so that anyone who wants to set up a telco provider could do it(which seems, well, against th
        • The solution is to make one company that maintains the infrastructure and leases bandwidth out to providers. Then any number of providers can compete with the same operation costs. This is essentially what happened to dialup, and it drove prices down from $20-$30 a month to around $5 a month.

          The government can be in charge of running the infrastructure itself, or it can subsidize it, or create a non-profit organization to take care of it, or it can let companies bid for the maintenance jobs. There are a l
          • by aXis100 (690904)

            Australia is just about to start this process - the $400+ billion National Broadband Network.

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            No, leasing out bandwidth is pretty much all we want ISPs to do now. Having a monopoly on that would leave the situation as it is now, but basically mandate that the monopoly ISP not offer any of the commodity free services that it currently does, while it throttles whatever costs it money. The solution is to have municipalities do what they already do well. That is the municipalities should run another set of pipes like the sewer lines to each house. A tube system the size of the sewer system would al
  • RCN used QoS techniques on their network, which is expected. They weren't filtering BT or P2P per se. I'm not completely sure what this is in regards to, but I've never seen them as the big bad that Comcast was.

    • by u-235-sentinel (594077) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:24PM (#31915858) Homepage Journal

      RCN used QoS techniques on their network, which is expected. They weren't filtering BT or P2P per se. I'm not completely sure what this is in regards to, but I've never seen them as the big bad that Comcast was.

      Please explain how "delaying or blocking P2P protocols." constitutes QoS? Delaying perhaps as that's what QoS does. It prioritizes those packets but blocking? QoS doesn't block AFAIK.

      According to the judge's summary, RCN was charged with violating the Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act "by promising its customers 'fast and untapped' broadband Internet service, when in fact [it] was engaging in a network management practice called 'throttling,' which was designed to prevent or delay customers from using the Internet in certain ways, including for 'peer-to-peer' file sharing."

      Sounds like bait and switch like what Concast has been doing. Don't promise if you can't deliver IMO.

      • by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:46PM (#31916078)

        network management practice called 'throttling,'

        Throttling is a QoS tecnique of slowing down transmission of lower-priority packets in favor of higher priority packets. To be quite frank, when you're on a cable line (RCN is ia cable provider, FYI), you know you're sharing it with your neighbors. Cable is not a dedicated line, and there's no reasonable expectation of such regardless of how marketing material puff it up. That's the nature of the technology in question. If a home user wanted a dedicated line, they'd have to pay for a dedicated line, not cable broadband.

        It's completely reasonable to expect slowing down the transmission of packets that simply have a lower priority for the purpose of QoS using a connection shared between many clients. If a connection drops because of a timeout, then that's too bad. It's not a big deal, because that happens too in QoS (in fact, it'd happen without QoS, but for all of the users), and is more a symptom of the timeout of the client being set too low.

        You can't comapre that to Comcast, which was forging packet contents to force P2P and high-bandwidth connections to outright drop.

        • by Twanfox (185252)

          Most techs know that a Cable internet line is shared between you and your neighbors, but does your average person know that? Is it advertised as such in the company's documentation? I can't say I've actively looked at cable internet lately to know these things, but I'd hazard a guess that they do not, in fact, make plain the pitfalls of their service.

        • by shentino (1139071)

          If you have to throttle, then you're overselling and owe a refund.

        • "You can't comapre that to Comcast, which was forging packet contents to force P2P and high-bandwidth connections to outright drop."

          True however that only came out later where as before they were 'claiming' it was network management.

          You and I know however that it probably wasn't true. Concast isn't well known for being an honest company. forging packets being an example of that IMO.

  • Eh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZekoMal (1404259) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:40PM (#31916002)
    I'm starting to lose it. I mean, seriously, why do we put up with this shit? Why? Can we not all elect to just stop everything until corporations realize they can't pull bullshit like this?

    Think about it. If everyone just flat out boycotted doing anything for even a week. If an entire nation stopped going to work, if they just ate whatever was in their fridge and spent time taking walks, talking with their friends, and just flat out relaxing, what the hell could corporations do besides finally realize they can't bend us over and rape us?

    The mere notion of not checking the internet, not watching TV, and not buying corporate crap on a daily basis. That's what's keeping us from having any control. Maybe a small fraction of the country elects to avoid every corrupt corporation like the plague. Maybe. Maybe a large percent of the population would avoid these corrupt corporations if they had a choice. What remain is that enough people don't give a shit about anything except for living their consumerist lives. So long as that >50% of the population continues to let corporations do whatever they want out of sheer willful ignorance ("I'd do something if I could, but in truth I'd never dream of selling my ipod, let alone not buying a Big Mac every week!"), corporation will continue to do whatever they want. So long as it's profitable to the congress folk, those corporations will get away with bloody murder.

    I just don't know how much more I can take before I lose it.

    • A week of boycott will do nothing since most people pay a monthly subscription. The only way to do this would be to have people cancel their subscription which is simply not going to happen on a scale that would make a difference.

      It is also not worth allowing competition for the same reasons it isn't for water/electric companies. It seems like government regulation is the only viable option here.

      • by ZekoMal (1404259)
        Except that the government is corrupt and is currently letting crap like this happen because of the money they get.

        The boycott is a little more devious.

        If no one purchased anything for a week, it would shatter the economy. Stores nationwide would suffer from a week of not only having no employees, but of having no profit. If the people then pointed at the ISPs and said "we're doing it because of them", what do you think would happen?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jerry (6400)

          EXACTLY!

          Lawrence Lessig explains it nicely in this video [blip.tv] and at this website: Fix Congress First. [fixcongressfirst.org]

          After campaigning for a year for Universal, Single Payer health care, the voters elected Obama in a landslide.

          It took Corporate lobbyists less than a year to buy out ALL of his fellow democrats. They already own the Republicans. Thus, the votes of millions of Americans are nullified by the corruption of a handful of politicians who took bribes (a.k.a. "Campaign Contributions", which they can convert to persona

        • Maybe it's just the weltschmerz I'm feeling, but do you really see a boycott like that actually happening? Even if it could, you would likely see increased sales the days before, and the days after the boycott to make up for the lost sales to some extent.

          I agree that the government is corrupt, but that is where we could actually see the most change, if people had the organization you're suggesting.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1. Your plan requires cooperation from too many people (including the higher-ups of the companies you're trying to screw), most of which are the typical american citizen which doesn't give a crap about your problems, so long as they can watch their nascar/american idol, drink beer, and drive to work in their SUV.
      2. Very little would happen to the companies, aside from the fact that the employees at the bottom of the ladder wouldn't get paid for a week (the higher-ups of course still would), and on top of th

      • by ZekoMal (1404259)
        Number one on your list is exactly what I stated in my own post: that it'll never happen because too many people love being consumerist idiots. Number two is slightly true, except for the fact that most of these corporations wouldn't be able to handle earning $0 (while losing money on electric fees, water fees, and costs of having their managers on duty in case anyone does come in) for a full week. If it happened at one store, they could handle it. If every single store they own suddenly pulled in no revenu
    • Think about it. If everyone just flat out boycotted doing anything for even a week.

      The functional failure mode of that statement is that word everyone. While its hard for many of us to see (since we spend so much time on slashdot) very few folk in this country actually feel like they are getting raped by any given corporation. For instance, if I go back to my podunk little hometown, and start telling people about how shitty out internet options are here, as compared to, say, Europe, they look at me like I am crazy. Most folk are so marveled by the fact that they can Google for an answer

      • by ZekoMal (1404259)
        ...RTFP. Halfway through my own post I said it was a pipe dream because of the exact reason that the majority just don't care. It's sad, but it's true. I've tried explaining this to people, and they usually just say "well, I don't feel like thinking about it". People would prefer to not have better because good enough is easier. It's unfortunate, but we're a minority in this country.
      • You're comparing the U. S. of A to EUROPE? You must be one of them there Socialists.

        Signed,
        Mainstream America

    • What are you even upset about? That people use ipods and eat big macs? How is that even a problem?

      The problem here isn't even with corporations, it's with our elected officials being corrupt and listening to rent-seekers (ie: corruption). This has nothing to do with corporations: even if you got rid of corporations, people would get together in businesses based on contracts and do the same thing.

      If everyone just flat out boycotted doing anything for even a week.

      This would do nothing. After it was over, we would all go back to work and it would be business as usual. By

    • If an entire nation stopped going to work, if they just ate whatever was in their fridge and spent time taking walks, talking with their friends, and just flat out relaxing, what the hell could corporations do besides finally realize they can't bend us over and rape us?

      First of all, ./ readers would be pretty lonely, and second, I don't fancy eating mustard and jalapeno for a week.

      In all seriousness, how do you chose which corporations you would still humour? Electricity company? Gas? TV? Are there any government-funded TV channels in the US? (seriously, I don't know). Would you go out with your friends? Would restaurants still be active [= would those people be working?]. If not, what would you do with your friends? Just walk? Now, I really love my fiancee, and have a

    • Think about it. If everyone just flat out boycotted doing anything for even a week. If an entire nation stopped going to work, if they just ate whatever was in their fridge and spent time taking walks, talking with their friends, and just flat out relaxing, what the hell could corporations do besides finally realize they can't bend us over and rape us?

      Please read a little bit of history, or just look outside your American suburban windows to see what the real world is like. We are living in a pathetic passive era. But here's the rub. When you protest, the government generally steps in to break the civil unrest. Air traffic controllers threaten to go on strike. Fire them all. People collect in the local park and hold signs? Send in the national guard, and bust some heads. Maybe shoot a couple.

      I'm all for agitation, but the result is not so

    • Because it's hard to get upset about something you don't understand the significance of.

      It's bad enough these days I'm seeing good young techs who believe the pablum the major media dish out through no fault of their own.  They're all in favor of locking down the internet any way the corps please.

      I'm working on de-brainwashing (re-brainwashing?) them, of course, but that takes time.
    • The fundamental legal structure of corporations, especially in the US, is flawed. In most circumstances, the corporation is essentially enslaved to the profit motive of the shareholders-- if they make a decision that would not maximize the benefits to the shareholders, and as long as the profit-maximizing strategy is not criminal, they can sue the corporation and win in court, ethics or principles be damned. This is how Ben & Jerry's turned from a company with principles not unlike that of many progress

    • I just don't know how much more I can take before I lose it.

      Funny how citizens get worked up to a frothy tithy if you touch their broadband, tv, or video games. I'm just curious. Did you get worked up in the last political election? Or, did you sit on the sofa, munching potato chips, cursing about your ISP?

    • If we all stopped paying taxes, the Corporations would go broke . . .
  • Choices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:45PM (#31916064) Journal

    I am not familiar with the US market, but will tell you what it's like in the UK.

    One of my previous ISPs decided to introduce throttling on different services using deep packet inspection to implement it. Their priority was for websites (port 80) and POP3 email. Everything else was throttled, in particular P2P services, and VoIP like Skype. However, by strange coincidence, the ISPs own VoIP service was NOT being throttled.

    As the company had to issue new terms of service you had to agree to because of the throttling, I left without penalty, and actually told them they were a bunch of shysters who were more interested in saving money that commissioning more capacity (they actually oversold the network and could not keep up). If you can, the only way to teach these companies is to leave them.

    Sure, the ISP has grown, but that's on the backs of new users who don't know any better, and would think that different internet services were just that slow all the time.

    • Re:Choices (Score:5, Informative)

      by ZekoMal (1404259) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @05:51PM (#31916128)
      The only problem is that the majority of the US has either one or two ISP options; whenever a smaller one comes along it gets either bought out or put out of business by the larger corporations that own all of the infrastructure. Leaving is reduced to two options: Pick the other abuser, or have no internet.
      • Actually, the majority of the US has at least 5 options. One or two may have everything that you want, except well those might throttle your connection. Dish I do believe covers the entire US. Most places have a cable company that offers internet. Almost everywhere has POTS/ISDN support. Most places can also get DSL, and I don't know of a place where you can't get a T1 line run to.

        Just because some of those options aren't what you are looking for, doesn't mean they don't exist.

        • This may be a joke. Sorry if I missed the humor in it. Dish has a significant latency, making it far from ideal in some situations. POTS/ISDN is too slow to be realistic. T1 line is far too pricey. Analogy: you don't need a car. You can walk, use the bus, get a limo, or a motorcycle. Sure, you can get those, and they do do similar things. But don't pretend they are equivalent, or even appropriate options. That leaves cable and DSL, which is what the GP mentioned: 1 or 2 choices.
          • Depends... You can use POTS/ISDN if all you want internet access for is checking your email or playing RTS/MMOs.

            Dish is fine for Email, web surfing, RTS/MMOs, and video sites like hulu/netflix.

            T1's can be quite affordable depending on where you are. Last I checked it was approx $200 for the last one I had run about 8 years ago. I also had 2 T1's to a Tier-1 carrier, but that ran $1000/mo.

            So yes, they are quite practical alternatives. If you plan on playing FPS's, then no, but then again, noone is complai

            • I see. Thanks, I feel better now. And also, since there are a gagillion different POTS internet providers, there is plenty of competition for everyone, and we can just let the market forces decide. But for some reason, my butt still hurts after bending over . . .
        • by Jaysyn (203771)

          Spoken like someone who has never used Dish for internet access. Dial-up is more reliable & has lower latency.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snowraver1 (1052510)
      Sure, the ISP has grown, but that's on the backs of new users who don't know any better, and would think that different internet services were just that slow all the time.

      Those are the customers that an ISP wants. These customers don't take alot of bandwidth and don't know when they are getting screwed, so they put up and shut up.
  • Won't someone think of the Lawyers? Without Class Actions like this they would likely be severely under paid by millions of dollars.

  • How about a community internet coop? Set up kind of like the farm or financial coops?

    You are an owner of the coop and your monthly fee is for the maintenance of the system?

  • I've been with RCN for years and I can't say I have any problems with my torrent throughput, but then again, I never use the default ports. I'm not saying that I'm an expert, but I do know that my own non-scientific comparative testing showed a major throughput difference between using the default BT ports and a randomly selected port in the higher range.

    If someone can prove me wrong, or explain why I am - I am certainly open to learning.
  • Given that a federal court has just removed the FCC's authority to regulate network management,

    Gah! That is not what happened!

    The supreme court upheld their authority to regulate network management. The problem was that the FCC ">didn't make their network neutrality principles as official rules [slashdot.org]. They didn't follow their own paperwork, so they didn't have the power to sue over it.

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