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Comcast Sued Over P2P Blocking 268

CRISTAROL writes "Comcast has been sued by a California resident for blocking BitTorrent and other traffic. 'John Hart describes himself as a Comcast customer who has seen performance hits when using "Blocked Applications" targeted by Comcast's traffic management application, Sandvine. In his complaint, Hart says that Comcast severely limits "the speed of certain internet applications such as peer-to-peer file sharing and lotus notes [sic]." Comcast accomplishes this by "transmitting unauthorized hidden messages" to the PCs of those using the applications.' The lawsuit comes on the heels of an FCC complaint over the same issue."
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Comcast Sued Over P2P Blocking

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  • Ha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:39PM (#21359075)
    "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."

    The article was blocked just a few seconds ago. COINCIDENCE? hmm?
  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by proudfoot ( 1096177 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:39PM (#21359083)
    Maybe comcast will start delivering what people paid for.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:42PM (#21359111)
      Nah, it's cheaper to buy a few more politicians.
    • Judging from the week and a half it took for someone to come out and unscrew a filter off my line, I doubt it. Not to mention it took two different techs two visits to do it.

      Damn you basketball season, damn you!

    • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mtmra70 ( 964928 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @09:15AM (#21362631)
      While I agree that it sucks they are blocking P2P apps, I will have to admit their service is pretty darn good. A few case examples:

      1) My cable went out at 12am. At 1am I dedcided to give their tech support a ring. I called the number, selected the broadband option, entered my phone number and within 30 seconds I was connected to an AMERICAN technician. I told him I thought our entire cable system went out. He logged into our local node and confirmed our entire area was out.

      This being a Saturday night I asked him if it would be fixed over the weekend. To my suprise he said it would be fixed in a couple hours after rolling a truck. Sure enough, I wake up at 8am and all was better.

      This is about the 6 call to Comcast and every call has been answered promptly by an American and handled in the upmost professional manner. The same cant be said for SBC/ATT 1st level phone support.

      2) I subscribe to their 8Mb/768Kb plan and consistantly receive 8Mb plus transfer rates. The Speedboost to 16Mb is AMAZING! I purchased TF2 over Steam and started the 7GB download. To my suprise I was receiving it at 1.5MB-2.0MB/sec and it was completed in 60min!!!! The same couldn't be said for ATT's DSL.

      Sadly, I may be moving soon and out of the Comcast area. At least AT&T's DSL is cheaper than what it used to be (and hopefully the same reliability).
    • Doubtful. This past week they blocked both inbound and outbound SMTP (I run my own mail server) because "Your system is infected with a virus".

      Rather than take the time out of my day to wait on hold for a few hours to deal with their "security" team, I've instead coughed up the small fee to use dyndns's mailhop relaying on nonstandard ports. Yay! Reliable mail again!

      I'm moving in December and am looking forward to the opportunity to ditch comcast, who have been nothing but a source of incredible annoyanc
  • by compumike ( 454538 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:42PM (#21359115) Homepage
    The real problem here isn't just that Comcast is doing the filtering. Who knows -- maybe it's really OK under their EULA and the law (which I doubt). But the most painful part of the problem to consumers is that the Comcast government-granted monopoly on the cable lines means that lots of consumers have no other alternative.

    I think the antitrust laws might have something to say here, although it's a bit of a stretch. In any case, how can we codify the fact that providers with effective monopoly status should have an additional burden of service to their customers? I do wonder if this is bigger than limited net neutrality legislation.

    Educational microcontroller kits for a digital generation. []
    • I'm not suggesting that this is the correct solution to the problem, but the thing you are describing is a "telecommunications common carrier", and extending that status to Internet access seems to be what you want.

    • by bishiraver ( 707931 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @11:53PM (#21359189) Homepage
      "maybe it's really OK under their EULA and the law (which I doubt)."

      You'd be correct in doubting it. IANAL, but:

      Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.
      It would seem to be that 1) Comcast has a scheme to make money (by having less in bandwidth costs), and 2) they fraudulently transmit interrupt signals to accomplish this.

      Really, they should be prosecuted in criminal court, not sued in civil court.
      • Good luck throwing a corporation in prison. ;-)
        • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:24AM (#21359863)
          There is no reason a corporation could not be locked up. It is simply a matter of judges and juries being willing. They are certainly able.
          • Ahhhh... i hope to see the day when a corporation is criminally convicted, and its registered office sealed as in house-arrest with its board inside.
            Unfortunately, by a quirk of fate, the corporate veil (am studying Banking law), cannot be pierced except when government dues/taxes are due or in times of War.
            • It's usually done to a specific office of a corporation. I've actually seen a store closed and its assets seized as part of a lawsuit, where the corporate headquarters refused to pay the fines they'd had levied against them.
              • by mgblst ( 80109 )
                We are actually talking about people being improsined, not assetts being seized. Assetts being taken happens all the time. But actually seeing members of the board, you know the people who made the decision to do something illegal, being carted of to prison is very rare.
            • the veil of incorporation can be pierced at any time if it is believed that a member or members of the board have personally acted illegally.

              It is only when it is the company itself has behaved illegally that it cannot be, no one board member can be singled out and imprisoned.
            • by mpe ( 36238 )
              Unfortunately, by a quirk of fate, the corporate veil (am studying Banking law), cannot be pierced except when government dues/taxes are due or in times of War.

              Does the "war on drugs" or the "war on terror" qualify?
    • EULA is overridden by California law and FCC regulations.
      AT&T and others signed a net neutrality agreement for merging.
      The same applies to comcast.
      If they block any protocol, they get sued.
  • by cynicsreport ( 1125235 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:23AM (#21359401) Homepage
    Going through legal channels is important, but until this makes its way through the courts (which could take a while), I don't think Comcast users are completely helpless.
    What we really need is some clever client-side programming. A p2p client (or standard) that does some clever encryption, sends data hidden through other streams, etc. I'm not a network programming guru, but it seems like these programs can (or should) keep a step ahead of whatever recognition software that gets through the approval process for comcast servers.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )
      I suspect that even if you could tunnel BitTorrent over SSL Comcast would still find ways to shut you down.
  • by moondo ( 177508 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:41AM (#21359521)
    Last night I was uploading a file to at about 450kbps and 3 minutes into the upload session my internet connection was cut off. So I had to restart my cable modem. Then I reconnected and went back on mediafire, tried again... same thing happened. I reconnected the modem, then I tried one last time; my internet was cut off till the next day (today). I can only express disgust for Comcast if I was disconnected for uploading a file I needed for work. I didn't call Comcast because I hate being put on hold, but I probably should have verified if it was really them that cut me off. It's just weird that it happened 3 times during an upload session which used some bandwidth.
  • by trimCoder ( 954838 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:46AM (#21359575)
    Do the users of comcast have a limited amount of bandwidth usage per account and do these 'hidden' messages count towards this bandwidth usuage? I think these are important questions as it would result in the customer being charged for a service they did not receive.
  • Its about time... (Score:3, Informative)

    by deAtog ( 987710 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:54AM (#21359639)
    While not directly affected by Comcast's filtering policy, I for one hope this guy wins and sets a legal precedent on which other lawsuits against ISPs/OSPs can be based. As a student currently attending The University of Akron who resides on campus, I look forward to the day when EFF or ACLU pursues action against The University of Akron for violating student's rights in the same manner that Comcast has violated the rights of their customers. Shown here are some logs highlighted to show some of the filtering that is being done to students residing on campus. [] Not only is The University of Akron filtering Bittorrent traffic but also HTTPS, SSH, VPN, IMAP, NTP, and as well as many others that I may have missed. This filtering is not only intrusive to students that require secure access to remote resources, but is also counter productive to new innovation. I am appalled by the actions this, and many other, public institutions have taken towards the treatment of students and their rights online. For reference, the address shown in the logs is that of my server. It is on 24 hours a day so feel free port scan it if you like. I suspect you won't be able to determine which ports are open due to all inbound traffic being blocked by the University as well.
  • First is exactly what is Comcast agreeing to provide? I seriously doubt they make any claims of unfiltered, unlimited access. They may not be disclosing all of the limitations on their service to customers, but have they in any way advertised services they are not providing?

    Secondly, and perhaps most importantly to Comcast since there is no such thing as "common carrier" for an ISP, do they have any legal liability if it can be proven they are assisting users in gathering materials to which they are not l
    • Look again. Comcast is not blocking the traffic. They are sending fake packets pretending to be from the user's computer, to disable the connections. That runs afoul of some fascinating federal fraud laws. They'd have a much better leg to stand on if they said "the P2P traffic is insanely excessive, we're going to throttle it" and did so. But they won't admit that they do this, despite the repeated verification with network monitoring tools that they do.
  • Sandvine (Score:4, Informative)

    by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:27AM (#21359891) Homepage
    Sandvine is a local company here in Waterloo, Ontario. It has been a high flyer and a media/investor darling of late.

    The local newspaper had an article [], which I blogged about a few days ago, on Sandvine's technology and how it is involved in the Comcast debacle.
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:46AM (#21360007) Homepage
    Can Comcast block spam? I mean, I'm just wondering. Because it seems like the end result of this line of argument is to give spammers a precedent that says "You must deliver our spam."
    • What is Spam for you is communication for Comcast.
      Their job is JUST to relay communication.
      Who are they to Judge what passes through?

      Would you want your electricity supplier to stop electricity to your home in mid-winter just because it "thinks" you bought a distribution box to distribute power to neighbours free of cost or because you plan to use a high-wattage saw to cut up firewood (and not use an electric heater)?

      Corporations already have frightening powers than individuals, let us not promote it furthe
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )
      The difference between blocking SPAM and what Comcast are doing is that SPAM blocking doesn't involve sending messages from one IP address crafted to look like they are coming from a totally different IP address. That is the core of the problem with what Comcast are doing, they are sending network packets from one IP address (the Sandvine blocking and detection box) but where the IP datagram contains a totally different source address (that of the BitTorrent user).

      This forging of packets probably violates s
    • by dodobh ( 65811 )
      The point is that using bittorrent, etc is not an AUP violation. Running a full fledged port block would be less problematic than the business of forging RST packets.
  • Tomorrow??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:47AM (#21360015)
    Bittorrent today. Maybe VoIP tomorrow - unless you buy the special (higher priced) Comcast VoIP package.

    They want to know how much they can get away with. Stopping them now will be much better than fighting with them later!

  • by KookyMan ( 850095 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @06:14AM (#21361609)
    Ok, those in the know feel free to point out errors and omissions in this BUT:

    Wouldn't it be in Comcast's better interest to allow p2p on their own controlled network? As opposed to the apparent blanket "slowdown" that they've effected, it seems to me that it would make much more sense to only bottleneck at the routers that are at the fringe and connecting to other networks. It seem to me that every byte they can keep "in house" is significantly cheaper than the bytes that have to be passed off. And this applies to the entire speed limiting bit.

    Think of it like this. If Comcast subscribers can share amongst themselves the latest Fedora 8 distro between each other, with no speed restrictions, isn't it cheaper than having us all pulling that same multi-gig image across multiple networks?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Catiline ( 186878 )

      You are correct, and that is (according to statements provided by whistle blowers) what Comcast is doing: to wit, they block any upload greater than a few megs (2MB? 3?) from within Comcast's network to any server outside of it.

      The problem, however, is that people with "more legitimate" network connections than P2P -- such as the Lotus Notes mentioned in the summary, VPN connections, or file upload to public services (YouTube are NOT going to be remaining in the local Comcast network, and their ser

  • Ohboy...I think this is going to be a case of a guy with one legitimate complaint, into which he builds other things that have no basis at all. Lotus Notes...slow over a remote link? is. But it has nothing to do with Comcast. Where I work now, we have Notes, and the problem is that the Notes needs to talk back to the Notes server whenever you do ANYTHING. I mean, when you're scheduling a meeting, and you go from the "description" field to the "start time" field, it chats with the server. Obv
  • I think Time Warner/Road Runner is doing something like this well. Fire up bit torrent and the transfer speed starts fast then drops off within a few minutes and it will get to zero. The cable modem will show a connection but I wont be able to get online. Its frustrating.

User hostile.