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Comcast's New Terms of Service Disclose Traffic Management 302

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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  • Re:Traffic Shaping (Score:5, Informative)

    by bh_doc ( 930270 ) <{blhiggins} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:28PM (#22344018) Homepage
    This is a good point. Packet forging is not traffic shaping, it's active degradation of service: Exactly what they say they are trying to prevent by doing this.
  • by ashridah ( 72567 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:29PM (#22344026)
    Sure, that's a good idea, and probably what a lot of ISP's do in practice. prioritise traffic.

    It should be noted, however, that this is *not* what comcast is doing.

    Comcast are deliberately cutting connections when a user attempts to seed bittorrent. Most users can still download, but they can no longer upload, without encrypting the tracker's traffic and individual connections. (I was able to get mine working again, after a fashion, once i setup a tunnel for the tracker (not all) traffic was able to go through)

    This sucks for people trying to distribute stuff, like, say, linux ISO's, or their own music/media, etc.

    I now use verizon as a direct result of these pathetic practices.

  • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:41PM (#22344148) Journal
    Perhaps it's time people stopped using major ISPs.

    I have never used a major ISP

    Unfortunately, most people in the U.S. don't have the luxury of a choice in internet providers. They generally have one or maybe two options (if they're lucky). I have three "options", myself. I can either get Comcast (see story above), Covad DSL (resold by a number of companies, but limited to 512k and never cheaper than $100/month), or SBC DSL at 6Mb.
  • Re:Mail Server (Score:3, Informative)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:56PM (#22344244)
    On the other hand, running a mail server is against your terms of service, so Comcast isn't being that generous ... they can kill you off any time they want. They're just choosing not to for the moment. Me, I stopped using Comcast's SMTP and POP3 servers years ago. Even if they did block Port 25 I'd never notice it (maybe they have, for all I know.)
  • No Real Choices (Score:2, Informative)

    by phreakincool ( 975248 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @10:57PM (#22344256)
    The sad truth is, in most cases, Comcast can do whatever they want and the customers are just stuck with their complaints. The reason is that there aren't any real choices. In my area, for broadband alternatives there is WOWWAY Broadband cable and AT&T DSL. I've used WOW's product, it was cheaper but the cable tv quality lacked and broadband speeds were not on par with what I was used to getting from Comcast. Everyone knows that DSL is not even in the same league as broadband cable, so AT&T is out of the question. What is needed is real competition. I, for one, am waiting for Verizon FIOS to be deployed. That's when I'll switch.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:12PM (#22344406) Homepage
    Here's some facts for you from a comcast insider. well a past comcast insider.

    The techs dont know squat. They typically tell you what you want to hear if they can get online, lag is a non issue they will not fix. The Lag at comcast is huge, as well as the Jitter. It's gotten worse over the past 2 years because of the equipment they install. Most people have voip quality issues because of the sniffer they have installed in every 2nd point OTN that all traffic goes through.

    Also your modem is set to cache a large chunk fo your traffic before sending. this plays HELL with games and Voip as well.

    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.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:27PM (#22344532)
    Uh, doesn't basically every TLS enabled mail server support SSL/TLS on a port other than 25?
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

    by rabbit994 ( 686936 ) on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:38PM (#22344610)
    As they should. 587/TCP Port has been set up for SMTP Submission which is open on Comcast network. Port 25 is basically now reserved for Server to Server transmission.
  • Re:*All* ISPs? (Score:4, Informative)

    by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:39PM (#22344614) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, I'm on verizon and loving it. Not sure what the issue is here- everybody here asserts that if you really had to you could revert back to DSL like it's something bad. My verizon dsl is 3 mbps, and comcast in the area is 4 mbps. My work has comcast and it's far slower than my home DSL connection. So I'm not sure why people ignore the obvious..
  • by complete loony ( 663508 ) <Jeremy@Lakeman.gmail@com> on Thursday February 07, 2008 @11:43PM (#22344648)
    You can, and in some cases must, drop packets to implement traffic shaping. That's fine. Every TCPIP implementation on the planet will notice and slow down the transmission of data. What Comcast has been doing is forging packets with reset flags to convince one of the end points of the connection (or both? I'm not sure) that the other end has closed the connection.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Friday February 08, 2008 @12:05AM (#22344792) Homepage
    Apart from the fact whirlpool is a troll platform more than a consumer watchdog now. You raise an issue on the forums and fanboys troll you to no end.

    Either way, it's a shit site for fighting back. The only avenue of dispute is, AND ALWAYS WILL BE, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. I have, over the past 12 months, lodged a total of 3 complaints with the TIO. 2 of them didn't even make it to Level 1 complaint before the ISP changed their policy/dropped charges. The 3rd case is currently at Level 3, which is the final level before the case is refered to the Austrlian Communications & Media Authority. Once it reaches them, fines & possible revoking of communications lisence/trading rights can ensue.

    All my complaints on whirlpool.net.au have done is serve to fuel trolling, not serve to be an open forum where you can stage a consumer "fight back". So yes, stop smoking crack and get with the real world, Australia has VERY strict laws with regards to communication - it's just ISPs & Telcos decide to try and blindside customers with illegitimate T&Cs.
  • Re:Okay. (Score:2, Informative)

    by palegray.net ( 1195047 ) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Friday February 08, 2008 @12:07AM (#22344800) Homepage Journal
    You're telling me you can't get Speakeasy service anywhere in Atlanta? You're badly in need of reeducation. I'm posting from Connecticut (stationed up here in the Navy), but I entered my dad's address and phone number in Lawrenceville, GA (out in the sticks, right?) and he could get Speakeasy service. So then I looked up some random guy named John Smith on whitepages.com [whitepages.com] who lives in Decatur (most assuredly inside metro Atlanta), and he could get Speakeasy service. I guess I could go on, but why waste my time? I personally know people who use their service in Atlanta, along with a few business customers. You're just wrong.

    Maybe you can't get it at your specific address, but to try to claim the entire metro Atlanta market is devoid of Speakeasy coverage is absurd. Got another reply? I'm sure you could make a bigger ass out of yourself if you try a little harder.
  • by cyberworm ( 710231 ) <cyberworm@gma i l .com> on Friday February 08, 2008 @12:14AM (#22344842) Homepage
    I think this refers only to their "residential" service. I'm on a business account, and haven't really had many issues with them except for some technical issues (orders not being put in and adding static ip's for a couple of examples).

    This isn't to say "buy a higher tier service, or suck it," but perhaps comcast should just put hard speed caps in place and only advertise up to that speed, and not outrageous speed 'but only for what we approve.' Not only that, but where are a lot of their problems happening? Is it on the nodes in local areas or is it in their back end connection to the whole of the internet. I don't know much about the super technical workings of TCP/IP but isn't there a way that they could route p2p traffic between their customers inside their network and infrastructure without jamming up traffic to external sources with little to no impact to other services?

    One thing I'd like to know is, how are Comcast and other cable ISPs connected to the internet? Are they all networked together through a cable system with endpoints at telcos?
  • Re:Okay. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2008 @12:55AM (#22345100)
    Speakeasy is not the dream everybody makes it out to be. My DSL went down, and Speakeasy and Bellsouth pointed fingers at each other for 2 weeks. I got no service credit and Speakeasy would not let me out of my contract. Finally it just started working again.
  • Re:Time to grow up (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cowclops ( 630818 ) on Friday February 08, 2008 @02:03AM (#22345466)
    $40 doesn't buy you a guarenteed 6 mbit connection 24/7. If you have a problem with the way they sell their bandwidth, send them a complaint to lower their cap so you can't burst to higher speeds. If you want a legit 6 mbits per second 24/7 for yourself, go buy 1/8th of a T3. Just one problem: splitting a T3 8 ways is gonna cost QUITE A BIT MORE than $40 a month.

    What comcast is doing is screwed up (the exact way they're killing bittorrent traffic) but the only reason they can sell you a "6mbit connection" for $40-$50 a month under the current system is the assumption that you're, like most web browsers, not using it more than about 10% of the time. They could charge less, but that wouldn't fund their system upgrades without everybody in their company taking a pay cut (whether their CEO deserves to make however much he does or not is a whole different story).

    So the options are: Complain until they price the service for 24/7 operation, complain until they lower the quality of the service to what they can afford to sell for $40 a month and guarentee 24/7 bandwidth, or just accept that $40 a month doesn't get you a guarenteed 1900 gigabytes of traffic per month. Yes, 1.9 terabytes. There is a reason (a multitude of reasons actually) why 45 mbits on a T3 line costs a LOT MORE than $300 when 6 mbits on a cable line costs "only $40-$50." Yes, comcast sucks. No, broadband providers can't realistically be expected to cater to the Homer Simpsons sort that would sue an all you can eat buffet for kicking him out after consuming every bit of food in the establishment. You're paying for a connection that is unlimited with connection time, but its NATURALLY limited with respect to data speed/total data transferrable in a month/number of customers sharing your coax loop.
  • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Informative)

    by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Friday February 08, 2008 @02:44AM (#22345626)
    There's also those wireless internet cards you can get from the cell phone companies.

    Internet access from mobile phone companies is a joke. They charge absurdly high rates.
  • Re:In other news... (Score:4, Informative)

    by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Friday February 08, 2008 @07:17AM (#22346850) Homepage
    I think you make what seems like a compelling argument, but I think the reality is a little bit different.

    Broadband is extremely lucrative, but it also has a high startup cost. That explains why Verizon is spending $Billions on rolling out fiber across the country. It partially explains why Comcast has revenues of almost $27B in 2006, with almost $6B of that coming from the broadband business (http://www.telecommagazine.com/newsglobe/article.asp?HH_ID=AR_2806). That represented an 18% increase over the year before.

    The ISP business is very lucrative, but you have to convince someone to loan you a couple $Billion and grow. It's not easy to make any business grow to this size. Very similar to starting a cell phone business.

    As to your price argument, it seems nice in theory, but the reality is that the price of broadband is related to what you will pay, and what the competition is charging. Thus, the guy down the street downloading 500G per month might be slightly raising some cost to the ISP, but your bill is not related to that. Trust me, if your ISP thought he wouldn't lose too much business raising his rates by $10/month, he would raise it in an instant, regardless of his costs.

    Moreover, I still don't get why I would buy a 15Mb connection from Verizon (yes, very common) and then limit myself to a few gigabytes per month. A fast connection doesn't help my web pages load faster. Overall, why would you get a fast connection just to do the occasional download and a lot of surfing? If that's your profile, that's not a problem, get the cheap DSL packages that you can now get from Verizon for around $20 when they run promotions.

    My point is that it doesn't make sense to offer people a big fat pipe and then tell them "Don't use it, because you're abusing the network".
  • Re:In other news... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ethanms ( 319039 ) on Friday February 08, 2008 @08:48AM (#22347270)
    I get 1.5Mb/s from my Sprint EVDO RevA card, uploads in the neighborhood of 200-300kbps.

    It may not be 8-10Mb you can get from cable or FiOS, but it's certainly comparable to many ADSL offerings.

    The price is certainly higher at about $65/mo, probably about $20/mo higher then I pay for a 10Mb/s cable modem connection from my local provider (not comcast) ... then again I can take that 1.5Mb connection with me just about anywhere I go, that's worth the extra $20.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 08, 2008 @11:44AM (#22349082)
    I used to do technical support until I got sick of it in Nov. They don't bock port 25 by default. They will block it if they get a lot of spam complaints or see ridiculous amounts of traffic leaving your IP via port 25. This does happen a lot since a lot of general computer users are ignorant of computer security concepts or even updating their computer. Even though there are free anti-virus programs and Comcast offers McAfee for free people don't bother. I was surprised by the amount of people who's computers were being used as spam mail relays. Generally Comcast will block them and if the customers ever called to complain or check their Comcast webmail they'd know what was going on. We'd then walk them through using port 587 to send mail via Comcast w/ authentication or set them up to SSL. Anyway, I didn't work at the top of the totem pole so I can't say your reading the mail theory is wrong. But it is highly unlikely and you are definitely wrong about port 25 being blocked.
  • Contradictory (Score:2, Informative)

    by doggo ( 34827 ) on Friday February 08, 2008 @04:13PM (#22353320) Homepage

    From Comcast's FAQ [comcast.com]

    Do you block access to peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent?

    No. We do not block access to any Web site or applications, including BitTorrent. Our customers use the Internet for downloading and uploading files, watching movies and videos, streaming music, sharing digital photos, accessing numerous peer-to-peer sites, VOIP applications like Vonage, and thousands of other applications online.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford