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Comcast's recent practices of throttling P2P traffic has finally attracted a class action lawsuit from a frustrated customer

Comcast's bandwidth limitting and peer-to-peer traffic sabatoging traffic finally caught up with the company. A class-action lawsuit has been filed (PDF) by residents in the state of California against Comcast.

Jon Hart, the plaintiff, claims Comcast Corporation committed a breach of contract by violating Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, the Business and Professions Code section 17200 and 17500 and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act by practicing the management of P2P-based traffic including throttling bandwidth and "transmitting unauthorized hidden messages to the computers of customers who utilize such applications."

The class-action includes "all persons in California who purchased the Service [Comcast broadband Internet] between November 13, 2003 and the present and used or attempted to use peer-to-peer or online file sharing applications and/or Lotus Notes."

The plaintiff represents all persons who have used P2P and file sharing applications, but there is no mention of exceptions where copyright infringement/piracy is involved.

Hart's submission seeks contract damages for compensation of the impeded service, but does not specify an amount.

Recently, many other ISPs such as Canadian-based Bell Sympatico confessed to using traffic management to restrict access to accounts based on the type of application or protocols they are using.  However, Comcast is still the first company to get hit with a lawsuit for such practices.

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RE: I can't wait...
By deadrody on 11/15/2007 4:03:44 PM , Rating: 5
Sorry, it doesn't really matter if anyone is using Bit Torrent for illegal purposes. The fact is Comcast is not even trying to discover who is using P2P or BT for illegal purposes, they are throttling that traffic regardless of the use.

The only illegal activity in play here is from Comcast.

RE: I can't wait...
By fleshconsumed on 11/15/2007 4:27:13 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about credibility. A jury will be much more sympathetic towards comcast if they learn the guy sho sued was breaking the law.

RE: I can't wait...
By splint on 11/15/2007 8:07:02 PM , Rating: 3
Generally people seem to overlook that Comcast is a common carrier. This means they are not allowed to discriminate traffic. QOS creates a gray area which ISP’s use to throttle traffic, but that’s it. However, if Comcast were to inspect packets to discriminate based on content then they would lose common carrier status and thus be royally f*****. At that point they would be responsible for the dissemination of all copywriter content on their network.

So, in short, it is most definitely not in Comcast’s best interest to examine if P2P traffic is illegal or not.

RE: I can't wait...
By clovell on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: I can't wait...
By geeg on 11/15/2007 4:52:15 PM , Rating: 5
then, Comcast must point out that the service they provide is not UNLIMITED but has xxGb limit monthly.

RE: I can't wait...
By clovell on 11/15/2007 5:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
Fair enough.

RE: I can't wait...
By xsilver on 11/15/2007 5:32:32 PM , Rating: 2
This kind of lawsuit has already been done in australia.
Dodgy companies were advertising 10gb / month as "unlimited", this kind of stuff is not happening anymore.

I think comcast are implying that if 99.9% of the population deem it as unlimited, its good enough to advertise it as unlimited?!

RE: I can't wait...
By drivendriver on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: I can't wait...
By room200 on 11/15/2007 7:28:53 PM , Rating: 5
I don't think Comcast guarantees a certain bandwidth. The advertised bandwidth numbers are peak bandwidth numbers. Notice the "up to" before the bandwidth numbers in the ads.

I have a proposal. My monthly bill is around $60.00. I propose that I should be able to pay them "up to" $60.00 per month.

RE: I can't wait...
By mindless1 on 11/15/2007 8:30:13 PM , Rating: 2
Notice they advertise "up to", not "throttled down from".

If a customer is not happy s/he should get money back in addition to having an option to switch but the fact is some people don't have but one viable broadband option and the issue is not just about Comcast doing it but that any ISP would.

RE: I can't wait...
By Grast on 11/16/2007 12:04:45 PM , Rating: 2

The service contract with Comcast is at will. As such, a consumer can cancel at anytime. However, no money is due to the consumer because Comcast met it requirements spelled out in the terms and agreements.

I know that pesky service contract ruins you idea. But that is living in the real world.


RE: I can't wait...
By mindless1 on 11/16/2007 10:53:46 PM , Rating: 2
Likewise with Comcast, they can cancel if they like but not take the money then actively prevent bandwidth advertised!

I know that must ruin your idea too.

RE: I can't wait...
By borowki on 11/15/2007 7:34:34 PM , Rating: 2
What next? Forbidding business from using the phrase "satisfaction guaranteed?"

RE: I can't wait...
By darkpaw on 11/15/2007 10:25:28 PM , Rating: 2
You must have missed the nut case administrative judge in DC that sued a dry cleaners for $54 million for losing his pants while posting a "satisfaction guaranteed" sign.

So glad he didn't get squat, but the family still got screwed going through that ordeal.

RE: I can't wait...
By poweruserx83 on 11/16/2007 6:35:08 AM , Rating: 2
I took a moment to think about this and I think I would support this..

RE: I can't wait...
By mindless1 on 11/15/2007 5:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
You've pulled that 20GB/day figure out of thin air I suppose, and it's non-applicable.

RE: I can't wait...
By clovell on 11/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: I can't wait...
By Symmetriad on 11/15/2007 5:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind if Comcast set a (reasonable and generous) bandwidth allowance per use, where you're throttled if you go above [X]GB per day - hell, most colleges do that already. The issue is that Comcast is basically saying, "Hey look, we have awesome internet service with unlimited bandwidth*!

*Unless you do that.
**Or that.
***Or that."

Which is a matter of false advertising and misleading claims. Things like bandwidth usage and limits need to be put in bold and prominently displayed in the TOS, not buried seventeen paragraphs deep and expressed in inscrutable lawyer-speak typed in five-point font. Whether P2P services are being used for illegal purposes is irrelevant in this case.

RE: I can't wait...
By Souka on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: I can't wait...
By clovell on 11/15/2007 5:25:57 PM , Rating: 1
Over P2P?

RE: I can't wait...
By Souka on 11/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: I can't wait...
By clovell on 11/16/07, Rating: 0
RE: I can't wait...
By mindless1 on 11/15/2007 9:44:46 PM , Rating: 2
People using P2P or Lotus Notes are throttled regardless of whether their bandwidth was excessive. Bandwidth is a non-applicable factor and not what this discussion, news, suit is about.

RE: I can't wait...
By clovell on 11/16/2007 11:02:38 AM , Rating: 1
That seems to be rather arbitrary, then. I'm sure the courts will work it out. I'm not familar with all the particulars as the link to the lawsuit wasn't working when I first posted.

RE: I can't wait...
By Grast on 11/16/2007 12:01:58 PM , Rating: 2

That is an assumption which you can not back-up. Please post your proof or it is just hearsay.

Everyone is missing the point. A consumer is signing a service contract with Comcast. The specifics of the service contact are layed out in the terms and agreements. These items are available to the cusomer prior to requesting service. The consumer is NOT being misled by the provider (Comcast). The level of service being provided by Comcast is as such:

1. X bandwidth for X dollars.
2. Service Expectations - bandwidth is not guaranteed.
3. Service Reliability - provider has the right to manupulate your traffic as they see fit.

It is cut and dry. I just do not see everyone's point. You are paying 40-60 dollars per month for a 6/8 meg pipe to the Internet. At this price level, service restrictions exist.

If you do not like those restrictions, upgrade to business class service type. Of course, you will pay 500 - 1000 dollars a month for 1.5 megs of bandwidth. You will probably be required to buy 2500 - 5000 dollars worth of equipment. However, you will have a service contract which states the provider is REQUIERED to deliver your traffic to the Internet with NO restrictions. You will even probably get a static IP address. Bonus.

I believe this issue boils down to on issue. Consumers believe the 40-60 per month SHOULD guarantee them unstricted access to the Internet. I am sorry but that is just not the level of service being offered.


RE: I can't wait...
By mindless1 on 11/16/2007 10:49:02 PM , Rating: 1
You're kidding right? That's what prompted all these news articles, independent tests that show it. Do the readings already instead of trying to place the burden on others.

I should clarify that I am using the term throttling to also mean traffic shaping because to me "traffic shaping" is a bullshit term, a sugar coating on reality, it's still throttling when you are being prevented from having full bandwidth paid for regardless of how they try to excuse it.

RE: I can't wait...
By Christopher1 on 11/15/2007 6:20:41 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong. I uploaded 10GB of the latest Naruto Shippuuden episode (which was only 170MB), so there are legitimate uses for Bittorrent and p2p.

RE: I can't wait...
By Hacp on 11/15/2007 6:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
I use p2p for anime exclusively too, and I hate to break it to you but its not legit. The good thing is that no one is going to sue you. I never really got into downloading music or movies because I didn't have broadband until 2002-2003 and thats when the RIAA started suing people.

RE: I can't wait...
By opterondo on 11/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: I can't wait...
By borowki on 11/15/2007 9:44:38 PM , Rating: 4
Like most P2P pirates, you're deluding yourself thinking the law is on your side.

Article 5 of the Berne Convention reads:


(1) Authors shall enjoy, in respect of works for which they are protected under this Convention, in countries of the Union other than the country of origin , the rights which their respective laws do now or may hereafter grant to their nationals, as well as the rights specially granted by this Convention.

(2) The enjoyment and the exercise of these rights shall not be subject to any formality ; such enjoyment and such exercise shall be independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work. Consequently, apart from the provisions of this Convention, the extent of protection, as well as the means of redress afforded to the author to protect his rights, shall be governed exclusively by the laws of the country where protection is claimed.

RE: I can't wait...
By dare2savefreedom on 11/15/07, Rating: 0
RE: I can't wait...
By Parhel on 11/15/2007 9:14:42 PM , Rating: 2

does that have to do with anything else anyone said?

RE: I can't wait...
By opterondo on 11/15/2007 8:35:41 PM , Rating: 2
6 Mbit connection = 2.7 GiB per hour < [Unlimited]

RE: I can't wait...
By Grast on 11/15/2007 6:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
What illegal activity. Read your terms and use agreement. Speed is not guaranteed. In addtion, read every terms and agreements from every Internet vendor. They all state that speeds are NOT guaranteed and that degrading another users service is violation of the service contract.

Comcast is in their rights to throttle and manuplate traffic on their network. Every Comcast user has already agreeded to this action whether they bothered to read the terms or not.

Please see below for proof.

You shall ensure that your use of the Service does not restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or degrade any other user's use of the Service, nor represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an overly large burden on the network. In addition, you shall ensure that your use of the Service does not restrict, inhibit, interfere with, disrupt, degrade, or impede Comcast's ability to deliver and provide the Service and monitor the Service, backbone, network nodes, and/or other network services.

Note: Comcast reserves the right to immediately terminate the Service and the Subscriber Agreement if you engage in any of the prohibited activities listed in this AUP or if you use the Comcast Equipment or Service in a way which is contrary to any Comcast policies or any of Comcast's suppliers' policies. You must strictly adhere to any policy set forth by another service provider accessed through the Service.

Subject to applicable law, we have the right to change our Services, Comcast Equipment and rates or charges, at any time with or without notice. We also may rearrange, delete, add to or otherwise change programming or features or offerings contained in the Services, including but not limited to, content, functionality, hours of availability, customer equipment requirements, speed and upstream and downstream rate limitations. If we do give you notice, it may be provided on your monthly bill, as a bill insert, in a newspaper or other communication permitted under applicable law. If you find a change in the Service(s) unacceptable, you have the right to cancel your Service(s). However, if you continue to receive Service(s) after the change, this will constitute your acceptance of the change. Please take the time to read any notices of changes to the Service(s). We are not liable for failure to deliver any programming, services, features or offerings except as provided in Section 11e.

Bandwidth, Data Storage and Other limitations Use of the Comcast network infrastructure in a manner that (i) exceeds the then current bandwidth, data storage or other limitations on the Comcast High-Speed Internet service or (ii) puts an excessive burden on the limitations of the network. Examples include: Using the Comcast network to run a Web-hosting server or any other commercial enterprise.

End of law suit.

RE: I can't wait...
By hellokeith on 11/15/2007 7:15:55 PM , Rating: 2

Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. ;)

RE: I can't wait...
By opterondo on 11/15/2007 8:31:16 PM , Rating: 2
The Comcast terms and use agreement is not law. Your logic fails-

From your own post "4. CHANGES TO SERVICES
Subject to applicable law, .."

From article ".. committed a breach of contract by violating Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, the Business and Professions Code section 17200 and 17500 and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act .."

RE: I can't wait...
By teckytech9 on 11/15/2007 11:29:46 PM , Rating: 3
Comcast has no right in instantiating, impersonating, masquerading any user on its network, by injecting TCP reset packets on its behalf for traffic shaping purposes. This is akin to giving a telephone user a false busy signal, when in actuality, the phone is on-hook and working just fine. The phone network PSTN is a public utility and so is the Internet.

Comcast knows that p2p is a real threat to their cable delivery channel business model and is trying to limit its usage and acceptance under the guise of traffic shaping techniques to hamper p2p’s superior file sharing capabilities.

Lets say that content could be delivered more efficiently via p2p than FTP server methods. Also the large influx of new ipTV companies are now flourishing on the net. This means that more bandwidth usage will occur, regardless of which way the traffic flows. Comcast needs to increase their bandwidth capacity or else risk losing the majority of their subscribers to its competitors.

RE: I can't wait...
By Grast on 11/16/2007 12:24:51 PM , Rating: 2
the Internet is NOT a public utility. The phone companies have this status due to public safety issues. As too your assersion of impersonating and masquerading, that is very subjective. Who owns your identity on the internet from the network stacks point of view. Who owns the IP address which end computer is using. Is that IP address even consider real since every moden network use NAT to more efficiently use a providers allocated IP subnet. The awnser is Comcast.

Since the Internet is NOT a public utility, your example of a busy signal is illrelavent.

As to how Comcast manages their bandwidth, that is function of profitability for the Comcast and out of scope for this discussion. Comcast has already disclosed to the consumer their abilty and right to manage their network as they see fit.


RE: I can't wait...
By teckytech9 on 11/16/2007 2:05:17 PM , Rating: 2
As too your assertion of impersonating and masquerading, that is very subjective.

Subjective to lawful interpretation, hence the validity of the Class Action Suit brought forward.

Since the Internet is NOT a public utility, your example of a busy signal is irrelevant.

True, since it is not subject to State/Federal regulation and oversight. However, since VoIP requires 911 services to be fully operational, public safety is riding on the net. The example outlines in simple terms how Comcast is using forgery and spoofing techniques in their traffic shaping methodologies.

Customers pay their ISP to transport and receive their data based on the advertised data rates. If the ISP cannot deliver these rates, then it is the duty of the ISP to inform their customer in writing of their failure to do so. The ISP is also responsible to provide a refund on services that have been paid for, but cannot be delivered. Comcast may be synonymous with Concast.

RE: I can't wait...
By Cattman on 11/16/2007 1:12:08 AM , Rating: 2
Saying that a user agreement is the end of the law suit is just plain simple. You can write anything in a contract and get someone to sign it and it doesnt mean squat if a court decides otherwise. If the plaintiff can prove that his or in fact anyones bandwidth was artificially restricted even when not at peak times and was not placing a large burden on the network I'd say they have a good shot a wining. I also feel that while speed might not be guaranteed the implication is that bandwidth is determined by network traffic and conditions not what application you are using. If you are not degrading service or placing a overly large burden on the network how will they justify not giving you the bandwidth you paid for? because you use bit torrent? or Lotus Notes? Sorry but this is not the end of law suit... not even close.

RE: I can't wait...
By Grast on 11/16/2007 12:15:51 PM , Rating: 2

I disagree, the plaintiff's point of view regarding whether the network was burdon or not does not apply. Even a liberal judge has to agree that all service expectation were given to the plaintiff prior to service being provided. As such, the plaintiff has already agreed that is within Comcast's right to make decisions about it network and actions to correct.

Maybe I am nieve enought to believe the courts will see this lawsuit for what it is. A few customers upset with the level of service being delivered and agreed too by both parties and dismiss as such.

Additionally, since the service contract with Comcast is at will. The plantiff will suffer no harm by severing their relationship with Comcast and moving to a provider which meets their needs.


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