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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 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.


"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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