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Comcast Facing FCC Penalty Over P2P Practices

Outcome could be an end to unlimited Net access plans

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By engaging in traffic shaping to slow down heavy users of its Internet service, Comcast may be on the brink of receiving a penalty from the Federal Communications Commission.

Comcast sits in a lonely place when it comes to the discussion over net neutrality. The cable company’s ISP service used network controls to hinder the operation of rapid file transfer services like BitTorrent, as was discovered last year.

The practice looks like it will dunk Comcast into hot water with the FCC. Comcast critic Free Press complained to the FCC about Comcast’s work, which the FCC appears ready to agree Comcast ran afoul of open access rules.

“The FCC now appears ready to take action on behalf of consumers,” Free Press general counsel Marvin Ammori said in a statement. “This is an historic test for whether the law will protect the open Internet. If the commission decisively rules against Comcast, it will be a remarkable victory for organized people over organized money.”

Any preliminary celebrating should be tempered with a dose of reality. As the Bits Blog claimed, ISPs use network management tools as Comcast does, with Comcast being unfortunate enough to get caught in a public fashion.

An FCC penalty may bring about a less desirable result than net neutrality advocates necessarily wanted, according to Bits. Comcast and other broadband providers could choose to implement billing based on usage rather than the unlimited access plans being offered today.

Such pricing hasn’t been common for consumers for years, and unlimited access likely spurred greater usage of the Internet, leading to its growth and creation of valuable services. One might even consider an FCC sanction that sends providers into usage billing schemes ends up being a convenient excuse for Comcast and others to jettison unlimited access plans en masse.

Comcast Facing FCC Penalty Over P2P Practices


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  • http://www.funchords.com/ Robb Topolski

    David,

    Thank you for your great and early coverage of this story!

    The technological power that enabled Comcast to block P2P uploads did not exist until late 2006 and was only employed mid-to-late 2007.  Only one other ISP (Cox) seemed to do the same.  It takes a leap of logic to say that this spells the end to unlimited access plans. 

    Two ISPs got greedy and decided to put a halt to the Internet’s growth, and spent their money on secret technology to steal purchased bandwidth back from their own customers.  

    Both got caught, publically, but only Comcast tried the tactics of deny, diffuse, deflect, defame, and disillusion. 

    When Comcast bought up large systems to become the largest Cable MSO, it did not buy the Internet. It has no right to change how it works — not one byte of it.

    How the world-wide Internet works is defined by all of us, through our participation and trust in the Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force. To ensure interoperability and access for all, changes must be carefully deliberated and standardized there. The responsibility of operating the Internet in accordance with those standards is entrusted to companies providing access to it. It’s not Comcast’s job to change how the Internet works nor can it decide who or what gets preference upon it.

    I haven’t seen anything other than the press reports about something to be circulated around the FCC. I am hopeful that when the details are released that it serves to preserve and protect the Internet from those who would abuse their power and change it.

    Robb Topolski, a Comcast subscriber

  • http://www.lightingsupply.com Commercial Lighting Guy

    I would like to see comcast face a penalty for overcharging for cable : (

    • Jess Wonderin

      Comcast will use the same massive monolopy on it’s "Internet Service" as it does in Cable . . . provide the barest essentials and charge the maximumn amount. Their monolopy status has helped our residential cable service become an unending gold mine with "overpriced upgrades expenses" justifly ever increasing rates.  Look at what "competition" has done in Japan, Korea and EU . . . .

  • Guest

    As a subscriber myself, I can say that this company does use practices that I think infrindges on Internet Freedoms.

    They shut down my outgoing mail to force me to switch to a 587–a closed or monitored port, when I normally usd port 25, which we no is an open port.

    I was also told that I could only forward the same email to 7 different people, else its considered spamming. 

    I am a heavy internet user, and I work from home.  I noticed that during certain times of the day, my internet actually went down for some time.  This is every day at the same time. I was told that I was getting too high of a power or something to that affect, for my cableing.  That made no sense to me.  But at any rate, they needed to "adjust" the power I get to slow it down as my wiring can’t handle it.

    I have no clue who to report this too. I just know, it sounds bogus and it probably their way of charging more and giving much less!

     

     

    • Guest

      They most likely forced you to switch to port 587 because 587 requires that you authenticate against thier smtp relay. Much more secure, Port 25 is the standard but it’s easiest to send spam though as well, either port uses the same software, if it’s a unix based os it’s most likely "sendmail or postfix". So you the end user shouldn’t care. As far as limiting someone from cc’ing more than 7 people, never heard of such a thing. 

      As far as the outages, let me tell you, I had alot of trouble with that myself, What you need to do is get a line tech to come out, and not just a standard installer/troubleshooter. Often the transmitters and boxes outside the home are filled with water and corrupt your signal, especially if you live in a warm or humid climate. A huge problem is the signal to noise ratio which sounds like what you’re experiencing. Once I got a real line tech, he fixed it and I have been stable ever since.

      Another thing that can cause problems is the cable run to your home. If it’s more than 200ft you better ask them to switch you to rg6 or rg11. Also you’ll want Channel power no greater than 46.9 dBmV, what happens is if you hit say like 49 or 50 or greater, your cable modem signal gets cutoff. Now the interesting part is that most cable modems are good for 55+ but The cable companies signal amplifiers just cant transmit anything that high, so it seems that consumers are buying better equipment faster than the cable companies can upgrade thier own equiment.

      Hope some of this helps!

       

       

  • Frank

    You basically have two choices in most markets to buy Internet Access from. Unlike dial-up when there were thousands of choices nationally and locally, the same FCC you wish to punish Comcast and others, is the same FCC who gave the Cable/MSO and RBOC (AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, etc.) the duopoly status, thus killing competition.

    The FCC took away Independent ISP’s ability to offer competitive Broadband Services over the past 5 years, by eliminating most of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, allowing ISP’s to lease access to the Internet network, through the switching points the Phone companies controlled. Cable/MSO never had to offer access to any of their networks.

    The Internet is a complex network of thousands of switches/routers between multitudes of companies and is for the most part a voluntary effort for all to have access to each others data, but not for free.

    What you are missing the point on is that the MSO owns the network from your connection up until it connects to the Internet nodes. From there it may pass through hundreds of switches/routers on other company networks, then back to your connection.

    There is a cost for all of these transactions to be completed. Not only is there a cost in building and maintaining the networks, but also the costs of connecting to other networks. No one gets a free ride passing data from point A to B.

    Sure, the Internet in its original state was a system created for another purpose, then released to the rest of the world to provide a paradigm in advanced communications, using existing and yet to be created networks around the world.

    You may or may not understand the complexity, but there are limits to what networks can do at times. It’s not an open pipe with unlimited capacities, at least not at this time.

    I am by far a cheer leader for the FCC, the phone companies or the cable-cos, as I was once one of those dial-up ISP’s who lost the ability to offer competitive Broadband access to the Internet.

    Not that I did not want to offer broadband, but when I paid more for the connection than our customers could get directly from the phone companies, how could I maintain our business?

    The general public bought into the idea, mind you from the FCC, that the phone companies and cable-cos would be enough to offer Internet and that they released the regulatory conditions of the Telcom Act that allowed ISP operators such as myself, to offer Internet services by leasing access to the network and to your home or office.

    So, as much as so many others complain about the limitations and actions of Comcast and the like, you really only have yourself to blame for the duopoly and lost competition for your business.

    Keeping an open network to the Internet, will only come by increasing competition, eliminating it.

     

  • http://www.stuffdone.com Paul Kruger

    Follow up on anti-spam legislation. 

    New or improved legislation needs to include the ability to sue the owner of any destination provided in the spam email, not just the entity sending the email.  It should be obvious that the only reason that email was sent was to provide traffic to the company being advertised in spam, thus they must have paid for those emails or they would not have been sent in the first place.

    Let the company being sued rat out their spammers in self defense.

  • http://www.disneymousehouse.com Alan McConnell

    All ISPs seem to like playing Big Brother!  I have AT&T as my ISP.  I also have 8 web sites and all the mail that is sent to these web sites is redirected to my AT&T (Bellsouth) e-mail account.  As you can guess my e-mail addresses have been picked up by spammers resulting in the fact that 98% of my mail (statistics according to AT&T) are spam.  As a result they have blocked e-mail from my web host so I cannot receive any of my web site e-mails!  Is this legal?  Have they the right to determine what I can and cannot receive.  Fine if they were providing the Intrernet free but I have their costliest Internet package!  Because of this blocking I have had to take out a paid spam blocking service so that I  can get my web business e-mails.  Any advice/help appreciated.  

    • http://www.adtastichosting.com Guest

      Why don’t you use java script on your websites to mask your email address from spambots?

  • Comcast Subscriber

    I don’t think the internet would be considered “open” if they were to charge based on data transfer. We already spend so much in subscriptions, and for software. If I had to pay, also just access the internet I would no longer run rss news plugins, or allow software to automatically check for an update. I would no longer stumble through the internet looking at random 3D art or site design templates. I would no longer use SVN to update my code packages. I would no longer run my website if I had to pay to upload and view it. With the economic crunch in America it may look like a very good idea to Comcast but I hope people look at the bigger picture. I would probably switch back to Dial-Up. There are still a couple stragglers offering 9.95 unlimited access (At 56k) The internet has become a wild and amazing place and that is largely due to its unencumbered nature. I hope nothing changes. Even my bittorrent throttling…

    :-p

  • http://www.bigtopbusiness.com David Arena

    I have, what is called "extended basic" cable.  I get channels 2-89.  More than a dozen  are either community access, religious, HSN, or just plain scrambled.  I have to have "extended basic" to get ESPN, or any cable news network etc.  My bill just went from $24.95 to $59.95. 

    I am hoping that Comcast gets more than just a slap on the wrist.  Monopolies are uncostitutional.  Their arguement  about being a monopoly is that you can choose satelite. If I had a choice of  ‘cable’ companies, there would be no way I would have comcast.  Their prices are rediculious and their service is even worse. I have never heard anyone say "It’s Comcastic".  Everybody I’ve ever talked to hates Comcast.

    I have DSL from AT&T. My bill is $19.95.  With the exception of downloading really big files, it is just as fast as Comcast. 

    • Guest

      Your just one of the many that never reads the ‘fine print’ in your contract.

      I’m not saying that I like Comcast.  I’m just discusted that people like you that are disappointed in Comcast do the same thing with the Satillite companies.  The Satillite companies have been putting this fine print in their contracts for years, hell, its the only way Satillite sounds any good, to have a good price.  Who in the world wants to go outside in the middle of Winter and clean off snow and ice on their dish?  So, they make it sound good, for oh, 2 years, then you get hit.  Just like when your contact ran out with Comcast….

       

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