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.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast Sued For Traffic Shaping”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Simon (profile) says:

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.

John says:

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*

Jack Faust says:

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.

Kevin says:

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.

Richard Ahlquist (profile) says:

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?”

Dawnsy says:

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….

him says:

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….

him says:

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….

Fred Maxwell says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

MarcoVincenzo says:

“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.

J Hammes says:

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

piook says:

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.

Sooz says:

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

Ed says:

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?

Dave says:

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.

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