Print 38 comment(s) - last by GreenEnvt.. on Aug 5 at 8:48 AM

Previous amends notwithstanding

Comcast is on the hot seat again: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin issued a damning order (PDF) against the ISP, condemning it for its controversial “network management” practices and ordering it to stop.

“Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn’t want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped ‘address unknown – return to sender’?” asked Martin in a statement. “Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is full sometimes, letters to you could wait, and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them?”

“Unfortunately, that is exactly what Comcast was doing with [its] subscribers’ Internet traffic,” he said.

The FCC says that Comcast’s network practices “contravene” the FCC’s task of protecting the “vibrant and open nature” of the Internet.

“The Commission concluded that Comcast’s network management practices discriminate among applications rather than treating all equally and are inconsistent with the concept of an open and accessible Internet. Indeed, the Commission noted that Comcast has an anticompetitive motive to interfere with customers’ use of peer-to-peer applications,” reads an FCC press release. “The Commission also concluded that Comcast’s practices are not minimally intrusive, as the company claims, but rather are invasive and have significant effects … In essence, Comcast opens its customers’ mail because it wants to deliver mail not based on the address on the envelope but on the type of letter contained therein.”

The order came despite Comcast’s stated intent to reform its practices. The company promised last March to end its policy of “data discrimination” sometime before the end of the year – a timetable that Martin previously questioned on its initial announcement – as well as also announced collaborations with content-delivery experts Pando Networks to build a “P2P Bill of Rights”. It is even working directly with BitTorrent’s inventors to further optimize the protocol.

Comcast’s official response called the FCC “sharply divided,” but then went on to praise the order’s lack of a fine and enforcement of Comcast’s “self-imposed deadline.” The press release goes on to state that the majority of its P2P customers – which represent about 7% of its subscriber base – are “unaffected” by the company’s network management, and that it recently “doubled and in many cases tripled”  the upload speeds for its customers at no additional charge.

The FCC order gives Comcast 30 days to implement its conditions, lest the company face “interim injunctive relief” should it fail to comply. These conditions compel Comcast to:

  • Disclose to the FCC details on its “network management”  practices,
  • Submit to the FCC a “compliance plan,” outlining specifically what it intends to do to stop those practices, and how it will do so by the end of the year,
  • Disclose to the public specifically what network policies it will replace its questionable practices with.

Over the past year, Comcast’s relationship with the FCC could be best characterized as acrimonious; the company spent much effort to defend its practices, sometimes to seemingly adversarial confrontations. All of this came to a head shortly after the March announcement, when Martin received a nasty letter from Comcast VP David Cohen that questioned Martin’s competence in understanding the way Comcast ran its network: “Your response,” wrote Cohen, “repeated erroneous characterizations of Comcast’s network management practices … that we have taken great pains to clarify on multiple occasions.”

Despite its controversy, Comcast remains the second largest Internet Service Provider in the United States, trailing DSL rival AT&T by less than a million subscribers.

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At last!
By Googer on 8/1/2008 7:07:27 PM , Rating: 5
It's about time our wonderful capitalist government cracked down on COMMUNISTcast censorship.

RE: At last!
By Souka on 8/1/2008 7:18:37 PM , Rating: 5
Why isn't AT&T Wireless on the "hot seat" as well??? They said they'll be terminating users who use P2P apps...

I'm confused....

RE: At last!
By PhoenixKnight on 8/1/2008 7:29:11 PM , Rating: 2
It's only a matter of time.

RE: At last!
By TomCorelis on 8/1/2008 7:31:25 PM , Rating: 4
They're only terminating users on its 3G network -- people who already signed away any rights to use P2P when they signed their service agreement. The only people affected are those who use P2P apps on mobile devices like a Palm, Blackberry, or iPhone, people who tether their laptops to their smartphone, or people with one of those nifty little 3G PCMCIA cards.

RE: At last!
By TomCorelis on 8/1/2008 7:39:01 PM , Rating: 4
In any case, my experience with AT&T's 3G network indicates latency so bad that even an SSH tunnel is nearly unusable ... I wouldn't even bother with any kind of P2P. Save it for when you get home.

There were times at my previous employment where I had to use Remote Desktop over AT&T's 3G network to troubleshoot some of the servers at the office -- slipping my phone into tether mode and quickly switching on my laptop. It was miserable -- they should have given me a raise for that crap.

RE: At last!
By ianken on 8/1/08, Rating: -1
RE: At last!
By bodar on 8/1/2008 11:24:38 PM , Rating: 3
All that said: I am all for people paying for their bandwidth. If some P2P junkie is going to saturate their connection 24/7 then they should pay more than the average web surfer/mail reader/occasional down-loader. I don't want to subsidizer their media habit.

This would be fine if they offered a reduced cost plan for "average web surfers" but they won't do that. They want to have cake and eat it too, which is to charge everyone a flat rate for internet service AND punish those who use their connection a lot.

The tiered service plans I've seen provide very little discount for those who use minimal bandwidth for the lowest tier plan, but there is always a nice rate increase for those who actually "use" the internet and need something more than 5GB/month for about the same rate they already pay. People want "unlimited" plans so they don't have to return to the days of AOL dialup, only instead of measuring hours online, you are measuring data downloaded.

The cable companies' plans hurt the other 92% of their subscribers as well.

RE: At last!
By walk2k on 8/2/08, Rating: 0
RE: At last!
By MaulSidious on 8/2/2008 7:09:47 AM , Rating: 5
Yes cause god forbid that i actually use the service im paying for you idiot.

RE: At last!
By SiliconAddict on 8/2/2008 9:15:15 PM , Rating: 2
Crapcast is the bigger fish and making an example out of them will send a shock wave through the industry...or so we hope.

RE: At last!
By HsiKai on 8/1/2008 7:54:25 PM , Rating: 5
I would like to see Verizon held accountable for their use of redirecting anything in the URL field that they deem acceptable to run through their own search page.

RE: At last!
By Quiescent on 8/1/2008 9:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well, then I would like to have Cox Communications held accountable for redirecting DNS traffic away from two IRC networks I try connecting to using their DNS servers to to a psuedo IRC server with a forced-join to #martin and a bot attempting to remove botnet software. I have to either A. use an alternative DNS server, or B. remember the IP for the IRC server.

When calling them up about it, they denied any problem.

RE: At last!
By Quiescent on 8/1/2008 9:17:15 PM , Rating: 2
Oh and I heard that they have all their SSH ports open, which wouldn't surprise me since before I got a router, I was receiving the... I forget what the name of the type of packet it's called, but it's basically a Whois packet... I was receiving 1000-2000 every 10 seconds. This is certainly not normal! And the whois packets weren't exactly sent to the same IP, but they were sent to a certain range of IPs within the ISP range. I am really not good with networking, but I know it's not that I'm infected or anything. Because it is happening on any connection I've used using this ISP.

RE: At last!
By HsiKai on 8/1/2008 10:31:54 PM , Rating: 3
I had Cox a while back and they suck ... well, it's in their name. They seem to be joining Verizon in this search-generated revenue. I did have a similar problem with IRC that you mentioned, I think disabling my modem for a while and perhaps not registering my MAC with them ever again may have fixed the redirection. Fortunately I do not use IRC enough to have experienced your problems though.

Also, in reply to the below post here is Verizon's own opt-out site:
Sadly simply "opting out" doesn't mean you wont still get redirected as some users say it happens either way. (I thought I did.)

As well, you are absolutely right, add 2 to the last IP grouping and that is the "out opt" DNS IP. Mine for instance is 12, so if I change it to 14 it should take effect. Thanks for both of your posts.

RE: At last!
By Oregonian2 on 8/1/2008 9:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
If you're talking about what I think you are, you can eliminate that by using different DNS servers. Either third party DNS servers or the servers of Verizon that don't do that (among others, some are reported to be two numbers higher or lower from the default ones (don't recall which direction) there are articles around about that).

RE: At last!
By HsiKai on 8/1/2008 10:20:11 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, and thanks for the info, I really ought to look into that. It does not, however, mean that Verizon should not still be held accountable for redirection and whatever other packet-sniffing they're doing.

As of posting I still cannot find the alternate DNS addresses I'm looking for, if I find them I'll post them.

RE: At last!
By TMV192 on 8/1/2008 9:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
what does capitalism and communism have to do with this?

RE: At last!
By James Wood Carter on 8/2/2008 5:37:25 PM , Rating: 2
Anything impediment on media is regarded as communist ... acording to some people.

RE: At last!
By Alexstarfire on 8/2/2008 7:52:47 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, the FCC finally did something right. I feel a little bit prouder about our government, BUT ONLY A LITTLE.

RE: At last!
By Polynikes on 8/3/2008 1:20:47 PM , Rating: 2
I was quite glad to get away from Comcast a couple years back when they were doing this to me, but I'm even more glad to see the FCC is finally doing something about it. Now if only we could increase competition and get some better/cheaper internet service.

By JonnyDough on 8/1/2008 10:23:37 PM , Rating: 2
the concept of an open and accessible Internet

Now if only they would crusade against ALL ISPs and CHINA for this. We should be pulling our athletes out of China due to the hotel tapping scandal.

By HsiKai on 8/1/2008 10:45:54 PM , Rating: 2
We should be pulling our athletes out of China due to the hotel tapping scandal.

If you don't like their rules don't use their internet.

The internet is not yet at the same commodity level as water, you don't need it to survive. The very nature of Olympics is to help open countries up to interacting with the rest of the world "as we do" so that everyone is treated fairly. While one may argue that what the Chinese are doing is a direct violation of moving towards equality and freedom, you cannot deny that they have been making inroads towards such things. We should not let one scandal ruin something that has done so much good in the past.

By bodar on 8/1/2008 11:33:49 PM , Rating: 2
Who's internet SHOULD we use then? In many markets, cable companies get franchises from the local gov'ts for exclusivity to that market. So if you can't get DSL or FiOS, you are stuck with whatever cable broadband that's in your area. Nothing is going to change if we don't voice our dissatisfaction. Of course, you could argue that nothing will change either way...

By bodar on 8/1/2008 11:35:09 PM , Rating: 2
Ohhh, you were talking about China's internet. My bad.

By onwisconsin on 8/2/2008 12:35:50 AM , Rating: 2
The athletes would not like that at all. Working four years and having it all thrown away because of politics? No thank you.

By JonnyDough on 8/2/2008 6:12:29 AM , Rating: 2
You're worried about a handful of athletes compared the millions living in China? This is more than just journalists trying to have freedom of press. It's about the Chinese people having freedom to express themselves and not be murdered for saying the truth.

I think you kind of miss the point of the Olympics and what they stand for. The Chinese government is slapping the faces of everyone that has ever competed in Olympics by doing what they're doing. Any athlete with honor would probably be making a huge statement by LEAVING China. Someone has to make a stand, what better people to do it than international heroes?

Can you imagine what the repercussions would be for the Chinese government once word spread through the people of China by word of mouth, that American athletes quit the Olympics because of journalist censorship? I can only hope that something like this happens.

By James Wood Carter on 8/2/2008 5:42:40 PM , Rating: 1
then your a small minded person, think for the athlete side ... they train daily for a few moments of olympics and i don't think they care too much about censorship on internet - they are more focused on sports and winning medals.

BTW since one must respect other countries laws even if you think they are harsh and inhumane - olympics or not should not make a difference

By Alexstarfire on 8/2/2008 6:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
It would also seem quite obvious that it's not THAT serious for the Chinese people, though I can't say why. There are only two ways China's government is going to change. One is that it's just slowly going to evolve or die away over decades/centuries. The other is a revolution/civil war. The former is a lot more likely than the latter since their government has actually been improving.... if only slightly.

By masher2 on 8/2/2008 11:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
> "You're worried about a handful of athletes compared the millions living in China?"

And pulling our athletes out of the Olympics is going to help those living in China?

The fact of the matter is that the average Chinese -- after decades of brutal repression and even worse, an economy that doomed them to a brutish 18th-century near-starvation agragrian lifestyle, are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Why? Because Western nations are finally dealing with China, a policy of engagement that is forcing free-market capitalism upon the nation. It's one of the (very) few things Clinton actually got right.

So the Chinese not allowed to publicly disparage their government? I don't like that...I also don't the fact that you're not allowed to publicly disparage those of other races or ethnicities in many European nations. Both are roughly an equal suppression of free speech. So China represses Tibetans trying to secede....have you seen how Spain handles Basque separatists, or the U.K. of not that long ago dealt with Sinn Fein and the IRA?

China is not an ideal nation, but it's moving in the right direction. Hosting the Olympics is a great step forward for them, and our attending it will do much more to accelerate China's modernization and move towards freedom than would sitting at home on our butts.

My hero
By Reclaimer77 on 8/2/2008 8:11:21 AM , Rating: 3
Text“Would you be OK with the post office opening your mail, deciding they didn’t want to bother delivering it, and hiding that fact by sending it back to you stamped ‘address unknown – return to sender’?” asked Martin in a statement. “Or if they opened letters mailed to you, decided that because the mail truck is full sometimes, letters to you could wait, and then hid both that they read your letters and delayed them?”


RE: My hero
By walk2k on 8/2/2008 1:50:20 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, that is a terrible analogy.

A better one would be perhaps, if you drove a semi truck up to the post office and started dumping tons of junk mail on their front door step - so much that other people seeking to buy some stamps or mail a couple of letters have to push their way thru all your spam, or can't even get in the door at all!

I don't agree with the particular method they used here, but they do have the right, in fact the obligation , to protect their network from disruptions, whether it's from heavy usage by a small fraction of users, hackers, spam, DOS attacks, or whatever.

That said, FWIW I have Comcast HSI and never experienced any trouble with bittorrent. Doesn't appear they do this in all markets, maybe just where traffic is overloading capacity... or maybe they just target the super-heavy p2p users, I generally turn my computer off during the day and only leave p2p running overnight...

RE: My hero
By dever on 8/2/2008 2:26:54 PM , Rating: 2
An even better analogy, is if the post office offered an enhanced service to deliver some packages first at a higher cost.

Oh wait, they already do.

RE: My hero
By Etsp on 8/2/2008 4:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
Well, considering each and every single letter should be properly post marked, and paid for... the US Postal Service would have absolutely no right to refuse the mail. If you overwhelmed the post office that bad, they would redirect you to a sorting center, or expand their capabilities to keep up with demand. Your analogy is bad because comcast doesn't make more money if you use the connection more, but the post office does. Comcast has a flat rate, so they would rather you pay for their service and not use it at all.

RE: My hero
By foolsgambit11 on 8/2/2008 4:58:09 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, don't give Comcast any ideas.... Maybe they'll start charging by the packet.

RE: My hero
By Iger on 8/4/2008 3:43:05 AM , Rating: 3
They have promised a bandwidth their network, actually, can't deliver... Perhaps they should have charged by amount of simultaneous connections, rather than transfer speeds, but as it is - they promise me, you and a granny next door say 10Mbps and hope... no actually count on granny not using hers fully... Now they've been wrong, but try to make me pay for that... Strange?

About Time
By iFX on 8/2/2008 5:07:34 PM , Rating: 2
Comcast has always been a despicable company in my opinion. I'm sure they have all sorts of shady policies we know nothing about. For once I am in agreement with the FCC. What Comcast is doing is wrong. It's too bad we can't put any of their top brass in jail for it.

RE: About Time
By GreenEnvt on 8/5/2008 8:48:36 AM , Rating: 2
I dislike Comcast's methods too.
However I did work as a tech support agent for them for 4 years (started level 1, then level 2, then level3/noc which does not talk to customers, only techs and friends/family of the president).

In that time, I didn't see any overly shady practises, most of the major things people hated were down to Comcast's franchised nature (getting ahold of local offices), and very outdated software that made getting things done difficult.

Verizon Fios heed
By vcolon on 8/2/2008 2:15:30 AM , Rating: 2
Verizon FIOS take note.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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