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ISP Giant Compares Its Filtering with a Busy Signal

Lawyers and privacy groups are reportedly “circling the waters” over Comcast, who stands accused of using an aggressive kind of traffic shaping that impersonates individual P2P users and compels their computers to automatically disconnect.

Comcast’s actions are perfectly permissible under the terms of use described in its contract with customers, which states that Comcast reserves the right to “refuse to upload, post, publish, transmit or store any information or materials, in whole or in part, that, in (its) sole discretion, is … undesirable or in violation of (the) agreement.”

However, many are concerned that Comcast’s actions with regards to BitTorrent traffic – that is, impersonating users’ computers – may not entirely be legal as many states have laws regarding impersonation. In the state of New York, for example, section 190.25 of the penal code describes the crime of “criminal impersonation in the second degree,” in which one may not “[pretend] to be a representative of some person or organization and does an act … with intent to obtain a benefit or to injure or defraud another.”

While legal grounds may be shaky at this point, the EFF has reported that it has received numerous calls from various firms that are considering legal action.

Meanwhile, Comcast has adjusted its response. The original response, says Brad Stone of The New York Times, seems to have caught Comcast’s PR department off-guard. The new response reads, “Comcast does not block access to any Web sites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent … we have a responsibility to provide all of our customers with a good Internet experience and we use the latest technologies to manage our network so that they can continue to enjoy these applications.”

The reality, however, is more complicated says Stone. Speaking on anonymity, a Comcast internet executive told The New York Times that Comcast was indeed manipulating traffic, through data management technologies designed to conserve bandwidth. As part of that process, the company will attempt to delay P2P traffic to preserve other users’ quality of service. He described the process as being akin to the busy signal in a phone call: users are perfectly able to hang up and try again later.

“In cases where peer to peer file transfers are interrupted,” writes Stone, “the software automatically tries again, so the user may not even know Comcast is interfering.”

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To the nameless clueless naive user
By avb on 10/24/2007 7:56:58 AM , Rating: -1
Sorry people, your comments are *so* funny for outsider that I actually took the trouble to register. Stop wining, it would not help you. From technical point of view, ISP is in its right. It does not shape/limit your speed; it does not modify your data. It just (most likely) happens to send FIN packets to some other bastard computer (not their client of course) that incidently make *his* P2P proggie drop that connection. Only that bastard from other continent could have any rights to sue Comcast. You, its client, have no reason to.

As for spending more bucks to the ISP infrastucture, just consider how much it costs to lay *and* mantain copper cable. Or even fibre one. Ask your nearest IT person. I believe current Comcast approach cost it 1/10000 of possible upgrade budget. It even may be well compensated for it by friendly RIAA, as for largest P2P download speed sabotage.

So here you have it. Comcast customers will stay in a state of permanently scr*age. Isn't that always with IT customers?


RE: To the nameless clueless naive user
By h0kiez on 10/24/2007 8:47:57 AM , Rating: 2
That was the dumbest, most poorly worded, and devoid of any fact or meaning reply I have ever seen.

I guess you have some IT knowledge (questionable), but you obvious can't speak English and haven't a clue about the law.

Oh...I'm also loving the "1/10000 of possible upgrade budget". Was that on their latest balance sheet? Or did you pull that out of your ass? Yeah...I thought so.

RE: To the nameless clueless naive user
By avb on 10/24/2007 11:45:05 AM , Rating: 2
I indeed know next to nothing about law. So it is very interesting to know what Comcast user complaint could possibly look like. Especially if he does not want to get into legal trouble from other parties. "I am not able to share *some very specific free data* with my friends as fast as I used too and yet I paying x$ for it" does not look very promising.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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