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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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RE: Stop Stealing
By Backdraft76 on 10/24/2007 10:16:22 AM , Rating: 1
It is not false advertising. The company I work for has 1.5MB to 45MB MPLS circuits. We don't always get that rate - however the rates we do get are within the range of the rates listed on our contract. That doesn't mean that we don't occasionally get less than the lowest or occasionally burst above highest. And we pay a hell of a lot more than the $60 per month you pay for Comcast internet - so I doubt they even make any guarantees regarding the average rate you'll get.

And it is not a morality or subjective importance issue - it is a legal issue. And I happen to know that Comcast is not the only ISP looking into ways to limit P2P traffic on their network. Not all, but the majority of P2P networks are nothing more than file sharing networks for people to download music/movies/software they are too cheap to buy - nothing more than common criminals. And they have their computers uploading and downloading this illegal content all day long. You're going to find that a lot more than the occasional "busy signal" that is being used by Comcast is going to start being done to shut down P2P networks. Maybe Comcast is using this fight against P2P networks as an excuse to try and eliminate traffic instead of increasing the capacity of their network. So what, something has to be done and more ISP's are going to be taking harder stances regarding illegal activity.

RE: Stop Stealing
By AlphaVirus on 10/24/2007 1:56:43 PM , Rating: 2
It sounds like you are using what little knowledge you actually have to be a strong arguing point. Do a little more research and make a little more sense next time.

Comcast is not right for taking away bandwidth WE have paid them to supply us with.

Example 1.
Your toilet gets stopped up so you call the plumber. You pay him $50 for his services to get everything cleaned up and fixed. After he is done providing his service, he says "Well Sir you ate beans today so I had to work harder cleaning up, I will have to give you this portion of the waste back"

Example 2.
You have 2 old cars you would like to get rid of so you take them to a junkyard. The mechanic would like to buy them for $1000 each, you agree thast a good deal. He comes back and says "Ok I am keeping both cars but since 1 car looks like its been raced in I am giving it back to you"

Point is, you dont pay for a service just to get everything you already paid returned based on what the service provider thinks.

Not all file sharing is illegal, some people like to share movies and music they made with friends and family.

RE: Stop Stealing
By Backdraft76 on 10/24/2007 3:51:41 PM , Rating: 2
Quote from Tech News World:
The number of music files downloaded from P2P sites (5 billion) grew 47 percent year-over-year and still dwarfed that from authorized sites (500 million), which grew 56 percent, according to the NPD report.

The sheer size and ongoing growth of illegal downloads and file sharing doesn't bode well for authorized online music and CD sales

At least mindless1 makes intelligent arguments-your examples don't work - eating beans and racing cars (unless done on the street) is not illegal - whereas according to all the reports I've read - most of the downloading going on on P2P networks are illegal material. I never said all P2P traffic is illegal downloading-I said most . And if all this illegal downloading wasn't going on would Comcast find a different reason to throttle bandwidth-more than likely yes. Unfortunately, they currently don't have a way to tell the difference between legit and illegal P2P traffic and since most of that traffic is illegal - they are using that as their argument to affect all P2P traffic. Because I am against all the illegal downloading going on, I choose to side with them. However, mindless1 makes the valid point that more and more legit P2P networks are coming online so they don't have a lot of time to figure out other ways of taking illegal P2P networks down without affecting the legit ones.

And I happen to have a large amount of knowledge on this subject because I have been in Network Administration and WAN Administration for a lot of years and have had to do research into the legality of file sharing on P2P networks and what the responsibility of the IT department is in regards to that kind of traffic passing on our network as well as college students doing it from the dorm room and employees using company equipment to do file sharing from their home - so I promise you I've done my homework on the subject.

RE: Stop Stealing
By mindless1 on 10/24/2007 3:24:21 PM , Rating: 2
It is false advertising when they artificially limit or block traffic below the rate they advertised. They are deliberately causing reduced speed.

I downloaded Ubuntu 7.10 ISOs a few days ago using bittorrent. Does it make me a criminal? At least dozens of thousands of people have in just a few days. They don't count though, right? Maybe you can't find any useful way to make use of internet technology besides the web browser but the world is moving forward in new and interesting ways whether you understand it's not all criminal activity, or not. Collective storage and computational projects are popping up and also using P2P technology. Are we supposed to stay in the stone ages just because you don't see beyond what a few people are doign wrong?

These are still the early years of collaborative data networking technologies. It will progress and those ISPs that impede it will become less and less desirable.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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