No You Can't Sign Up For A Comcast Account And Resell It Throughout Your Building

from the or-do-it-35-times dept

While some progressive ISPs such as Speakeasy have allowed customers to "resell" their connections via WiFi, most broadband providers frown on the practice. They don't seem to mind the casual sharing between neighbors, but it's not too surprising to see Comcast sue a guy who tried to set up an entire wireless ISP business this way. It's almost creative... he subscribed to Comcast broadband at 35 different condos, and then advertised his own "connectivity" within each of those buildings. It's hard to believe his defense will work:
He said Comcast signals are often used to power wireless networks at places like Internet cafes and other businesses that charge users for access. "This is a practice that happens throughout any city," Clark said. "Unfortunately, we're one of the bigger guys in town - so, here we are."
I think he'll find that most businesses reselling access aren't using residential Comcast connections -- and even if they are, they're offering very short, temporary connections, rather than permanent service. While I actually think plans like the Speakeasy plan we discussed that allow subscribers to resell their connections is smart, that doesn't mean that this guy is going to get away with this "business."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Cipher-0, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 5:34am

    Just following Comcast's lead

    All he did was unilaterally change the terms of service. Comcast does this to its suckers^Wcustomers all the time.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 5:38am

    hmmm

    "he subscribed to Comcast broadband at 35 different condos"

    Other sites are reporting that he signed up at 35 addresses in the same condo to give the full building coverage (not 35 different condos). That same article also said that Comcast is seeking to find out at which other sites the guy has done this.

     

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  3.  
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    Mike Fanboy, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 5:48am

    No, Mike, has it correct. You are all idiots.

     

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  4.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:02am

    Re: hmmm

    Can you provide a link to these other sites? I'm only seeing three on Google news, one is linked to in this article, one is linked to in that article, and the only one I didn't find threw this site is saying the same thing.

    "Frank Clark happened to be the sole operator of OceanNet, and he had apparently registered for Comcast service at a total of 35 addresses. The company alleges that all of these represent locations where he was reselling Comcast's Internet service through WiFi installations."

    A lawsuit may be a little much. Comcast could completely screw this guy by cutting off all 35 of his connections.

     

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  5.  
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    Haywood, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:14am

    I knew a tech savy guy who did that.

    He lived in a small town, & resold to everyone within a couple of miles. He bought a cable and DSL line to get a little bandwidth and put up a small tower. As far as I know he is still doing it.

     

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  6.  
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    Some IT Guy, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:14am

    Comcast

    I hate Comcast so much...but I have no other alternative in my area for broadband :(

     

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  7.  
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    NullOp, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:21am

    HA!

    Hey, what the Hell? You can't screw customers! Only WE can screw customers!

     

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  8.  
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    Skippy T. Mut, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:23am

    I don't understand why purchasing and reselling a service is any different than purchasing and reselling any other product. If Comcast is willing to sell its product (in this case internet access) at a certain rate then that's the rate they get. If I can get people to pay more then I get to make money. Micro$oft sells XBox's for $399. If I can get people to pay $449 there is nothing stopping me from buying as many XBox's as I can get my hands on and reselling them at a profit. What's the difference?

     

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  9.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:30am

    Re:

    An Xbox is a product where internet access is a service. I don't believe services fall under the first sale doctrine.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:34am

    Isn't this what the telco's and cable companies call line sharing??

     

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  11.  
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    R. Miles, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Re:

    Micro$oft sells XBox's for $399. If I can get people to pay $449 there is nothing stopping me from buying as many XBox's as I can get my hands on and reselling them at a profit. What's the difference?
    Actually, state law can stop you, as most define what a business is comprised of. I can assure you, selling "as many as you can get your hands on" will put you into this category.

    Sell as a business and not be licensed, legal hot water.

    This doesn't include the IRS, which is where you don't want to be. Just ask several eBayers who did exactly this with the Wii console. Oops.

    But in regard to the topic at hand, the company is clearly selling a service from another and calling it his own. A very, very stupid decision on his part.

     

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  12.  
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    jjray, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 6:48am

    cahones

    It's very difficult to feel any sympathy for Comcast; however, I was struck the cahones of this dude, upon getting caught stealing bandwidth, is going to court to argue that his theft was authorized as a standard business practice. Who knows, the business operates today, perhaps he is right. Everybody is stealing from everybody else so what's the beef?

     

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  13.  
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    Cipher-0, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Re: cahones

    upon getting caught stealing bandwidth
    Seems to me he paid for the service then resold it at a much higher rate.

     

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  14.  
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    Skippy T. Mut, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re:

    As long as I report my income to the IRS and pay the appropriate taxes I'm fine. And as long as I register as and follow the local guidelines for operating as a business I'm good there too. Either way, though, Micro$oft can't show up and tell me I can't resell a product I already purchased and paid for. Micro$oft made their money and if they wanted more then they should have charged me more. I can resell all the XBox's I want and make all the money I want as long as I follow the legal protocols for making money. Micro$oft has absolutely no say in the matter.

    Likewise, if I have already paid for the bandwidth being delivered to my home and I choose to resell this consumable product the company that sold it to me shouldn't be allowed to tell me I can't. Perhaps if they did a better job of making it more worth it for people to come to them people wouldn't have to turn to me. Don't try and penalize me for your inability to run a proper business.

     

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  15.  
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    Jehosiphat Persiphious McGillicutty, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:20am

    His scale is what screwed him

    People do this all the time. He just did it on too large a scale and caught their eye. Doh!

     

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  16.  
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    RevMike, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Likewise, if I have already paid for the bandwidth being delivered to my home and I choose to resell this consumable product the company that sold it to me shouldn't be allowed to tell me I can't." -- Skipp T. Mut

    If you were purchasing a set amount of bandwidth you'd be correct. But most residential internet services are not metered that way. They may have a few caps, but they sell a basically 'unlimited' plan to a residence with the understanding and expectation that there are practical limits to how much bandwidth a household can use.

    Basically, this guy is doing the equivalent of going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, purchasing one meal, then selling his 'seat' over and over again to different people. The restaurant didn't restrict the amoutn of food one could eat, but they did restrict how many people could sit in any one 'seat'.

     

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  17.  
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    Xiera, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm inclined to agree with Skippy here. Internet Service Providers are not really providing a "service", per se. Bandwidth is a scarce resource. If this guy buys X amount of bandwidth, why shouldn't he be able to use it however he wants (including reselling it)? As long as he's not creating a monopoly for himself (ie, the recipients of his "service" are still able to get Comcast directly), I don't see a problem. Comcast is still getting the same amount of money for the same amount of bandwidth sold.

    Regardless, last time I checked, either party (Comcast or the other guy) could cancel the contract at any time; they would just have to adjust payments accordingly. I see no reason for this to go to court. If you're Comcast and you don't like what this guy is doing, disconnect him and refund him for the bandwidth that you promised to provide but did not. He'll learn fast, I assure you.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: cahones

    should be

    Seems to me he paid for the service then resold it with a more convent way to connect at a much higher rate.

     

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  19.  
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    Jason, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Service VS Product

    You can absolutely do what you said, Skippy... except that since it's a service, Comcast can terminate your service at any time they choose if you violate their terms of service, which I guarantee he did.

    A product is a one-time sale... a service is an ongoing sale, and they have the right to stop selling to him.

     

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  20.  
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    R. Miles, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Comcast is still getting the same amount of money for the same amount of bandwidth sold.
    I think you need to read the issue at hand here.
    It's NOT the same bandwidth sold.

    What he's doing is selling multiple connections to ONE service line. So, of the 35 different addresses, there could be a potential for at least 70 customers.

    One user will use much less bandwidth than say, 5 on the same line.

     

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  21.  
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    R. Miles, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Micro$oft has absolutely no say in the matter.
    In this regard, you're correct.

    But in the Comcast regard, no. Instead of consoles, think of the XBox Live service.

    You can't buy one XBox Live account and then turn around and sell it 20 people.

    Do that, and you can guarantee Microsoft has a say in the matter.

    Just as Comcast does here.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:52am

    I know Comcast sells business lines that cost more per month and may even offer higher caps and a static IP. If this guy had been smart he would have purchased those plans to resell, he'd be in a much better position now if he had.

     

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  23.  
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    Weird Harold, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 7:56am

    Re:

    More than anything, the proof that sometimes you need to follow the rules and things work out well. I am sure that he could have worked something out with comcast (or even a higher up company offering connectivity) that would allow him to resell and make money at it.

    He did a dumb thing, and therefore he loses.

     

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  24.  
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    WisconsinGod, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 8:12am

    TOS

    Simply put, by subscribing, he agreed to the TOS. He flagrently violated this contract, thereby instantly is subject to termination of servies. His violations were so flagrent that there may be grounds beyond termination of services.
    http://www.comcast.net/terms/

     

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  25.  
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    pasupport, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If you were purchasing a set amount of bandwidth you'd be correct. But most residential internet services are not metered that way. They may have a few caps, but they sell a basically 'unlimited' plan to a residence with the understanding and expectation that there are practical limits to how much bandwidth a household can use.

    Beginning Oct. 1, users will be allowed 250 gigabytes of traffic per month. See the artical here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26444853/

     

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  26.  
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    Josh, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Re: TOS

    Comcast obviously has the right to terminate his service for any reason. That's not in question.

    However, I think a more interesting question is does Comcast have a legal right to sue for breach of their TOS? Effectively what I'm asking is: Are arbitrary TOS "contracts" legally enforceable as contracts? I think its the same question as to whether software EULA "contracts" are legally enforceable. I'm not a lawyer, but how can these things be enforceable when the company has the option to change them at any time without notifying you?

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Beginning Oct. 1, users will be allowed 250 gigabytes of traffic per month. See the artical here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26444853/


    Thats not usage, thats a cap. Your not paying for 250 Gb, thats the max they will allow you in a month, very big difference. You are actually paying for 300k up/150k down (or whatever, I have no idea what my I get anymore!).

    Although I could care less about comcast (or any big C.), I dare anyone here to set up a service, and then let everyone do whatever they want, and stay in business. While I wont call it stealing, he was over zealous thinking he could get away with it. At a single address, maybe. But all over the city? Come on.....

     

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  28.  
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    Just wondering why..., Apr 1st, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    when you come up with a scheme (plan) to make money it's cool but when a company who pays employees, taxes and gives money to charity does that they're called "Micro$oft".

    It must have something to do with your inability to carry out your plan as opposed to Microsoft's ability to do so.

     

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  29.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I dare anyone here to set up a service, and then let everyone do whatever they want, and stay in business."

    Speakeasy douse it. When you sign up for their DSL service you get instructions on how to resell the service and they even help you setup a website to bill people. There are others that do that as well.

     

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  30.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm with you on this one but I have to ask this question. What's the difference between me maxing out my download and upload and 5 people maxing out my download and upload? Comcast limits the max connection speed any one IP address gets, so it would be the same amount of usage if I download at 5Mbps and 5 people each downloading at 1Mbps.

     

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  31.  
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    Tonto, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    Because you signed a contract that states you WON'T and CAN'T resell the service.

     

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  32.  
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    Tonto, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    Because you signed a contract that states you WON'T and CAN'T resell the service.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    When I lived in LI, I had speakeasy, and it wasn't that simple. They don't allow you to do whatever you want. If I remember, you still had to identify every user ( to speakeasy, ie. thye had to sign up.) Comcast knows nothing about who this guy is letting on the network.

     

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  34.  
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    Lion XL, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your confusing speed with usage. think voltage vs wattage vs ampage. Voltage is what you pay for, 300 up/150 down (or whatever). wattage is your cap, if this were Coned, you'd be paying for that wattage rather than having a cap.

    Ampage is what changes things here, its how fast you use that bandwidth, and is significant. Using 500 gb in 1 hour will more significantly impact the network vs 5 gb over 100 hrs. and thats why the want/need to control because of how the increased traffic affects other users on their network.

     

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  35.  
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    Lion XL, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: TOS

    WRONG. TOS and EULA are very different. With A TOS, they can change and update them when necessary, but they must inform you and giving you the option of acceptance. If you don't then you no longer have the right to use that service. The key to remember is that a TOS is designed to enforce any FUTURE use of that service.

    Unlike a EULA, which enforces the terms and use of product at the point at which it was purchased/used. They can also change a EULA as necessary, but it only covers FUTURE PURCHASES or a NEW PRODUCT. So id you accept a EULA for WORD 7.0, then you are accepting it for 7.0 ONLY (and any previous products if disclosed that way in the actual EULA). If they change the EULA for 7.1, you do not have to accept it, but you will not have the authorization to use 7.1.

     

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  36.  
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    Skippy T. Mut, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sure I can. They may not be able to all use it at the same time, but they can all use it. The same applies to bandwidth. The more people I have using my connection the less bandwidth each one gets. If one person is using my XBox Live account another person won't be able to use until the first person logs off. If my traffic shaper gives 100% of the bandwidth to person 1 for a download person 2 won't be able to connect until person 1 is done.

     

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  37.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm still missing the point.

    I personally pay for 1MBps down, 0.25MBps up, and 250GB/m. If, somehow, I manage to max out my connection, I can reach 250GB in 3 days. I pay for the ability to do this. What's the difference between me doing it and 5 people doing it?

    To use the electricity analogy, it's like having 1 refrigerator maxing out the fuse or 100 lamps maxing out the same fuse. The only difference is the 1s and 0s aren't limited.

     

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  38.  
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    hegemon13, Apr 1st, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: TOS

    The problem with your claim about TOS's is that the two parties are held to different standards. A mobile carrier can change their TOS, thus altering the product that you contracted for. If you disagree with the change and cancel, you are still responsible for an early termination charge, which is often the cost of several months of service. In order for a TOS to be enforceable, it ought to be modeled more like a lease. That is, if the provider alters the terms mid-contract, the customer has the option to leave with no penalty. If my landlord decided to start limiting the number of hours per week that I could use my residence, he would be in violation of the lease, and I would be able to move without having to fulfill the lease. TOSs are not identical to EULAs, but they are more similar to a EULA than a contract, in that they hold the parties to different levels of commitment, often allow little recourse on the part of the consumer, and strongly favor the issuer. Nearly all the terms of most TOS's are for the benefit of the provider, not the protection of the customer.

    EULAs aren't even a contract. They are a post-purchase notification that the end-user can only read AFTER they have made the product ineligible for return by opening it. They should be flat-out illegal.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Angelo, Apr 2nd, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Just another reason to pick Speakeasy

    Actually, I hope the guy wins against Comcast. I'd rather see a system where you get what you pay for, and no one can tell you how to use it. Maybe he shouldn't exactly *win* depending on what he did. But I certainly hope that we can see a day that you are allowed to do whatever you want with the bandwidth you pay for.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: TOS

    If you disagree with the change and cancel, you are still responsible for an early termination charge, which is often the cost of several months of service.

    And you agreed to that when you signed up.

    Strike one.

    If my landlord decided to start limiting the number of hours per week that I could use my residence, he would be in violation of the lease, and I would be able to move without having to fulfill the lease.

    Well now, that would all depend on your lease, wouldn't it? If the lease you signed said that your landlord could do that then how would it be a violation? It wouldn't.

    Strike two.

    EULAs aren't even a contract. They are a post-purchase notification that the end-user can only read AFTER they have made the product ineligible for return by opening it.

    Many, if not most, EULAs allow the product to be returned if the purchaser rejects the terms.

    Strike three! The idiot is outta there! Remember folks, don't be like hegemon13, engage your brain before opening your mouth.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Mark Canavan, Apr 4th, 2009 @ 9:06pm

    Would this be the same?

    I live in a house, which in all actuality, is a boarding house where squalid rooms have been constructed in/on every square inch of the house. The fact that the two reprobates who own the structure are slumlords in every capacity of the word is a matter altogether different than the question I ask here. These bastards have taken advantage of the basic cable offer of $10 a month for the first year made by Comcast and frequently advertised here in Seattle. I had heard this offer was something that federal, state or local authority’s required Comcast offer due to the impending digital TV change over. In any event the slumlord’s have accepted this deal as well as having Comcast provide consumer broadband net access. These scumbags are charging $30.00 for cable and $30.00 internet access to each of their tenants. Effectively reselling Comcast's service to us. It is not on the scale of 35 wireless hubs and charging the general public, but it approaches it. If it were an issue where persons of a shared household living situation were paying their share of the bills, the 16 tenants they have crammed into this once 5 bedroom house would amount to $1.35 per person for cable and $2.10 per person for net access. I wouldn’t mind if this guy attempted to recoup some of his cost for stringing coax everywhere and whatever the Linksys hub is costing him, but otherwise isn’t he breaking the law mentioned in the post, just not on the same scale? Either way isn’t this wrong? Anyone know enough to tell me if this smaller scale resell is illegal?

     

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  42.  
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    dave, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:54pm

    Terms of service

    Ok, while it is true that Comcast puts terms into its agreement that you can not resell it's service, I'm not sure how this practice does not violate monopoly litigation. Granted, he should have been purchasing commercial comcast accounts for this and he needed to have a business license appropriate for this venture, but even if he did, the commercial Terms of Service do not allow for the reselling of service. Comcast is allowed to resell service itself, they use network infrastructure on lease from other providers in areas that they don't own equipment and resell it as part of their network, so exactly how is this different? The fact is that Comcast doesn't want the competition from a small business offering wireless internet at a discounted rate, even though those people can still purchase high speed internet directly from Comcast. This to me clearly indicates that they are engaging in a practice that prevents a small business from competing against them in the same arena. There are other providers that offer backbones that allow their bandwidth to be resold, but obviously comcast has a larger portion of overall bandwidth and it's affordable even on a business contract, so they are an attractive option for a small business trying to offer wireless service. To me this is just another example of Comcast operating as a tyrant organization stepping on a small operation. The free enterprise system allows for an equal opportunity for everyone who wants to try and compete in the business marketplace, but in this case Comcast is not playing by the rules, they're making their own.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Minuen, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 6:25pm

    reselling the world on fire welcome to the Orderrealm

    I'm reselling water...
    lemonade anyone?
    water+lemon+sugar
    comcast+encryption+access

     

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


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