Comcast Sued For Traffic Shaping

from the how-long-did-it-take-to-upload-the-suit? dept

Almost surprised it took this long, but following the widespread reports of Comcast jamming certain types of traffic, everyone pretty much expected someone to file a class action lawsuit. It just took a couple weeks (maybe the plaintiffs were jammed from uploading documents to their lawyers...). However, a lawsuit has now been filed in California, charging Comcast with violating federal computer fraud laws, their own user contracts and anti-fraudulent advertising statutes. The lawyers are (no surprise) hoping to turn this into a class action lawsuit. The computer fraud charges seem like a huge stretch, but misleading advertising could potentially stick. Comcast, for its part, maintains its ridiculous tightrope-walking corporate doubletalk on the issue, refusing to admit to anything: "Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services." Yes, that's nice and all... but it's not what people are accusing Comcast of doing. They're accusing Comcast of jamming certain types of traffic to make them not work as intended, and doing so without any indication or notice to the user. It still boggles the mind that Comcast won't come out and just say what it's doing. It's not as if it's a secret any more.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Robert Carling, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 7:21pm

    Comcast

    This was another reason we left Comcast and went with FIOS here in NJ.
    I hope Verizon won't restrict us as I'm sure Comcast did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Arkwin, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 7:22pm

    Woot!

    As a comcast customer in Chicago,
    I can only say. Took long enough. I hope they win, comcast sucks as an isp

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 7:22pm

    Its truly a shame they won't come clean.. they might have my support as traffic shapers, but not as liars.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 7:38pm

    "(maybe the plaintiffs were jammed from uploading documents to their lawyers...)"

    *facepalm*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Larry V, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 7:45pm

    They can't hide what they're doing too much longer

    Discovery will fix that. Remember, in civil law there's no such thing as hiding behind the 5th Amendment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Max Powers, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    Comments from Comcast

    I'm sure their lawyers decide what the statements will contain and this sounds like one of those.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Dylan T, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 8:24pm

    Hope

    I hope that Comcast is forced to stop shaping traffic, in turn forcing them to increase bandwidth, hopefully without a price increases. Yeah, that would be nice, but I guess we have a better chance of finding a unicorn.

     

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  8.  
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    Mischief, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 8:34pm

    Could be a witness

    I've personally noticed Comcast mucking with my usenet traffic. It takes several tries to even get a usenet connection to go though on the normal port. And when it does my connection speed drops in half. Switch over to connecting over the standard SSL port, everything works fine.

     

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  9.  
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    Danny, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 8:43pm

    Don't get hopeful...

    Class action suit goes to court.
    Comcast comes up with a new doublespeak speech and promises to never do it again.
    Comcast is forced to pay a few million in fines.
    Class action lawyers get 80%.
    Affected customers get credited a free month of service.
    Comcast carefully studies the ruling to find a new loophole.

    Done Deal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 11:03pm

    Blocking is Blocking

    What Comcast is doing is basically blocking certain traffic on a temporary basis by using what's called a man-in-the-middle attack whereby they impersonate the sender or receiver. Then they try to argued that it isn't really "blocking" because it is only temporary instead of permanent. That's kind of like trying argue that you weren't really speeding because you were only doing it temporarily. Oh, and never mind that fake driver's license.

     

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  11.  
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    Simon, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 12:02am

    Lame

    It almost seems like a waste for Comcast to "shape" traffic counting that anyone who really cares to can just download additional software to get around it. All they wind up doing is making their customers feel like they're being ripped off by Comcast for not giving them the full services they paid for. It's like living in a free country, yet not being able to leave your home.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:12am

    iChat

    Recently, Comcast has blocked my iChat AV audio and video conferences. They won't even connect. Lame.

     

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  13.  
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    John, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:42am

    Rip Off ?

    I have Comcast and am very happy with it. They are slowing P2P traffic as we all know almost all of it is engaging in illegal activity. Why should legal users as myself suffer a performance hit because some selfish asshole wants to suck up the bandwidth.
    The argument really is hey..Comcast is a bad guy because they are hampering my god given right to steal all I want. *LOL*

     

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  14.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:24am

    Re: Rip Off ?

    ...we all know almost all of it is engaging in illegal activity.


    Tell that to users of this device, who will also be suffering: http://www.vudu.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Kevin, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:51am

    Computer fraud may not be so far-fetched

    In my understanding, it stems from the fact that their traffic shaping hardware sits in between two computers, let's call them A and B. In order to "jam" the connection, the traffic shaping hardware basically impersonates A and sends an "end of transmission" signal to B, and then impersonates B and sends the "end of transmission" signal to A. That way the systems on both ends terminate transmission "gracefully," and they both think that the messages were legitimate. This "works" better than simply dropping the packets, because doing so could generate more traffic as both hosts retry sending missing packets.

    So the fraud bit would come from the fact that they are intercepting communications and impersonating someone else's computer system in order to do the traffic shaping.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Richard Ahlquist (profile), Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:04am

    Maybe....

    ...its not that they are shaping traffic, maybe their network just sucks that bad. Hmm sounds like an aggressive advertising boomtown for the competition.

    "So call now and sign up for {insert service name here}. Because at least with us, if we throttle your service you will know why, not sit there wondering.. Are they throttling or do they just suck?"

     

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  17.  
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    Dawnsy, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:20am

    The Real Issue

    My only hope is that someone (the Judge?) can stay focussed on the heart of the issue, which is that Comcast needs to provide the service that their customer's pay for. Period. They are neither law-makers nor law-enforcers. We all know consumers will pay for this lawsuit...so sue them with the stipulation that the decision-makers to middle-man attack pay - and restrict them from passing it down to rate increases!

    Law-abiding consumers should not have to pay, financially or through lack of service for those who violate usage policies or laws. We all pay way too much in life already for the "bad apples" and I pray for the kind of justice where my rates, my insurance, my fees and freedom stop suffering because of them.

    I know, I know, I want life to be fair....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Fred Maxwell, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:24am

    Could they lose common carrier status/protection?

    What would be very interesting would be a legal argument that Comcast is, due to their interference with their users' internet data transfers, no longer entitled to protection as a "common carrier."

    This is very important as common carrier status is what shields an ISP from lawsuits due to little Johnny seeing pop-up porn, Mom's computer getting a virus, and some child sex offender from using the ISP's network service to solicit children online. It's why the phone company is not legally liable if someone coordinates a bank robbery over the phone. Common carrier status means that the service is just acting as an impartial, non-editing provider of a communications service.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:30am

    Re: Rip Off ?

    I don't use Bit torrent too much but ever since I heard about this I've been seeding the Linux distros constantly. How’s that for illegal file sharing.

    Most people speed. We're not calling for the banning of cars now are we?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Azure Cerulean, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 6:36am

    Re: Lame

    Welcome to America. Just so you Know you do not have the right to leave your home(country). That's why you as a citizen have to have a passport and to be approved for one so that you can leave your home.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Lame

    That would make more sense as a counter argument if we lived in a free world, we don't, we live in a free country. And thus moving from city to city, state to state, county to county is free to do whenever we so wish.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    him, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Re: The Real Issue

    That is **so** the point. Number 13 above doesn't seem to get this and I think far too many of the population doesn't get it either. ISPs provide a dumb pipe, that's it. If they want to offer other services that customers can choose to reject such as email and internet security that's fine, but they have no role in enforcing any laws. Honestly, they'd be foolish to want to do so. Their costs would be enormous. This is about the inefficiencies of their network and how much money they can save by oversubscribing to the nth level.

    The industry's capacity for self delusion has always intrigued me. When broadband first became widely available who needed it? I got BB in 2001 because I wanted the same speed at home that I had a school and because I'd started using audio galaxy. There was no Utube or Facebook and streaming video wasn't all that prevalent. P2P gave the ISPs that first killer app that sold people BB. Yet they've always pretended they don't know that. Even now they want us to buy more and more bandwidth which the avg person wouldn't need if they didn't p2p....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    him, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 9:25am

    Re: The Real Issue

    That is **so** the point. Number 13 above doesn't seem to get this and I think far too many of the population doesn't get it either. ISPs provide a dumb pipe, that's it. If they want to offer other services that customers can choose to reject such as email and internet security that's fine, but they have no role in enforcing any laws. Honestly, they'd be foolish to want to do so. Their costs would be enormous. This is about the inefficiencies of their network and how much money they can save by oversubscribing to the nth level.

    The industry's capacity for self delusion has always intrigued me. When broadband first became widely available who needed it? I got BB in 2001 because I wanted the same speed at home that I had a school and because I'd started using audio galaxy. There was no Utube or Facebook and streaming video wasn't all that prevalent. P2P gave the ISPs that first killer app that sold people BB. Yet they've always pretended they don't know that. Even now they want us to buy more and more bandwidth which the avg person wouldn't need if they didn't p2p....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Bellsouth needs to be added to this suit as well

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    James, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:08am

    Re: Rip Off ?

    John you're probably one of those lame idiots who doesn't drink, smoke, drink caffiene, have sex, etc. etc. You assume because some people use a medium incorrectly that it should simply be stifled.

    Why don't you put on your tin foil hat and join the other luddites of the world in the mormon church.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    MarcoVincenzo, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:56am

    "The computer fraud charges seem like a huge stretch..."

    Actually, in New York, that's the one part that would be cut & dried. They're impersonating either their customers or the people their customers are communicating with for financial gain. That's fraud, plain and simple, and New York statutes cover it--I have no idea what California law looks like.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Ghostie, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    You mean AT&T

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:52pm

    Re: Could they lose common carrier status/protecti

    What would be very interesting would be a legal argument that Comcast is, due to their interference with their users' internet data transfers, no longer entitled to protection as a "common carrier."
    Co-called "common carrier" status is what protects telcos from being responsible for what is transmitted or said over their lines. So if, for example, someone faxes some copyright infringing material over the phone line the phone company can't be sued for that. In return for that immunity phone companies are not allowed to listen in on your calls and filter them.

    Unlike the telcos, ISP's in the US don't need "common carrier" protections. They're protected by the DMCA instead so they're free to do all the filtering they want without being responsible for what they don't. It's a lot better than "common carrier" status: They get to have their cake and eat it too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    J Hammes, Nov 28th, 2007 @ 2:34pm

    Lawsuit for slow speed?

    I'd like to get on the bandwagon to bring Mediacom to justice on this count of misleading advertising on speeds. Daily, I have an average of 500kbs to 3500kbs on a 15meg connection, for about half the day. That 15 mbs is supposed to give me "up to" 15,000 kbs download speed. It only happens from about 2am to maybe 8am. The rest of the time its usually below 4000kbs.

    Anybody know of a class action suit against Mediacom? Sign me up or send me the contact info for the attorney to call!!!!


    John

     

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  30.  
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    piook, Dec 9th, 2007 @ 10:17am

    ATT is doing the same thing as Comcast

    I left Comcast because of other issues but when I heard that Comcast had started limiting p2p traffic I was happy I had switched. But starting about a month and a half ago did I noticed that my ATT dsl connection was behaving similarly to how people describe the Comcast problem. The thing that boggles me though about this type of traffic control is that it seems to affect traffic on my LAN as well, and if this is the case then that is another way one could sue their ISP, under the notion that the ISP has no right to interfere with private networks.

     

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  31.  
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    Michael, Dec 11th, 2007 @ 4:18am

    Boomtown for competition . . .

    Are you kidding? Comcast has the EXCLUSIVE RIGHT to provide cable (internet service) in my area of NJ. Is this not FAR REACHING anticompetitive behavior. Imagine the speed of downloads if Apple were to compete with comcast and offer a movie rental service???

     

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  32.  
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    Diggerdugg, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 7:42am

    Comcast is shit. Here where I live we call them ComSuck. Cable TV is out all the time and now with this packet shaping bull crap I get 2kb/s on Torrent transfers. If I try to download a Lotus Notes file from work thats like 250mb it takes like 4 days. BULLSHIT, now I have to physically go to my workplace with a pendrive. Thanks Comcast.

     

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  33.  
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    AV, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Rip Off ?

    Unfortunately they also make video and audio iChats basically useless.
    Which weren't illegal last time I checked...

     

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  34.  
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    Tom, Mar 9th, 2008 @ 11:16am

    Movie competition

    Isn't this really about slowing down your movie download speed so you will watch comcast movies. I work from home and routinely see my speeds drop for downloading files I need to 85KB per second.

    This is just simply fraud.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Jack Faust, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Rip Off ?

    Don't forget John, this isn't just about P2P traffic. There are business out there that are suffering because their users cannot stay connected. Many online game, especially smaller ones that are not from big companies (ex World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, etc) cannot keep Comcast users connected anymore because of this port shaping. Star Sonata is an example of this. They are suffering in account subscriptions because users are getting frustrated at getting disconnected every 30-60 seconds. What Comcast is doing is wrong, and there is a very strong foundation for a civil action case against them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Sooz, Jul 2nd, 2008 @ 6:47pm

    It's happening all over

    Folks, it isn't just comcast, it's appearing to happen with our local suddenlink. Try taking an online class and have you ISP do this? You are taking a test and wham....it's disconnected. Many of the LMS (learning management systems) have limits as to how much you can log into the test or how long you can take it. Once this happens, you are screwed.

    Is this fair? NO

     

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  37.  
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    JOHN T, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 6:03pm

    COMCAST IM ASHAMED TO SAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I HAVE COMCAST NOW!!!!!!!!!
    AND I WISH TO GOD YOU WIN I CAN A TEST TO THIS AS I HAVE HAD NOTHING BUT PROBLEMS AND THE SAD PART ABOUT IT IS I STILL USE THEM AND THIS IS SO SLOW IT MAKES ME SICK I FILM
    THIS ALL THE TIME SO I CAN PROVE HOW SLOW THEY ARE.

     

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  38.  
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    Ed, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 5:39am

    Trigger-happy blocking

    To whom it may concern:

    I am not a Comcast.net subscriber, but I have family and friends who are... At this point, I cannot write a "happy birthday message" to them without sweating-out their SPAM filter and all its inconvenient consequences.

    And don't even think about sending attachments...!

    It's true that I can unblock my IP in a few minutes, but then again, only 3 times a day...! This problem seems to be the case with my correspondents at aol.com and sbcglbal.net....but with even more complications. The net result is that I have to "relay" my mail to all of my correspondents who have the misfortune to be in the clutches of their respective email "services".

    At my age, I am not as computer-literate as many others. Some of my correspondents are equally limited. What a shame that we cannot even share attachments (xx.jpg's, xx.doc's, etc).

    IMHO These mobsters are being greedy with their bandwidth and not delivering the goods they promised.

    Any suggestions?

     

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  39.  
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    Melva Ford, Oct 30th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    oh my god for 8 years i have been run over by so many cabel companies and this was one of them

    GOSH I HAVE ALMOST LOST MY ARM FROM AN INFECTION I GOT FROM THESE CREEPS. I HAVE HAD 3 NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS. I HAVE SO MUCH PROFF OF THE LIES THEY HAVE TOLD. PLEASE CONTACT ME BACK

     

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  40.  
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    Dave, Dec 7th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Re: The Real Issue

    I had forgotten about the original Broad Band sales pitch, but you are very right. They did build the Broad Band network based on the revenues of the illegal activity that they so adamantly oppose these days.

    I think that this matter is going to ultimately be handled by the FCC and I like the chairman of the FCC these days: Kevin Martin. Though he was appointed by GW he seems to be a pretty smart and upstanding person. When Comcast belly ached about AT&T being able to sell cable service, he told Comcast that they were just going to have to deal with it.

    Actually, Comcast was originally accused of traffic shaping a long time ago and they told Martin that there was no wrong doing happening. More accusations came up and the FCC re-investigated the issue only to find out that Comcast had been lying all along. It seems that ever since then Martin has had it out for Comcast.

    Rightly so though; if Comcast's executives are able to lie to the chairman of the FCC then their executives’ ethics should be in question. Ethical dilemmas of that proportion lead to WorldCom and the likes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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